Student Choice in Middle School Electives

As a Private middle school, we eagerly look to offer more opportunities for our students to grow in all domains. During middle school, it is important for students to think technically and strategically, develop real-world skills, problem-solve, and become have chances to develop creatively. This year, we introduced electives to our middle school in an effort to do just that.

The Importance of Student Choice

Educational research clearly shows that meaningful choices significantly impact a student’s engagement. Edweek points out that this is especially important as students get older and interest in classes often wanes. Author and educator, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, explains in EduTopia that electives, “set the tone for a campus” by increasing engagement because, “after all, electives are the one or two periods a day that students have had a say in selecting.” 

Electives at Denver Christian Middle School

Our 7th and 8th graders now have elective offerings in STEAM, Creative Arts, Social Sciences, and Movement. (6th graders are enrolled in a Bridge elective.) The electives meet twice a week. With classes ranging from Introduction to Basic Fitness to Introductory Piano Lab or Forensic Science, our new electives cover a wide range of interests and skills. Because students will take different electives during each term of school, they are able to not only take courses that interest them but also try new classes outside of their comfort zone. 

Reflections from the Classroom

Already, our teachers are noticing the difference in electives in the culture and rhythm of the school. Madeline Vandersluis’s students build important skills while exploring forensic science. Students dive into topics such as crime scenes, forensic science careers, footprints, etc. A favorite activity was when students took and classified their own fingerprints using just tape and pencil lead!

Beth Naylor (MS English) began teaching Design Thinking this term. In this elective, students grow in different methods of thinking and problem-solving. Students try everything from simple brain teasers to creating an original Rube Goldberg machine. Beth says that students enjoy having a choice in their electives. When asked what they think about the electives, her students responded, “I like doing something that is not like a regular class. We get to do something different.” Others noted that the different topics allow for more fun than a traditional class schedule. 

We are thrilled with how our middle school students have engaged in middle school electives this year. As we continue to develop our elective offerings, we hope to continue to reap the benefits of increasing student choice! We are encouraged to see students pursuing their passions and participating in new challenges.

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