What Are Fridays Like?
Fridays begin every Monday morning while we advise excited students during the selection of their 3 course “rotation schedule.”
Rotation courses are a dynamic addition to our week and makes The Gregory School of the most unique schools around. This approach allows students to explore and try their hands at something new outside of and in addition to the regular curriculum and school day.
As an art teacher, I have been actively involved in so many of the Friday rotation classes. I’ve had the opportunity to help students make meaningful connections between conventional and digital artistic methods. In one digital art class we honed our drawing skills by using our farmyard chickens as models and then turning the sketches into vector images in the Fab Lab. Another course allowed me to incorporate art history by introducing the art of Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch to create our own imaginary creatures using basic Photoshop skills.
One thing the middle school faculty wanted was for our students to have an opportunity to carry over the knowledge they gain from one Friday into other Fridays. As a team, we came up with a theme: Winged Creatures. Then various teachers would all offer courses on Friday based on their own specialty to the theme. The topics have been so varied, ranging from birds to beaks and nests, dragons of various cultures, to actually planning and taking bird walks in our neighborhood. As a faculty, we were thrilled when a student designed and taught a class based on cryptozoology (the study of imaginary animals). We also plan to expand this focus to include classes on insects, the creation of a butterfly garden, and a visit from an expert at the Desert Museum who will share their bird collection up close with the students.
Because the day includes three course periods, I’ve been able to teach digital art, a section on the winged creatures and then be involved in a game of ultimate Frisbee. Athletic offerings like this bring our middle and upper students together to learn teamwork and leadership and provide for wonderful interaction between the two age groups.
We also use our Friday rotations to involve students in the service and support of projects underway across campus. In February, we helped the Hawk Walk by making all of the medals for winners at the event. This process began in the Fab Lab where we created a plastic mold for our design. Then various students came in on a Friday to stamp out the design into clay, and once it was fired, we spent another rotation glazing the awards. The students loved the work and we really proud to present the medals to the Athletic Director.
In a few weeks, the entire middle school will use two Fridays to participate in our annual Rome Days. These days are designed with various athletic competitions, art making, and team building activities based around the Ancient Romans. Rotation scheduling has been the perfect way to keep this tradition without losing valuable class time.
Sometimes these courses require additional supplies or incur small travel expenses. I am deeply appreciative of the funds we receive through generous donations to support our unique weekly programs. Within my courses, we have found it challenging to do digital art on the small screen of a laptop with only a mouse or trackpad. However, with the purchase of new Chromebooks featuring a stylus and tablet, students can physically and virtually draw with a paintbrush on the computer. Having these tools makes a difference as students can explore the unlimited possibilities they have in making their art. I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop an even more robust learning experience for our incredible students.