Hillview School students attend school – with a difference – exploring week-long mini-courses

by Valerie Bellofatto on April 2, 2014

Last month, the students at Hillview Middle School went to school as they usually do, but for five days it was “school, only different.” Prompted by the idea that children learn best while doing, and teachers engage most profoundly when teaching their passion, the school undertook its first Mini-Course weeklong program.

All 870 students participated in one of 42 Mini-Courses that included CSI and Law Enforcement, Author, Author Crafting Your Own, Eat Your Heart Out and The Amazing Race. During the course of the week, students traveled more than 2,500 miles, from Sausalito to Angel Island to Monterey experiencing marine mammal care to rock climbing to camping.

“Mini-Courses at Hillview illustrate the future of education,” said school Principal Erik Burmeister. “It’s not that we are getting rid of core curriculum, however, what great schools will pursue are more real-world, engaging learning activities that provide more choice and relevance and a greater focus on skills not just rote memorization of facts.

“Our students are leaving their Mini-Course Week having engaged in creative problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and risk-taking. Learning has taken on a whole new feel for them and the results are evident in the smiles and enthusiasm they project.”

For Hillview student Jace Ambwani, who participated in So You Think You Can GLEE to design and produce Hillview’s First Original Musical, the week provided an opportunity to speak face-to-face with a GLEE actress, Ashley Fink. “It was such a great moment to speak with a real TV star,” said Jace. “We talked about a typical day on the set, fellow actors and learning to work within minutes from getting the script to filming.”

A student in the LIFE course expressed it was one of the best weeks in their life and was so thankful having had some amazing experiences. The CSI group was quite surprised by how much time law officers spend collecting evidence and the high number of drug arrests. The students spent the last day of Mini-Course week wrapping up their experiences in presentations or short videos.

Pictured is 7th grader Tania Morella, who participated in “Author, Author: Crafting Your Own Novel”


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