Wednesday Exploratory Seminar
New this year, Wednesday Exploratory Seminars (WES) are designed to:
- Connect learning among the disciplines
- Spark wonder and creativity
- Develop critical thinking
- Reward intellectual risk-taking
- Stimulate student engagement
- Enhance communication skills
- Expand perspectives
The seminars do this by providing multi-disciplinary, problem-based, and experiential learning that connect skills and knowledge gained in core classes to real-world experience. Complementary seminars are designed to help students develop metacognition, study and organizational skills, and mindfulness.
Wednesday Exploratory Seminars include:
- Seminars that explore and expand knowledge and understanding of literature, writing, mathematics, science, history, and global issues and perspectives.
- Extended blocks of 70 minutes, providing adequate time for active, subject-integrated, problem-based experiences.
- Connections to core-class learning that is not numerically assessed to encourage intellectual risk-taking and authentic rather than strategic learning
- Multi-disciplinary instruction designed by faculty from diverse disciplines allowing students to connect biology and geometry, social studies and statistics, or music and math for examples.
WES this Week: September 20, 2017
Here is a preview of what the faculty has planned for this week’s Wednesday Exploratory Seminars:
- Great Math Minds: This seminar is repeated this week for students who did not attend this WES two weeks ago. Sixth grade students get inside the minds of three amazing mathematicians: Pascal, Sierpinski, and Fibonacci. Number patterns, tetrahedrons, collaborative triangles, and Fibonacci poems rule the day. Students leave this seminar intrigued with the minds of these masters and inspired to embark on a mathematical journey of their own. Faculty: Janice Smith (math 6)
- Technology Scavenger Hunt: Students get hands-on experience using their SMA Chromebooks and are introduced to the Academy’s extensive range of research resources and databases. Using the structure of a science-based scavenger hunt, students learn appropriate ways to search the web, developing their technology skills along the way. Co-faculty: Geoff McVie (instructional technology) and Steve Mayfield (science 6)
- Native American Storytelling: Throughout most of human history, storytelling was used to pass along a community’s culture and history. In this seminar, students learn the art of oral history through the study of Native American stories, beginning with a focus on the Cherokee people. They explore story telling and examine the importance of masks in Native American ceremonies, leading them to express personal history orally with masks. Co-faculty: Andy Rodgers (social studies 6) and Celsa Rutan (world languages IA)
- Six Room Poems: Poetry is perhaps the most demanding form of creative writing. Many writers struggle to convey depth and detail while maintaining brevity and form. Working within the six-room poetry structure, students capture great detail by examining their subjects from multiple perspectives and senses. Then they narrow their focus and refine their choice of image and words. Writer’s block be gone! Faculty: Mark Garcia (language arts 6)
- How Come Planet Earth? This interactive, team-based seminar allows students to discover the answers to frequently asked questions about planet Earth and the organisms that inhabit it. Students work in competitive teams, using a glossary of scientific vocabulary and their powers of reasoning to devise answers that convince their peers that they know the facts. After watching a short video clip of the correct response, teams will vote on which student explanation was closest to the truth. Faculty: JoAnn Cencula (science 7)
- The Narrative Power of Country Music: Every country song tells a story with purpose and intention. In this seminar students write lyrics for a country song based on their personal story. They discover that with discipline and focus, the creative process yields a powerful narrative that connects listeners to a shared experience or emotion. In addition to teaching writing, this seminar allows students to express all the wonders and angst of adolescence. Faculty: Terrye Easton (social studies 7)
- More Than a Necklace: Students are introduced or reintroduced to the concept of meditation. After experiencing a guided breathing meditation, participants will discuss how difficult it can be to reach a place of reflection and calmness in our current culture. Students explore the use of mala beads and make connections to the use of beads and necklaces in other cultures and religions, including rosary beads in Catholicism. They engage in written expression, devising a mantra and then writing a post-meditation reflection. Faculty: Victoria Fernandez (language arts 7)
- Ties that Bind – The History of Loretto and St. Mary’s Academy: Students leave this seminar with a better understanding of the history of the Sisters of Loretto and the founding of St. Mary’s Academy. They study the courage and tenacity of the Sisters and develop a richer understanding of how SMA is grounded in the Loretto values, assuming a role in the continuation of living a courageous and tenacious life. The seminar allows students to mentally “time-travel”, as they review primary research documents and hear anecdotes shared by Regina Drey SL. They have opportunities to represent their understanding by creating an illustrated timeline for display in the pods and by reenacting some of the fun and brave experiences of early Loretto leaders. Faculty: Christina Garcia (world languages IB)
- Circles, Circles, Everywhere? This seminar explores the myth of the circle. Everywhere we look we see shapes and call them circles or spheres. But are they really circles? What is the world’s roundest object and does a perfect circle exist in the real world? Students react to this seminar with many “but what about” questions as they grapple with the nuances of circles, spheres, and ellipses. Faculty: Melissa McQueen (math 7)
- Building Emotional Awareness through Improvisational Theatre: This seminar is designed to help students develop emotional awareness and stress management skills through creative expression and group interaction. Students will learn about improvisational theatre and use this acting method to become more aware of emotional regulation and verbal and nonverbal communication cues. Improvisational theatre helps build individual risk-taking skills and provides a fun but structured opportunity to practice collaboration and foster community. Faculty: Cheri Buxman (visual arts)
- Sherman Alexie’s Life and Works: This seminar complements the language arts classroom study of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Students read more of Alexie’s work, including his poetry, and learn about his life. They create a written piece using Alexie’s techniques to discover the value of employing personal experience as an inspiration for artistic expression. Co-Faculty: Anna Smith (language arts 8) and Joe Riehl (world issues 8)
- Fibonacci in Nature: Students delve into the Fibonacci series, discovering how this sequence appears in nature. They calculate numbers in the Fibonacci series and experiment with creating original numerical patterns. Exploration of the pattern is accomplished through constructing an equiangular spiral and examining the Fibonacci patterns found in pinecones, sneezewort, pineapple, cauliflower, shells and crystals. This seminar ends with an inspiring glimpse at how these patterns and sequences appear in art, architecture, and music. Faculty: Kathy Rosborough (science 8)
- Probability and Games of Chance: This seminar is the first in a series that examines the fairness of certain games, providing opportunities to predict results (theoretical probability), play the games, and calculate probabilities (experimental probability). Students define probability and explore the correspondence between Fermat and Pascal in 1654, gaining insight into the origins of probability as a field of study in mathematics. On a broader level, the seminar seeks to help students see that probability is at work in many situations outside the classroom setting. Co-Faculty: Michael Pattison (math 8) and Ana Fonseca (world languages II)