PHOTOS: Innovation Block Mini-Courses Introduce New Learning Opportunities for Upper School Students

The mini-courses support strategic goals around expanding experiential learning, developing student health and wellness programs and cultivating important life skills.
Students in grades 9 and 10 spread out across St. Margaret’s and beyond campus on Wednesday, painting landscapes in Sillers Hall, grilling chicken by Tartan Field, hiking in Caspers Wilderness Park and caring for houseplants in the Tartan Courtyard, among the many activities available to them.  
It marked the return of the Upper School’s Innovation Block mini-courses, a break from traditional academic subjects where students take part in nontraditional relevant learning opportunities of their choice.
The Innovation Block mini-courses debuted in 2018 in response to student feedback and in support of strategic goals around expanding experiential learning, developing student health and wellness programs and cultivating important life skills. It immediately proved popular among Upper School students, who asked for more relevance and connection in their daily learning to serve them well in school and beyond. Time for the Innovation Block mini-courses and service learning were added to the school’s regular block schedule to take place every three weeks.
“It was so exciting to see the return of the Innovation Block mini-courses and some new options from the creative instructors,” said Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives Ryan Dahlem. “These engaging learning experiences develop life skills and support the well-being of students by allowing them to choose areas of exploration that are meaningful to them.” 
This semester’s offerings include:
Grades 9 and 10: Self-defense and life skills, houseplants and horticulture, painting to relieve stress, hiking and the outdoors, yoga, cooking over fire, knitting for good, charcuterie, DIY handcrafts, the basics of pickleball.
Grades 11 and 12: Car maintenance 101, DIY handcrafts, charcuterie, basics of skateboarding, self-defense and life skills, cooking over fire, yoga, hiking and the outdoors, painting to relieve stress, houseplants and horticulture, the basics of pickleball.
During the service learning/innovation block, grades alternate between taking innovation block mini-courses like these, or working with a service-learning advisory partner in the community. Grades 11 and 12 took part in important service-learning activities and discussions this week and will start their Innovation Block mini-courses on Oct. 6.
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