The Middle School elective program encourages students to pursue interests and passions beyond the core curriculum. Students are required to take either electives or performing arts ensembles every trimester. Ensembles and some electives are a year-long commitment, so be sure to review registration forms carefully. The elective descriptions that follow are a broad sampling of courses offered in the last few years. Not all courses run each trimester.
National Science Bowl
Students will broaden their science knowledge in preparation for the National Science Bowl competition held in late February or early March. Students will expand their content knowledge in the areas of General Science, Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science, Energy and Mathematics. They will then put their knowledge to test in competition rounds with a lock out buzzer system. A particular emphasis during the first part of the trimester will be to study and learn about the DOE Energy labs, which are nationwide. These labs do research on different forms of energy and the work that they produce has become a focus of the Science Bowl competition in recent years. If successful at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Science Bowl, the team has the chance to represent this region at the National Science Bowl, which is a week- long event in Washington, D.C. in the spring. WT is the region's defending champion!
Classic Math Puzzles
Are you up for a math challenge? In this elective, we will solve classical mathematics puzzles that have challenged people for years. We will explore famous problems such as, Tower of Hanoi, The Konigsberg Bridges problem, 15 puzzle, and 12-marbles problem.
Science Olympiad Version #1
Students will participate in and prepare for Science Olympiad team events in a wide range of STEM subjects. However, this elective/team is not just for fans of science. Students who participate can develop and use a wide range of skills including engineering, beginning carpentry, communication and interpersonal skills, artistic skills such as design and painting, analysis of graphs and other data, and computer skills as well as science specific knowledge. The events include diverse activities such as building and testing a student made mini-roller coaster, designing and building a “battery buggy” to complete tasks, analyzing simulated crime scene evidence, learning information about severe storms to demonstrate knowledge of meteorology, participating in a quiz show-type game, and many more. Team members will use elective time to work on their events. While students may work on any event during elective time, in this section Mrs. Valenty will be available for more in-depth coaching in the following events: Crime Busters, Dynamic Planet, Herpetology, Meteorology, Potions & Potions, Road Scholar, and Rocks & Minerals. In March, a team of 15 students will represent our school at the Science Olympiad Regional Competition.
Science Olympiad Version #2
Students will participate in and prepare for Science Olympiad team events in a wide range of STEM subjects. However, this elective/team is not just for fans of science. Students who participate can develop and use a wide range of skills including engineering, beginning carpentry, communication and interpersonal skills, artistic skills such as design and painting, analysis of graphs and other data, and computer skills as well as science specific knowledge. The events include diverse activities such as building and testing a student made mini-roller coaster, designing and building a “battery buggy” to complete tasks, analyzing simulated crime scene evidence, learning information about severe storms to demonstrate knowledge of meteorology, participating in a quiz show-type game, and many more. Team members will use elective time to work on their events. While students may work on any event during elective time, in this section Mrs. Hannan will be available for more in-depth coaching in the following events: Anatomy & Physiology, Disease Detectives, Ecology, Fast Facts, and Microbe Mission. In March, a team of 15 students will represent our school at the Science Olympiad Regional Competition.
The Math Behind Game Shows
Is winning a game show pure luck? In this course, we will explore the math behind several game shows and develop strategies for increasing the odds of winning. We will analyze several games from The Price is Right, as well as Deal or No Deal, Wheel of Fortune, and Let's Make a Deal. At the end of this course students will design their own game show and investigate the math behind it. Bring your game face!
Students will sharpen their math thinking skills by completing a wide variety of math puzzles. These will range from Sudoku and various varieties of Sudoku (Jigsaw Sudoku, Killer Sudoku, Samurai Sudoku), Kakuro Puzzles, Number Search, Number Fill in and Checkerboard Puzzles. We will change the type of puzzle and the difficulty of the puzzles as the elective progresses.
Applied Science and Experimental Design
The Science Research elective will be a year-long elective experience during which students will have the opportunity to conduct research on a project of their choosing, in consultation with the course instructor. Projects can be in the realm of Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, or Physical Science, or an integration of several of these. Students will work on doing an experiment which will involve using the Scientific Method where observations are made and conclusions drawn. There will be the opportunity to use a wide variety of Vernier data collection probeware. In addition, if the assistance of City as Campus partners is needed, those can be sought as well. Students will be responsible at the end of the year with sharing their findings with the broader community, either at the WT STEM symposium or possibly at the Regional Science Fair or other science competitions.
National Science Bowl
Students will broaden their science knowledge in preparation for the National Science Bowl competition held in late February or early March. Students will expand their content knowledge in the areas of General Science, Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science, Energy and Mathematics and then through the use of competition rounds with a lock out buzzer system, they will be tested on that knowledge. If successful at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Science Bowl, the team has the chance to represent this region at the National Science Bowl, which is a week- long event in Washington, D.C. in the spring.
Students will participate in problem based learning with a computer simulation and interact with mentor engineers to explore their visions of the city of tomorrow. The various portions of this elective will prepare the students for competition in the “National Engineers Week Future City Competition.” An engineer mentor will visit the class as guest presenters to provide the students with a broad perspective of the world of engineering. Under the guidance of this engineer mentor, students will first build a city 150 years in the future using SimCity software. Students will then build a scale model of their city or a portion of it. A research essay will be written as well as a narrative describing the future city’s key features. In January a team will present the city to judges at the Carnegie Science Centers Future City Competition.
Animal Behavior: For the Birds
Do you love birds? In this elective we will take elements of animal behavior and focus specifically on the amazing birds. You will be able to learn about a wide variety of birds, how they have evolved, and how they interact with their environment. You will get to spend time observing and providing enrichment for Mrs. Hannan's "flock" as well as guest birds from the aviary. You will complete independent research on the bird of your choice and also work in groups to design a behavior experiment to share with the class.
This elective is designed for the civic-minded animal enthusiast. In this elective we will focus on issues that animals face in our community, in our country, and around the globe. We will learn about subjects such as community cats and TNR programs, humane education and encouraging the adoption of pets from shelters, endangered species conservation efforts, wildlife rehabilitation and sanctuaries, and much more. We will then design and implement an animal-related service project to benefit a local animal welfare organization.
Following The Middle School Student’s Guide to Study Skills, we will be learning how good study skills are important to all aspects of our learning lives. As we move through the curriculum, students will learn that study skills are more than knowing how to prepare for an assessment. This elective is designed to help students become self-aware of their learning strengths and weaknesses, and to put them in the driver’s seat with regard to acquiring, recalling, and demonstrating knowledge throughout their Middle School experience.
Future Goals – Hockey Scholar
Hockey Scholar brings science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts to life using the exciting, fast-paced game of hockey. Through immersive real-life simulations, students will build their understanding of fundamental STEM concepts such as geometric constructions, energy, and forces. There are different modules that students will work their way through, building their scientific thinking and problem solving skills with the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup!
Science Olympiad--Competition Team
This elective is for students who would like to help prepare for the Science Olympiad competition and would like the chance to be on WT's Science Olympiad team (although you do not have to take the elective to be considered for the team). Students will participate in and prepare for Science Olympiad team events in a wide range of STEM subjects. This elective and the competition are not just for fans of science. Students who participate can develop and use a wide range of skills including engineering, beginning carpentry, communication and interpersonal skills, artistic skills such as design and painting, analysis of graphs and other data, and computer skills as well as science-specific knowledge. The events include diverse activities such as building and testing a student-made wheeled vehicle, designing and building a hovercraft, analyzing food chemistry, and learning information about the brain and nervous system to demonstrate knowledge of anatomy and physiology. In March a team of 15 students will represent our team at the Science Olympiad Regional Competition.
Ever wondered if double-dipping really spreads germs? Does toast really always land butter-side down? Can you make a glow stick out of Mountain Dew, vinegar, and baking soda as claimed on the internet? Separating truth from fiction can be tough! In this elective we will endeavor to find the truth as we investigate claims using research and the scientific method. We will also watch episodes of MythBusters as inspiration and to analyze and critique the investigative methods demonstrated on the show.
In this course, students will explore a variety of software applications, including Alice Programming (developed at CMU), Scratch Programming (developed at MIT), and several Google applications. The students will explore programming concepts and develop games, digital stories, and other structures. All software that is used in this course is free to download and can be used on multiple computer platforms, so students can continue to explore and learn outside of class.
In this course, students learn robotics concepts, building robots with the LEGO NXT hardware and programming with the LEGO Mindstorm software. The students’ work is focused around the First LEGO League competition held every December at the NREC (National Robotics and Engineering Center) in Lawrenceville. Students will build and program robots that will need to accomplish specific tasks based on the competition theme.
The NREC has developed a new software with which students can program and operate robots in a virtual environment. We have been asked to test and use this software along with its developed curriculum. Students will learn how to program in Robot C. They will learn how to program motors, encoders, and sensors to have robots do work in the given environments. The Robot C software can also be used to program actual robots, so we can switch between the virtual and live environments for testing and experimentation.
Digital journalism combines journalism with film design. In this course, students will brainstorm, develop, write, film, and edit a short program based on Middle School news. Students will be taught appropriate interviewing and news writing skills, film recording and editing techniques, and the process of a news broadcast, from start to finish. The completed news programs will be shown as part of Middle School announcements.
Using an online website editor, students will learn how to create a website. Students will explore topics such as DNS, network hosting, and bandwidth while also discussing the overall purpose and appropriateness of their sites. The online application also lets the student explore web programming using basic HTML and CSS styles.
Exploring Web 2.0 Tools
In this class, students will use a variety of websites that incorporate the newer read/write/create web technology. Applications that students will explore include: photo editing, website creation, blogging, multimedia creation, and social networking. All sites will be safe for the students and have an educational connection.
Students will take a critical look at websites to gain a better understanding of what makes a good site. Students will look at popular websites and break down the positive and negative aspects of each site. They will also attempt to connect with website developers to discuss how the sites are built, and if there are plans for the future of the websites.
Minecraft is a popular online simulation software program. This student-driven elective will teach students how to use and play Minecraft. Using this software tool, students will also explore concepts such as online collaboration, problem solving, programming, and web server setup and control. Students are the primary instructors for this elective with teacher supervision to assist with class management and organization.
Programming with Python
This course is a student-driven elective in which students will learn basic programming concepts and structures using Python coding. Basic coding elements will be taught, and students will be given problems to solve with code. Students are the primary instructors for this elective with teacher supervision to assist with class management and organization.
This course is designed to increase student keyboarding skill through drill, practice, and reinforcement of correct techniques. Students will follow a self-paced keyboarding tutor through a web tool. This tool can be accessed from outside of class, so students can continue to practice.
Problem Solving and Collaboration Through Traditional Games
This course is designed to provide students an opportunity to play a variety of board (not computer) games that will be fun! It's also an opportunity to work with peers who they might otherwise not work with. Stratego, Upwords, Mastermind, Trivial Pursuit, and Life are just some of the games that will be available for this elective. We can also discuss and add some other games based on student interest. Let’s have an old-fashioned, non-electronic BLAST playing some games!
This elective introduces students to the use of mathematics in today's scientific discoveries. Through press releases and other articles, we will explore how many kinds of mathematics skills come together in exploring the universe. How is mathematics used in science? How does simple math help students to understand recent discoveries? Possible topics from the more than 400 problems that are at our disposal from the NASA database include: Exploring Solar Alignments with Mathematics and Geometry, The Changing Pace of Global Warming, Death Stars, Taking a Stroll around a Martian Crater, Solar Power and Satellite Design, Martian Dust Devils, The Rate of Oil Spill Leakage in the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, and the Changing Atmosphere of Pluto.
Future Cities (game simulation portion)
Students will participate in problem-based learning with a computer simulation and interact with mentor engineers to explore their visions of the city of tomorrow, 150 years in the future. This particular elective will meet twice a cycle and will be focused on building a city for the Future City competition using SimCity 5 (or New SimCity) software. There is a rubric for the competition which students will be following to create their city and the most successful city will be submitted as part of our entry.
Future Cities (essay and model)
Students will participate in problem-based learning working and interacting with mentor engineers to explore their visions of the city of tomorrow, 150 years in the future. They will be working to write an essay dealing with transportation in the future and also to build a model of the city with moving parts which will be part of the presentation at the Future City competition in January.
National Science Bowl
Students will broaden their science knowledge in preparation for the National Science Bowl competition held in February. Content areas for the competition include General Science, Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science, Environmental Science, and Mathematics. Through the use of competition rounds with a lock out buzzer system, they will be tested on that knowledge. If successful at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Science Bowl, the team has the chance to represent this region at the National Science Bowl which is a week-long event in Washington D.C. in the spring.
This trimester, Marine Biology will begin by focusing on corals which have been on the Earth for the past 500 million years, but now appear to be threatened. There are many aspects about corals that are not commonly known. The students in this elective will be doing research about how they have existed and evolved throughout geologic time (the last 500 million years); how they exist at both shallow depths and deep depths (below 6000’), and how some appear to be the oldest living things on Earth. After this research they will be reporting back to the rest of the class. Students will be working with resources from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary as well as with the Coral Restoration Foundation located in Bonaire.
Girls in Science
This course is designed to encourage girls’ interest and participation in the fields of science and technology. The course begins with discussion and research highlighting the accomplishments of women scientists. For most class sessions, we invite a guest speaker to talk with the students about her work while the girls eat lunch. After lunch, the students participate in a related hands-on activity. Speakers in the series talk about a diverse range of science and engineering topics. This class also includes field trips to learn about the work of women scientists in the Pittsburgh area.
Amusement Park Physics
Students will explore the forces involved in physical science by building and measuring various amusement park rides (loops, Ferris wheels, and eventually an entire roller coaster). After gaining knowledge of the scientific aspects of the rides, students spend the day at Kennywood Park, comparing their findings to the work they completed in the classroom.
Video Game Design
In Video Game Design, students will explore and learn with a new video game developer toolkit geared toward Middle School students. Students will create a video game world, and learn how to program, and create elements in that world. The toolkit has been created at CMU via the Entertainment Technology Center. The students will learn through a mix of online activities and classroom activities. We are excited to pilot this new program with CMU!
In the Arduino Programming elective, students will learn all about microcontrollers and be able to experience them in an educational environment. Students can program the popular Arduino microcontroller to do various tasks like blinking and fading LED’s, reading sensors that will react to things like light, a push, and motion, and wire up neat circuits on a breadboard and see them work in action! This elective is great for anyone who is interested in electronics or programming, and would also be good for anyone who is just amazed by the power of technology.
Do you love to design, build, and test contraptions? Are you a fan of problem-solving and investigation? If so, this is the elective for you! During the "Science Olympics" students will compete in STEM activities inspired by Science Olympiad. The emphasis in this elective is engineering, science, and fun! We will choose challenges such as Rotor Egg Drop, Bottle Rocket, Bridge Building, Crimes Busters, Elastic Launched Glider, as well as many others, to work on during our time together. We will also compete in mini-challenges such as paper airplane building, catapult contests, and tower building. Come join the fun!
Science Olympiad--Competition Team
This elective is for students who would like to help prepare for the Science Olympiad competition and would like the chance to be on WT's Science Olympiad team (although you do not have to take the elective to be considered for the team). Students will participate in and prepare for Science Olympiad team events in a wide range of STEM subjects. This elective and the competition are not just for fans of science. Students who participate can develop and use a wide range of skills including engineering, beginning carpentry, communication and interpersonal skills, artistic skills such as design and painting, analysis of graphs and other data, and computer skills as well as science-specific knowledge. The events include diverse activities such as building and testing a student-made helicopter, designing and building a robot to complete tasks, analyzing simulated crime scene evidence, and learning information about severe storms to demonstrate knowledge of meteorology. In March a team of 15 students will represent our team at the Science Olympiad Regional Competition.
Do you love animals? In this elective you will get to spend time observing and providing enrichment for our resident animals as well as guest animals. You will have the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of animals and how they interact with their environment. You will also conduct independent research and design an experiment about animal behavior to share with the class.
Stock Market Game
Learn what makes the stock market tick. Students will invest "money" in real companies of their choice, watching their fortunes rise or fall with the actual market. Strategize and speculate on risk vs. reward while investigating the history and function of the stock market in our economy. Will you go for broke or end up broke? Anything can happen when you play the market.
If you like to learn or find time to play European and/or Chinese chess, this is the class for you. Here are 10 reasons you should play chess:
10. It teaches planning and foresight
Often called "The City of Bridges," Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city, including Venice, Italy. This elective will first examine the forces involved in building and maintaining bridges. We will then look at internal and external forces acting on the different parts of a bridge including stress and strain. Some of the methods that engineers use to design strong bridges will be explored. Students will investigate how to make strong structures and then then examine the many different types of bridges. We wil search Pittsburgh to find all the different types of bridges and throughout this process students will build various types of bridges, both physically and virtually. This elective is limited to students in seventh and eighth grades.
The science behind string is a student led, fun elective that infuses crafting with awesome math and science. We will make gimp lanyards as well as friendship bracelets and exploring the math and science behind the shapes which are created as well as the different colors. We will explore the science behind color and discover cool patterns and make them. By the end of the trimester, you will be able to bring in a picture and recreate the project. No prior experience necessary.
Working with the Carnegie Science Center as well as resources developed through our City as Campus initiative, the Future Careers for Girls elective will explore exciting professional careers in STEM fields. Girls in this elective will research certain fields and then they'll be visited by professionals in those fields during the elective period. We might also have the opportunity to take a field trip to visit one of the occupations that we will be exploring.
This elective is being offered for the students who are traveling to Costa Rica this summer with Mrs. Valenty and Mrs. Hannan. We will begin to explore the experiences planned during our trip so that we can make the most of our time while traveling in Costa Rica.
Join the WT Design Lives Here Team by registering for this elective. Design Lives Here is a competition based on the WQED show, Design Squad Nation, a reality-based program created to "inspire the next generation of engineers." Our elective will include hands-on engineering activities designed to introduce and reinforce the engineering cycle. With the help of an engineering mentor from a local Pittsburgh company, students will then design an invention that solves a real-world issue or challenge. At the competition in May, students will participate in additional fun engineering challenges. They will also have an opportunity to present their inventions to the engineers and scientists at Inventionland and receive feedback on their work.
Students in this year-long elective will have the chance to investigate scientific principles, create inventions, and design solutions to real-world problems. With a focus on the physical sciences and design, students working in the RAPID Lab will utilize the scientific method and/or the engineering cycle to work on a project throughout the duration of this elective. There will be an emphasis on the use of technology including probeware to collect data, CAD modeling, and 3D printing to create prototypes and multimedia technology to create podcasts, blogs, presentations, and video tutorials. There will be two culminating experiences for this elective – the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair on April 1 and 2, and WT’s STEM Symposium in May.
The Aquarium elective will be a hands on aquatic elective where students will learn about how to take care of aquatic animals (both fresh and salt water) and to maintain those systems. Students will actively work with the salt aquarium on the ground floor, doing research to discover what fish are currently in that aquarium as well as what fish or invertebrates could also live with what is currently there. Students will do similar studies on the other aquariums in the building and making informative signs which will be posted to let other students, faculty, or visitors in the school know what animals are in each aquarium. Students will also perform water testing and aquarium maintenance (yes cleaning) of some of the aquariums. Students will set up at least one new aquarium and learning how to do that as well.
Exploring STEAM Careers
Students in this elective will explore careers in science, technology, engineering, math, as well as careers that combine those fields with the arts. Students will learn about future career paths through research and visiting professionals. Much of the content will be driven by student interest as we profile both common and unusual professions.
Investigating Science in the Media
Separating truth from fiction, science from pseudoscience, and “Hollywood” versus reality can be very difficult in our media-saturated world. In this elective, students will be armed with the tools of critical thinking and will practice scientific literacy and logic skills as we examine claims both legitimate and far-fetched. We will investigate the science behind popular television shows including Mythbusters, Hack My Brain, Brain Games, and Outrageous Acts of Science, and more. We'll apply the framework of science and critical thinking to examine claims from fringe pseudoscience, such as paranormal investigations as well as podcasts and YouTube videos.
This elective focuses on the evaluation of extraordinary claims using the scientific method. We will explore the tools of skeptical thinking as we learn about logical fallacies, types of evidence, Occam's razor, and more. Through the lens of critical thinking, participants will apply what they have learned to pseudoscience topics such as Bigfoot, Nessie, and UFO's, among others. Topics will be chosen based on student interest.
Middle School Filmmakers
Do you have a particular area of interest that you'd like to show to the world? Maybe you want to teach others about a favorite animal, showcase your personal hero, or raise awareness about an important issue. Hilarious, informative, or eye-opening, a documentary can be a powerful way to catch the attention of others. In this elective, we will research a topic of your choice, draft the script, film and collect footage, and edit your ideas into a brief documentary. You may choose to work individually or with a group of two or three students. Whether you like to be in front of the camera or behind the scenes, please join us in this exciting elective!
In Virtual Vacations, students plan a detailed trip to a destination of their choice. Following the guidelines of a budget and time frame, students plan a day-by-day visit to a real location anywhere in the world. Students will research destinations, transportation, places to stay, sights, and how to get the most out of a trip. Students will practice “Think also…” by learning about current issues within a culture and what it means to be a conscious traveler in a foreign place. Students will present their trip to their classmates and must meet the requirements for budget and time frame.
Design Lives Here
Join the WT Design Lives Here Team by registering for this elective. Design Lives Here is a competition based on the WQED show, Design Squad Nation, a reality-based program created to "inspire the next generation of engineers." Our elective will include hands-on engineering activities designed to introduce and reinforce the engineering cycle. With the help of an engineering mentor from a local Pittsburgh company, students will then design an invention that solves a real-world issue or challenge. At the competition in May, students will participate in additional fun engineering challenges. They will also have an opportunity to present their inventions to the engineers and scientists at the competition and receive feedback on their work.
What is a polymer and how does it impact your everyday life? In this elective we will answer that question as we experiment with and learn about these amazing chains of atoms. We'll compare the absorbency of diapers, look at food packaging, learn about the different types of plastic and how to sort recyclables, experiment with slime recipes, make bouncy balls, and explore other areas of polymer science based on student interest.
Whale Camp Trip Preparation
This elective is being offered for the students who are traveling to Whale Camp this summer with Mrs. Valenty and Mrs. Hannan. We will begin to explore the experiences planned during our trip so that we can make the most of our time while at Whale Camp.
Teen TED Talks
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED Talks is a media organization that posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan "Ideas worth spreading", believing that spreading ideas can change the world. In this elective, we will watch TED Talks (beginning with TED Under 20), and have group discussions based on their ideas. Throughout the trimester, students will take an idea of their own and develop it into a Teen TED Talk. Students will use the elective period developing their idea and talk, and practicing their presentation. Ultimately, students' TED talks will be video recorded, and presented to the Middle School. Come explore how others – and potentially you – can change the world by spreading ideas.
The Middle School Student’s Guide to Ruling the World (through Work Management and Organizational Skills)!
In this course, we will work to improve our organizational skills and to better manage the challenging workload of Middle School. With topic such as a “goof-proof” binder, controlling long term projects, how to take better notes in class, identifying and correcting bad homework habits, and many more, students will be able to identify their strengths and weakness so that they can improve their basic work management and organizational skills.
Build Your Own Team
Ever wanted to be your own coach? Referee? Equipment manager? Sport journalist? Trainer? In this elective students will take part in an extended athletic season for two different sports: Soccer and Ultimate Frisbee. Members of each team will be assigned a designated role. Including coaches, trainers, referees, equipment managers, a Journalist, and graphic designer. Throughout each season (roughly 7 classes) students will practice and prepare for an end of the season championship. Each class period, coaches will be responsible for developing practice plans and team strategies for upcoming scrimmages. Trainers will be tasked with developing appropriate warm-up routines and fitness drills. Referees will research all necessary rules and will teach them to the rest of the team. Equipment managers will coordinate with coaches to make sure they have all the necessary equipment they need for practice and scrimmages. The team journalist will document the season and write an official report of the final championship. Lastly the team’s graphic designer will help create the team crest and logo as well as design their jersey.
Raise Your Voice
“You don’t have to change the world - just change your world.” These words from Joan Trumpauer Mulholland are what the Raise Your Voice Elective is all about! Joan is a civil rights activist who spent her whole life speaking up for the rights of others, even as a teenager. In this elective, you will learn about other young activists and have the opportunity to talk to experts about ways that you can make a change in your community. Using that information, you’ll pick a cause, create an action plan, and make a change! You can work as an individual or with a small group that is interested in the same issue. Join us to show that anyone, anywhere, at any age can raise their voice and make a change in the world.
One of our objectives in the Middle School is to promote leadership qualities in our students. In this elective, we promote that skill by asking our Middle School students to be role models for the Pre-Kindergarten students. One or two days each week, several students volunteer in the Pre-K classroom. They play games, read books, and plan other activities with the students. More importantly they act as student leaders across grade levels.
Ethics in American Society
This course will provide students with the language and tools to use when faced with ethical dilemmas. Knowing that practice builds confidence and skill, students will be asked to address ethical issues that they face on a daily basis as they pose and create their own ethical questions.
Is WT as green as it can be? How about your home or neighborhood? In this class, students will learn about sustainable living and come up with their own ideas for “green living” and making real changes at school and at home. From energy, water, and food to what we buy, recycle, and throw away, it will be a hands-on experience in learning to take positive steps toward a more sustainable planet.
Global Events is an elective that aims to look at events occurring throughout the world, while paying particular attention to causes and effects. In this elective we dive deeper into issues to look at why and how events occurred. The elective could look at such topics as the current war of words between the United States and North Korea and help further explain the stalemate between the two. On a more local level, the elective could look at the United States’ appointment of supreme court justices and why it is one of the most powerful and long lasting acts a president can do. Students will also have the opportunity to bring news and events to the class to share with their fellow classmates. Perhaps a major breakthrough has been made in the technology field!
Sports history is a fun, active new elective that will exercise the brain and body by studying the history of numerous western sports. Sports that will be addressed in this elective are football, college football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, golf, and much more. In this elective students will research the beginnings of the sport, the most influential athletes in the respective sport, and research and reenact the most memorable plays from that sport. Students in this elective will also look at the concept of team building, camaraderie, and sportsmanship that develops when participating in a sporting activity. Additionally, students will research to understand the social, cultural, and financial contributions that these sports have on local communities and the nation as a whole.
Great debates: Current Events Edition 2.0
During this third trimester elective, students will actively research specific controversial events that are occurring today about which people have multiple viewpoints. Examples of such topics are, climate change, the second amendment, the United States’ role in the world, and the Syrian conflict to name just a few. Students will be assigned a chosen viewpoint to research, and create an argument based on that viewpoint using evidence to defend their argument. Students will debate their argument before a panel of impartial judges to determine which side has crafted the most reasonable argument using relevant evidence. A major emphasis in debates is the preparation and presentation of your argument, so students must think on their feet and be ready to use a counter argument at a moment's notice.
Women in History
The victor writes history. Unfortunately, the victor has not often been historically female, which has led to many important persons falling into oblivion. But who were some of the more important female historical figures? What did they do? How did they change the world? By looking at a number of imposing and enticing biographical histories, you will learn and teach the rest of the class about these individuals that have often - almost always - been forgotten. We will follow a Project-Based Learning approach, creating movies or other interactive exhibits to make these forgotten stories come to life.
Strategy Board Games
Catan, Carcassonne, Risk, Diplomacy, you name it! Quite simply, this course is about playing more advanced strategy games. We will learn more about the rules, strategies, ideas, and other tips and tricks behind some of these ingenious games, and we will also see who is the real WT Strategy Champion. By connecting these games to real-world applications, we will be able to better understand the allocation of resources throughout the globe and how armies have been fighting throughout history. Do you want to be the teacher? You will have the possibility to bring your own games to class.
Back in Time: Classic Movies
Go back in time by exploring film history starting with the dawn of the film industry during the silent era to talkies in the mid-century and ending with art films of the 70s. We will watch movies, read scripts and excerpts of books that inspired films, analyze plot lines, critique directing styles, and reimagine our own versions of classic films.
Great Debates: Current Events Edition
During this second trimester elective, Great debates: current events edition, students will actively research specific controversial events that are occurring today about which people have multiple viewpoints. Examples of such topics are the Syrian conflict, fracking in the local area, Standing Rock, and the Zika virus. Students will be assigned a chosen viewpoint to research, and create an argument based off that viewpoint using evidence to defend their argument. Students will debate their argument before a panel of impartial judges to determine which side has crafted the most reasonable argument using relevant evidence. A major emphasis in debates is the preparation and presentation of your argument, so students must think on their feet and be ready to use a counterargument at a moment's notice.
Great Debates: Supreme Court Cases
This is a hands-on, experiential elective that will allow students to choose a historical Supreme Court decision of interest and argue it in front of the Supreme Court justices. They will discover the facts, understand the historical context of the issues, and prepare a case to defend a position. With solid persuasion and new-found understanding of the Constitution, they may, in fact, rewrite American history!
History through Music
This elective will look at how music has been used as a means to influence the world we live in, sometimes intentionally, as is the case of anti-war songs of the 1960’s, and unintentionally, as in the case of Elvis Presley. Students will look at how artists and songs have impacted the world we live in. The elective will use themes as a driving force as well as a decade by decade analysis. Students will also look at how those songs and artists are a product of the times in which they were present or created in. An example of this would be Nirvana’s teen spirit which reflected not only the grunge rock scene that emerged in the early 90’s, but also how the experiences of that generation were expressed through music.
The History of Video Games
Have you ever wondered about how the video game industry started? What were some of the early games, and how have they influenced what we see today? In this elective students will explore a timeline of the video game industry from Magnavox to Minecraft. Students will explore history, demo older games, and explore how the things have changed over the past 40 years!
Great Debates: U.S. Presidents
In this experiential, hands-on elective, students will be presented with a major world crisis that is facing the United States and our next president. In order to help our president make a decision regarding America’s involvement in the crisis, each student will choose a former U.S. president and discover how that president handled a major crisis during his time in office. Students will research their president through the use of texts, online resources, and interviews with local experts. As a culminating activity, students will take on the persona of their president and meet with the current president in the situation room of the White House to brief the president on possible options and to debate the best course of action.
Think you know it all? You'll have a chance to prove it in this fun and fast-paced elective. During each session we'll try to answer questions from a variety of categories including Math, Science, History, Entertainment, Sports and more. We'll try a variety of formats so that students will have the opportunity to work on different teams, compete as individuals, work against the clock, or just against the other players. Together we'll learn a lot and have a lot of fun as well!
National History Day
National History Day is a nationwide competition in which students investigate a historical topic of their choosing and create a project to present based on what they have learned. Join this elective to use your talents to create a display, film your own documentary, direct and produce a performance, craft a paper, or design and create a website about your research. You can work individually or with a small group of students in this elective. We'll begin the elective by choosing a topic that interests you based on this year's theme which is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange. Each student or group will then plan their research using our resources here at WT and at the Heinz History Center. The rest of the trimester will be used to plan and create projects to display at the National History Day Regional competition in March.
An election year in the United States often times has the ability to consume our every day life, from headlines in the newspapers, to bumper stickers on cars, billboards on highways, and the constant reminder from tickers on the bottom of T.V. screens. Additionally, this years party nominees have had the ability to evoke strong opinions and emotions from their supporters and non-supporters alike. This elective will focus on this year’s unique 2016 Presidential election, an election unlike the United States has seen in recent memory. The elective will aim to answer all your political questions about this year’s election and explain the historical process of choosing and electing a new president. Furthermore, we go into great detail about why this election is so important for future generations, and what it means to the current parties.
Poly Clay Studio
In this elective, led by a WT faculty member and an eighth grade artist, students will learn how to craft unique figures from basic shapes using polymer clay techniques and tools. Projects will be inspired by examples of miniature food that have been created by professional and amateur clay artists. Students will use their artistic vision and imagination to create miniature cookies, bread, ice cream cones, cupcakes, pizza, fruits, vegetables, and more. Students will be encouraged to use basic jewelry techniques to transform their polymer clay creations into wearable works of art!
In this elective, students will learn about the basic principles of photography in order to take better pictures and gain an appreciation of photography. One highlight of this elective is that students will use the school campus and surrounding area as a backdrop for their photos. As students learn about different elements of photography, they will apply what they’ve learned by exploring the area with their cameras. Students may use their smartphone camera, or they may use their own dedicated camera.
Students will be responsible for creating the Middle School Section of the all-school yearbook, the Thistledown. They will learn to use an online design program in their layout of the pages. They will learn to write quality copy and captions for their pages and learn to take yearbook appropriate photos to use in their pages. This is a wonderful elective for students interested in journalism, design, and photography.
Get creative in jewelry making! Use this time to make new earrings, necklaces, etc. from new and old materials. You will learn basic techniques in DIY jewelry making, use tools of the trade, and repurpose materials for creative, fashionable reuse!
In this crafty elective will make useful things out of "garbage." We will use Pinterest AND our imaginations for ideas to turn our trash into functional items. Bird feeders, planters, and jewelry are just of the few crafts we will make. Student ideas are welcome too!
Art History is a survey of world art from ancient times to current day. Students will broadly examine different art periods while focusing on the question, “What is art?” Students will individually choose an artist or art movement and become an “expert” in this area. The course will conclude when students become “docent for a day” and present their research to their peers.
Public Art to Beautify the Middle School
In this elective, middle school students will collaborate with each other, middle school faculty, and the facilities department to plan, design, draw, paint, and install "public art" pieces which will be displayed in different locations all over the middle school. These works of art will beautify classrooms and common areas in our school for years to come.
String Art Elective
The String Art Elective is a student led crafts elective. In this elective, students will make string art, such as friendship bracelets and gimp lanyards. We will build up experience and by the end of the trimester we plan to get patterns online and be able to make them too. No prior experience necessary.
Students explore various projects intended to enhance their visual skills and drawing abilities, such as line drawings, shaded drawings, cartoons, scale, and perspective drawings. Students use a variety of drawing media for in-class and take-home assignments to create a portfolio for the trimester. Students’ observational skills are developed through the exploration of subjects such as still-life, landscape, and the human form as well as through the creation of original pieces. Students are encouraged to develop an expressive style and explore their own creativity.
Handmade Journals and Book Making
The students will learn techniques for creating hand-made journals and books using a variety of techniques and materials. Students will work with guided instructions and will have time for experimental, independent work.
Students will explore the process of making mosaics using several techniques. Individual projects will be made in various sizes based on assigned themes. Students will create functional and non-functional mosaics using various glass and ceramic materials. Local mosaic artist Laura Jean McLaughlin will visit the class to demonstrate her mosaic techniques.
This course will provide instruction for making a variety of puppets (i.e. sock, rod, and finger puppets) that will also be used to perform. Puppets will be used to portray original scripts, traditional folk tales, and stories from around the world. Students will create puppets, write scripts, and create an imaginary performance space. Student puppet shows will be performed before live audiences upon completion.
The Collaborative Zine
In the Collaborative Zine, students will have the opportunity to collaborate in making a number of zines (small circulation publications of original or appropriated texts and images). Each zine will focus on a different topic or theme selected by the students, and each student in the elective will be responsible for his or her section or column in each zine. Students will choose which element of zine writing or drawing they would like to contribute (i.e. comic, poem, social commentary, drawing, recipe, joke, etc.) and be responsible for that section in each zine we produce. Students will work together to produce and assemble each edition of the zine and distribute it to their peers during break periods.
Pottery Wheel Elective
The students will throw clay on the wheels to create a variety of vessels that focus on centering the clay on the wheel, opening up the clay, and bring up the walls of the clay to an even thickness. Once the student has a successful vessel, the student will learn how to trim the vessel and adhere handles to give their bowl or cup a finished look.
Introduction to Opera
Students will explore the excitement and suspense of the opera. The course includes an introductory study of the language, history, and musical components of several of the great operas and their composers. Musical samples of what to listen for in operatic music will be explored.
In this elective, students will create their own personal scrapbook consisting of photographs, stickers, small memorabilia, and other items they wish to keep safe in a book. Scrapbooking is perfect for students who have a collection of the items listed above, but are unsure how to display the items in an organized book. Students will learn about paper bag scrapbooks, page composition, and themes for scrapbooks.
In this elective, students will develop artistic skills in both wheel throwing and hand building. On the potter's wheel, students will learn basic techniques for centering, opening, and pulling up the walls of the clay to form cups, bowls, and vase forms. Using various hand building techniques, students will also learn to create both functional pots and sculptural forms. Students will explore various surface design techniques to further embellish their art work. This beginner's course encourages experimentation, risk taking, and creativity.
Duct Tape Studio
Students in the Duct Tape Studio elective will create a wide variety of fashionable items using duct tape -- wallets, belts, bags, accessories, and many other items. Through a collaboration with the Maker elective, students will work together to design closures for bags that they have created, and bring their ideas to reality via 3D printing! Duct Tape Studio participants will leave the elective with an impressive array of handmade wearables at the end of the trimester.
For this elective, we are going to look at various forms of entertainment from the 1940’s through today. Entertainment – movies, television, theater, and recreation –has taken on many forms throughout the last seven and a half decades. We'll explore various forms of entertainment and how people enjoy(ed) spending their free time. We will use videos, the Internet, and other resources to unpack the idea of what entertainment was, is, and to predict what it is likely to become.
Master of Suspense
Mystery, action, murder, drama, and suspense! This elective will explore the films of Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense and one of the most famous directors of all time. Students will watch his most famous films, analyze his filmmaking techniques, and learn about the impact his work has had in the film industry. Please note that most of Hitchcock's work focuses on murder. Although films will be age appropriate, students sensitive to this content are advised to consider a different elective.
In The News
In this elective, students will design and write a Middle School newspaper. The paper will contain articles of interest, interviews, advertising of upcoming events, student work, and even editorials and illustrations. Students will create the format and will publish it several times each trimester to be shared with the Middle School community.
Best Selling Books
This elective will highlight best-selling young adult literature in a fun casual book club environment with good conversation and refreshments to enjoy. Books chosen will be advanced reading and content levels to help challenge some readers. Together, we will choose books to read, and discuss. Students will need to bring their own copies of the text to the elective. Digital versions are permitted. All reading will count towards the independent reading requirements for English class.
In the Comics & Graphic Novels electives, students will read a selection from a variety of comics and graphic novels ranging from Gary Larson's The Far Side series to Romeo & Juliet: The Graphic Novel. Students will craft their own collection of comics and/or graphic stories.
Novel Writing, Illustrating and Publishing
This elective will be an opportunity for students who have longer story concepts to put their ideas on the page and for students who are interested in illustrating their own or other students' stories. Wherever you are in the process of generating your novel (already started to write it, brainstorming ideas, or just know that you want to try to write a novel!), this elective is the place for you! We will work during classes to plan various aspects of your story concept, give and get feedback on your ideas, and, most importantly, the time and space to take on the task of novel writing! There will also be an opportunity to publish your novel as well. Bring your story ideas, and be ready to write!
Do you love to read and want to broaden your horizons? In this elective we will discover various types of literature beyond the current best selling titles. We will explore some authors and the books that are considered classics of literature. Various authors that may be considered include Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Louisa May Alcott, and George Orwell, to name a few. The final selections will be made by the class.
This elective allows budding writers the chance to write and share their stories and poems. The class is taught in workshop style, and students work on pieces of their choice guided by the instructor. The class includes creative writing exercises, visits from professional writers, and practice in giving constructive feedback. The class will also help publish a collection of student work.
Battle of the Books
In collaboration with Carnegie Library of Oakland, our school library staff is sponsoring teams to compete in the Carnegie Library’s Battle of the Books. This opportunity was announced to students in October, and teams were formed and registered for the competition. The Battle of the Books elective is being offered to provide students who signed up to participate in the competition with an opportunity to discuss the books they are reading and prepare for the competition in March. Students who did not sign up to be on a team can elect to take Battle of the Books as an elective and can participate in the book reading and discussions that happen during the elective period. The books being used for the Battle of the Books, and in this elective, have been selected and approved by the Carnegie Library’s Teen Specialists.
In this class, students will work to develop as readers and writers of poetry. Students will engage in workshops to provide feedback for each others’ poems, read poetry as inspiration for their own writing, and develop a collection of work to be published at the end of the trimester. We will experiment with different writing activities to encourage writing, so that poets of all abilities will be successful!
Intro to Italian Language and Culture
Have you ever wanted to speak Italian or impress your friends by correctly pronouncing items on a menu at an Italian restaurant ? This course will cover basic Italian conversation and culture. By the end of this course you’ll be able to tell someone in Italian about who you are, what your family is like, what you like to do and more. You’ll also learn some interesting things about Italian art, music, movies and the country of Italy.
Attention writers! In this elective, you will have the opportunity to write creatively and to run a literary arts magazine for our Middle School! You will have time to write, give and get feedback on your work, talk to real writers, and produce our very own publication of student art and writing! A literary arts magazine will be a great addition to our Middle School. Help get this project off the ground! Be a part of selecting the name of the magazine, deciding what the magazine should include and portray, and what the magazine will represent for our community.
Improv Theater gives students a chance to interact with their peers in a low-stress and fun way. By using improv games, activities and scenarios, students not only have fun but build listening, communication, problem solving, and team-work skills. The purpose of this elective is to offer a fun, creative outlet to students in a supportive environment.
The Wonderful World of One-Act Plays
For this elective we’re going to be exploring the world of one-act plays. We will be reviewing scripts, creating characters, working on stage presence and direction, and we’ll be putting together a series of one-act plays. Who knows…we may even end up performing these plays for an audience! Any level of acting experience is welcome for this elective.
Singing without instrumental accompaniment has become quite popular in recent years. From classics to pop music, from television to movies, acapella is everywhere. In this elective, student singers will learn and create music using nothing more than their voices. Performance opportunities may include Middle School Morning Meetings, Spring Fling, etc. If you love to sing, come and sing with us!
This elective will be the second cycle meeting of the Dance Ensemble elective. Students who are in the ensemble will have the opportunity to watch videos of various styles of musicals and discuss them throughout the trimester.
Middle School Musical (for performers only)
For those students interested in performing in the Middle School Musical, a first trimester rehearsal elective has been built into the school day making it possible for athletes and others with many extracurricular activities to participate in the musical. This course is mandatory for all students performing in the musical, but NOT for those students working on technical crews.
The second trimester will be filled with singing and dancing GLEE style! Sing and dance to popular music, show tunes, and movie songs.
Musical Theatre Workshop
For students interested in musical theatre, this elective will work on sharpening skills and techniques to prepare Middle School students for future auditions.
Introduction to Stand Up Comedy
Intro to Stand Up Comedy is an overview of comedians and the comedic techniques that performers use to generate laughs. Students will be equipped to analyze and discuss a comedian’s act in terms of style, delivery, and material. We will broadly look at the history of comedy and focus on current performers, from well-known comedians to lesser-known ones.
In this game elective, we are going to play a variety of games such as Tennis, Badminton, Volleyball, Tchoukball, and more. Students will have a chance to practice each sport as well as engage in match play or tournaments. Students may bring in their own equipment.
This elective will be centered on playing unique collaborative games each class. Students will also have the opportunity to work in groups, create their own game-day games, and teach them to the rest of the class. We will not be playing traditional games such as basketball or soccer.
Fitness and Skills for the Athlete
In this elective, students will have the opportunity to create both a fitness and skill enhancing program that matches their individual needs. No matter what sport students participate in, whether it is for WT or elsewhere, students will research specific training techniques, drills, and important fitness concepts that will be used to improve their own performance. Students will set goals, participate in fitness testing, and continuously strive to improve their performance.
Take a break from your classes with yoga on Friday afternoons. In this elective you will learn basic yoga principles as well as gain strength, flexibility, and balance.
Sports and Games Around the World
Sports and games around the world dives into the culture of other countries by exploring their native sports and games. Students will learn about the historical meaning and purpose of the recreational activities from around the world. They will also get a hands on experience by playing the sport/game that we are studying for that week. If you are interested in sports/games and want to learn how other cultures explore recreational activities this is the elective for you.
Fitness and First-Aid with Fitch
Come learn how to improve your overall fitness by using free weights, exercise bands, body weight, and other equipment. There will also be lessons on first-aid for various situations. What to do if you have a nose bleed, minor cut or scrape, how to properly put on a Band-Aid and other possible “everyday” scenarios. We will also be exposing students to first-aid opportunities in the outdoors such as hikes or while camping, like bee stings and bug bites, minor burns, sprains and strains.
Combining the non-stop movement and athletic endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football, a game of Ultimate Frisbee is played by two teams with a flying disc or Frisbee™ on a field with end zones, similar to football. The object of the game is to score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. In this student led elective, you will learn frisbees skills that will prepare you to play Ultimate. Along with skill work, we will also explore and play other frisbee games throughout the trimester.
Are you stressed? Having difficulty focusing in class, or feeling easily distracted and anxious? Do you feel a strong reaction when something new comes up? If so, the Mindfulness elective could be the one for you! In this elective, you will practice mindfulness, which has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety while increasing attention and concentration. We will practice yoga and meditation and read about mindfulness. Prepare to relax your mind!