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. The elective descriptions that follow are a broad sampling of courses offered in the last few years. Not all courses run each trimester.
Virtual World Travel
Join us as we set sail, take off, etc. for Virtual World Travel! In this elective, students will learn travel tips as they gain knowledge about other cultures during their travel. Students will also get to test their knowledge of other cultures and countries through various trivia “stops” along the way. All aboard!
24 Game is a fun and fast math game where the object is to create an equation that totals 24 with 4 numbers. This is a fun way to play with math in many different formats. In the elective, we will play the game, but we will also explore strategies to improve our math skills!
Science of Star Wars
Have you ever wondered if lightsabers could really exist? Are you intrigued by the idea of the possibility of exploring other worlds and what alien life might be like? The Force will be with us as we watch the Star Wars trilogies and generate questions about the science presented. Using research and critical thinking skills, students will investigate topics of their choice such as spaceships, droids, exoplanets, extraterrestrial life, and more.
Design Your Own Board Games
Calling all board game & puzzle lovers! Even though we can't play board games together right now, we can still exercise our brains to design and build great games and challenges! Work independently or collaboratively to build the perfect board game concept or plan an escape room.
Kahoots and GimKits
In this elective, students will play Kahoots and GimKits based on a variety of student interests. The sky’s the limit for fun in this elective!
Middle School Trivia Bowl
In this elective, students will play several online games. In one game which is an online Jeopardy game, students will play one on one against each other. We will change topics from week to week. In another option, students will be paired into teams to play codenames where one member of the team is the “spymaster” and will give their team one-word clues to pick various cards on the gameboard.
National Parks of the United States
In this elective, we will explore and virtually travel to some of the national parks in the United States. Although you have probably heard of some of the more well-known parks, – Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Glacier – it may surprise you to know that there are 62 protected areas known as national parks in the U.S. In addition, there are another 400 areas that are part of the National Park system but are not formal National Parks. We will look at when they were discovered, the history (in some cases geological) of what formed them and how they were designated and how they exist today. Come and explore!
All Kinds of Pets
Discover all different types of pets. In this elective, students will learn basic pet care, how to choose the best pet for you, dog and cat first aid, and other pet-related topics.
Virtual RAPID Lab – CAD Modeling
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 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 in March, and WT’s STEM Symposium in May.
Exploration in Coding
Calling all Sustain-a-Bears! This elective is meant to learn about pressing environmental issues ranging from single-use plastics to fast fashion and mindful energy consumption. We will be building on the momentum of the “Green Team” to develop art projects, awareness campaigns, and competitions to help encourage sustainability and environmentally friendly practices in the Middle School.
Magic: The Gathering
This elective is for beginners all the way to experts. We will be learning the basic mechanics of the game and applying them to your gameplay. Magic: the Gathering is considered to be the most complicated game and has been able to become a Turing Machine, a kind of computer. Combining game play and mechanics, students will be able to create fan art and fan fiction. “Untap” and get ready to play.
That's a Really Good Question!
"Is slime a liquid or a solid?" "How did Morewood Avenue get its name?" "Who is the top goal scorer in the NHL and what factors should be considered?" Students in this elective will use the internet and other resources to find answers to some really good questions. Anyone in the Middle School community can submit a question, and the elective team will go to work. We will feature some answers at morning announcements and design some interactive trivia activities based on the information we gather.
This elective is meant to meet one of the most important needs for middle school students: fun! Students participating in this elective will be introduced to multiple and varied strategy and collaborative board games, including: 7 Wonders, Hanabi, Settlers of Catan, Code Names, Ticket to Ride, Lost Cities, Carcassonne, Exploding Kittens, and The Resistance, among others. Students will become familiar with varied game play strategies and techniques, and they will identify qualities of their favorite games. This elective will be a fun way to boost critical thinking and collaboration skills, and it will provide opportunities to build relationships with students across grade levels.
Applied Science and Experimental Design (Three Semester Commitment)
The Science Research elective will be an experience during which students will have the opportunity to conduct research on a project of their choosing, in consultation with the course instructor. Projects will have a different theme, each trimester. 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 Our Campus partners is needed, those can be sought as well. All students who take this elective 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 regional or other science competitions.
- Simm City Game (First Trimester)
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. They will take screen shots to document their progress throughout the game. These screen shots will be assembled into a slide show which is a deliverable part of this competition. In January, a team will present the city to judges at the Carnegie Science Centers Future City Competition. (Limit of 12 students)
- Model and Essay (First and Second Trimester – Must Commit for Two Trimesters)
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 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.
This course will examine the relationship between humans and the environment around us and will deal with immediate environmental concerns like over-consumption, pollution, and sustainability. We will focus on hands-on projects that can make an immediate difference, from studying our own carbon footprint to decorating recycling bins and making trash art.
Azores Trip Preparation
This elective is required for the students who are traveling to the Azores 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 traveling in Azores. Activities include, but are not limited to, topics such as: examining volcanism in the islands, learning about the language and culture, and learning to identify wildlife.
Biodiversity and culture of Cuba
This elective will explore the wildlife, plant life, and the culture of Cuba through webquests, videos, a memoir, and a field trip to Phipps Conservatory. Students will design a travel journal to keep track of this colorful expedition.
In the jigsaw puzzle elective, students will assemble both physical as well as online jigsaw puzzles to both strengthen and relax their brains. It has been shown that jigsaw puzzles help to exercise both hemispheres of the brain. In addition, working on jigsaw puzzles and focusing on the same image for longer periods of time can actually become more like meditation and induce a certain calmness and peace in the mind. And, the brain produces a chemical known as dopamine that is chiefly responsible for learning and memory. The production of this chemical increases in the brain when it is engaged in solving a jigsaw puzzle. We will alternate from working on large physical puzzles to working on individual online puzzles.
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 dive into adventures, using their math skills to avoid grave consequences! Each student receives their own copy of The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math: 24 Death Defying Challenges for Young Mathematicians by Sean Connolly which serves a workbook for Math problems they won't commonly encounter in class. Don't be fooled by the title. You don't have to be a brain in Math, you just have to love a good time! Whether it's just for fun or you enjoy dodging danger, come out to see what Perilous Math has to offer.
Applied Science and Experimental Design
The Science Research elective will be an experience during which students will have the opportunity to conduct research on a project of their choosing, in consultation with the course instructor. Projects will have a different theme each trimester. 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 Our Campus partners is needed, those can be sought as well. All students who take this elective will be responsible at the end of the year for sharing their findings with the broader community, either at the WT STEM symposium or possibly at regional or other science competitions.
In this elective, students will have the opportunity to create fantasy teams and leagues for soccer (Premiere League), football, basketball, and hockey. Students will learn about different ways to set-up fantasy leagues. Students will also learn different ways to draft teams including: auction drafts, live drafts, and virtual drafts. Students will have time to research players and learn about important statistics in each sport. Throughout the trimester, students will come to class and tally points that have been accumulated by their fantasy teams as well as propose trades with fellow students. By the end of the trimester, students will have a greater knowledge of sports related statistics.
Students in this elective will work individually, as well as in groups, competing with each other in timed "challenge" events. Some events will be modified from science Olympiad challenges such as egg drop and towers. We will also brainstorm together to come up with new ones. It will be something different every day!
Mathematical Thinking through Origami
Students will explore a number of mathematical concepts using origami, the art of paper folding. The concepts of symmetry and various geometrical shapes will be explored. As we move through each step of each module, we will discuss the shapes that we are creating, classify the angles and discuss the various geometric shapes that we are making. We will create models using one sheet of paper as well as modular origami, which uses multiple sheets of paper. In modular origami, many repeating units are created and then they are assembled to create a more complex geometric form. The complexity of the structures will increase as we move throughout the trimester.
In this elective students work to complete jigsaw puzzles of a variety of puzzle pieces depending on the individual’s level of comfort. I have found that students enjoy doing puzzles and really concentrate when completing the puzzles. This goal-oriented task is an effective way for students to socialize, and working together to complete the puzzles also provides opportunities for teamwork and relationship building.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Space Math at NASA
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.
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!
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.
Animal Advocates: Farm Edition
Are you an animal lover? Do you want to learn more about farm animals? In this elective we will partner with two local rescues to learn about and help animals in need. Pigs, horses, cows, and goats are just some of the animals we will learn about. Be prepared to work on the farm as this elective will include visits!
The Climate Changers elective is a great way to help and learn about Climate Change and how it’s affecting the earth, humans, and animals. This is a student-led elective in which we will research work that has been done to document climate change as well as activists who have made a difference in the struggle to stop climate change, like Greta Thunberg. In addition, we will possibly write articles or newspapers to hopefully publish online. We will also work on speeches that we could give as part of public speaking competitions. If you like writing and making a difference this elective would be good for you. We only have one earth and one chance to save it, and we are the one generation who can stand up and make a difference!
This elective is about learning, practicing, and sharing the ways that we interact with the world around us. Do you know how to sew on a button, iron your clothes, get home from WT? Have you set up a savings plan for your gaming budget? We will learn and practice these skills and much more, laughing and having a great time along the way!
Have you ever wondered how companies get started? Do you have side hustle (‘cause your first hustle is school) and wanna turn it into a legit business? In Entrepreneurship, we learn the foundation that must be laid in order for our businesses to run as successfully as possible.
WT Middle School Lends a Hand
This elective is an opportunity for students to help in a variety of ways in our Lower School. While the majority of our class periods will be dedicated to volunteering in Lower School classrooms, and possibly some Middle School classrooms, we will spend the first few class periods exploring the role of classroom volunteers. Following our training sessions, students will be assigned classrooms based on teacher requests prior to each class period. Volunteer assignments will most likely change from class to class, so students will always check in as a group at the beginning of each of our meeting times. The elective is open to any students who are interested in being helpful around our school, are good at following directions, and are comfortable working with younger students.
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.
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.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
It's always a beautiful day in our neighborhood! Each time our elective meets, we will take a walk to learn more about the people and places that make up our neighborhood today and in the past. We will uncover secret places and learn about things you might have never noticed about the place our school calls "home." This elective will run rain or shine, but if the weather is unsafe we will take a digital "walk" to sites that might be too far on foot.
Beyond Countries and Capitals: World Geography
This elective will be all about maps! Can you memorize the countries of the world, and decide what makes them part of the same region? Can you read a topographical map that describes physical landforms of a region? This elective will also explore the political and cultural forces behind map-making, including the way that map creation was used to lay claim to territories during European colonization.
How do we know what we know about the past? When studying ancient civilizations, and even when reconstructing life in settlements such as Jamestown, Virginia, archaeology plays a crucial role in how we understand and interpret the rise and fall of communities and civilizations. This elective will teach the basics of archaeological excavation and use documentaries and other research by archaeologists to investigate how to gather artifacts from the past and how to analyze and understand artifacts relative to the culture they came from.
American Musical Theatre – An Entertainment History Lesson
What we know as Musical Theatre, Broadway and the like, didn’t just happen. The musical has its roots in Europe long before this form of theatre became the phenomenon that it is today. Through this elective, we will explore the roots of Musical Theatre to better understand how and why it grew to be so popular in our country today. Students will have an opportunity to do some fun research on early American Musical Theatre and present to their classmates as well as watch some classic musicals. We will focus on musicals from the 1930s through today, looking at their impact on society at various stages in our history as Americans.
Road Trip USA
In this elective, students plan a detailed trip from Pittsburgh to a variety of destinations throughout the United States. Following the guidelines of budget, timeframe, and site theme, students plan a day-by-day visit to locations throughout the country. Students will research destinations, transportation, places to stay, sights to see, and how to get the most out of a trip. Students will practice "Think also..." by learning about current issues within a given region, and how to be a conscientious traveler. Students will present their trip to classmates and must meet the requirements for budget and timeframe.
Modern America Through Objects
What sort of clothes did the “flappers” of the 1920s wear? How did advertisers create a whole new disease to market a new-fangled product, Listerine? Why did your grandparents play with radioactive toys in the 1950s? How did cell phones change the way we interact with the world? This course will tell the story of everyday Americans through material culture, meaning the objects that we (and our historical counterparts) use on a daily basis. Students will have input choosing the objects we study, and we will focus on understanding the lasting significance of these objects. The course will end with development of interactive museum exhibits.
Hip Hop History
Students will drive this course with research on critical periods in Hip Hop and its impact on and by the world around it. We will explore influences, key players, genre evolution, and key issues.
In this elective we will look at various battles from modern history and dissect them. Example battles could include Ypres, Belgium, where the first chemical weapons were used, the Battle of Trafalgar, in which the Spanish Armada was defeated by Admiral Nelson’s famous “Crossing the T” maneuver. We may also look at the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle for St. Petersburg, and also look at Gettysburg as a deciding factor to the outcome of the civil war. We’ll look at other battles to study the introduction of mechanization of war in the form of tanks and airplanes. We might also look at how germ and diseases affected casualty numbers in battles.
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.
From summer blockbusters to romantic comedies, from the zombie apocalypse to heartfelt documentaries, take your place in the Director's Chair to share your vision. Students will create the movie that they would most like to watch. At the heart of every movie is a story that touches your soul. Content will include scriptwriting, storytelling, movie history, and video production. It is time to tell your tale. Will the hero save the day? Will good triumph over evil? It will be up to you to decide. Camera rolling, ACTION!
Do you love animals and art? In this elective you will get to spend time making different kinds of art with the very cutest subject, our pets! We'll look at many kinds of pets. You can do art projects featuring your pet, a neighbor's pet, a class pet, a teacher's pet, or even a pet from online. We'll do lots of different kinds of art; our projects could include photo-based art, mixed media collages, drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Exploring Watercolor Techniques
In this elective, students will learn a new watercolor technique each class. After practicing with the new technique, students will utilize it to create their very own watercolor painting that will be complete by the end of the period.
Drawing to the Music
In this elective, students will take turns sharing their favorite songs and let their imagination filter into different artistic media inspired by the music.
Students will explore their creativity by crafting and designing bulletin boards and cheerful spaces around WT. Students will be encouraged to brainstorm themes and ideas to help make the school happy and bright by offering a helping hand to the Middle School teaching spaces.
Art Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance
This elective will be a hands-on course that will involve making artworks inspired by the artists of the Harlem Renaissance (early 20th century). Students will explore a variety of artistic mediums (drawing, painting, collage, photography, and sculpting) while learning about societal influences that helped to shape the art. Students will be inspired by various legendary Black visual artists, musicians, writers, and intellects of this amazing era. Students will create both collaborative group artworks and individual projects in response to artworks created during this historic time period.
Students will have an opportunity to create handbuilt clay projects inspired by traditional pottery from various cultures. The course will be dedicated to making clay functional pottery as well as sculptures. Students will also create one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces that explore pottery from Africa, Asia, and Europe. (Please note: There will be NO wheel throwing.)
This elective will begin with a study of quilling. Quilling, or paper filigree, is an art form that involves the use of strips of paper that are rolled, shaped, and glued together to create decorative designs. We will use these shapes to create a variety of arts and crafts such as cards, ornaments, and pictures. This elective will also utilize paper for crafting and art projects including paper beading, newspaper bowl and coaster making, and jewelry making. Students can explore ideas and designs and bring those to the elective for us all to try.
Audiobooks and Art
In this elective, students will listen to audiobooks and use a variety of art materials to draw, paint, and sculpt while enjoying the stories.
How many of you have ever wanted to make – and eat – delicious treats at school? The baking elective will make yummy food using both baking and "no-bake" recipes ranging from granola bars to cinnamon rolls, including some recipe ideas that students suggest. We will share our baking creations with our families and peers.
Women in Contemporary Art
In this elective, students will learn about a different current female artist each cycle and create their own artwork inspired by the artist.
Earth, Air, Fire, Water Art
This elective course will explore art and nature using multiple 2D and 3D techniques. Students will create both collaborative and individual projects. Natural materials will be used both as the sources of inspiration and as the medium throughout the trimester. Students will have a greater understanding of how various cultures express artstic ideas using nature. The possibilities are endless!
Still Life Sketching
In this relaxing elective, students will have the opportunity to fill their sketchbooks with still life drawings. A still life is a drawing that focuses on still objects. Each class period, we will focus on a new object to draw (i.e. fresh flowers, bottles, fruit, shoes, etc.). We will apply color to our favorites to create finished pieces.
In the this elective, students will have the opportunity to create a number of zines (small circulation publications of original or appropriated texts and images). Each zine will focus on a different musician, artist, or band selected by each student based on their interests. Students will choose which element(s) of zine writing or drawing they would like to focus on for each zine they create (i.e. comic, poem, social commentary, drawing, recipe, joke, etc.).
The word calligraphy means elegant or beautiful writing. In this elective, you will discover the origins of this ancient skill, practice various styles of the Roman alphabet, and create your own personal script. You will explore famous quotes and poems, then you will choose one to display using calligraphy markers, colored pencils, and watercolors.
Art & Community Service
This elective course will be an exploration of art and community service. Students will learn to form bowls using various ceramic techniques. These projects will be donated to the local Empty Bowls community service project in March. The project raises awareness about world hunger and also supports local food banks. Our second project will be a community service project that allows students to create unique clay projects that will be donated to local homeless shelters. Both projects will provide opportunities to encourage activism in our community through the arts. The elective will also require students to research both topics in order for them to have a greater understanding of these basic human rights.
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.
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.
What’s Good and Happening Now
In this elective, students will study sources for news information. They will discover which sources their friends and families rely on as well as learn how to determine the credibility of sources. They will read about what's happening now in the news and will have time to focus on human interest stories. Themain focus of the types of news we look at will be to look at the good in the world. Each student will have a crack at creating a news story to submit to the student council news to highlight what's good and happening now in Middle School.
This elective will answer the age-old questions of "Which is better – the book or the movie?" We will read student-choice novels that have had a Hollywood movie made about them. We will then compare segments of the movie to segments of the book to determine similarities, differences, and which students prefer. The books we read, students will be able to use for their independent reading assignment in English class.
Behind the Headlines
This elective is a chance to dive into current events at a local, national, and global level, ranging from COVID-19, to the 2020 election, to global inequality. This class will work on improving media literacy, including determining what makes a source credible and how to evaluate multiple sides of an issue. We will focus primarily on topics of student interest to better understand the world around us.
Through the Lens Storytelling
Student in this elective will combine their love of photography with their love of writing. We will take walks and photos to inspire our descriptive writing, poetry, writing, and short story writing.
TBA: The Book Activists
Do you want to help plan and carry out fun events to promote literacy in our Middle School? Do you love Fiction Feud or Battle of the Books and want to see more varied events? Do you have what it takes to foster and spread the love of reading? Or do you just want to relax and read a book? TBA is the elective for you! What is the elective? TBA!
Graphic Story Elective
Do you love to read graphic stories? Do you love to draw or write? Then this elective is for you! We will explore the format of graphic stories and different genres while reading a collection of novels. We also will all have our own blank journals for students to write their own graphic novel. You will work to develop characters, plot, and setting to write your own novel. You will design your own panels and structure for the novel and will celebrate your final published piece with the group.
Scholastic Contest Writing Workshop (Grades 7 and 8 only)
Students in this elective will follow the writer’s workshop model to create a piece to submit to the Scholastic writing competition. This elective is intended for students who enjoy writing and are excited to begin to develop their writing portfolio. Students must also be in grades 7 or 8 in order to submit to the contest and to join this elective.
This elective is the WT spin on “Battle of the Books!” This elective will be similar to “Battle of the Books,” but with a smaller reading list and more flexibility. We will read and discuss books, practice answering possible competition questions, and plan an evening Fiction Feud competition that is open to the entire Middle School. If you love reading and talking about books, this is the elective for you!
Who Done It!
Do you like to write creatively and with suspense? Do you like to watch suspenseful movies and shows? Do you know what a red herring is? Well, this mysterious elective might be just the thing for you! This elective will explore the elements of the mystery genre. We will read some mentor texts, watch movie and television clips, and even explore some creepy places in the school to understand the mystery genre. We then will develop our creative writing skills to tackle writing and publishing a mystery by the end of the trimester.
Word Games is an elective where students play a variety of games focused on individual words and creative language. Games range from creating various words out of an allotted draw (Quiddler, Boggle, Scrabble), or feature other challenges where students pull from their creativity to communicate game-related messages (Catch Phrase, Scattegories, Balderdash). Word Games offers students both fast and slower-paced games, and all can be played in less than one hour.
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.
Musical Theatre Workshop
Musical Theatre Workshop will serve as a hands-on model of music theatre study. Through musical theatre repertoire, students will practice vocal and dance technique, acting/scene study, and performance etiquette. This course will allow students the access to professional workshops, guest artists, and additional performance opportunities. Emphasis will be placed on continued dance training and vocal styles appropriate for the musical theatre stage. Taught by Ms. Humberson and Mr. Grubb, Musical Theatre Workshop will be a fun and creative way to study the arts through practical application!
WT on Broadway
Students will join Ms. Humberson in studying many famous Broadway musicals throughout the trimester. Class time will be spent viewing and discussing different broadway shows, as well as learning well-known dance breaks and performance pieces.
Students will be introduced to the basics of tap dance while also focusing on rhythm and musicality. Students will receive tap shoes (or are encouraged to bring their own from home). We will also take time to view several well-known movie and performance clips that include some of the most famous tap dancers of all time.
WT on Broadway - Dance
Students will spend the trimester discussing musicals and particular dance/movement scenes that make them memorable for the audience. Students will then work together to learn the choreography and re-create scenes from different musicals each week. Students will also choreograph a musical theatre piece of our own to use put their choreographic skills to the test. No previous dance experience needed! Come ready to talk about your favorite Broadway shows and why you love them.
Students will focus on genres such as tap, lyrical/contemporary, hip hop, jazz, and ballet from week to week. Class will include a warm-up, across the floor progressions, and a movement combination each week. Students will focus on learning how to lead a safe and successful warm-up for their classmates as well as how to properly stretch and strength their bodies. Together, we will work on building a final piece by pulling from various choreographic skills week to week such as improvisation, musicality & accents, timing variations, and stage skills.
Soul Line Dancing
Various styles of music are accompanied by group line dancing. Soul Line Dancing accompanies Hip Hop, R&B, and Soul music. Students will learn some of the most common dances, older complex dances, and some of the newer dances on the Soul Line Dancing scene. We would like to extend what we learn to two culminating activities – a Soul Line Dancing "Cabaret" with Roland Ford, the Mr. Soul Line Dance of Pittsburgh, and the Vintage Soul Line Dancers, as well as a dance break during one of our breaks toward the end of the trimester.
Cardistry and Magic Tricks
A simple deck of cards can provide just as much fun as a video game! Learn tricks, flicks, and magic to impress friends and family. No experience necessary. We will start out with easy tricks and work up to more advanced tricks as the trimester goes on.
Comedy Classroom 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.
This is a chance for musicians, songwriters, and producers to have dedicated time in school to work on your craft. This time can be used for practicing violin, composing on GarageBand, collaborating with friends, and everything in between. Space is limited and your project proposal needs to be approved by Mr. Marcus in order to participate.
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 Middle School will be filled with singing and dancing GLEE style! Sing and dance to popular music, show tunes, and movie songs.
Walking with WALKer
In this elective, students will exercise and socialize! This student-led elective will get us out and about in the neighborhood near WT as we walk, talk, and have a ton of fun! Join us as we take in some fresh air along with the sights and sounds of our community.
Strength and Conditioning
Students will learn and perform basic exercises based around muscular and cardiovascular fitness. They will learn the proper techniques needed to perform these exercises as well as the basic understanding of what the exercises.
Need a mental break and some screen-free time? In this elective we will recapture the carefree days of early childhood through activities like making and using play dough, doing arts and crafts like finger painting and relaxation bottles, playground time and outside games, and relaxing with some stretching and yoga.
Have you felt stressed or anxious anytime in the last few months? This elective is all about relaxing your brain and your body! We will work on our Mindfulness practice and use a variety of techniques to destress and relax.
Students will have the opportunity to learn and play different sports involving a goal. Sports will include hockey, soccer, handball, and more.
This elective would focus on passing, catching, route running, and football strategies.
Basketball for the Athlete
This elective is going to be geared toward the students who are serious about getting better at the sport of basketball. Students will come up with a workout plan and set goals that they wish to achieve by the end of the trimester. Students will need to create a skill and fitness goal.
Net Sports Tournament Style
This elective will include team and individual sports such as hockey, badminton, volleyball, handball, soccer, and much more. The elective will focus more on competition and team play, through tournament formats, rather than skill development.
The elective will work on developing students' fundamental skills as well as overall understanding of the game. Students will engage in a variety of small-sided games as well as five-on-five full court games.
FIT - Fun. Intense. Training.
We’re gonna get moving using Zumba, Hip Hop inspired workouts, High Intensity Interval Training, and a series of stretches. If you wanna work out, laugh, release stress, and have a blast, come and join us!
Non-Traditional Team Sports and Games
In this elective students will have the opportunity to veer away from the traditional and most popular team sports (i.e., football, basketball, soccer, etc.). The focus will range anywhere from kickball to capture the flag and much more. Some of the team sports or games may even have different formats! Students will have the chance to become fully engaged and learn more about the less relevant team sports and games.
This elective is designed to help soccer players of every level develop in some area of the game. Participants will have the opportunity to work on ball mastery, passing, finishing, and other components involved with soccer. Participants will start with a specific focused training session as a warm up. Following the warm up, we will get into game play which will be played outside or inside
In this elective we will be be outside as much as possible. We will engage in a wide variety of outdoor games such as football, capture the flag, touch rugby, kickball and many more. When necessary we will be inside the gym playing other games such as awesomeball.
Build Your Own Team
Students in this elective will engage in several tournaments over many different sports, including basketball, hockey, soccer, and awesome ball. Each team will have a captain and will have a brief amount of time to practice each class before engaging in tournament play
Outdoor Games / Lawn Games
In this elective we will be outside as much as possible. Activities will range from large group games such as capture the flag to small casual lawn games.
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!
Middle School Chorus
The Middle School Chorus is open to all Middle School students who are interested in being a member of a vocal ensemble. Students will learn music of various styles, languages, and time periods, as they prepare to perform in the winter and spring WT concerts and in other outside performances.
In the Middle School Yearbook elective, students are responsible for creating the Middle School section of the entire school yearbook the Thistledown. Students will learn about creating dynamic and visually interesting spread designs using OnLine Design. They will also learn the “ABCs” of writing effective and interesting captions and copy, and how to take quality candid photos for use in the yearbook.
Middle School Orchestra
The Middle School Orchestra is open to all Middle School students who are currently taking lessons on a musical instrument and are interested in performing as a member of an ensemble. Although the focus of our rehearsals is to prepare for our winter and spring performances, fundamental musical terminology, music reading, interpretation, expression, and improvisation will be included. Classical, folk, jazz, and contemporary music are incorporated in our endeavor to make the music-making experience a positive, enjoyable, and memorable one. Participation in scheduled dress rehearsals and performances is required of all Middle School Orchestra members.
Middle School Dance Ensemble
The Middle School Dance Ensemble is open to all Middle School students who are interested in dance and performance. No prior experience is necessary. The ensemble will meet once each cycle during the second and third trimesters, providing students with an opportunity to explore a variety of dance styles and learn a repertoire of dance choreography. Styles of dance and music include everything from hip-hop and jazz to modern dance and musical theater. Much of the material covered in the ensemble throughout the year will be showcased during the annual Dance Show. Emphasis is placed on developing dance technique, artistry, and performance quality.