Why i-Termfrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

This week marks an exciting time for Middle School students as they eagerly dive into i-Term, a unique enrichment experience at MPA that embodies our mission of independent thinking and joyful learning. i-Term provides students in grades five through eight with the opportunity to engage in a week-long exploration of their passions and interests far beyond the traditional classroom setting.

Through inquiry-based, experiential learning, students participate in Project-Based Learning (PBL) courses that not only deepen their understanding of a subject but also expose them to new ways of thinking and being in the world. While participation in i-Term is required, students have the freedom to choose a course that aligns with their interests and goals. This year’s offerings include a diverse range of experiences such as Survivor MPA, Woodworking, French Immersion Trip to Quebec, PlaMo Build-A-Thon, and Director’s Cut Filmmaking.

PBL has emerged as a powerful educational approach that engages students in hands-on, real-world projects, fostering critical thinking, collaboration, and preparing them for success in the 21st-century workforce. PBL enhances student engagement and motivation by allowing them to work on projects that are personally meaningful and relevant to their lives. This autonomy and choice give students a sense of ownership over their learning. For example, the idea for Survivor MPA originated from a conversation between Middle School music teacher Michael Claver and sixth grader Sam, both fans of the TV show Survivor, who together brainstormed how to adapt it into an i-Term class.

Research has shown that when students work on projects that are personally meaningful and relevant to their lives, they are more likely to be engaged in the learning process. A fifth-grade student told me how much he enjoyed woodworking. “I’ve never done anything like this before, and I am learning a lot. It’s fun learning how to use all the tools in the Makerspace and how to design and build furniture.”

PBL also enhances critical thinking skills. Research has shown that students who participate in PBL demonstrate significant improvement in critical thinking compared to those in traditional lecture-based courses. Students participating in Survivor MPA are working in collaborative groups to solve puzzles, study games and social theories, explore interpersonal relationships and societal norms—all activities that challenge them to think critically, analyze information, and solve problems.

PBL promotes collaboration and communication skills, essential for success in today’s interconnected world. Quite a few students told me how much they enjoyed working and learning with classmates from other grades they don’t normally interact with and getting to know them. Working on projects in teams requires students to effectively communicate their ideas, listen to others, and work together to achieve a common goal. Research has shown that PBL can lead to improved teamwork skills and a greater ability to work effectively with others.

Finally, PBL also helps students develop important socio-emotional skills, such as resilience, empathy, and self-awareness, leading to increased self-efficacy and a greater sense of agency.

i-Term at MPA is a week-long adventure of the mind, body, and soul, where students and teachers engage together with topics about which they are passionate. It is a time of growth and learning for all involved, enriching the MPA community and preparing students for a successful future.

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