The Exploratory Program for Middle Schoolers at Principia School in St. Louis provides choice, variety, and balance, challenging students to try the untried and to expand their educational horizons. Delivered in a flexible format that allows for small group and individual work, most classes are electives and include students from all three grade levels.
There’s something for everyone to explore. In addition to required and elective history and science classes, there are offerings in art, theatre, technology, the Bible, music, language, and sports. Students might study alternative energy while refurbishing a donated electric car. They can explore substitutes for fossil fuels; learn about solar, hydro, and wind power; and examine the benefits and limitations of each. Some choose guitar lessons, eventually recording their music live in a professional studio. And in an annual required “Project Adventure” class, students participate in physical activity and teamwork exercises built around the school’s outdoor climbing wall and ropes course.
To prepare for the annual launch of plays based on the works of Shakespeare or Dickens, students can take on lighting and sound production activities, create masks, and master sword-fighting techniques. A “Stagecraft” class once created a full-size version of a 16th century English bench, while other set devices were hand-painted by the “Art Explorations” team.
Exploratory learning, the school believes, is a journey of discovery. And when given the opportunity to actively interpret, perform, and build, students can shake up notions about how education works.