Bullis Charter School seventh graders are not your everyday junior high students. This year, the 21 students are enrolled in a projectbased program designed differently from the typical middle school experience.
The students began seventh grade at Bullis Charter School Aug. 19. The first nine weeks of school, they will proceed through their normal curriculum of science, math, language arts, foreign language, music, art and drama, with classes paired to allow longer “blocks” of times in specific disciplines. Bullis Superintendent Wanny Hersey said the block schedule is preferable to the routine seven period junior high experience, which often requires students to run from class to class with no logical subject area progression.
For example, math and science classes are scheduled backtoback at the charter school so that teachers can collaborate with students on projects that build on, apply and reinforce concepts in both subject areas.
“The block scheduling allows us to have opportunities to have students immersed in projectbased learning,” Hersey said.
After the normal curriculum period, students will engage in three week intersessions in which students can develop a deeper understanding of a particular subject.
The first intersession, scheduled to begin in October, will focus on woodworking, cooking and sewing, Hersey said.
The intersessions move beyond the classroom and engage the students in active learning in the real world, she said. Depending on the area of focus, students may participate in field study, job shadowing, interviewing, performing and learning from professionals outside the classroom.
The intersession lessons combined with the Bullis Charter School curriculum will culminate in a student-run production of a Shakespeare play.
“The skills and knowledge they gained throughout the school year will give the students the ability to put this play on,” Hersey said.
She said the play is an ideal way to incorporate what students learned in history, literature, music and performance, and apply the practical skills developed in the intersessions.
Hersey said the staff strives to meet the emotional and social needs of students as well. Each student is assigned a faculty mentor who helps him or her focus on achieving goals and provides academic, emotional and social support.
In addition, Hersey said outside professionals will visit the students and act as real-world mentors.
“The students are able to work on their 21st century skills while allowing them to work with experts in the field through the mentor program,” she said.
Hersey said the seventh grade program fits with Bullis Charter School’s brand of project-based learning. Every student spends time analyzing, integrating and applying concepts to reallife learning opportunities, she said.