Selectives 2.0: Imagination At Work

Now in its second year, our Selectives program offers teachers and other community members the opportunity to design a course based on their own interests — courses that are often a complete departure from what our faculty teach during the typical school day. And, of course, it offers our seventh and eighth graders a chance to pursue one of their passions or explore a new one! Despite their disparate titles, each course has a common goal: to promote innovative thinking.

Tony Wagner (author of our faculty summer reading book Creating Innovators), boils down the essential traits of innovators to the following:

Essential Qualities of a Successful Innovator

  • Curiosity: The habit of asking good questions and a desire to understand more deeply
  • Collaboration, which begins with listening to and learning from others who have perspectives and expertise that are very different from your own
  • Associative or integrative thinking
  • A bias toward action and experimentation

This fall, students will build these skills while enjoying one of the following classes. I wish I could sit in on them all!

Robots, Design, and 3D Printing

Design and build your own robot? How do you exactly do that? What happens when you need a part that has never been produced before? In this course you will design and build your own robot using analog components. Then, to improve your creation, you will learn a 3D modeling software to design and print mechanical parts on the Upper School Physics 3D printer.

It Might Get Loud

What connects Neil Young, Zakk Wylde, Brad Paisley, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, and Jack Bruce? Whether playing guitar, keyboard, or bass, they all played instruments that required amplification…and lots of it! More importantly, the raspy harmonic distortion of a tube amplifier came to define rock, metal, country and soul music.   In this class, we will delve into the inner workings of how guitarists achieve their tone by examining what happens when a guitar string vibrates over a magnet, sending an electrical signal through effects, and is finally amplified to room-shaking volumes by power tubes. We will examine how our favorite musicians achieve their sound, trace amplifier circuits, and study how various components affect tone. With a focus on practical skill, students will not only work collaboratively to learn the fundamental aspects of circuit design and construction, but will practice the art of soldering, troubleshooting and overcoming the challenges inherent in any project. The bulk of the class work involves building a series of guitar effects as well as designing and building a functioning amplifier—which just might go to eleven.

iPads, Cameras, Action! – Creating Videos To Share A Vision

A picture is worth a thousand words! High Definition video and photography are powerful means of communication. The lighting, angles, expression, depth, sounds and message can create a lasting impact on the viewers. Learn some basic photography and video techniques that contribute to creating a meaningful message through visual media.

Mathematics and Magic

Many mystifying magic tricks have a mathematical basis, which we will explore in this course. We will learn how to perform these and other magic tricks and use the mathematics we learn to create new tricks. On the last day of class students will perform the original magic tricks they have constructed during the semester.

Act Like Writers: Using Improvisation for Playwriting

Sometimes writing is a long process, but not in this class! Using games of improvisation, students will have to think on their feet to creatively tell a story. Students will gain the ability to create scenes in acting and in writing when given very few specifics. The lessons will help them understand how dialogue for the stage is written and the components of a powerful scene while forcing them to think on their feet and develop ideas quickly. The semester will culminate in a “Reader’s Theatre” performance of original 10-minute scenes.

The World Peace Game

Decide the name, symbol and flag of your country. You are the president of a powerful nation with $500 billion budget and technologically advanced military. The world is filled with conflicts, and your country is under threat. Your leadership and influence are on the line. Will you work with your friends to win over the enemy and establish peace in the world? How will you create peace and progress for your people? Come and experience the world leadership of tomorrow, today.

Creating A Digital Personal Portfolio

Today’s technology is constantly changing the way we present ourselves to the world. Whether for business, social or personal reasons, a creative and artistic story of you can make a lasting impression. This selective will explore a multitude of disciplines in order to best tell your story and highlight your talents. Combining photography, writing, graphic design and typography, this course will allow you to create a digital portfolio to share with friends, family and assist in future career opportunities.

How to Write a TED Talk

Middle school students have incredible ideas, ideas worth spreading. In this course students will practice how to speak and communicate so that others will listen. Students will also have the opportunity to hear the ideas of other teens at the annual TEDx Conference Fort Worth along with a few of our TVS Upper School students. Each course meeting will focus on a fun game that will help students develop confidence in public speaking along with tools to write a speech on a topic they are passionate about sharing with the world.

Revealing Sherlock Holmes: Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Ever since his first appearance in A Study in Scarlet in 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes has become one of the most popular figures in fiction and film. In this course we shall investigate the reasons for Holmes’ enduring appeal.  Why are readers and audiences so fascinated by an amateur detective who uses clever disguises, keen analytical reasoning and the basics of forensic science to solve crimes the police can’t?  What is it about Dr. Watson that makes us identify with him?  Further, why did the creators of the current television series ‘Elementary’ make Dr. Watson a woman?  Should we regard Holmes as an exemplar of artificial intelligence? After reading some short stories from the Holmes canon and viewing representative examples of Holmes on screen, we shall try to create a Sherlock Holmes of our own, one for the next century, for all genders, and for all technological persuasions.

From Polygons to Polyhedra: A Jump into the 3rd Dimension

Did you ever think a piece of paper could someday help save your life? Through the art of origami (ori – folding and gami – paper) scientific advances such as airbags have been created. Come join us as we explore the many wonders of this art. We will be creating and designing three-dimensional objects as well as creating projects to be shared within our school and neighborhood communities. Let’s get three-dimensional!

“Sweet Tooth”- Nutrition and Fueling Your Body

Did you know that research shows the average human makes over 200 food choices every day!  Most middle school students recognize that fruits and vegetables are healthy choices but candy, cookies, and other sweets are not.  Why? The “Sweet Tooth” selective will allow students to use investigative questions to examine their own food choices, explore the importance of different types of foods, and develop a scientific understanding of what exactly we are consuming on a daily basis.  By examining different types of food and drink each week, students will learn why we eat, how different foods provide different amounts of energy, and why certain nutrients are helpful in helping the body grow and stay healthy.  Towards the end of the semester, students will be able to plan a nutritionally balanced snack for the faculty and work with Chef Kelley to plan a meal for the TVS student body.

Ethical Dilemmas & Debate

A moral temptation is when one must make a choice between right and wrong. An ethical dilemma, however, is when a person is faced with a decision where both choices of action are right; hence, a quandary arises. In this course students will discuss and debate common ethical dilemmas, some of which they may have already encountered. Lively and respectful discussion will be the optimal vehicle that drives this course. The hotly contested dilemmas will surely stimulate and exhilarate the mind as students are challenged both to defend what they would choose and to sympathize with the opposing choice. Students will strengthen their intellectual skills, and they will also understand the importance of consideration and compassion. In this course, students will learn also learn the fundamentals of debate: how to construct and deconstruct arguments, research effectively, and increase their public speaking abilities. Finally, students will learn about the opportunities speech and debate can offer them when they reach the Upper School.

Trojan Tutors

Trojan Tutors pairs qualified 7th and 8th grade students with second graders at Chapel Hill Academy, a nearby charter school.  It is the job of our 7th and 8th graders to help younger students strengthen the skills they need to be successful in academic endeavors. In this program, students have the opportunity to develop a relationship with a student who needs academic help.  As part of this selective students will travel to Chapel Hill Academy twice each month for tutoring. Trojan Tutors allows TVS students to use their talents to make a difference in the life of a young person while gaining skills in communication and presentation of material.

Sports and Society: A Microcosm of Our World Today

What role do sports play in American and world culture? We will study societal problems and how these social issues of our world play out in sports today. Students will investigate the way sports highlights and resolve societal conflicts. Students will become the experts on a specific societal problem and be able to teach their peers about this issue, and how sports help us to reflect and discuss world dilemmas.

Musical Performance

How do we become really good performers? How do we prepare for auditions? How do we make our performances even better? The answer may surprise you: Collaboration with our friends! Whether you’re playing a violin solo, or singing a song with friends, here’s your chance to make that performance sparkle! We’ll prepare a ton of songs for groups and soloists, explore that magic connection between singing and acting, 2 perform for each other throughout the semester, then present a performance in May.

Middle School Musical: Marching to the Beat of A Drum with Disney’s Mulan Jr.

This year’s middle school musical will be performed in the fall. Always a daunting task, Disney’s Mulan Jr. is a challenging one! The show is based on the animated movie, which brings the popular poem to life. In order to tell Mulan’s story we have chosen an ancient element of Chinese theatre that is new to our Trinity Valley stage. Join me as we explore story telling through the beat of a drum. Using the original poem and the movie we will draw on the themes and motifs evident in the story. Then we will write our own music and choreograph the opening of the show, which includes the dancing dragon puppet popular in Chinese festivals. This Selective is for those who want to be part of the musical, but cannot commit to the rigors of the Saturday rehearsal schedule. Not only will the Drum Corp open the show, but they will become our Ensemble and create all of the sound & special effects on stage throughout the show.



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