New Elective Offerings Expand for Rising Eighth Graders


Elyse LaPorta

Here at Westminster, a large majority of middle schoolers look forward to the increase in choices for electives in 8th grade. Students enjoy being able to find the perfect set of electives for their own interests. Rising 8th graders get the choice of two electives, one for each semester. In previous years, the electives offered were Journalism, Economics for Entrepreneurs, Creative Writing, Future City, Architectural Design, Leadership 101, Serve Atl, Endangered Earth, and Democracy in Action. 

Eighth-grade electives have been part of the curriculum for decades. However, before this current range of electives was offered, there were only two available classes, one for each semester. “Back in the day, there were only two. It started with Writing Workshop for one semester and Economics for the other,” says Leslie Ann Little, Middle School English teacher and Assistant MS Head for Academic Programs. 

Since then, electives have been added with the base of either Writing Workshop or Economics in mind. “We tried to expand the [elective] offerings so that the workshop side could take a variety of courses that could involve writing,” says Little. “But it didn’t all have to be the same kind of writing. Then the economics side started shifting towards Shark Tank, which is something a little more STEAM-oriented and a little more hands-on and engaging, and then they started broadening what was offered.”

Additionally, for the 2021-2022 school year, the administration will add even more options for students to choose from. Meet the Wild: Journaling Nature, taught by English teacher Clark Meyer, works on getting students out of the classroom and into nature. According to the Online Course Catalog, “Meet the Wild: Journaling Nature is a chance to [explore the campus], a regular opportunity to observe and explore nature through drawing and writing.”

Next, Writing Camp focuses on the structure of writing and helping students with papers for all of their classes. According to the Online Course Catalog, Writing Camp will “explore methods that will increase writing fluency, sharpen skills, and get each student ready to jump headfirst into writing assignments with a little less fear.”

In DIY Design: Interior Design in Action!, students will redesign a classroom to make it more engaging for learning. DIY Design branches off of Architecture, but allows students to bring their ideas to life and add something to Clarkson Hall. Little explains “Mr. Sabanowitz is going to work with Mr. Mcsweeney on a DIY course for classrooms. In other words, the idea is to look at a classroom and redesign, including building, so that it’s more engaging. It’s like design thinking, where you meet with the client, they will meet with the kids and think, what will this classroom be like?” 

Lastly, Work Smarter: The Neuroscience and Psychology of Learning, according to the Westminster Course Catalog, focuses on “how your brain gets wired, or what makes learning stick . . . learn[ing] about your own strengths and stretches as a student, and how you can harness neuroscience and psychology to improve academic performance.” Students will learn the basics of neuroscience and psychology and will work on finding out how their brains take the information taught to them. Taught by Cason Givens, one of Westminster’s MS Learning Specialists, this class will help students to “practice a variety of effective organizational and student strategies and use self-assessment and reflection to drive goals and next steps in the learning process.”

All in all, Westminster’s eighth-grade electives have expanded massively in past years, giving students a chance to choose something they have an interest in. “That’s been our big goal, to offer courses that kids wanted to take because it’s the only elective you get in Middle School,” says Little. “So before you go to high school, and everything counts, we wanted to make sure y’all had a chance to do something that was more exploratory. Something that you might be interested in, that might become a hobby or even ignite a life’s passion, so that’s the goal.”