MayATL Returns to Bring New Learning Opportunities to Students


Eighth graders may remember the fall of 2019, when MayATL, a new opportunity of going out into the community, was announced. Students excitedly picked interactive courses that would let them participate in field trips into Atlanta, only to be cancelled because of the pandemic. The good news is that this project is set to be relaunched in the spring of 2022. 

Similar to JanTerm in the high school, MayATL would take place in the last two weeks of school, bumping exams earlier. In the MayATL schedule, regular classes would only meet in the mornings, where teachers would review the exams, and then students would meet with their MayATL courses in the afternoon. In this time block, students would have a chance to get out into Atlanta without having to take notes or learn in a normal school setting. “[By] creating MayATL . . . we wanted to take advantage of the city that we’re in,” says Danette Morton, Head of the Middle School. “You could . . . come to school at Westminster every day and not really interact much with the city, unless you’re taking . . . a specific class that really gets you out, and there’s just so many resources in the city.” 

Some planned courses for 2020 were “Art: Not Just a Hobby,” “Stuff Your Mouth in the South,” and a special Hamilton course called “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”

MayATL planning for the MS teachers began at the beginning of the school year. In August, teachers split into pairs and drafted their course proposals, due in September. Those proposals were approved in October, and selections will be made available to students sometime in November. 

According to Cynthia Swanson, one of the MayATL coordinators, students will hopefully be officially informed about MayATL during a Community Time period next week and be able to choose courses before Thanksgiving Break. To prevent students choosing courses just to be with their friends, the course list will be released and course selections will be made in the same Community Time block. This way, students get the best chance to choose courses they’d enjoy. 

In terms of how the courses were created, few guidelines were set, allowing teachers plenty of room for creativity. “Classes should be centered around making things, doing active things, eating or making food, and creating things,” remarked Swanson. “So generally, they’d all fall into those sorts of categories. And ultimately, that’s the way that you learn through MayATL, right?” 

In 2020, classes would have contained students from all three grades in the Middle School, but in this time of COVID, we are unsure of how mixing unvaccinated sixth graders will affect the spread of the virus. “Right now, there’s not a plan for sixth graders to be separated out from seventh and eighth graders, and the idea of MayATL in the beginning was that sixth, seventh, and eighth graders would all mix together in classes,” says Swanson. “But, if when it comes time to register for courses it looks like the sixth graders need to stay separate, then . . . we’ll make the change.” 

As we learn more about this event, we hope that this will be a positive experience for both students and teachers.