Exploratory Smorgasbord

At Morrison Academy, middle school students have the opportunity to choose their exploratory courses (E-courses) from a smorgasbord of courses. Students not only get to try academic courses, but also courses for enjoyment, personal interest and enrichment. E-courses are a great chance for students to expand their interests and hobbies. All campuses offer the same visual and performing arts such as art, choir, band and orchestra. However, each campus also has its own unique course offerings. Like the variety of a smorgasbord, there is an array of courses that students can choose from. Here’s a sample of courses to wet your appetite!

Box Kites (Taichung)
In this course, students learn to build and fly a three-foot box kite. Mr. Schirmer, the EMS art teacher, became very passionate about building kites using local materials and used that passion when he designed the course. During this exploratory course, students use wood, glue, saws, pliers, hammers and other tools to build kites. It also encourages students to use their creativity and problem solving skills to build a functioning kite.
 
Electronics (Taipei, Bethany)
Students get an opportunity to take a look at basic electronic theory and how electricity flows. In addition to this, the course examines circuits and their functions. In order to aid students in understanding electronics, the course takes the time to take apart several different types of electronic devices to examine the complexity of the circuitry.  Students use various tools to properly disassemble the devices, including a soldering iron to remove individual components from the PCB (printed circuit board). The course is hands-on as the students have an opportunity to build their own portable speakers that could be used with a small amplifier to play music from an iPod or other similar device. This course gives students a glimpse into all the gadgets they enjoy.
 
Family and Consumer Science (Taipei. Bethany)
The definition and content of this course is shaped by the students quarterly as this is a very broad course. In the eight-week session, eight different topics related to family and consumer science are explored. Topics for the course range from cooking to pet care to survival skills. This past quarter during the pet care week, students and guest speakers brought in different pets and the students learned to care for animals such as parrots, turtles, and dogs. In addition to this, students spent a week learning about architecture and interior design. As a project for the week, students had to design their ideal bedroom floor plan. During the week on survival, students learned to start a fire using simple tools and cut bamboo to build makeshift shelters. It was a full eight weeks of a variety of topics!
 
Frontal Lobes Games (Kaohsiung)
In this course students work on memorization techniques, logic skills, puzzles, patterns, and problem solving. Games like Mastermind help students with their logic and problem solving; the game of Set works on students’ ability to match groups based on similarities and differences. Group problem solving helps with logical thought progressions, and logic puzzles put students’ minds to the test! Students seemed to like the variety of activities as a new game was introduced every day. Some students performed better with memory tasks, and then other students were better at patterns. It just goes to show how brains are built differently, and we all are “masters” at different tasks. 
 
Hand Drawn Animation (Kaohsiung)
This course is an extension of the Stop Frame Animation Course (another exploratory course), for students who want to make their drawings come to life. Time is spent studying basic physics by analyzing pendulums, bouncing balls, squash and stretch, as well as a basic walk cycle. Students draw dozens of pictures using a light box to complete enough frames for a short animation. The students then use a DSLR camera mounted to an animation stage to photograph the drawings. Next, the digital images are fed into animation software that composites the final movie. It is a long, but exciting process for students as they see their drawn illustrations come to life as an animation!
 
Stock Market Games (Kaohsiung)
In this E-course, students learn some basics of investing. The topics covered include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, savings accounts, taxes, and a little bit about economics. The highlight for students is a simulation where they each receive $500,000 dollars to invest in the market. The investments made using information from the real stock market in real time. The student that earns the most money over the quarter gets a prize (tea). The students love the course and many who are not even enrolled in the course will ask to play the game.
 
Water Rockets (Taichung)
“Rockets are a blast!”—this is the motto for the course. Students in this course build and launch water rockets that can soar up to 400 feet high! The course was created in hopes to satisfy students’ curiosity and desire to understand rockets. After students have an understanding of rockets, students innovate their own water rockets and test them. This challenges students to test and try new methodologies to create the best rockets.
 
3D Modeling (Taichung)
Students have an opportunity to learn the basics of 3D modeling using Google SketchUp. In this course, students learn to redecorate living spaces, invent a new piece of furniture, and model a city for Google Earth. Mr. Wu, the Educational Technology Coordinator, helps students troubleshoot technical difficulties as well as encourages students to design and create their own dream car or living spaces.

The school provides these exploratory learning experiences for middle school students so they can have opportunities for hands-on, inquiry-based learning. At Morrison, students not only get an academically rigorous curriculum but also the development of personal character and strong social skills. With a diversity of experiences, Morrison students have the opportunity to become well-rounded individuals.