The start of the 2022/23 school year will usher in a new enrichment program in history and civic action at J. Taylor Finley Middle School.
Huntington UFSD’s Subject Matter Council approved the new course on March 16 and the Educational Development Committee followed with its approval on May 19. Huntington School Board members signed off on it on June 6.
The new course is expected to attract an initial enrollment of as many as 25 eighth graders. It will met for a full year on alternating periods (A/B days) during lunch.
“The Enrichment in History and Civic Action course will rely mainly on the methodology of project-based learning,” according to a course proposal shared with trustees. “In utilizing this approach, the teacher will provide instruction and guidance for students in their development of two different projects over the course of the school year. First, students will develop entries to the National History Day competition. The second is a civic readiness capstone project.
The National History Day project will be the focus for student learning and work in the fall semester, during which time they will actively search for and choose a topic of their interest connected to the annual theme. “Once students choose their topics to research, they will decide on a modality for presentation: exhibit, theatrical performance, website, historical paper, or documentary,” states the new course proposal. “During class sessions, students will conduct research, refine their theses and create a script, storybook or historical paper outline. Teacher feedback will enable students to revise and enhance their work. They will refine their drafts, ultimately synthesizing their research into a final presentation. Completed projects will be judged by a teacher panel, after which the students will be invited to present their work at the local awards ceremony held at the high school and open to the school community.”
The civic readiness capstone project will be a comprehensive effort that will see students first identify a local, national or international issue about which they are curious. They will design a plan to understand and further research the issue. Peer dialogue will allow students to consider actions to address any problems caused by the issue.
The project culminates with students’ presentation of their work to a teacher committee. Students will work on the capstone project during the spring semester.
“Students will simultaneously learn the process of deliberation,” states the new course proposal. “They will engage in three issue forums and multiple issue circles in the last quarter of the course. Some will facilitate, but all will be a part of a learning circle, implementing the art of deliberation. The goal is to seek and arrive at common ground on an issue. A determination will be made by the student, teacher and parent/guardian on the feasibility of implementing civic action plans. These can be carried out in the latter part of the school year, over the summer, or at an appropriate time in the future, as determined by the student.”
Finley seventh graders will learn more about the new program in their social studies classes next spring. The seventh graders will be able to bring home a course briefing for parents to understand the new opportunity.
“This course will be attractive to students with a longstanding or budding interest in history and the humanities,” states the rationale presented to district trustees. ‘The two components provide a desirable challenge and reward for students, as they will be creating historical and civics projects on topics of interest to them. The National History Day competition and the self-initiated civics project will both serve as motivators for authentic work in the two realms. This program will fill a void in our eighth grade program as we do not currently provide a class for students to engage more deeply in the humanities. By implementing this program, Finley will have comprehensive STEM and humanities enrichment opportunities.”