Mini Courses Encourage Students to Pursue Their Interests

Gretchen Lee

At Saddle River Day School, our educators strive to always support the whole child. We work to find the balance between academics and student passions and encourage students to pursue their interests both through academic inquiry and also through innovative programs. We seek to know and understand our students so we can work to create opportunities for them to shine. With rigorous academics, innovative programs that prepare students for their future, and a close-knit, caring community, the Saddle River Day experience is a one-of-a-kind education. It was in that spirit that Mini Courses were created three years ago with the intent of offering students an opportunity to learn important skills such as creativity, critical thinking, research, collaboration, applied learning and public speaking.

The innovative week-long courses were designed and taught by faculty and offered a wide variety of topics for students in Grades 8-12. One course offered was The Coffee House where students explored all things coffee, investigated the growing, roasting, and brewing processes of the Arabica and Robusta plants. Over the course of the week, they touched on the chemistry, economics and culture of coffee and had the opportunity to source and roast different coffee beans and experiment with different methods of brewing. Students also had an opportunity to create their own signature blend. Other courses included Cheesy French Culture (students explored all things French including food, fashion, culture and language), International Films: Part Deux, The Stock Market, Flash Fiction: The Art of the Very Short Story, Soap and Candle Making (wow did that classroom smell good!), Explore NYC, Comedy Club (students wrote and produced their own comedy sketches and were given tips from well-known SNL actor, voice actor, comedian, humorist, writer, director, producer, and puppeteer Robert Smigel), Yoga & Mindfulness, Cooking North, South, East & West with Chef Mark, the Physics of Bicycles, Scenes and Songs, Your Top 5 (students researched and then created their own podcasts), and an art course called Tangled up in Blue (students created linocut blocks and Cyanotype sun prints using photograph negatives). Students thoroughly enjoyed exploring these interesting and engaging topics as well as having a short respite from their traditional academic work.

At SRDS, we remain committed to developing programs and experiences that supplement our first class education and provide value for our students and families.