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Project-Based, Student-Directed

It’s 9 a.m. on Wednesday, and the Jonathan Milikowsky Science and Technology Building feels like a beehive, with Middle School students in a creative swarm.

On the walls along the stairway, a group of 8th graders is painting a mural of three women of color who have made history: Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris. Seated on the hallway floor, a few paces away, two seventh graders are carefully folding paper, learning to make fractal models of Sierpinski Tetrahedrons.

In the Harkness Room, another 8th grade class is busy on a half dozen different projects. One student is teaching another how to knit. Another is emailing New Haven restaurant owners to interview them as part of a food review project. A third is painting a family portrait to hang in her living room: Mom, Dad, her sister, herself and the family’s two dogs, Toby and Kiko.

Over in the library, 9th graders are carving wood for a candleholder, stitching leather to make a wallet, creating three-dimensional animation, writing a script for a silent movie and making art with homemade paint made from simple ingredients at home. One student is teaching herself to write Arabic calligraphy. This list could go on and on.

Remote learners joined these activities from home and also pursued inspiration of their own.

This is Winter Project Week, a new initiative designed to give students a break from the usual routine to dive into self-directed passion projects. In some case, students proposed their own projects for the week. They worked with faculty to refine their ideas, and with classmates to execute them.

Below is a small sampling of the huge amount of projects and talks that middle schoolers engaged in this week. Click here for a larger gallery of photos from the week and check back on the blog for more examples of finished projects soon.


Seventh graders built fractal models of Sierpinski Tetrahedrons.


One 8th grader worked with Frank Alberino, who teaches set construction in Foote's Summer Theater Program, to build a new desk. 


Some students took inspiration for their projects from the Foote campus itself. One 8th grader and her partner made a hand-drawn map of the campus by gridding an existing campus map and carefully reproducing it in their own hand.

Another group of 8th graders had the clever idea to illustrate the Jonathan Milikowsky Science and Technology Building using Minecraft.


Remote leaners joined classmates for scheduled activities and engaged in some of their own. One 8th grader set a goal of learning a new song on piano this week, and taught himself Billy Joel's "Piano Man."


A few students focused their projects on force, motion and propulsion. A group of 8th graders worked together to create a Rube Goldberg-inspired marble run (below).


Another 8th grader built and launched a rocket on the Middle School recess field.


Seventh graders had the opportunity to learn Zumba in the gym with two Colombia-born dance instructors.


A 9th grader decided to teacher herself to write calligraphy in Arabic. "This is brand new for me," she said. "I have a book of Arabic calligraphy at home, so it's all around me. I just wanted to learn how to do it myself."


A 9th grader carefully chiseled wood to make a candle holder for home. 


Another 9th grader wanted a new wallet so he got swatches of leather along with special glue and thread to stitch his own.


Science teacher Chris Zachau designed a "MARSquake engineering challenge" for his 7th graders. The students are studying interplanetary geology and built their own model Mars landing structures that could withstand a potential earthquake on Mars. The structures were tested by placing an egg on top during a simulated quake, with the goal of protecting the egg from the quake's destructive forces.



Music teacher Deadra Hart led 6th and 7th graders in engaging musical projects. Sixth graders made Latin percussion instruments out of recycled materials (pictured). Then, they "travelled" to Puerto Rico to learn about Bomba and Plena, before visiting Cuba to learn how to play the clave pattern, the heartbeat of Afro-Cuban music. 

Seventh graders created their own space music. They were introduced to NASA recorded space sounds and Gustav Holst's The Planets, before creating their own space music in the electronic music program, Soundtrap. 

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Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.

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