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PLAYING WITH PAPER Students in Middle School science teacher Patti Black's Paper Engineering elective construct a paper building. Photo by Cassie
Hockaday middle schoolers experiment with new science electives

Students appreciate knowledge more when they learn without stress. With this phenomenon in mind, Hockaday Middle School added more science-related electives to its curriculum this year.

PAPER ENGINEERING is one of the electives that has been available to Middle Schoolers for years.

Middle School Science teacher Patti Black has taught the class for five years and has observed the benefits first hand.

“This is a good break for them in the middle of the day because they have been reading, researching and writing. And then they come in here pick up things, manipulate them, and they create,” said Black.

The Paper Engineering class does work in both dimensions. From pop-up cards to a wand made of a single piece of paper and hot glue, to origami, students coordinate creative problem solving with hands-on skills.

Freshman Mary still remembers the great experience she had in Paper Engineering.

“For me, the elective provided a time where I could craft anything I wanted, and it gave me an opportunity to share my ideas and my creativity with other students,” Mary said.

The Middle School teachers also have hopes of collaborating with upper classmen.

“Coordinating with Upper School math class will be awesome, because there is so much tessellations, repetitions, and what you can do with patterns in the paper engineering class,” Black said. “Besides, Upper School math classes can teach me a lot as well.”

Dr. Katie Croft, a new member of the Middle School Science Department faculty this year, started the new NEUROSCIENCE ELECTIVE.

“I have a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. So when I came to Hockaday this year, I wanted to bring that into the Hockaday community,” Croft said.

With 16 students ranging from fifth to eighth grade in her class, Croft is excited about the students’ passion for science.

“We were very surprised that so many girls signed up for this, even though it’s an elective. Which says to me that they are craving that,” Croft said. “They want learn more outside knowledge in a less stressful situation.”

One of the highlights of the Neuroscience elective is the dissection of the sheep brain.

“Dr. Croft teaches us about the different aspects of the brain through hands-on activities,” said Lori, an eighth grader who is taking the class this year. “We all look forward to learning something new each day in our neuroscience class.”

Croft expanded the classroom by having a Dr. Carissa Phillippi from the University of Wisconsin at Madison Skype with the class. A specialist in sleep and dreams, Phillippi talked to the girls about what the brain does while humans and animals sleep.

“Because of this elective, I know what I want to be when I grow up. A neuroscientist!” said fifth grader Kendal.

The Middle School science electives also have something to offer Upper School students.

“As far as Neuroscience is concerned, that’s something that I would really love to see in Upper School. We have girls that go off to college and major in Neuroscience. That’s certainly a piece of our curriculum that I would love to see as be able to expand,” said Upper School Science Department Chair Dr. Beverly Lawson.

Gardening is another new science-oriented choice offered for Middle School students this year.

“I wanted to start a gardening elective  to give the girls a chance to play in the dirt, get a little messy and learn the basics of gardening and growing vegetables,” said Middle School science teacher Peggy Cagle.

The girls not only learn how to plant but are also encouraged to lead a healthier lifestyle by taking gardening.

“When people grow their own fruits and vegetables, they tend to eat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables, which improves eating habits,” said Cagle.

Girls get closer to nature by planting and enjoying the fruits and vegetables of their labors.

“In some cases, we took the leaves right off of the plant, rinsed them off and tasted them.  It’s fun to know exactly where your food comes from,” Cagle said.

– Cassie