(October 20th, 2020 -- Jersey City) For many years, field experiences and hands-on opportunities have been the heart of Explore Middle School’s curriculum. This school year is no different as the faculty and staff have maintained this focus with the use of virtual field trips.
On Thursday, October 15th, social studies teacher and supervisor, Jamie Velazquez took the 8th- grade students on a virtual field trip to the New Jersey State House. While given a tour of the building, the students learned more about the specific roles and responsibilities of the three branches of government, the 40 legislative districts in New Jersey, and how a bill becomes a law.
Each student was sworn in as a state Senator and then tasked with debating and eventually voting on Steven’s Law. Steven’s Law is a 2006 bill that banned aluminum bats and required only wooden bats in all leagues with players under age 18. The bill was sponsored after a 12-year-old pitcher from Wayne was seriously injured when he was hit in the chest by a line drive.
8th grader Mikail Oflaz shared his thoughts on the trip, "I found the statehouse make a law program to be a great experience because it really gave us an insight into how these laws are passed. Debating and discussing some of the problems we face as a society is something crucial for kids our age."
On Friday, October 16th, Ms. Mary Norcia, Ms. Lauren Norcia, and the 6th and 7th-grade students visited the SIMS Recycling Center as an introduction to the Science Department’s upcoming “Sustainability” thematic unit. The students were allowed to virtually tour the facility and engage in interactive activities as they learned about various types of plastic and how each type should be recycled.
“This virtual field trip provided the students with background information and first-hand exposure to the materials and processes that will be covered in future lessons on sustainability,” Ms. Lauren Norcia explained.
The 8th-grade students have been busy preparing for high school applications and traditionally, they would participate in tours of both Hudson County Schools of Technology high schools.
Instead, this year, the supervisors, instructors, and guidance counselors from both high schools held virtual field trips where students could connect with staff, learn more about the specific academies, and ask questions.
On October 15th, Supervisor Gregory Simon, of the Academy for Design and Fabrication (DFAB) at High Tech High School hosted the students to review the course scope and sequence for students interested in the DFAB major, presented projects from current DFAB students, and gave helpful advice about building the application portfolios.
The same day, Supervisor Samantha Doria, met with students interested in Culinary Science, Environmental Science and Sustainability, and BioMedical Sciences at High Tech High School. Ms. Doria also reviewed the academy curriculum and application portfolio expectations. She also explained the environmental science articulation agreement with Hudson County Community College which provides students the opportunity to receive an associate’s degree.
October 16th, students seeking more information about the Performing Arts, as well as Media and Visual Arts, at High Tech High School were welcomed by Supervisor Steven Ricciardi and Dance Instructor, Ms. Trista DeFillipis. Mr. Ricciardi and Ms. DeFilippis discussed the Performing Arts audition process, the software utilized in Media and Visual Arts courses, and the progression of study for students in the Arts Academy. Students were advised on their portfolio submissions and discussed the performance opportunities that they would have as students in this Academy.
Finally, on October 20th, the 8th-grade students had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Christa Granato, instructor, and guidance counselor, Ms. Caroline Ulivella, from County Prep High School. Ms. Granato and Ms. Ulivella shared an overview of the application process, discussed the many Career and Technical Programs options, and detailed the many student extracurricular activities. The students also learned about the opportunities to earn college credit while still attending County Prep High School.
Lauryn Egar, an 8th grader, felt even more excited and motivated than before to continue the application process after the virtual field trips. “It was very helpful to meet with administrators and staff from the different academies and both schools, they were great resources and helped answer a lot of questions. It really helped clarify certain gray areas.”
Principal Krone plans to continue making virtual field trips and experiences a priority for all students. “Explore Middle school finds the beauty of academics outside of the classroom through field experiences. Though we are in a time when on-site visits are limited, we have participated in virtual field experiences as they relate to our curriculum and we will continue to do so as often as we can. I would like to thank the High Tech High School and County Prep High School administrators and staff for holding Google Meets with our students to give them thorough explanations of their curriculum and career and technical programs of study. The Explore staff and students love collaborating with our district high schools and through these Meets, we have begun exploring how we can further collaborate this year.”
Up next, the 8th-grade students will take a virtual visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary to explore the history of Eastern State and the experiences of the people who worked and lived there to engage in discussion about criminal justice reform.