arch 13, 2020, was a day like no other in the history of Winchester Thurston Middle School.

“We literally got rid of our existing schedule,” exclaims Director of Middle School Amanda Welsh. “We wanted to try a whole different model with extended periods of time, two or more teachers with larger groups of students—we wanted to do things in a way we’d never done before.”

Welsh and a team of Middle School faculty did exactly that. By rethinking conventional school-day parameters of time and space, and reimagining how learning can happen, they designed a day-long initiative dubbed “Disrupting the Middle School Schedule.” The ‘disruption’ enabled an even deeper-than-usual dive into the current curriculum through an array of workshops.

All experiences were developed by teachers to augment existing curriculum, with some sparked by student interest, like the class-created novel written in French. Motivated by his students’ desire for more choices of engaging reading material suited for their level, French teacher Ben Carter structured a workshop featuring characters created in previous classes. Students developed them further, invented a storyline, collaborated on its unfolding, and designed illustrations to produce a captivating novel for themselves and future French classes.

Other workshops took interdisciplinary learning to another level, such as the Escape Room, a physical puzzle in which students followed clues to advance through a maze. The problem-solving project, a collaboration between English teacher Betsy Lamitina and science teacher Tracy Valenty, required students to write clues telling a story, then figure out the components of the space and build it.

“Middle School students need to be active and hands-on in what they do, and these workshops absolutely let that happen,” says Welsh. “It also speaks to their desire to do something that really has purpose.”