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Community Corner - DLMS students go 'exploring'

The fragrant scent of homemade soap wafts down one hallway of Detroit Lakes Middle School, while in another, one can hear the sound of pounding drums and voices raised in song.

In the gymnasium, students concentrate hard to learn the steps of "Dance Video Revolution," an interactive video game that incorporates movement and dance techniques. Meanwhile, in the library, another group is engaged in learning a form of high-tech scavenger hunting known as "geocaching" (that afternoon, they will be taking what they've learned out into the field, to find hidden "caches" of treasure in and around Detroit Lakes).

It's all part of Exploratory Day at Detroit Lakes Middle School, where students in grades 6-8 spend the day "exploring" a new activity they have never tried before.

"The kids look forward to it so much," said Brook Berg, DLMS librarian.

Staff members look forward to it as well, as it offers an opportunity for them to share their own hobbies or interests with their students, or to try something completely different from their normal classroom activities.

Sometimes, those activities can be incorporated into the classroom curriculum as well, Berg added. In fact, she and fellow instructors Samantha Gulon and Karla Cummings recently received a $3,000 grant to purchase equipment for a classroom version of geocaching that Berg has dubbed "educaching."

Through the grant, DLMS was able to purchase 15 GPS (global positioning satellite) tracking units and two digital cameras that will be used for seventh graders to "hide and seek" their own geocaches.

"This skill set is something these kids can use in a lot of different areas of their lives," Berg explained.

"There are a lot of hidden treasures in the world -- if you have knowledge and a good education, you will have the keys to unlock them."

Last year, another DLMS student was able to take the skills he had learned through an Exploratory Day class on fashion design to make and market his own line of t-shirts through the Internet, Berg added.

Exploratory Day is one of a series of activities planned at DLMS during March, which is National Middle Level Education Month.

Another activity that began on Tuesday is a two-week photo contest where students and staff are asked to look at a series of numbered photographs that depict various DL staff members as children, and guess which staff member belongs to which photo.

Those who get the most answers right will be eligible for a special prize drawing -- with the prize yet to be revealed, Berg added.

This Wednesday, March 21, the staff will enjoy a potluck lunch, and at the end of the month, each staff person will get a special gift related to the month's main theme, "You Are an Essential Piece of the Puzzle."

The purpose of Middle Level Education Month is to highlight the middle school philosophy originated in the United States in the early 1970s. The cornerstone of middle school philosophy, in a nutshell, is recognizing that no other group covers such a wide variety of maturity transition levels in such a short space of time.

Middle school education covers the time period between ages 10-14, when students move from childhood to adolescence.

"We strive to foster programs that keep the uniqueness of our students at the forefront of every decision," Berg explained.

The five key components of middle school education are:

• Interdisciplinary teams, which involve groups of core teachers assigned to the same group of students.

• Advisory programs, where a small group of students meets everyday with the same teacher to discuss topics of concern to students.

• Varied instruction, integrating learning experiences, problem-solving and accommodating individual differences, collaboration, cooperation, and community, as welll as seeking to develop good people, caring for others, democratic values, and moral sensitivity.

• Exploratory programs that expose students to a range of academic, vocational, and recreational subjects for career options, community service, enrichment, and enjoyment.

• Transition programs, which focus on creating a smooth change of schools for the young adolescent, from elementary to secondary education.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454