Arts Courses, Genius Hour Coming To MTMS

Photo courtesy Manchester Township School District.

MANCHESTER – Two new performing arts electives are coming to Manchester Township Middle School, along with a Genius Hour Lab.

MTMS Principal Nancy Driber and Vice Principal Steven Ninivaggi talked about the new courses at a recent Board of Education meeting, explaining that the reason behind the new electives is to give students who are not interested in joining band or chorus other options to appreciate music and the arts.

Contemporary Music, which was a course in the district a few years ago, has been brought back and revised. It will be a very hands-on course that introduces students to different music styles that they can research and study. They will also create, edit and record their own songs using music editing software.

A Drama/Theatre Arts course is brand new and will be a performance-based acting class where students will learn how to create a character on stage and ultimately put a performance on when the course wraps up.

Both electives will be offered to sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in the fourth marking period.

Genius Hour Lab is a student-driven learning initiative that’s becoming popular in area schools. It was funded through the help of a $15,000 grant from the Manchester Township Educational Foundation.

“Genius Hour is something that is based on the Google 20 percent rule that they allow their employees 20 percent of their time to follow passion projects and interests,” said Ninivaggi.

Once students choose a topic they are passionate about, they come up with a driving question, research it, refine it and turn it into a project that includes weekly blogging, even vlogging – video blogging – of their progress. It all culminates in a classroom presentation where their project is showcased and their grade is dependent on their process, not on success or failure.

Ninivaggi said it opens up a world of opportunities for students. “It’s about motivating students to want to learn, to really enjoy school, and to enjoy this idea of independent learning.”

Fourth and fifth grade students at nearby Howell Township’s Newbury Elementary School explored what passion meant to them in their Genius Hour Lab last spring, exploring everything from gymnastics demonstrations, to splatter paint tutorials, to how to build a computer.

The Genius Hour Lab will begin as a pilot program with social studies and science teachers, who will train once a month beginning in October. Students are expected to start the program in January.

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Sara Grillo is the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications. She has lived in numerous areas within Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the past 9 years. Grillo studied Journalism and Communication Arts at Ramapo College and has held positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales prior to writing for Micromedia. Readers can contact her by emailing [email protected]