Mike Town, one of Tesla STEM High School’s founding teachers, is a recipient of the Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community.
What types of elective classes are offered at Northstar? (especially when compared to the neighboring middle schools). Are there as many offered?
Northstar’s approach to classes is fundamentally different—students choose all of their classes, not just one or two electives. In a sense, all of our classes (except for math) are elective. Students have subject area requirements (English, social studies, science, art, and so on) but the student, with the advice of his/her teacher mentor, chooses which class to take each semester to satisfy this.
There are several classes per subject offered each semester, so students have a lot of choice. Moreover, (again, with the exception of math – which is the standard district curriculum) our courses take a different approach than the neighborhood middle schools: Each class is centered around a theme and is in-depth (instead of the typical survey approach). Students get the breadth over the course of their Northstar career. It’s almost like a college curriculum at a level that middle school students can grasp.
Classes are mixed ages – students take classes based on interest and ability rather than their grade level. The teachers get to know the students well and differentiate the curriculum so that all students are challenged appropriately and we can help students build on areas of interest.
Examples of courses taught include*:
- “Playing with Plato, or You Kant Do That!” (A History of Philosophy)
- “Art through Time”
- “Forensic Science”
- “Rock Journal” (A History of Rock n’ Roll)
- “Treehouse of Horror” (Horror Literature)
- “Bring Out Your Dead!” (A History of Infectious Diseases)
- “Science Illustration” (combining science with art)
* This is just a sample of the many courses offered at Northstar.
Can students interested in participating in sports, drama, or music clubs at the middle school be involved? How does this happen?
Northstar has several after school clubs, including a guitar circle – where students can learn to play the guitar or bass. However, being a small school, we don’t have band or extracurricular sports. Northstar students interested in these have several options:
- Students can turn out for sports at their home middle school while remaining a Northstar student. (We have had many students do this over the years.)
- Students can play on community sports teams – such as soccer, baseball, etc.
- Music students can participate in the ICS after school band and/or choir.
- Students can arrange with parents to shuttle them over to another middle school for their band or orchestra (so that a student is enrolled at Northstar for most of the day and the other middle school for part of the day).
How do the math and science programs differ at Northstar from the middle school model?
Northstar’s math program is the standard district curriculum. It is taught by several talented Northstar teachers, but the material is the same curriculum used throughout the district.
Each Northstar science class is centered around a theme and goes in-depth. Student’s get a broad exposure over the course of their years at Northstar after taking a variety of courses.