WestminsterYOU Further Enriches the Westminster Education
As you take a seat in Mr. Knerr’s Exploration of the Great Questions enrichment class, you see students scramble to find their places as he poses a thought-provoking question about the Christian faith. A few hands shoot into the air as students begin to debate. It’s not a class they’re dreading, rather a class they have personally chosen to add to their schedules because of their interest. By the end of the school day, you might expect students to be tired — minds unengaged and eyes glossed-over after processing curriculum since the early morning. But at Westminster, this is when classrooms fill with like-minded peers who are buzzing with ideas, ready to engage in conversations about topics they have chosen based on their personal passions.
One of the many ways we strive to become better than we once were involves creating and adapting our educational methods to better serve our students. WestminsterYOU, a new program launched in August 2021, provides an innovative approach to learning and building community, affording our students opportunities to engage in ways that work for them, in spaces that inspire connection and customization.
For junior Elizabeth Clawson, the Exploration of the Great Questions enrichment course has provided an outlet to explore topics that interest her.
“[This enrichment course] surrounds me with other students who are interested in talking through some of the confusing topics of our faith,” Clawson explains. “Sometimes in day-to-day life at school, it’s hard to have the time to dive deeper into questions and topics that weigh heavily on us.”
Westminster’s Head of Academic Development, Micah Gall, has played an integral role in this newest program. “We wanted to give the students who had the desire to explore more specific areas the opportunity to do that, and do it in a little bit of a different way.”
Aligned with our vision, WestminsterYOU provides unique opportunities to prepare and equip this next generation of Christians to impact the world for Jesus Christ. Twice a week, our students have the chance to participate in WestminsterYOU courses creatively designed by our teachers to aid students’ exploration of topics relevant to their personal interests.
“Each enrichment or academy course should be more experiential and more community-driven than typical curriculum,” says Gall.
In order to meet various needs and interests, WestminsterYOU is divided into three sections: Enrichment Opportunities, Academies, and a Recovery program.
This year, we are offering nine diverse enrichment courses. These programs allow our students to engage extensively with content they are personally interested in, with like-minded peers, in an environment free from traditional academic pressures but that adds to their experiences.
For example, the Ocean Discovery enrichment course provides students the opportunity to explore a field of science not taught in the middle school curriculum. This course allows a diverse group of students to develop solutions for complex issues related specifically to marine life. Students engage with topics like coral reefs and their impact on God’s creation, and use underwater remotely operated vehicles to monitor ocean conditions.
Another enrichment course offered is the Creative Writing Workshop. It is a year-long opportunity for students who have a passion for creative writing to further develop their personal projects alongside like-minded, creative peers. Through this enrichment course, students are given space to walk through steps of the creative writing process while gaining feedback from peers and teachers. This course stretches the limits of standard English courses. Students are encouraged to work on novels, plays, short stories, poetry, and creative non-fiction. Within this time, teachers are available to provide guidance to generate ideas, organize, develop stories, revise, and edit.
For students seeking course credit and the opportunity to dive deeper into potential college majors, they have the option of applying to participate in an Academy through WestminsterYOU. We currently offer two Academies for students to choose from: Business or Law and Constitution. These are academic programs that exist both within and outside of our traditional seven-period
day. Students in our Academies gain valuable experience in real-world situations through a multi-year experience that may include a mentor or related internship.
“Our academies offer our students a jump start into their interests. They get the chance to investigate whether something like business or constitutional law is something they’re interested in, which could help them potentially make better decisions about their future,” says Gall.
In the Business Academy, students dive into topics of business leadership, finance, entrepreneurship, and other core concepts. Students learn biblical principles of stewardship and service so they are prepared to engage the world and change it for Jesus Christ. These practical principles equip students not only to work successfully in the business world, but also contribute to God’s Kingdom. We long to see our students in years to come impacting their coworkers and places of business for Christ.
In an effort to introduce students to the complex processes in our legal system, the Law and Constitution Academy equips participants with knowledge and skills pertaining to the legal system and the principles on which these are based. Students explore concepts of power, justice, liberty, and truth, which are fundamental to our constitutional democracy. Through activities that consider how the law and legal issues are essential to the functioning of politics, culture, and society, students experience ways the law affects them personally and how they, in turn, can affect the law for God’s Kingdom.
Senior Grace Fentress is enrolled in the Law and Constitution Academy this year. “It’s nice to be able to talk to my classmates on a deeper level about these things that interest us. Knowing that we share the same passion helps us expand our conversations and takes learning to a new level.”
The third component of WestminsterYOU, Academic Recovery, provides space for students to gain academic support when and where they need it. This is designed to give students time and resources each week to catch up on schoolwork or seek additional help from teachers. We also provide a Writing Center and a Math Center for students to use at their convenience, understanding our rigorous curriculum frequently requires the flexibility for students to meet with faculty and receive additional support.
In order to implement all three components of WestminsterYOU, the administrative team reimagined the traditional daily schedule.
“Although WestminsterYOU is set apart from our normal school day, each of our Enrichments and Academies have connections to what we do, both academically, but more importantly they connect to our mission and vision,” says Gall.
WestminsterYOU provides our students with space to engage in content that is hands-on and experiential while remaining service-oriented. Pairing student’s interests with service opportunities allows them to lead with service, become better than they once were, and honor God in all that they do.
If you find yourself on campus on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, we encourage you to pay close attention, as you may hear and see what is happening during WestminsterYOU — students exploring their personal passions as dots are connected and worlds are transformed.
This article was originally published in our alumni magazine, Chimes. Read more from this year’s issue.