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Program gives WC students greater access to real-world learning.

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist credited with helping develop the theory of cognitive development, once wrote, “The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.”

Piaget would have liked the Explore Program initiated by Worthington Christian’s Upper School this year.  The program is designed to provide unique and experiential learning opportunities for students, allowing them to investigate various interests and potential career paths.

“Essentially, we are trying to provide a set of electives with a different learning approach,” said Andrew Sweigard, the academic enrichment coordinator in the Upper School.  “Instead of following a traditional learning model, these courses focus on developing innovation and creativity through hands-on projects.” 

“We want these projects to include real-world components, product development, and authentic collaboration. The teachers have done a wonderful job designing a flexible structure which allows students to explore within wider boundaries.”

Anna Butler (WC ‘25) is enrolled in Explore’s Small Business Management Course. One class project is to create an ongoing social media marketing campaign for the school’s Warrior Café.

 “I’m learning how to run a business and be productive for a common goal,” Butler said. “It’s more than just getting things done for completion or a grade; I’m invested in the business’s success at this point, so I want to improve it.”

The Explore program partnered with Otterbein University’s The Point, a maker space providing access to tools and machines unavailable at the Upper School. Students design at school and then travel to The Point to bring their ideas to life using laser engravers, 2D and 3D printers, plastic molding, and wood shop tools.

“Our partnership with The Point has been extremely valuable for our students,” Sweigard said. “Students taking Explore classes get to visit this space during the school day, but our partnership allows all WC students to have access to it.”

Ellie Winters (WC ’24) said a highlight of her 3D Design using The Point’s woodshop to construct wooden boxes for a project.

“It was so much fun, and the people there were so nice and patient when teaching us,” Winters said. “I am a hands-on/visual learner, so using my hands to work was super helpful and much better than sitting in a class and lecturing.”

Another area students have been exploring has been in the area of video and podcast production. Students have partnered with Tim Brown, who is a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, to produce a podcast. The school has also partnered with a local church to design and install a video production setup.

“My favorite project would probably have to be helping coach Tim Brown with his podcast,” Michael Redd (WC ’25) said. “Everything about the process was intriguing, and I learned something new every time he had a guest.” 

Closer to home, Sweigard said students had assisted teachers with video production. For example, making content for chapel, promotional videos for the e-sports team, and documenting progress on Explore and enrichment projects.

Sweigard said the Explore Program only created a small blip on the students’ radar when it initially started. However, the interest has been steadily growing throughout the year.

The biggest salesmen of the program were the students themselves.

“We get the ability to experiment and learn in new ways we don’t always get in the typical classroom,” Jack Nicodemus (WC ‘25). “We also get access to a much larger variety of tools we can use in our learning.”

“The experience we get from this is that we have to look at everything differently and then figure it out,” Trina So (WC ’25) added. “We have to ask more questions and research things we’re interested in the most.”

“In contrast to a traditional class, it has taught me much about customer service and working with my classmates/coworkers,” Jackson Ressler (WC ’25) said. “It’s taught me major people skills and how to work with those around me.”

And when Worthington Christian students see the results of the projects of the Explore students, it creates a buzz around the program.

“The kids get to show off their work consistently,” Sweigard said. “They got to sell their originally designed stickers at the Warrior Café, their banners were displayed at the 50th Anniversary tailgate, they got to help create functional pieces of furniture for teachers, and their podcast is being listened to by hundreds of people.

“Other kids see this and start to ask their friends about it. Since it is a new program, we are evaluating and adjusting to make it as dynamic as possible. We want these classes to be highly sought after by our students.”

“Overall, it’s been a positive addition to our academic program. The students have been able to get out of the school building and do things that are a little bit more unique and immersive. They’re not just always sitting in the classroom and doing the typical things. The teachers are doing great work to facilitate these experiences.”

In addition to finding more students, the Explore Program is trying to forge partnerships with community organizations that can help provide access to resources and/or currently unavailable experiences. Businesses interested in partnering with WC’s Explorer Program should email Sweigard.

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