Elective excitement

New electives program is geared toward real-world learning for The Grosse Pointe Academy’s middle school students.

Grosse Pointe Academy seventh-grader Mallory Childs, left, and sixth-grader Elaina Cracchiolo created fruit-infused drinks as part of the Farm To Table component of the school’s Life Skills elective.

The Grosse Pointe Academy’s new school year is once again chock full of new initiatives for students, including a number of innovative programming changes in its middle school electives curriculum.

According to Trevor Clor, who teaches social studies, grammar and composition in the middle school, students are in the midst of producing a new round of videos as part of GPA’s Academy Weekly, which will keep the school community approved of goings-on throughout the school year.

“Academy Weekly is preparing for its triumphant return,” said Clor, who has worked in the past on this middle school project. “For those new to GPA, Academy Weekly is our school’s very own news broadcast. Students in the middle school Technology Integration elective class will be writing, filming and editing the entire show, which will be posted on the school YouTube page as well as social media.”

Clor said new this year are two segments he and his student journalists are calling “Class Update,” which will involve interviewing students at every grade level about various topics they are currently covering in class, and “Bulldog of the Week,” which will include short profile-type interviews with students, faculty members, staff, and alumni.”

Academy Weekly is part of just one of the new array of electives that kicked off at the Academy when school started in early September. GPA administrators said students in the middle school (sixth, seventh and eighth grades) are selecting one course for each trimester from four different categories: The Arts, Business Exploration, Life Skills and Technology Education. Each course will include one to two field trips off campus to offer students real-world learning opportunities.


Didi DeBoer, GPA’s assistant head of school for grades 4-8, said the new electives stand out from those offered by other peer schools in the region.

“These courses are different from other middle schools as they offer real-world learning opportunities,” she said. “Our students will be visiting the experts and we will bringing them in as well. And, because of our optimal class sizes, we have very unique opportunities to head out in the community and experience authentic learning.”

The Academy’s electives program is organized into the four major groups as follows.

Ceramics (trimester 1): This course introduces ceramics as an art form and explores the basics of forming and shaping clay using various methods. Students have the opportunity to learn about different glazing/decorating techniques, firing the clay, and how to safely use the kiln. Students also will take an in-depth look at the history behind ceramics.

Glee (trimester 2): This course is a performance-based class where students will have fun singing many different types of music. Choreography and props will be incorporated into performances and students have the chance to perform both on and off campus.

Printmaking (trimester 3): This course introduces students to the contemporary term “Print Media.” A variety of printmaking techniques will be utilized, including monoprints, block printing, image transfers and screen printing. Class activities are project-based and give students an opportunity to practice art fundamentals while learning technical skills in printmaking.

Business Explorations (trimesters 1, 2 and 3 ): Business Explorations is designed to introduce students to the world of business. During the course, students will discover the step-by-step process of starting and running a business. They will create a business plan project which will include all operations of running the GPA School Store, including beginning accounting principles, marketing and management. The course also will include investment and personal-finance instruction and projects.

Farm to Table (trimester 1): Students will utilize the GPA Garden Classroom as well as local organic markets to prepare a wide variety of nutritious foods made from scratch. All steps of the cooking process will be taught in this course.

Fashion and Fabrics (trimester 2): Fashion and Fabrics is designed to teach students beginning sewing skills, including hand and machine sewing. Students will choose and create a fashion project as a culminating project in this course.

Foods and Nutrition (trimester 3): Foods and Nutrition is a course that will focus on creating healthy food options. Students will plan and plant an organic garden, demonstrate consumer skills and discover the effects of making healthy food choices. The course will also focus on multicultural cuisines.

Tech Ed (trimesters 1, 2 and 3): This course is designed to teach students all aspects of Google Suite, coding, app design, and other real-world technological applications. Students also will produce the program, “Academy Weekly,” which will give them experience in the process of filming, editing and finalizing a video that will highlight GPA current events.

Academy Head of School Tommy Adams said the new electives have also been aided by significant changes to the school’s facilities made possible through the generosity of longtime benefactors of GPA.

The Center For Creative Studies classroom will include facilities designed to accommodate the recording of GPA’s Academy Weekly video updates.

“In June, we announced a joint $500,000 gift from the Cotton family of Grosse Pointe,” he said. “The donation represented the largest gift to date designated for programming and will enable GPA to significantly upgrade its facilities as it moves into more experiential academic learning for its students.


“We are grateful to the Cotton family for their generous support of these program-driven facility improvements,” Adams added. “Our whole school community will benefit from these beautiful new spaces, but particularly our middle school students, whose newly developed elective classes will make significant use of these facilities. The addition of these new electives will provide students more choice and ownership in their learning and will expose them to new ways of learning and thinking.”

Teachers excited

DeBoer said the teachers involved in the new electives program are excited to be playing a role in it.

“In the Arts program, Mel Lamb, our art teacher extraordinaire, is sharing her love of ceramics with the students in the new ceramics class,” DeBoer said. “Everyone will not only learn the history of ceramics and glazing, they also will make fabulous projects. In addition, Mel will be teaching the printmaking component. For the Glee elective, Jen Kendall (assistant head of school for early and lower school education and director of curriculum) and Roshell Onofrey (music instruction) will share their musical talents and love for singing with the students. Students also will be heading out into the community to perform.”

Off-site trips for students like this one to the Detroit Athletic Club in downtown Detroit will be a regular feature of the Academy’s new electives program.

Middle school language teacher Bridgette Murray and DeBoer are leading the Business Explorations elective with Murray’s college minor in art and penchant for merchandising display along with DeBoer’s degree in business administration adding special expertise to the class.

“Together we are excited to present the students with all we think they need to successfully navigate small business waters,” DeBoer said.

Clor, Megan Black, who is the Academy’s technology and specialist, and Robert Rochte, GPA’s director of technology, will be heading the Technology Education elective.

“We have two bonafide technology specialists with Robert and Megan, and Trevor is really into photography and creating videos, so together they make a great team as we bring back the much loved Academy Weekly with a whole new spin on it,” DeBoer said. “Students will be learning all of the many ins and outs of all things tech.”

Longtime Academy faculty member Sasha Murphy, who is the school’s dean of students and a physical education teacher, and Julie Anderson, a middle school math teacher, will be running GPA’s innovative Farm to Table class.

“Sasha is an avid gardener and blogs about cooking,” DeBoer said. “And Julie was looking for another fun and interesting class to teach. Together they will turn our students into chefs. Everyone is super excited about this ‘tasty’ class.”

Murphy and Anderson also are teaching the Nutrition and Foods class, according to DeBoer.

For the Fashion and Fabrics class, Lamb and Renee Martin, GPA’s Christian Life teacher, are teaming up.

“Mel loves to sew and she is joined by another expert sewer in Renee,” DeBoer said. “Both are really excited to roll out this fun learning experience where students will be creating their own fashions.”

DeBoer also said the new classes are taking advantage of the facility upgrades made possible by the Cotton donation.

“The cooking and fashion and fabrics classes will be in the new Center for Creative Studies, and Academy Weekly will be filmed there as well, DeBoer said. “The Business Exploration class and school store will be located in the lower quad once construction is completed.

“We can’t wait!”