R.E.A.L. Learning Takes Place Outside the Classroom

Each spring as the school year winds down, students at the Academy love to step off campus and get real. Through fun and engaging projects, students get to explore possible careers, become a detective or a chef for a day, create an original work of art, or conduct some serious science, such as launching a working weather balloon.

The GPA’s Middle School R.E.A.L. (Real-world Experiences and Applied Learning) program engages students in real-world tasks that extend classroom learning, employ cross-disciplinary thinking, make connections to the community, and create innovative solutions and products.

The R.E.A.L. program also provides an opportunity for teachers to explore their passions with students, for students engage with the community and enjoy a break from classroom studies and end-of-the-year tests.

This year, students completed their R.E.A.L. programs during the last week of April and first week of May. They selected a program from among a variety of options, including CSI, Farm to Table, Theme Park Design, Near Space Explorations, and Introduction to Fabric Design.

First-year Art Teacher Melissa Lamb shared her passion for fiber arts with her students through the R.E.A.L. program. Students ventured to the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center to explore a textile exhibit. Their R.E.A.L. projects explored the various surface of fabrics and the specific techniques needed to create the varieties. Students experimented with hand stitching, weaving, sewing on a machine and by hand, marbling and tie-dying, and other methods of treating fabric. One popular project led to the creation of original “Ugly Dolls,” where students crafted original felt figures and then shared their work and the story behind it with the class.

For the Farm to Table project, educators Didi DeBoer, Amal El-Hosni and Bridgette Murray integrated gardening, cooking and community service. Students enjoyed lunch at Chartreuse, an authentic farm to table restaurant in Detroit. They also visited the Hoop Gardens at Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Earthworks Urban Farm, where thy collected ideas for the school garden. Students also visited a local retail market where they purchased locally sourced ingredients to prepare a lunch back at school with proceeds benefitting the Earthworks Garden program.

Based on the popular television program, CSI students build skills with which they solve a fictional crime. Students visited the Grosse Pointe Police Department and discovered how science and math converge to develop ways to analyze crime scenes, from blood analysis to calculating where and how evidence is processed at a crime scene. Other forensic science experiments include deductive reasoning, fingerprinting, blood spatter analysis, blood-typing, DNA fingerprinting, ballistics testing, and more.

In the Theme Park Design option, students “drew” from Design Thinking to design and build a theme park or a themed attraction. Students tapped international design expertise with an excursion to Henry Ford Museum, where they visited theme environments and a Skype session with a Disney Imagineer. To complete the design and build, students worked through the process of drawing, modeling and creating a digital rendering.

Students in the Near Space R.E.A.L Class learned about lighter-than-air flight, radio, and GPS technology, the near-space environment, scientific ballooning and its application to meteorology and other fields. Payloads were designed and built in class, then students launched their high-altitude balloon which they will track as it soars to near-space and returns to earth by parachute. The project culminated with a trip to the National Weather Service office in White Lake.

Most importantly, the R.E.A.L. program helps students discover something critically important about themselves as individuals. They see how what they learn in school helps them make their dreams into reality.