Middle School students express their passions in annual Minimester program


Rabbi Janet Ozur Bass

Students tune in for an interactive Minimester session with Middle School math teacher Madelyn Dahl.

Aliza Bellas, Opinion Editor

The CESJDS Middle School Minimester is a two-week long program that allows students to develop creative projects surrounding a topic they are passionate about. Students plan, innovate and experiment with project ideas that are presented on the final Friday of the program. This year is the fourth year the middle school is participating in the program. 

Minimester Facilitator and Jewish Text Teacher Rachel Meytin said that the goal of the project is to expand students’ minds and allow them to grow in new ways. 

“The goal at the end is that they have explored something that they care about and have learned, or made, or brainstormed, some way that they could make the world a better place,” Meytin said. 

The Minimester program was initially introduced to the middle school during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown because, according to Meytin, it was a way to have students creatively and academically engaged from home. However, throughout the past four years, it has developed into a staple of the middle school experience. 

During the two-week program, students do not engage in regular classes and have the chance to create a project focused on a subject they are particularly interested in such as social justice, environmentalism, and more. At the end of the program, they present their projects in any format they choose. 

This year, Meytin said that the middle school has tweaked the program in many ways. One of these changes has been the introduction of the mentor program. 

The mentor program allows for eighth-grade students to get involved in the program and help younger middle school students complete their projects. 

“The teachers are there to instruct the students on what they’re supposed to be doing, and we are there as a support to the students to make their projects easier for them,” eighth-grade mentor Lindsay Shapiro said. 

Shapiro added that she really enjoys the break in classes and the ability to focus on a specific subject of choice. In previous years, students were put into groups based on similar interests. These groups were called “tracks,” and she hopes that in the future the administration will not only allow students to pick a topic, but re-introduce these track groups. 

In addition to selecting their project topic, many different subjects are spotlighted in the speaker seminars throughout the Minimester. Speakers range from Shouk CEO Ran Nussbacher to the Israeli Embassy’s Minister for Public Diplomacy, Sawsan Hasson.

Eighth-grader Sophia Leinwald enjoys the seminars to some extent, but believes there can be improvements.

“I think it would help students take away from the seminars more if they were taught in a more engaging way, or if they are about topics that people are interested in,” Leinwand said. 

Meytin said that she is excited to see what the students come up with for the final project format, as she enjoys seeing the students’ creativity come into play at the end. She added that the projects are in students’ control, which leads to very different presentations every year.

“They take this little piece of interest and blossom it into something really big,” Meytin said.

She feels especially proud when watching students’ growth throughout the process, and thinks this program allows students to develop in different ways than the typical classroom setting. 

“One of the coolest parts of being the facilitator of Minimester is, I don’t know what’s going to happen…it’s all going to come from the kids,” Meytin said.