Onekama Middle School Exploratory Program

What is "Exploratory"?

The middle school teachers of Onekama School believe that "curriculum" is more than the content and skills covered in core academic courses. Rather, it is the sum of all parts of a school’s total educational program. Our curriculum at Onekama Middle School is based upon the unique needs of the young adolescents in our care. Our exploratory program is central to our curricular objectives, as it actively engages students in challenging, high-interest, integrated activities.

The Exploratory Program consists of seven classes: Broadcast Communications, Newspaper, Literary Magazine, Current Events, Vocational Technologies, Connections (self-esteem and team building), and Career Preparation. Students are allowed to select their exploratory classes based upon personal interest. Therefore, students are grouped according to similar interests, and not by age or intelligence. Exploratory classes meet every day for 40 minutes for the entire school year.

Middle school students are facing a particularly difficult time in their lives. The National Middle School Association has asserted: "Young people undergo more rapid profound personal changes during the years between 10 and 15 than at any other period of their lives" (This We Believe, 1995, p.5). These young adolescents tend to struggle with personal decisions and social relationships, and may experience high degrees of insecurity, isolation, and self-doubt. Our exploratory program attempts to reach out to students at this crucial point in their lives, encouraging teamwork and fostering positive peer and teacher-student relationships, as well as developing critical thinking skills, decision making, and creativity.

Our exploratory classes are integrated learning experiences, building upon and utilizing the skills taught in core courses. This supports our belief that reading, writing, math, critical thinking, and other skills should not be taught in isolation but applied in the context of real experiences.

Description of Exploratory Courses:

Broadcast Communications —

The 1999-2000 school year marked the beginning of "Onekama News Live," a news program made by and for our middle school students. Since then, Mrs. Michele Warman has expanded our Broadcast Communications program by offering it as a daily exploratory class (rather than a before-school program). The news team produces a live broadcast every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning that is viewed throughout school classrooms, the media center, and hallway monitors. Though this hands-on broadcasting experience, students report on the weather, sports, school events, historical trivia, student poetry, "random acts of kindness," and announcements from teachers and the office.

Middle School Newspaper —

Our middle school newspaper, Voices from the Middle, is a student-driven, collaborative newspaper that is designed, managed, and maintained entirely by students. It provides a forum in which students can express their ideas and be heard. Students develop reporting and journalism skills as they record significant events in our school and our community, and they will learn about good writing, careful editing, and the thoughtful creation of a newspaper. The newspaper is distributed quarterly to members of the school community as well as the community at large. You can read the newspaper for yourself online by clicking on Mrs. McCarthy’s web page. Photographs of the staff at work

Literary Magazine —

Our magazine, Everything in Between, represents the literary and artistic efforts of students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. The magazine is produced through the efforts of Mrs. McCarthy’s fourth quarter exploratory class. It provides an opportunity to showcase student writing and artwork, at an age when students are first discovering their literary "voice" and the power of reaching a large audience. Furthermore, it supports creativity and a love for language and the arts in students, as well as promotes the belief that writing and art are powerful and effective tools of expression and communication through which we can discover more about the world and ourselves.

Current Events —

In Mr. Bromley’s Current Events exploratory class, students study and discuss important community and global events. Current Events provides a forum for students to learn more about the world around them and to discuss critical issues with peers. This involves reading newspapers and viewing news programs and much discussion with classmates. Students work to produce weekly bulletins reporting on significant events.

Vocational Technologies —

The focus of Vocational Technology is to utilize technology to enhance learning and develop higher-order thinking skills. Students rotate through the instructional modules, mostly working in pairs. We have thirteen stations and fifteen possible units: Engineering and Stress Analysis, CNC Lathe, Fluid Power, Radio Broadcasting, Flight Simulation, Aerodynamics, Animation, Mechanical Power, Computer Problem Solving, Alternative Energy, Exploratory Electronics, Automation and Robotics, Electronic Music, Applied Physics, and Biotechnology. Within each module, students can incorporate the skills of teamwork, decision making, critical thinking, logical reasoning, troubleshooting, problem solving, and career exploration. The Tech-Design curriculum is based on the Universal Systems model of input-process-output-feedback, where students learn how to conceptualize, experiment, and examine the principles of five clusters of technology: Communication, Transportation, Construction, Manufacturing, and Bio-related systems. The course, taught by Mrs. Graham, is challenging, engaging, and fun.

Connections —

Middle School Connections, and exploratory class taught by Ms. Xenakis, aims to help students attain positive self-esteem, create and keep good friendships, and work as a team to succeed. The course encourages healthy habits and recognition of positive role models. It focuses on anger management and problem solving as well as decision making and consequences. It teaches students to be positive, kind, and accepting of others. Students explore themselves by creating artful expressions of self and by watching videos and reading inspirational stories of people who have overcome tough situations in their lives because of their strong sense of self.

Career Preparation —

In Career Prep, students explore future employment opportunities. The course has students explore the six career pathways: Arts and Communications; Business and Management; Marketing and Technology; Engineering/ Manufacturing and Industrial Technology; Health Sciences; Human Services; and Natural Resources and Agriculture. Through the Michigan Occupational Information System (MOIS), students self-evaluate to identify their personal career pathway and plan their high school years of study. The course, taught by Ms. Bishop, emphasizes employability skills, such as: understanding the labor market, completing a job application, planning for a job interview, work attitudes and behavior, and a job-shadowing experience.


  1. To foster self-knowledge as students discover their unique abilities, talents, and interests, thus preparing students for adult life
  2. To build students’ intellectual, communication, social, physical, and technological skills
  3. To provide students with ongoing, concrete, experiential learning in order to help them develop intellectually
  4. To address topics which students perceive as genuinely important and worth knowing
  5. To provide hands-on experiences that allow students to learn through engagement and interaction
  6. To allow students to collaborate on the creation of a finished product which is perceived as valuable to the school community (broadcast communications, newspaper, literary magazine)
  7. To create new interests and encourage students to explore new ideas
  8. To help students discover opportunities for making contributions to society
  9. To encourage students to develop positive relationships with teachers and with one another through organized team-building activities.
  10. To introduce students to enriching an healthy activities that they may pursue beyond the school day

Onekama Middle School 2000-2001