Exploring the Core (ETC)

A deep dive into students' passions


A key component of student-owned learning is choice. Through the Exploring the Core program, MJDS students have the opportunity to extend their learning in core content areas, allowing them to make a deep dive into their passions and interests and explore questions that they are interested in answering.

ETC classes take place two days a week for an hour and run for one quarter (approximately nine weeks). Every quarter there is a new catalog of class offerings. Classes are designed based upon the findings of interest surveys given to the students.

This is an example of the fascinating array of ETC choices:

  • Robotics
  • Radio Broadcasting
  • Bicycle Mechanics
  • Anatomy
  • Lion's Roar (student newspaper)
  • Computer Programming
  • Mathletics,
  • Art in Geometry
  • Game Theory
  • Vertical Gardening
  • Rube Goldberg Challenge
  • Draw to Learn – Map the World
  • Minecraft Architecture

Teacher Evaluation

The teacher of each class provides a detailed description of the course, including the outcomes and the expectations, as well as a product or performance that will be shared at the end of the course. The product may be documentation of the learning process, a presentation or a portfolio of work. Formal tests will not be a way to document learning; rather there will be formative assessments throughout the quarter and then a summative assessment in the form of product or presentation.

Student Accountability

ETC classes are graded on a pass/fail basis and have no homework. What makes the students accountable to their learning? The students’ interest in and choice of topic make the learning real and authentic. They don’t need any external motivation to engage. What’s the proof? It’s how often students exclaim, “I did it!” in their ETC classes.

Student's Minecraft House