Upper School Mini-Term: Students Lead, Serve and Learn

Bentley’s Upper School students just finished two weeks of Mini-term courses, immersive learning experiences that provide students with physical and intellectual challenges that honor our mission by embracing “curiosity of all kinds” and feeling “the balance of body and mind.” Each year, these courses offered between the second and third trimester, include beloved traditional courses as well as new opportunities and forms of learning for students. Many are interdisciplinary, experiential and help to cultivate life and job skills. This year, students selected from thirty-five offerings.
While these courses take place beyond the traditional curriculum, they are no less challenging and rigorous. Below are a handful of Mini-term highlights:
Outdoor Education
Backcountry Skiing This year, students grew by exploring and examining regional and state wild spaces. In Dr. Fred Hoerner’s traditional Back Country Skiing course, students learned about health, equipment, and athletic technique before heading out for a four-day cross-country skiing wilderness experience. To reach base camp, students skied three miles uphill at altitude with their loaded backpacks, then set up camp in the snow. Students challenged their minds and bodies through cooking their meals, sleeping in sub-freezing temperatures and spending their days ski-climbing and appreciating California’s mountains.
Emergency First Aid and Wilderness First Responder Training In this course offered by parent John Hubinger (father of Jeremy ’19) and Ms. Yan’s course, students learned first aid, safety, search and rescue techniques, as well as first responder aid for urban and wilderness settings, from a member of the Contra Costa Search and Rescue team. Through study and hands-on training, students gained the confidence and skills to keep themselves and others safe in emergency situations.
Briones and Beyond In this course, students explored a handful of the many open spaces in the East Bay and studied the value of preserving wilderness as an integral part of community planning and development. In the field, students undertook hiking, studying and identifying native and invasive flora and fauna, landscape painting and photography, and practice with basic map-reading and GPS navigation skills. Additionally, students researched how these open spaces came into being, including the creative partnerships between municipalities and farmers.
Service Learning and Community Service at Bentley School Dr. Francisco and Ms. Jain offered students a deep, thorough examination of community service. Students used their research, experiences, and reflections to address questions about Bentley’s responsibilities as stewards of the broader community and how we may creatively enhance our traditions and culture of service. Participants learned about and used the Design Thinking process originally created by Stanford’s d.school to better understand community service and service learning at Bentley and other schools, as ultimately propose new service learning possibilities for Bentley. Ms. Jain and Dr. Francisco described their student participants as a “compassionate, open, and creative group of twenty incredible individuals. Teachers and students are excited and hopeful about the ways in which their work will contribute to shaping Bentley’s service learning in the future.
Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach In this Mini-term, organized by Dr. Canada-Smith and Ms. Ugarte, students were introduced to the craft of teaching by visiting classrooms at the Manzanita School over a two-week period. Bentley students assisted Manzanita’s students with projects and learning. Participant Michael Rubsamen ‘18 shared, “I have been going to Manzanita SEED Elementary School through Bentley’s after school program for the past two years. I was very lucky to share a day with a first grade class, in addition to spending the rest of the term with a split third and fourth grade class…I was amazed with the amount of growth that the Manzanita kids demonstrated over the two-week period we were there.” Student Daniela Garcia ’17 shared, “I have been working with this school for the past four years through the after school tutoring program. However, during this class, I was able to meet these students at a much more personal level. I am so grateful and blessed to have been given this opportunity because I was able to give back to my Fruitvale community in Oakland. These two weeks confirmed my desire to work in the field of education, and made me appreciative of my own education.”
Arts and Culture
Carnegie Hall Ensemble and New York Culture For this unique Mini-term experience, Ensemble students traveled to New York to experience the city’s history and culture with a culminating performance in Carnegie Hall. Read more here
Poetry Workshop Facilitated by poet Mr. Hagen, students studied a variety of established and lesser known poets and experimented with writing different forms of poetry, producing original works to share with the class. Students created a portfolio and the course culminated in a formal presentation of each student’s work. The students were most fortunate to have a visit from Faith Gardner, a novelist, short story writer and the Social Media Director at Daily Kos as well as Eliza Smith, the fiction editor at WNYC's Snap Judgment. Smith adapts work by writers like Manuel Gonzalez, Amelia Gray, and Kelly Link into radio plays.

Russian Language and Culture In this two-part course, students learned about Russia’s language and culture. Students began with learning the Cyrillic alphabet and some basic vocabulary for talking about themselves and greeting others in Russian. With some language study in tow, students then studied Russia’s enigmatic, rich history and the social and political issues with which it contends in today’s world. Students visited a Russian Orthodox Church in Berkeley as part of their learning experience.
More Courses
Underwater Robotics This Mini-term brought together students from Bentley’s ROV team with new students. While the ROV team continued to work on their underwater robots for the upcoming MATE competition in Monterey, other participants learned how to safely and effectively use various tools in the Makerspace including a CNC router. Students also learned about principles of robotics and other mechanical and electrical systems and read short works of fiction about robotics to share conversations about artificial intelligence in society.
Graphic Design Over a two-week period, students in Mr. Will’s course learned basic design skills as well as the foundations of Adobe Photoshop, while studying historical and contemporary examples of branding and marketing. Students identified specific issues to address within the Bentley community, then created marketing materials using their original ideas and Bentley’s Style Guide to help shape their designs. Students shared their ideas with Director of External Relations Lisa Lomba, who will be meeting to discuss enhancing and implementing some of their work to enhance the Bentley community and brand.
Above is just a handful of the diverse learning opportunities students enjoyed across campus. Especially gratifying this year were opportunities for students to lend their leadership and perspectives to our core work as a school—in service as well as communications to support our School’s internal culture and enhance our presence in the external community as well. For students and teachers who are juggling several courses at once, Mini-term provides a refreshing chance to focus on one passion or area of interest over an extended period of time, and explore it deeply. This rare gift provides much-needed rejuvenation to tackle the final trimester.

The Bentley Story

Founded in 1920, Bentley School has fostered an environment that challenges the mind, striving to bring out the best in every one of its students. Bentley School is committed to academic excellence as well as the development of character and spirit in each of its students. (Read more in the Head of School's Message.)

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