Middle School Classroom Becomes a Winter Wonderland!

Middle school girls were able to visit a winter wonderland recently… all without ever leaving the Hutchison campus!
Faculty members Lauren Huddleston and Jenn Futrell got the idea to transform a middle school room into the winter wonderland after a visit to a school in Atlanta, Georgia. The transformed room featured a fireplace projected on a screen, Christmas trees, flameless candles, and snow. The idea was to create a sensory experience that would shakeup the day’s usual routine, all while learning continued.
To create a warm and inviting space, seventh grade English teacher Huddleston worked with fifth grade science teacher Christa Stigers, sixth grade English teacher Kara Vaughn, and eighth grade teacher Savannah McCausland. Each teacher found unique ways to coordinate what they were doing in the classroom with time in the transformed room. Here are a few of the things that happened:

  • 5th grade: “We have been studying the systems of the human body and were focused on the nervous system,” said Stigers, “which controls all the other systems by sending messages to make those systems work. Whitney Miller, Hutchison’s technology innovation director, and I decided to have the girls complete an escape room. The girls got to experience how working together is essential for success, in the same way that the human body system works.”
  • 6th grade: “Sixth grade christened the room ‘Chateau de Dobbs’ and enjoyed reading by the fireplace,” said Vaughn. “To match the mood, they studied Robert Frost poetry and practiced creative writing.”
  • 7th grade: Huddleston positioned a coat rack at the entrance to room and fashioned it as Narnia. “We just started Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she said. “The characters in that story visit the woods and are tested, but leave the woods transformed. While middle school girls were visiting Narnia, they read fairy tales about other characters who have been transformed through trips to the woods, from Hansel and Gretel to Rapunzel. Now we’ll return to Shakespeare and talk about the magical nature and symbolism of the woods in all these stories.”
  • 8th grade: “Our girls visited the winter wonderland to relax as they prepared for their semester exam,” said McCausland. “In the room, they sipped hot chocolate while creating a study plan for the exam. They were able to go over exam topics, plan a schedule, and play some review games to de-stress during this sometimes-chaotic season.”

Huddleston said that beyond seeing the room transformation idea at another school, she had recently read The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath. “In that book, the authors refer to creating meaningful and memorable experiences. For this room transformation, we’re going beyond the routine of the normal school experience by boosting the sensory appeal and breaking the script of what’s expected. Girls aren’t coming into the classroom to sit and listen to a teacher—they’re going to Narnia, drinking hot chocolate, sharing poetry, or trying to crack the code in an escape room.
While visiting the winter wonderland, girls also had an opportunity to strengthen their bonds with one another by working collaboratively, listening to each other, and building on each other’s ideas. The transformation heightens their participation in the learning process. By looking at a situation in a new way, girls are thinking outside the box in terms of what it means to be a student. They’re able to take a more creative approach to problem-solving, and they are working on their own content mastery at the same time.
“Our students deserve these kinds of experiences in their learning journeys,” Huddleston added. “We’re glad we are on a campus where we can provide them with special classes like this.”

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Hutchison is the leading private girls school in Memphis for ages 2 years old through twelfth grade.