George Walton Academy started off 2019 with a new, non-traditional program called “Dawg Days.” The Winter Term was a three-week intensive where students had the option to travel, intern or take courses not offered during the school year on campus. With the intensive two years in the making, the committee in charge of the program hoped to give students a different view of education outside of their regular curriculum

“We want students to learn for the sake of learning. It’s not your traditional educational experience; it’s this way to get students to think that there are things we don’t teach them in a classroom that are also valuable,” said Femke Côté, who served on the committee.

The biggest unknown for the committee going into the Winter Term was the popularity of internships; however,  41 students completed internships. Alex Aull interned at West Jackson Middle School to help teach the middle school band class. He led and instructed a class, taught beginners  and experienced the administrative side of teaching, all of which he would’ve never had the chance to do at school.

“I enjoyed the connections I made with these kids, and I saw improvements and changes in them. A lot ­of them seemed to really like me and appreciate all of the work I’d done for them. It feels good knowing I had a role in helping them succeed,” Aull said.

Along with internships, students could travel off campus on field trips to Belize, Washington D.C., Virginia or Barcelona. Jaime Jacoby went on the Close-Up D.C. trip where schools from Georgia, Florida and Hawaii tour and look at the political aspect of D.C. They talked about inspiration behind certain monuments, engage in mock debates and read about different political issues.

“Nowadays, learning and school in general is more focused on memorization and getting stuff done, but the trip was more about us wanting to learn,” Jacoby said.

On campus, students and faculty interacted and connected through the mini courses ranging from teaching practical life skills like sewing to yoga classes aimed to relax students.­­

Elizabeth Carter took the classes Revolutionizing Your Spiritual Life, Etiquette, Paint Like a Renaissance Master and Visual Journaling.

“I think having these opportunities is worth it. You learn things you probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. In Etiquette I’ve learned so much about social situations and norms I didn’t realize were important,” Carter said.

But despite the many benefits from the program, there are concerns about the amount of time students will be missing from their academic classes. Students miss five consecutive weeks of school, with the two additional weeks from Christmas break. The committee, however, believes the students are capable of handling the “rest-stop” and expect them to perform like they have in previous years.

“This question was brought up very early in our committee when we were figuring out how we would sell this idea to our faculty.  We value the incredible talent our students have that doesn’t always get the spotlight in your traditional academic setting,” Côté said.

Although students resume normal school schedules on Monday, each student’s experience from the previous three weeks will add to their overall educational experience at George Walton Academy.

“With any system like this there are things that can be improved, but having these opportunities and experiences from Winter Term are worth it,” Aull said.

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