Wednesday, January 18, 2017
On E-Day afternoons at Crane Country Day School, attendance is robust, but many middle school classrooms are vacant.  There is an exciting reason for this, and it is Crane’s new E-Block elective program in grades six through eight. 
Crane middle-school students take over 12 different classes each semester. They learn and explore all manner of topics from math to art, English to service learning, physical fitness and health to public speaking. Offering this robust curriculum allows Crane students to learn about and explore diverse topics, which might not have caught their attention otherwise. Crane’s new E-Block elective program enhances an already broad program by honoring student choice as well.
Each trimester Crane’s middle-school students choose from a slate of different program offerings, allowing them to take three different electives each year.  Peggy Smith, Head of Upper School, explains, “We strive for a balance of academic challenge and creative expression at Crane, and E-Block gives us a nice blend.” These mixed grade classes go beyond textbook learning and allow students to delve into a topic with active hands-on exploration, interaction with professional experts, and unique on-campus experiences with multiple off-campus trips.
There have been twenty courses offered so far this year, from robotics and architecture to do-it-yourself crafts and outdoor adventures.  According to Smith, “Some kids have trouble choosing there are so many interesting choices.  Fortunately, in addition to many new electives each trimester, we can also repeat an elective so students can have another opportunity to choose what most interests them!” 
This past semester, many of the E-Block students and teachers could be found either on or off-campus. Some were in the school’s organic garden, harvesting tomatoes to make their Farm to Table salsa.  Others were touring the construction site of Crane School’s new Design and Engineering Center for the Let’s Build architecture elective.  There were middle-school students on the art deck, tinkering with a broken printer in hopes of bringing it back to life in their Making by Breaking elective, and a large group of kids were engaged in a spirited game of flag football on the sports fields in The Sporting Life.  Finally, in a peaceful nook on campus, a quartet from The Storytellers elective were practicing harmony for a show they wrote and performed for Crane’s Day of Giving.
Crane students and teachers were also at various venues around town.  Many were at the Santa Barbara Harbor, getting ready for a variety of water sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and sailing so they could use the nautical skills they learned in The World of Water.  Mindfulness and Yoga students were practicing quietly at a local yoga studio while Coding and Programing students brought their protective headgear and watched a rocket launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Some students were at the beach taking photos for their Through The Lens flat-lay project, while others were visiting a bakery on Milpas Street to learn the ins-and-outs of running a small business for their Build-A-Bakery elective. 
Ms. Smith offers this perspective:  “Our new trimester E-Block Program is pure Crane.  It embodies so many of the things we celebrate here – joy in learning, hands-on experiences, teacher collaboration, and student voice.”