Middle School may look a little messy to an outsider. Students may be running to complete a content-based relay race outside the classroom door, while others are working on a script, while yet another group of students is playing a content-based video game. 

One day, some years ago, a concerned parent phoned Joe Fenlon (Associate Head of School and Head of the Middle School) and demanded to know “What the heck are you doing at that Country Club? My son never wants to come home!”  So, Middle School at Tampa Prep can often feel, to students, like a day of fun. 

“Fun” and “school” are not often words that people think of in the same sentence. However, most adults, parents and teachers alike tend to agree that learning is an amazing experience and therefore we should want to be lifelong learners.   Learning, I propose, should contain some elements of delight, if not outright fun, right? Who wants to be a lifelong learner if it is nothing but drudgery? Lots of learning activities are fun: learning to cook, learning to play a sport, learning to do a craft, learning to play an instrument, learning to ride a bike and so many more things. Learning in school can be fun as well. 

Recently, middle schoolers at Tampa Prep participated in the Middle School Escape Games over the course of two days. Students competed in several escape-room-like experiences, art challenges, STEM challenges and more, all serving the greater purpose of strengthening their team work, communication, problem solving, creativity and strategizing skills. 

In middle school English classes, students went to “Starbooks” Cafe to “taste” books that they could choose for upcoming independent reading. In Spanish class, students tried to build Castells, human towers from Tarragona, Spain, using a deck of cards, so that they could photograph, label and talk about them in Spanish the next day in class. 

Fun creates engagement and makes memories.  Learning is about creating long-term knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught. We pride ourselves at Tampa Prep being an Active Learning Environment (or ALE), and I would add that the middle school is a UFWIE: Unbridled Fun With Intention Environment.   That is how lifelong learners are made.