A belief that middle school students should experience a wide variety of classes and activities has led to an assortment of different opportunities for students at Drexler Middle/Intermediate School.

DMIS Principal Scott Firzlaff explained some of those opportunities to the Western Dubuque School Board during their meeting, Jan. 11.

“Middle school is the perfect opportunity for students to explore and try new things as they develop physically, mentally, socially and emotionally,” he explained. “For those reasons, we have continued to adjust our course offerings to best meet the needs of our students.”

Since becoming principal three years ago, Firzlaff has seen the middle school switch from simply offering electives and hoping students sign up for them, to moving to a student schedule where all students are exposed to a variety of classes.

“I’m not sure a middle school student should be able to say ‘I don’t like art or music, so I’m not taking those.’ They still have choice for some classes, but I don’t want them to make decisions now then get into high school and wish they had taken something. Kids can try new things in middle school and find they have a passion for something they didn’t know they had.”

DMIS has offered 13 new courses for students, ranging from keyboarding, health and writing to new offerings in 2021 that include manufacturing, journalism and independent learning.

Firzlaff also wants students to be involved in extracurricular activities, ranging from athletic opportunities to other options such as quiz bowl or mock trial. “We have lots of things for students to become involved in, whether it’s after school or during the school day.”

Firzlaff said a woodworking class is the most popular of class offerings.

“Woodworking began this year and it’s been exciting to see kids create and enjoy this class more than I thought they would. Adding an industrial tech course at the middle school has been a goal of mine since I stepped into this position.”

Firzlaff said the course has become so popular that it fills up quickly, meaning some students can’t take the course when they want to take it.

Taught Jared Diers, the course is broken into Woodworking I and Woodworking II. Each course has students complete two woodworking projects. Students must pass a safety and measurement test before working with any tools in the shop.

Firzlaff said he’s surveyed students about all the woodworking classes and said they give it high marks.

“I talk with them about why they took the class, what they learned, what they liked best and if they would like more classes like this one. Kids have lots of ideas about what they want to learn and that’s great.”