How might I build my own cello? How might I juggle while jogging for five kilometers? How has war influenced fashion? How might I work with Mr. Hoe to develop new healthy recipes for the middle school cafeteria? In March and April 2017 during our four-week TRi-Time program pilot, all SAS middle school students had time to awaken their curiosities and craft driving questions meant to propel personal investigations. Similar to Google 20% Time or Genius Hour, TRi-Time opens a door to possibilities, helping kids make time in their busy schedules to question, investigate, create, and reflect based on topics that spark their own imaginations.

TRi-Time allows students to personalize their learning while trying things that intrigue them, whether exploring knowledge new to them, learning a new skill, or creating something from scratch. Through this independent work, students hone their creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills while simultaneously working to build a growth mindset. As students venture into this personal uncharted learning territory, homebase teachers help students navigate the learning process, guiding them through lessons aimed at strengthening students’ habits of inquiry.

The idea for TRi-Time first bubbled up during the middle school research and development work which began in late 2013. This school year, in order to begin to bring the vision of personalized inquiry to life in the middle school, teachers spent the first three quarters of the year preparing for the program launch, developing inquiry lessons, trialing protocols, and pursuing their own TRi-Time investigations. Once teachers were confident in their ability to guide students through the personalized inquiry process, the TRi-Time pilot launched just after Spring Break. While some students initially struggled to find their areas of interest, most students leaped at the opportunity to search for answers to questions that perplex them. The library maker space was abuzz with builders engaged in the design process, the squishy court and athletic fields were bustling with athletes honing their skills, and every classroom was alive with eager inquirers digging deeply into topics that matter to them.

With the successful completion of our TRi- Time pilot this year, the middle school faculty and students look forward to many future iterations of TRi-Time in the years ahead. If you could pursue TRi-Time, what would your driving question be?

Aadi B., sixth grade, Climate change

Guiding question: What is climate change and what can the average person do to help climate change?

Why climate change?

During spring break I went to London, where I saw the wilderness and the horrific destruction of habitat—people cutting down trees, animals running around. Right there was my calling. 

What do you like most about TRi-Time?

It gives me the choice to explore my passion instead of following a pre-set curriculum.

What have you learned? 

I always thought there could be a happily ever after. But after studying it, I realized we’ve already ruined the planet. One species goes extinct every 11 seconds. Climate change is a lot more than a factory puffing out smoke and we don’t have much time left here. I hope humanity can offer this one last push before it dies off.

After TRi-Time: After all the research I don’t think I have much choice. You always think someone else will do something about it. It’s not a matter of whether I want to, but I have to. I already have a few things lined up after we finish TRi-Time at school.

Anika R., seventh grade, Digital art

Guiding question: Can I create a recognizable drawing on the computer?

Why digital art?

I consider myself an artist but I haven’t really had the resources for digital art. But with TRi-Time, I decided to take up the challenge and teach myself a new medium of art. Besides, the school has some great resources I could use.

What do you like most about TRi-Time?

You have the freedom to explore and it doesn’t really have to be academic. I knew from the very beginning this is what I wanted to pursue.

What have you learned? 

I always told myself you had to be a good artist with whatever supplies you have available. You don’t always need the fancy stuff. But I am realizing that having those supplies always helps! I have made amazing progress in just a few weeks time. My mum’s reaction to one of my first good drawings was, “This looks like you drew it on paper and scanned it in to make a digital copy!” I was thrilled.

After TRi-Time: After seeing my passion and my work through TRi-Time, my parents have agreed to buy me supplies I can use to pursue digital art, so I will continue to teach myself.

Ethan H., seventh grade, Building a cello

Guiding question: How can I build something we use in our daily lives?

Why the cello? 

Often players just know how to play, but not build it. I think a cello is quite beautiful and I have wanted to build one for a long time. TRi-Time gave me the opportunity to do so.

What do you like most about TRi-Time?

The opportunity to do something you really want to do is one of my favorite things about TRi-Time. 

What have you learned? 
I learned a lot about the cello itself and I think it will make me a better player. I also learned that if you want to pursue something and need help, you just have to ask. There will always be someone willing to lend you a hand.

After TRi-Time: I will miss TRi-Time but I will probably try building another cello and perfect it.

Faith J., eighth grade Designing and prototyping a tree house

Guiding question: To plan, budget for, design, and build a treehouse

Why the tree house? 

I was planning to build one with my grandfather over the summer and thought it would be good for me to plan and design it during TRi- Time.

What do you like most about TRi-Time?

I get to do a lot of stuff that interests me other than my electives. I would have never done this if it weren’t for TRi-Time.

What have you learned? 

The designing process was pretty challenging and difficult and I had to figure out many things along the way.

After TRi-Time: I will continue to work on this and finish up some of the things. I have always liked working with wood but it’s not very easy to  do it in Singapore.

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