July 18, 2019

MIXing It Up at Milken Middle School

Zoe Ducorsky and Sienna Kossoff shared outfits they designed for the Fashion forward group’s clothing line. Photo Milken Community Schools/Andrea Smith

“At the core of a Jewish education and identity is the development of a curious mind.” 

So said Milken Middle School Assistant Principal Chris Scarlata, and it’s why he is a huge proponent of the school’s X-Learning project. 

“The X-project asks students to formulate their own questions and seek cutting-edge solutions,” Scarlata told the Journal shortly after 200 students from the school showcased their X-Learning projects at the fifth Milken Innovator’s Xpo, or MIX. 

Milken’s X-Learning program teaches students to become innovators, designers and entrepreneurs. The 12- to 14-year-olds identify a passion, explore it deeply, connect with like-minded individuals and propose a way to positively influence society. Then MIX enables them to share their results. 

In the first semester, students take a design-thinking class, a fabrication class and a storytelling class. The school then comes up with proposals and the students select their projects from a menu of options. Then, from winter break to spring break, they spend sessions working with their groups as they prepare to present at MIX.

“We break them into about 13 different X-project groups,” Scarlata said. “They range from a Shark Tank group and Making Music to Cooking Up Change, Fashion Forward and a Kindness Campaign, where students explore what it means to bring positive energy and positive self-image into a community.”

Around 600 people attended this year’s MIX and, after being welcomed to the event, visited the 13 student Xpo rooms on campus. 

In the Making Music group, some students learned how to play an instrument while others wrote their own music and treated the audience to a show. “Five or six different bands performed over the course of about 25 minutes,” Scarlata said.

“In a space like Science Research or Photography, the presentations were laid out like a gallery. The Sports Business group had a whole bunch of products that they created [and] people got to come and [try] them,” Scarlata added.

In the Sports Broadcasting room, “each small group created a segment of ‘SportsCenter,’ whether it was interviewing Milken coaches, doing breakdown analysis of a basketball game or talking to players,” Scarlata said. “Their segments were combined into a 25-minute program.”

“Our Fashion Forward [clothing line] group is looking at starting an Etsy store,” Scarlata added. “A group that’s doing computer building from the Shark Tank [room] is looking at getting some money invested. There were families [at MIX] that were really excited about some of the ideas and want to help [the students] continue their work.”

The MIX is an annual highlight for Scarlata, who has been part of the Milken community for 14 years. He said the event gives him the opportunity to see each student’s growth. 

“For all students, it’s [a new beginning],” Scarlata said. “For some students, their projects may lead them to continue to explore [in ways that are] not connected to their X-project. For other students, it inspires elective choices.”