What is the “mini-week”? A special report from Haines High School students | KHNS Radio

Colin Aldassy interviews Matilda Rogers about her ‘Mini-Week’ experience (Photo courtesy of Giselle Miller)

Haines High School reporters tell us what happens when a large majority of their students travel to play sports, and the students who stay at home experience what is called the “mini-week “. Haines senior Trygve Bakke and freshmen Colin Aldassy and Willow Bryant report:


Last week, with the many participants of the Region V basketball tournament departing, a third of the students at Haines High School were left behind in a whirlwind. These students did not continue with their usual course load, but instead participated in a “mini-week”: a week-long event of specialized classes taught by community members around a theme.

So there’s an opportunity every year to have what’s called a mini-week,” said Sam McPhetres. It is a computer science teacher at Haines High School and was one of the leaders of the Mini-week program, which has been running for 12 years.

This year, we have chosen to do outdoor safety. We are very lucky to have Alaska State Trooper Colin Nemec come in and do a cold water safety course,” McPhetres said.

At the pool in Haines, Cavalier Nemec asks a group of students to jump into the water and practice putting on survival suits. They also had to learn to empty their wetsuits after stepping onto the edge of the pool, as if crawling on the shore.

My name is Koa Doddridge. I’m an eleventh grader here, so I’m a freshman at Haines High, and this week I took cold water safety. We had a lot of training on putting on survival suits, getting in and out, in the water, out of the water, and putting on life jackets and learning the different levels.

To wrap up the course, the students brought in guest instructors from the Juneau Coast Guard to help facilitate an open water rescue and the safety of boaters on Portage Cove.

Today was our last day of class. We have to get on the soldiers’ boat and swim out to land with the survival suits in the salt water,” Doddridge said.

“The hardest part of the day was not panicking once we got into the water without our survival suits because it’s like below zero right now,” said Ryland Jorgenson- Geise. He is a freshman experiencing Mini week for the first time.

Trygve Bakke interviews Ryland Jorgenson-Geise on cold water safety (Photo courtesy of Giselle Miller)

“What I’ve learned from this week is that we don’t want to hang around cold water unless we’re prepared for it,” Jorgenson-Geise said.

While some students struggled with cold water for survival, on the other side of the school, students in the kitchen tackled another difficult task: making a perfect French macaron.

Selby Long, a Haines freshman and pastry chef extraordinaire, leads the class in this tricky recipe.

My name is Selby Long and I am in 9th grade. Well, I’m cooking right now. I have two kitchen blocks, and I just do it because I really like to cook. I really love to cook, and I just want to improve my skills and do things that I love. And I’m actually teaching this class that macaroons are sort of my specialty. And I thought it would be fun if I showed everyone in the course of the mini-week how to do them too. That’s kind of what we’re working on today.

The cooking class students had a different recipe every day to give them new skills and confidence in cooking. Other recipes included cinnamon rolls, fresh rolls, pizzas and cakes. Selby wasn’t the only instructor in the high school kitchen, other staff and community members helped share their culinary knowledge.

Ceramics is another class that students were able to choose. Six students worked on pottery wheels and improved their throwing ability. For one class period, they were blindfolded and told to only throw by muscle memory.

So, as advanced ceramics students, you should be able to do all of this by feel, not sight,” says Giselle Miller, the art teacher.

Left to right: Griffin Culbeck, Leo Wald, Willow Oakley and Matilda Rogers test their ceramic skills (Photo courtesy of Giselle Miller)

Junior student Matilda Rogers spent the majority of her mini-week on the wheel in the art room.

I like the mini-week because it gives students the opportunity to explore non-academic interests and what you might typically see in your school day. Yes, it just lets you explore your own interests and you can either try something you’ve never done before or dive deep into something that really interests you. And so I think it’s just a brilliant opportunity for the entire student body,” Rogers said.

In addition to the previously mentioned courses, students had several courses to choose from, including Wilderness First Aid, Backcountry Avalanche Training, and Aboriginal Youth Olympic Practice.

While students here in Haines may feel a bit left out of the Region V festivities, they instead gain valuable learning experiences and life lessons they can use in the future. The mini-week not only offers these students a break from normal classroom work, but also an equally entertaining week of learning with friends. It’s a win-win. Let’s Go Glacier Bears!

This story was reported by Haines senior Trygve Bakke (left) and freshmen Colin Aldassy (center) and Willow Bryant (right) in a “Mini-Week” radio journalism class. Edited and produced by Giselle Miller.

The students visited the KHNS radio station, learned how to interview, record, write scripts and develop stories for the air.

Students visit KHNS Radio, run by production assistant Jasper Posey (Photo courtesy of Giselle Miller)

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