It’s February and already time to begin thinking about the next school year. Allendale Columbia students and parents transitioning from grade to grade in Lower School, from Lower School to Middle School and Middle School to Upper School have many questions about the changes they’ll experience, so AC’s Next Steps programs help address those questions and make the transitions easier.
Because of the close-knit community and smaller class sizes at AC, the transition from Lower School to Middle School isn’t as traumatic as it might be in larger schools, since many of the students and teachers know each other already. But there are still many changes, in addition to learning where things are in a different wing of the building and switching from being with one teacher most of the day to having different teachers and classrooms for each subject. After some introductory discussions with Head of Middle School Tina Duver and others, the Next Steps program paired sixth grade ambassadors with fifth grade students to guide them through a typical day’s routines, giving an introduction to teachers, classrooms, and schedules.
Students found they will have more independence from teachers and parents in the decisions they can make at school and in having to advocate for themselves and take advantage of the abundant support opportunities when needed. With that independence comes responsibility to get homework and projects done, manage their time well, and keep a key fob to get in and out of the buildings on campus. They enjoyed the idea of choice in electives that increases over time and in choosing (and creating!) clubs to join. By the end of the day, the fifth graders seemed ready and excited for the change.
The transition to Upper School elevates those same characteristics of independence, responsibility, and choice to another level. Head of Upper School Ryan Burke talked about that, in particular pointing out the increased independence and responsibility includes forging their identities and making choices about their friends, relationships, getting the support they need, and use of time. In a panel discussion, current Upper Schoolers shared their experiences with the eighth graders, answered questions, and gave tips, with a lot of interest on time management, workload, scheduling, and preparing for college.
Eighth graders also experienced some of the variety of courses they will be able to take come September when they enter ninth grade. Some of these courses include Astrophysics, Behavioral Science, Biochemistry, Environmental Science and Sustainability, Creative Writing, Modern Middle East, Studio Music Production, and Painting and World Art, in addition to more traditional subjects like History, English, Algebra, and Geometry.
Parents with children transitioning from grade to grade in Lower School are also doing a Next Steps program today, with an introduction and Q&A with Head of School and Acting Head of Lower School Mick Gee and visits to classrooms for the grades they will be moving up to. Students experience a similar walk-through of their next classrooms which is always a wondrous experience for them.
The buzz of transitioning to a new grade and a new Division is often tempered with concerns, but AC’s Next Steps programs help ease anxieties early on to best prepare students and their families for what lies ahead. One of the most exciting parts of the program for all involved is to see the students’ natural curiosity, wonder, and excitement of gaining new choices, independence, and responsibility.
Posted in: Eighth Grade, Fifth Grade, Highlights, Lower School, LS Birches, Middle School, MS Birches, The Birches, US Birches