Kids do think ahead sometimes, especially when it comes to big transitions. Fifth-graders moving up to Middle School worry about the schedule, changing classrooms and teachers, lockers, and mixing with older kids. Eighth-graders moving to Upper School often cite preparing for college, tougher courses, more choices, and whether they can balance everything. Parents worry about these things, too, as they try to anticipate their child’s path forward. Imaginings of what might be often distracts them from the excitement of what’s to come.
The cure: trying it! Once students, with support, experience a day in the life at the next level and see what actually happens, the fears fade away. That’s why Allendale Columbia does a Next Steps program every February for fifth-graders and eighth-graders.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie
Fifth-grade students leave the comforts of the Lower School wing and start their Next Steps program in a modified Middle School Scrum, the daily get-together where Middle Schoolers hear announcements and recognitions. The fifth-graders meet with Middle School Head, Tina Duver, and they get matched up with a sixth- or seventh-grader who guides them through the day. The students experience real Middle School classes, move between classrooms, labs, studios, and the different teachers they’ll have. They enjoy lunch with Middle Schoolers and some additional freedom before going back to the Scrum room for a review of the day and a question and answer session.
“Middle-schoolers walk a fine line between excitement and anxiety, often,” remarked Tina. “It was wonderful to see our future 6th-graders relax and engage with their future teachers. From the moment they stepped into Middle School, they thrived on some of the increased independence. Our goal for that day is to show our 5th-graders that our Middle School students have solid relationships with faculty, that learning is interactive and fun, and that the next stage of their academic careers is exciting, new, and just around the corner.”
Elsewhere in the building, AC eighth-graders start with a morning meeting, just like Upper Schoolers do in the grade-level lounges. They receive schedules based on their interests to give them opportunities to experience the broad range of classes available in Upper School. This year, eighth-graders attended typical classes like Upper School history, English, and math; AP courses; and a variety of electives including:
- Children’s Dramaturgy
- Biochemistry of Macromolecules
- Black Lives, Black Voices
- Science Research and Writing
- Studio Art
- The Novel: Global Perspectives in Literature
- Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
They also spent time with Phil Schwartz, Head of Upper School, to talk about scheduling, advising, and college preparation. Then they had a Q&A session with current Upper School students who provided real-world, peer-level perspectives, and finished the Next Steps program with Upper School lunch.
Every year, AC also hosts parents for these important transitions. Parents come to school to learn about what’s ahead for their children and have questions addressed. Parents of rising Middle-schoolers saw photos of their children’s Next Steps day, and Mrs. Duver lightened their concerns with her usual energy, humor, love, and direct answers. For parents of rising Upper-schoolers, Mr. Schwartz gave an overview of the Division and then turned the floor over to students who talked about the opportunities they’ve had with academics, global engagement, science and research, entrepreneurship, the arts, clubs, and athletics.
“I am super impressed and pleased to hear what I heard tonight about Middle School. I had no idea about the support and the experiences that the kids will have – not even close to what I had when I was in school,” said Ric Thomann, parent of a fifth-grader
Ric left the evening saying, “I’m super excited for the kids and for myself as a parent.”
Posted in: Eighth Grade, Fifth Grade, Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Upper School