A Day in the Life: Parker Middle School

Middle school is a fierce and tender time of burgeoning independence combined with yearning for connection and support. We were reminded of that by our middle school parents this week as we shared a beautiful morning catching up at our fireside coffee and chat. The challenges of middle school are exciting and different — Gone are the days of separation anxiety at drop-off, but ushered in are the days of wondering “What on earth?!” to the varied and perplexing range of behaviors and emotions tweens fluctuate through on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis. 
While the inner lives of tweens can be mysterious, the joy inherent in their school day here at Parker is not. Today, we would like to present “A Day in the Life of a Parker Middle Schooler” to share with our community what it means to experience our innovative middle school first hand. 
8:30 – 9:00 ~ Advisory
A Parker Middle Schooler’s day always begins with morning advisory. Students are assigned an advisor by class, and this is one of the few times during the day that they gather in grade-level groups to work on age-appropriate social and emotional skills through activities and group discussion. Today, our 7th graders discussed how it feels to try new things and shared personal examples of when trying something new has gone well and when it has been a disaster for them. Opening up, listening to others, and participating in advisory helps students to feel included and emotionally secure and fosters a strong sense of community heading into the day.
 9:00 – 9:30 ~ Wellness with Katie
On Thursdays, Parker 7th graders spend this half-hour morning block working with Katie Thornton, our new Director of Wellness and Social-Emotional Learning. This position is new to our curriculum this year, and we are thrilled to be providing all K-8th grade students more direct instruction towards cultivating the personal and interpersonal skills needed to bring their best selves to their work and play. Today’s students helped to create a bulletin board that will highlight what “Wellness” means to individual students here at Parker. 
9:30 – 10:45 ~ Academic Block
Traditionally, Parker middle school students have one academic block in the morning followed by another in the afternoon. Students rotate through the subjects of math, social studies, English language arts, and science. Academic sessions are longer at Parker in order to allow students the time necessary to dive deeply into hands-on project work and interest-based learning. Today in science, our 5th graders studied the transfer of energy by completing a lab on conduction using a warm spoon dipped into a cold beaker of water.
10:45 – 11:00 ~ Snack & Break
Every morning, our middle schoolers have a 15-minute outdoor break for snacks and socializing. All students benefit from fresh air and the opportunity to move and have fun, and it is a hallmark of our middle school experience that we extend these opportunities all the way through 8th grade.
11:00 – 12:00 ~ Specials
The second part of a middle schooler’s morning is spent in one of four specials: art, music, health and PE, or Spanish. Specials are mixed-age, giving students the opportunity to foster relationships with peers across grade levels and further strengthening our community. Today, this 7th grader is working with Claire to perfect her shading technique on her study of contemporary Hispanic artist Ale RB. All middle school artists were challenged to create a whimsical landscape in RB’s style as part of their cultural celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. 
12:00 – 12:45 ~ Lunch & Recess
Lunch time for our middle schoolers also includes recess! Here at Parker, we believe that the benefits of recess (freedom to experiment, freedom to try on identities, freedom to fail) don’t magically disappear after 4th grade. In fact, research suggests that even during the teenage years, recess produces higher levels of creative thinking, problem solving, independence, and perseverance.
12:45-1:45 ~ Specials
After lunch, our students once again return to specials. Today in music, our 6th graders worked on their chosen instruments. This year, each middle school student will begin their semester by learning about the three basic elements of music: melody, rhythm, and harmony. Working with an instrument of their choice, students will embark on a choose-your-own adventure of sorts to master their instrument and become more tuneful, beatful, and artful musicians.
1:45 – 2:15 ~ 2nd Break
In the afternoon, students take another outdoor break before heading into their second academic block. 
2:15-3:30 ~ Academic Block
Students rotate to a different subject to close out their second academic block for the day. On this day, 5th grade mathematicians finished their STEM challenge to design and engineer a raft that can float using only sticks and twine. (Although of course our creative Parker kids had to decorate theirs as well!) The 5th grade culminated this project and their day by heading out to test their rafts on our Parker pond. Stay tuned to Instagram and Facebook to see how they did!
3:30 – 3:45 ~ Advisory & Dismissal
Middle schoolers end their day back where they began, with a brief meeting of their advisory where students review their day, complete their classroom jobs, make plans for the next day or week ahead, and say their goodbyes.
After School and Beyond
Finally, no summary of a Parker middle schooler’s day would be complete without mentioning the opportunities that our flexible and responsive schedule provides for individual growth and community building. On this day, a Parker 6th grader joined our faculty meeting to present her ideas about forming a student government. Motivated by a social studies project to write a class constitution, this student saw an opportunity for growth and representation school-wide and acted on it.
Confidence and purposeful action such as this is the perfect example of what happens when middle schoolers experience an educational culture that nurtures their talents and interests and values their voice. Coming out of middle school as an empowered, passionate learner and a caring person may seem like an impossible goal. However, here at Parker it is not only possible, it’s the norm.