The Magic of Middle School

Snapshot | October 28, 2021

 

When you look back on your experience as a middle schooler, what do you remember? For most of us, memories of middle school are a mixed bag of very big emotions. The middle school years are primarily marked by change — changes in schedules, changes in bodies, changes in friends and social groups. Vulnerability is high, and often even the perception of failure can take on a magnified meaning. The confidence of middle schoolers can be very fragile.

 

Here at Parker, we understand this phase of development intimately, and we do everything we can to mitigate the uncertainty of the middle grade years. Research supports that K-8 schools specifically are uniquely positioned to help students in middle grades to thrive. Instead of being the youngest students in the building at such a formative developmental stage, our middle schoolers get to be big fish in our Parker pond:) As the oldest kids on campus, Parker students feel connected to their community and safer in their learning environment. They can be leaders and role models for younger children, and they feel more confident taking on intellectual challenges.
Parker believes that middle school is one of the most exciting and formative times in a child’s life, and our program is carefully tailored to celebrate and nurture adolescents through their delicate, early teenage years. Our middle school curriculum is built around tapping into students’ interests and helping them discover and explore their passions in ways that are purposeful and meaningful. Middle school inspires future leaders by challenging them to inquire, to think, to reason, and to act. Creative problem-solving, respect for each individual, and collaborative learning are hallmarks of our middle school culture. Our talented and supportive faculty understands and responds to the unique needs of adolescents, fostering in each student a sense of confidence, ethics, responsibility, and respect for themselves and others.
No one knows more about the transformative power of the 5th-8th grade years here at Parker than our middle school teachers. Derek Fox, our esteemed social studies teacher and current 8th grade advisor, speaks firsthand about the middle school experience at Parker: “I feel like Parker students come to our middle school ready to flex their independence. When they are in elementary school, their relationship with their teacher is very close, but it is also more reliant. By middle school, kids are growing up, and they want to be treated like independent people. I like that because it means I don’t need to necessarily give direct instruction every day. I can model activities, show some examples, talk through things as a group, and then give them the freedom to independently implement what we have discussed through their projects. That allows me the time to have conversations with each student and assess each student individually to see where they are.”
“I feel like middle school kids can advocate for themselves here at Parker. If there is a concern, if they have a problem, if they have a question about a topic, or a worry, they know they can come directly to their teachers. They have that comfort level. We are a small school, and that allows kids to develop close relationships with us that give them the confidence to speak up for themselves. That’s an amazing quality to have in life, to be able to go directly towards a person with your concern. Parker puts kids in the driver’s seat, and lets them feel like they are in control of their own education.”
These close connections with dedicated teachers who believe in them and are invested in their future success form the backbone of a student-centered middle school experience. The results? Our newest 5th grade middle school students say it best: “I like being a middle schooler because I feel in charge of my learning.” “It makes me feel good to do more advanced work, and my teachers take time to explain things to me.” “I have confidence because I have freedom.” “I can be myself because I feel seen.” These are such important factors in the lives of our 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Coming out of middle school as a confident, passionate learner and a nice person may seem like an impossible goal. However, here at Parker it is not only possible, it’s the norm.
Fall Photo Fun

 

A kindergarten student finds the perfect placement for her stick on the fort in her outdoor classroom.

 

Michele leads her PreK 4 class on a walk through the woods. Even our youngest students spend ample time outdoors in nature every day!
Our 3rd and 4th grade students enjoy exploring the run-off after a particularly hard rain storm last week.
Leigh teaches her kindergarten class a poem about falling leaves as they watched them fall all around in their outdoor classroom last week.
A PreK 3 shows off the bunch of oak leaves she found and identified while on a hike with her teacher, Sarah.