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Patriot Perspective: Middle level practices

As students and parents come to middle school, they ask many questions about what to expect. They are unsure if the school is like elementary or a mini version of high school. What makes middle school different from other grade levels?

The philosophy and best practices of middle level education for young adolescents is not about a particular grade configuration. Instead, as referenced in the publication “This We Believe,” it is about ensuring that young people have access to programs that are developmentally responsive, challenging, empowering and equitable, which means that all students are provided with appropriately challenging and relevant learning opportunities. In a middle school program, it is also important to teach the whole child.

This means giving opportunities not only to learn core subjects such as English, math, social studies and science, but also opportunities to develop their talents in subjects like art and music. Young adolescents also need to develop healthy habits through physical education and family consumer science. At Pequot Lakes Middle School, we require our students to take a variety of classes in these areas to meet these needs.

Our world is ever changing and our students must understand and be prepared for their individual futures. Parents may have been able to learn the basics in all academic areas that prepared them for success in life, but our students today need to be prepared for so much more.

Students today also need to know 21st century skills such as creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration, information and communication technology literacy, and life and career skills.

Computer Applications and Project Lead the Way courses assist students in learning these skills. We have added iPads, which are being used in art courses. New curriculum has been added in social studies and English to meet new state standards and the common core curriculum.

Students in middle school are constantly changing and, as a school, we are always attempting to meet their changing needs. This year we have added a homeroom for students at the end of the day to provide an opportunity for a teacher adviser to work with one group of students on social activities, study skills and other academic skills.

In middle school, we also provide social activities such as 5th and 6th grade Read and Feed, after school dances, and awards programs. We will also be starting monthly clubs to provide social opportunities. These activities help students develop a sense of community, team and collaborative skills.

It has been a great start to the 2013 school year at Pequot Lakes Middle School. Understanding what makes middle school different from other grade levels also helps us to understand why different educational practices and activities are used to help students develop and achieve academically.