Preparing for the Move Across the Street

What are the secrets to a successful Middle School transition? Lower School Head Dr. Marcisha Brazley-Keith says one element is creating a Middle School experience enveloped within a fifth-grade bubble.

While the rest of the Lower School students are gradually exposed to switching classes (mostly with one teacher and multiple special subjects) and subjects, fifth graders' schedules mimic the Middle School's. Switching teachers and subjects prepares students for independence and how to follow and manage the demands of a middle school-type schedule.

"The biggest thing the Lower School does to prepare fifth-graders for Middle School is the scheduling. This way, managing a Middle School load is less daunting for the girls when they actually get there. The transition is much smoother when students know how to check Schoology, switch classes, and interact with different teachers."

Fifth graders are also given special privileges that set them apart from the rest of the Lower School, such as being given a badge to access buildings and being able to wear whatever footwear they want, just like they can do when they are on the South Campus.
"It's a small rite of passage that makes them feel a little more responsibility," said Dr. Keith.

Parents are included in the Middle School transition, as well. They are offered multiple opportunities to talk about the sixth-grade experience and are even offered a chance to tour with Head of Middle School Katherine House.

"The first thing we do are fifth-grade parent tours in January. I lead these tours and ensure they are small groups so parents can ask specific questions about their daughter. The tours are casual, and parents have the opportunity to speak candidly," said Mrs. House

Students are familiarized with the South Campus, as well. This week, fifth graders spent time learning about Middle School with the help of a sixth grade buddy. Middle School teachers gave fun presentations in the Buckman Rose Theater, showcasing the various class offerings and opportunities. After having lunch in the AWC Dining Hall, fifth graders spent time at recess with their sixth grade buddies and enjoyed playing on the new field and getting a tour of the South Campus facilities.

"Middle School is a big change, but it's exciting," said Mrs. House. "We spend a lot of time walking everyone through the process. There is a lot of care and communication that goes into it."

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