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4th graders get a glimpse into life as a 5th grader
Throughout the last few weeks of school, graduating 4th graders from all three elementary schools have traveled to Saxe Middle School as part of their 4th-to-5th grade transitional programs. During their visits, 4th graders are guided through Saxe by current 5th graders, who are part of a Student Leadership Team. They sit in a 5th grade classroom with Saxe fifth graders and their teacher, go through several classroom activities, followed by a Q/A session.
The Saxe visit is one component of a three-part transition program designed to introduce incoming 5th graders to their new Saxe environment. Saxe Assistant Principal and 5th Grade Administrator Dr. Steven Clapp organizes the three-year-old program that includes the school visit and a “Welcome to Saxe Night”, where families are invited to attend for tours and pizza. He also visits each elementary school and gives presentations to the 4th graders during the school day then meets with their parents for a similar presentation.
“Students get to come in and see what the school looks like when it is alive and operating,” said Dr. Clapp, about the 4th graders’ visit. “And each program we offer gives them a little bit more exposure. Hopefully, as we go through, we see that the children are asking more in-depth questions.”
During a recent visit by the East 4th grade class, members of the Student Leadership Team led students to parts of the building to that they thought would be important to show, like the gym, cafeteria, library and the music and art classes, and chose team-building activities for the 4th and 5th graders to play together.
“We have been following a school climate model by Dr. Bill Preble, where the basic idea is student empowerment,” Dr. Clapp said. “We switch the power frame, so that students get to be in charge of school climate, and the 5th graders get to focus on transition. When we get our Student Leadership group together, we think about what did and didn’t work from last year and make changes to our presentations, like what questions we ask, and the places within the school that are shown on the tours.”
Although the main focus of the transitional activities is to ease the stress of the 4th graders coming into Saxe, another major aspect is the ability of the 5th graders to act as advocates for their school.
“The feedback we get from parents and students is that they [the 4th graders] really get a lot out of the activities and are less scared for the year to come,” said Dr. Clapp. “For the 5th graders, I think it improves their experience as well, because they become ambassadors for the school. And there is nothing more empowering than that. The best piece of marketing we can do is showing the kids who were just in their shoes a year ago how proud, happy, and well-adjusted they are at Saxe now.”
Looking towards the future and what improvements can be made to transitional programs, Dr. Clapp hopes to take advantage of the technology offered at both schools and connect students even earlier on.
“It would be great to create pen-pal system between 5th and 4th grade classrooms in order to get the questions flowing even earlier on,” he said. “I want to create even more connections, perhaps through Facetime or Skype, where 4th graders can sit around a SmartBoard at East School and see what a 5th grade Social Studies project presentation looks like at Saxe. We feel so distinct, but we continue to work towards building more connective tissue and breaking down the barriers between the two grades.”
Story by Holly Santero, NCHS Senior