Think like an 11-year-old. Your first day of 6th grade. You are surrounded by students who seem to be twice your size. The bell just rang and you know what class you’re supposed to go to next, but you can’t find the schedule that tells you what room it’s in. Before the day is out you’ll meet six new teachers, and each one has given you too much information about what to study, what your schedule of homework looks like, and how often you’ll have a big test. You figure you’ll be lucky if one of them remembers your name tomorrow.
Think like a teacher. The bell just rang and in streams a group of 6th grade students, wide-eyed and timid about where to sit, rattled by the deluge of information they’ve been given in the prior class. At least two are late, mumbling something about not being sure which room they were looking for. You wish you could spend more time with them; you know how anxious they are. But you’ve got a lot to cover before the next bell rings. You’re trying hard to remember each child’s name before the end of the week.
Think like a parent. It doesn’t seem possible but your baby is now a 6th grader, no longer in the security of an elementary classroom with one, maybe two, teachers. The responsibility for learning – for listening carefully and taking notes in multiple classrooms – has shifted significantly to your child. You imagine your 11-year-old frantically trying to remember which classroom to go to next, dodging the 8th graders striding through the halls, oblivious to these little guys. What will my child be learning? How will she hang onto her self-confidence?
All across the board, 6th grade is tough.
To address those concerns and to create an exceptional 6th grade learning experience, Faith Academy now offers a 6th Grade Academy.
The 6th Grade Academy serves as a transition. The students will still move from class-to-class for subject areas, but the teachers have been working together as a team to ensure that every child is known before school even begins. Once school starts, the team will meet regularly to consider how each student is doing across all subject areas, to identify learning progress as well as social and emotional needs. Knowing students well is one advantage of the small class size (10-16 students) at Faith Academy.
Faith’s 6th Grade Academy will use interdisciplinary, project-based learning approaches. In project-based learning, students tackle a real-world problem. They learn the content knowledge they would get in a traditional classroom but within the context of a problem they need to solve or a product they need to create. Along the way, they are gaining important critical thinking and communication skills.
As an example, students might be challenged to develop a virtual museum using photos and an app that allows them to embed text, audio, even movies into a photo, available as a pop-up by clicking an icon. In Faith’s history class on ancient civilizations, the class might examine what life in Israel was like at the time of King David, who they’re learning about in Bible.
Their virtual museum could include photos and drawings of the Temple and typical houses in Jerusalem, with icons that provide timelines as well as charts and graphs about population growth developed in their math class. In English, they are writing the text for the icons,for example an explanation of what to examine in a photo of an archaeological dig. In life science, they’re considering the animals and plants that would have provided the Israelites’ food, as well as their early approaches to medicine based on understanding bacteria. Putting the museum together happens in Tech class, where they are learning about not only the app but also about other Google and Office applications.
“What weaves the courses together is an overarching study of stewardship, responding to the essential question of just what it means to be a good steward of God’s creation,” reports Celia Merrill, Chair of Humanities and 6th Grade Academy Coordinator. “How do I care for the earth? What responsibility do I have for caring for others? Or how do I grow myself as a learner and as a Christian? I’m excited to see what the teachers are developing within this theme to link all content areas, and I’m excited when I think about the students grappling with these questions.”
The emphasis on stewardship is consistent with the community service requirement at Faith Academy. The 6th Grade Academy stewardship emphasis provides a strong start for the requirement that all secondary students complete 20 hours per year in service to the school, to their church, or to the community. Seniors complete a capstone project on service to the community, researching needs, designing, completing and presenting a project based on 40 or more service hours.
The 6th Grade Academy is an integral part of Faith Academy’s vision and goals for the 2019-20 year, summed up in the slogan “Faith Excels.” The interdisciplinary project-based approach addresses school-wide goals for increasing academic rigor and developing critical thinking skills.
“Clearly the 6th Grade Academy is designed to instill excellence in academics and in discipleship,” explains Amy Cozby, Head of School. “But it also addresses the concerns parents have regarding their students’ social and emotional needs as they enter the adolescent years. We just want to surround these students with caring educators who are developing their hearts as well as their minds. The 6th Grade Academy is integral to our overarching goal of equipping our students to go out into the world as good stewards, as skillful, thoughtful leaders. What great additions this 6th Grade Academy and our new Kinder Prep program represent to Faith Academy as we celebrate our 20th anniversary.”
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Celia Merrill
6th Grade Academy Supervisor