Brendan Largay, Head of School

An Eye on the Future

Perhaps there is no better day to consider our school’s future than Star Wars Day. Here I reflect on the great work that has happened to prepare for next year.  

We have dedicated this year to articulating the value and opportunities of a restructured sixth to eighth grade middle school program. As sixth grade becomes the starting year for middle school we are adjusting the ‘arc within the arc’ by designing an intentional middle school experience that is consistent and aligned with the overall pre-k to eighth grade journey at BDS.

We are quite deliberately getting bigger to get a bit smaller. Middle school subject area classes will break into three sections making student-teacher ratios smaller, even as each grade grows in size from the mid-30s to the 40s.

Sixth grade will depart from the self-contained classroom model and adopt a discipline-based one with a schedule similar to that of seventh and eighth grades where students travel from one class to another and work with an advisor to support their developmentally-appropriate scholarship and executive functioning.

The addition of Latin as a third language, and affirmation of the core traditions of Freedom Night, Capstone, and experiential learning (The Farm School, Cardigan Mountain, Washington D.C.), all prime the middle school years at BDS to be as robust as they have ever been.

The arts and athletics programs also contribute to the ‘arc with the arc’. Introductory courses in 2D and 3D design, performing arts, music, woodworking and tech will provide sixth graders with the requisite skills to prepare them to thrive in electives courses in seventh and eighth grades. Sixth graders will be a very welcome addition to our interscholastic teams as they participate with seventh and eighth grade students each trimester.

All of these changes support the school’s strategic vision for the middle school program to provide intentional growth and student leadership opportunities for our students. We are invested in the value of the pre-kindergarten to eighth grade model of education. Especially during these years, students must feel safe and supported by a community that knows them and cares for them. Only then can they stretch and take the intellectual and emotional risks that are necessary for optimal learning. We are fostering learners and leaders here at Belmont Day, and our new design for the middle school supports that intention at every turn.

After a phenomenally successful placement season for our eighth grade students—the results of which will be posted in next week’s Scoop—we are reminded by our alumni of the impact such intentionality has for them in high school and beyond. Our students are well-prepared to become leaders, whether as team captains, student council representatives, or tour guides and student ambassadors at their high schools. Their success begins with their own thirst for learning and leadership which is intentionally fostered and celebrated at Belmont Day.

Middle school will not be the only place where growth will happen next year. With the construction of the Barn our physical layout is changing. The new building—with innovation and  science classrooms, art and woodworking studios—will itself be a source of innovation that inspires our students and community in ways both anticipated and yet-to-be-imagined. The Barn will allow us to create an intentional upper elementary community by relocating third and fourth grade classrooms to join fifth grade on what is currently the fifth and sixth grade floor. This move has the potential to yield new and innovative opportunities for these students. This summer, the third, fourth, and fifth grade teaching teams will meet to design their own arc, creating a program with a clear progression that will culminate in leadership opportunities for our fifth graders.

All the while, we appreciate the steady pace of our pre-k, kindergarten, first, and second grades. Equally passionate and innovative as their upper elementary and middle school counterparts,  our early childhood teachers remain dedicated to nurturing and challenging our youngest learners. They are thoroughly engaged in curriculum review work with their peers as experts on the front end of the scope and sequence, critically introducing and advancing the skills of our young mathematicians, readers, and writers.

Truly, the Force is strong here at Belmont Day. As we turn towards teacher appreciation week next week, I am inspired by this group of colleagues who have so thoughtfully dedicated themselves to our students and their learning. They are a phenomenally talented collective and we are lucky to have them leading the way into the future for Belmont Day.

Have a great weekend everyone, and May the Fourth be with each of you!

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