Discussing what it means to be a good friend. Articulately presenting soccer team results at Sharing Assembly. A spontaneous high-five between cross-graded partners as they pass in the halls. All occur in moments outside of the traditional classroom but all are important to the development of the non-cognitive skills vital for future success.
Building a Strong Community
When asked what is the most special thing about Belmont Day, 100% of eighth graders talk about the community. Although students in any given class have different backgrounds, talents, experiences, and outlooks, they care about each other and support each other. There is no greater advantage to taking risks and learning about yourself. Middle school is a time when you develop your identity. Doing that in a supportive community is a gift.
Our strong community does not occur by chance. It is the deliberate result of extensive planning and effort by faculty and staff. Each year starts with a variety of community-building activities at school ranging from grade specific discussions about shared summer readings to middle school discussions of rules of conduct. Within the first several weeks of school, each grade leaves campus for more formal orientation activities.
Over the course of the year, students from differing middle school grades interact on sports teams, during community service events, and in music and arts electives. The community of middle schoolers broadens with the inclusion of each student's cross-graded partner. For middle school students, their partner is a member of a younger grade. Middle schoolers gain so much from these alliances, as they rise to the responsibility of nurturing, encouraging, and inspiring their younger partners.
Each seventh and eighth grade student is teamed with a small group of other students in the same grade and one teacher to form an advisory group. Advisory groups are intended to serve as a home base community, a place where informal meetings happen over the course of the week and where students and the advisor explore and discuss a variety of topics important to adolescents in their lives both in and out of school. The advisor plays an important role as student advocate for both academic and social-emotional issues and serves as a parent liaison. Advisors also run, along with students, the parent-teacher-student conferences in October and March.
Middle school is not an easy time. So much in life is changing. The challenges to be faced and questions to be answered can be daunting. The health and wellness curriculum in the middle school aims to help students confront and understand many of these complex issues. In fifth and sixth grades, through teacher-facilitated conversations and activities, students learn about being a community member, maintaining healthy friendships, and they explore the physical and emotional changes associated with puberty. The Choices curriculum for seventh and eighth graders centers on making good choices in life and putting your best self forward. Students work with a team of four faculty members to explore such issues as: friendship, inclusiveness, LGBTQ topics, drugs, and adolescence. Interviewing and preparing for high school and on-demand writing are also covered.
At Belmont Day we endeavor to teach children to “take responsibility for themselves, each other and the world around them.” In addition to our annual Community Service Day held in May, students in every grade engage in community service activities throughout the school year.
Recent activities undertaken by our middle school students have included:
- working in the school garden
- organizing the school's Trick or Treat for UNICEF efforts
- collecting winter coats for Cradles to Crayons
- participation in the Belmont Day chapter of Roots and Shoots, a youth service organization founded by the Jane Goodall Institute
The arts are integral to Belmont Day, embedded in the academic program and valued by the community. Students are immersed in many artistic disciplines. In music, they learn skills to engage in vocal and instrumental performance, and study music appreciation. In addition to this classroom experience, students are offered the opportunity to participate in the ensembles program. The ensembles program provides the experience of learning, practicing, and performing in a small group. We offer guitar, orchestra, wind, and world drumming ensembles that meet once a week, either before or after school. Chorus meets during the school day.
Middle School Meeting
Once a month middle school students gather as a community for the Middle School Meeting. This is a time to share information, discuss middle school specific ideas or issues, and engage in activities geared towards building a strong middle school community. Students are also divided into smaller, cross-graded groups, led by one or more eighth graders. This group will participate together in a variety of activities throughout the year.
Fifth grade has taken trips to the Revolutionary War battlefields at Lexington and Concord as well as the Battle Road in Lincoln. The class has also done letter-boxing in the woods and fields surrounding the school. Sixth grade spends three days at the Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts. Seventh grade spends time at Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire hiking, engaging in outdoor education, and strengthening group dynamics. Eighth grade students use the ropes course at an Outward Bound facility on Thompson Island in Boston Harbor.