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Goodbye Owl Vomit and Yurts; Hello Advanced Math — Hooray!

Departing Sixth-Graders Look Back on Elementary, Ahead to Middle School

Farewell, elementary school; bring it on, middle school!

That about sums up the thinking of half a dozen Red Hawk Elementary graduates, as they spend the summer preparing to take the next step up the K-12 ladder. Having completed sixth grade, their elementary careers are over in Cedar Springs’ K-6 system.

Now come the changes and challenges of middle school. These kids say they’re ready.

Crossing the Chasm to Middle School

Transitioning from the familiar cocoon of grade school to the more complex environment of middle school can be both exciting and scary for pre-teens. Here are some ways to help them make the leap.

  • Accompany your child on campus orientations, or explore campus before school starts with your child and a friend – with office permission, of course
  • Take advantage of summer academic or recreational programs for incoming students
  • Buy your child a lock for her locker several weeks before school so she can practice opening and closing it
  • Encourage your child to join school sports teams, clubs or other extracurricular activities
  • Ease loneliness in the early weeks of school by helping him arrange weekend social activities with grade-school friends, your place of worship or neighborhood
  • Meet with teachers early in the school year to give them a profile of your child’s strengths and needs, and encourage them to continue strategies that have helped the child in the past
  • Help her work out an organizational system for going between classes and managing a time schedule

Source: GreatKids!

“I’m really excited,” piped up Lilly Briggs, on the next-to-last day of school. “You’re just part of something bigger, and you’re older. You have a lot more independence in middle school.”

Bigger is right: 500-plus students attended Cedar Springs Middle this year, about twice as many as Red Hawk’s 250.

But that’s OK, these students say. As Alyssa Detweiler pointed out, they’ll all have the same lunch period instead of two separate ones. “Maybe I can be with more of my friends,” Alyssa said.

Having more classes and course options sounds good to Blake Scheer.

“We’ll have a lot more freedom,” said Blake, who looks forward to choosing computers and gym. “These next few years of school are going to be (more) homework, switching classes, stuff like that. I’m excited for it.”

Justin Kennedy admitted to some misgivings about where he’ll fit in: “Am I going to be the scared person who’s late for something?” But he likes the middle-school rule requiring a C average or above to play sports. Without it, he said, “They’d think, ‘Oh hey, I don’t care about my grades, let’s talk about football.’”

One Last Look Back

But before they left Red Hawk behind, the students looked back on some of the good stuff they learned this year.

For Justin, it was government and all the different jobs it provides. He’d like to get one in economics, he said.

Quinn Priolo loved math. No, really, she did.

“You can always achieve better things,” she said. “Next year I can be in advanced math – hooray!”

“And there we have the math god,” Justin deadpanned.

♥Blake Scheer really enjoyed writing, especially personal narratives. Why? “Being able to tell someone just about you … to show who I am, what I like, how I feel about certain things.”

Lilly Briggs liked social studies, and in particular studying Mongolian culture, yurts and all. “It’s a lot different than America,” she said. “It is really cool, because they’re nomadic and we’re not.”

For Alyssa Detweiler, it was science and making fossils from plaster of Paris. “I did my dog’s footprint,” she said. “It’s just cool to see how it works.”

Then there were the owl pellets. Excuse me?

You know, those compact balls of bones and feathers that owls can’t digest and so regurgitate. Explained Quinn, “It just throws up really simply, like just, blah. It doesn’t come out in a blob. It’s a pellet, like a little ball.”

Good and ready to move on from elementary to middle school are (clockwise from lower left) Carter Bayink, Justin Kennedy, Blake Scheer, Lilly Briggs, Alyssa Detweiler and Quinn Priolo
Good and ready to move on from elementary to middle school are (clockwise from lower left) Carter Bayink, Justin Kennedy, Blake Scheer, Lilly Briggs, Alyssa Detweiler and Quinn Priolo

Gross, yes, and yet, once again, cool. Carter Bayink, being a hands-on student, enjoyed dissecting the pellets and rebuilding the animals eaten by the owls.

“It was kind of cool,” Carter said. “We took all their bones and kind of glued them back together.”

“It was like we were relating to an archaeologist,” Justin said.

“After we did that, I went out in the woods and I found some,” Alyssa added. “I made my sister dissect them. She didn’t like me afterwards.”

So is there anything they’ll miss about elementary school? That one drew mostly blanks. Well, maybe one thing, Lilly ventured.

“In elementary school, your teacher really gets to know you, as a student and a person,” she said. “I don’t know how well they’re going to get to know us next year.”


How to Ease Your Child’s Transition to Middle School

Lowell Middle Schoolers Share Their Wisdom on the First Year

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers series and issues stories for all districts. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio


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