Friday, 4 December 2015

Visioning the Ideal Grade 7 & 8 Program

What would an ideal Grade 7 & 8 program look like if there weren’t any logistical restrictions?

Greenwood New Building
Greenwood's expanded and
renovated building will allow
increased scheduling flexibility.
It is challenging to clear your mind of the day-to-day reality, and allow yourself the mental freedom to re-design a learning community from the ground up. However, with the opening of our new building next fall, we are presented with the amazing potential to do just that.

During the Greenwood Summer Institute, the Grade 7 & 8 Focus Group took on this task, challenging ourselves to design a Grade 7 & 8 program that is suited specifically to learners at this stage.

Rethinking Scheduling

Currently, our Grade 7 & 8 program operates on a high-school schedule with some modifications. The modifications allot more time for core subjects (English and math) as well as longer, simultaneous periods for the arts to allow for cross-curricular art experiences.

There are many advantages to this model - some being that it:

  • Exposes Grade 7 & 8 students to the time management and personal organization expectations of high school
  • Allows Grade 9-12 teachers with subject expertise to work with the Grade 7 & 8 students.

In many ways, it is a win-win situation. However, young teenagers are neither the children they once were nor the adults they will eventually become. Some of their needs are different than those of the older students. It was these needs we tried to address when beginning our investigation.

Unique Needs

We began by researching and brainstorming about the unique needs of our Grade 7 & 8 students. What program characteristics would we want to include if we were designing a schedule solely for them?

  1. Increased daily break time at more regular intervals, with opportunity for physical activity every day.
  2. Reduced student movement between classes and subjects.
  3. Increased contact time with a smaller number of subject teachers.
  4. A more flexible schedule, allowing for longer blocks of time to work on some projects, and daily, shorter time blocks for others.
  5. A schedule that facilitated subject integration, such as math/science blocks coordinated by a team of teachers.
  6. Reduced class time dedicated to final assessments, with more emphasis placed on integrated culminating projects.

After several iterations, we developed two proposed schedules that would meet these unique needs of our Grade 7 & 8 students, while still operating within the current timetable model at Greenwood.

Next Steps

It may take time before a unique Grade 7 & 8 program is put into place. We will need to settle into our new building and get used to the new spaces and what they have to offer. However, it was an amazing mental exercise and a very exciting process. It is exhilarating to feel that there is a very real potential to affect positive, systemic change that will better serve all of our students.

Samantha Moser
Science & Mathematics Teacher

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