Outside my office the past week, in a copse of trees behind the science room, chainsaws and wood chippers began clearing land for the new Middle School blacktop activity area. This long-awaited addition to the Middle School campus will have room for half-court basketball, four square and even the occasional 3v3 futsal match. This area will be "MS only" meaning before school, during the academic day and after school; MS students will have an opportunity to play together without the linguistically creative musings of their Upper School compatriots.
- Phase One, which includes the blacktop, a basketball hoop and a variety of sports lines should be completed in August or September.
- Phase Two will be a wall-less pole barn structure to support a high roof, allowing for all-weather use.
- Phase Three will be the installation of lights.
Phases Two and Three are just as important as Phase One and will require fundraising by Middle School students and their families in the coming years - an exciting opportunity to come together as a community of Titans.
Before we left for summer vacation, students discussed expectations for this new space including fair use and consequences for not taking care of each other, the space, equipment and surrounding area. I will share these expectations at the end of the summer as we prepare for our return!
We are returning to five core courses in the Middle School by splitting Humanities into two courses - English and World Cultures. These will join World Language, Science and Math to form our new core, ably supported by Music, Art, Health and PE. While this return to single-subject classes will allow for intensive focus on subject-specific skills, our English and World Cultures teachers are well versed in the creative and cross-curricular approach demanded of the Humanities teacher, resulting in exciting curricular opportunities moving forward. This switch also ensures our program fits appropriately within a Grade 6 through 12 curricular progression, while increasing departmental support in each subject area.
Starting this August, the book bag hooks in the Middle School will be assigned by number, ensuring fewer bags wind up under foot and students have a spot to call their own. We will maintain the basic layout from the past few years, with Grade 6 taking the hooks outside rooms 4 and 5, Grade 7 the hooks outside Room 3, and Grade 8 the hooks outside rooms 1, 2 and 6. Numbered hooks means we can help individual students with strategies to keep tabs on their items throughout the school day while maintaining a clean and safe hallway for all.
WMA Middle School is a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) school with an expectation that every student will arrive each day with a fully-charged tablet or computer, and a charging cord in their backpack. WMA moved last year to a Google platform for most academic subjects. While we also require digital versions of textbooks for subjects like Math or World Languages, Google Suite provides word processing, spreadsheets, research tools, cloud space and email. Google Suite also provides us access to Google Classroom, where teachers post assignments and students submit homework and assessments, and can check in with their teachers outside of class. Our link to Google Suite means that while an iPad or MacBook are useful tools, a ChromeBook will also suffice. The standard benefit of the ChromeBook is that you can pick one up for $200 - $300 with a warranty and service plan, and it is a good starter computer for students who are prone to dropping things, or leaving them under a sweatshirt in the middle of the hallway. Hey, it happens. Again, this is not a plug for the ChromeBook - if you have a spare Apple product or Dell laptop in your home, go for it. If not, let this serve as a good starting place when considering a new device. If you have additional questions, I would encourage you to send me an email or simply call me Monday to Thursday.
On a similar note, WMA is investigating the use of smartphones on campus with an eye to creating a school-wide policy for safe and community-friendly use. We will announce our findings and expectations as we wrap up the summer. At present in the Middle School, phones are not to be in the student's possession during class time unless students are directed to use them by their teacher. This year, phones and other technology were used outside of class before school, between classes and after school. Phones were not to be used during athletics, study hall or other afterschool activities. If these expectations change for the coming year the shift would be to the more restrictive end of the spectrum.
Our Dress Code specifies items that may and may not be worn and guidelines for the purchase of new clothing. WMA-crested blazers are no longer required on Thursdays in the Middle School, but a WMA-crested top is expected. Through the Lands' End website, crested sweaters and sweater vests are available (and preferred by many students), but blazers and other options are also available.
The key to dress code in the Middle School is students are to look "dressy" and "sharp." If an outfit leads one to question if it fits the dress code, it should be left at home until you can confirm one way or the other. The No. 1 complaint I get from parents is "I cannot find anything in the dress code when I go shopping - it is just not the trend right now." My response is generally some version of, "Our dress code tends to lean to the conservative end of the spectrum and rarely matches up with fashion trends. Aim for similarly conservative vendors for the best luck, and utilize your online options such as Lands' End." Also remember that students grow at an alarming rate during the MS years - for example a dress that reaches the knees in August may be mid-thigh (and therefore out of dress code) by November. It is suggested aunts, uncles and grandparents be made aware of the dress code as well - that way items purchased as a gift for school-use will actually make it to school.
As for PE, students will need to bring a separate bag (a simple drawstring bag works) containing deodorant, sunscreen, athletic shoes, a pair of socks, a T-shirt and athletic shorts. Shorts should fit comfortably and should be appropriately sized. While students will use the locker rooms to change before and after PE, students generally do not shower after and towels are not provided.
At this point in your career as parents we assume you have a pretty good grasp on the kinds of school supplies a student will need. You will need to provide your student a computer or tablet. Highlighters, colored pens, No. 2 pencils, erasers, a deck of sticky notes and a five-subject notebook are all handy items, and can always be purchased at the campus bookstore in a pinch. Calculators may be needed in some Math classes, but classroom sets are available to students in Grade 6 and 7. Calculators may also be purchased in our Campus Store. Beyond that, if specific items are needed your student's teacher will let you know.
Nestled behind Rich Hall and overlooking Crystal Pond, you will find a low brick building inspired by one of the greatest and most transformative minds in American history – Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a renaissance man, a learner who hungered for information and experience and put that learning to practical and innovative use.
His home, Monticello, is found in the clean lines and classical dome and pillars of the Middle School as it is on the back of a nickel. Jefferson designed Monticello himself, marrying art and engineering, form and function in a stately mansion. We have scaled down his building and his educational experience to match the needs of our school and our students. We have not, however, scaled down his passion for learning.
For Jefferson, a renaissance learner, there was little use for separation of the subjects. Math is found in music, and science is found in art. So we learn these subjects, and many more, side by side. Students in the Middle School engage works of literature for their mechanics, but also for their ability to understand human emotion, historical context and ethics. Math becomes a tool with which we unlock the mysteries of form and function, and the addition of science leads to an unlocking of the physical world. A learner must not explore one academic subject without considering its interplay with other subjects.
It is essential these subjects work together and communicate with clarity and purpose, just as they did in the mind of Jefferson. As educators and learners we must believe that each element, each new idea and each challenging thought has a role in the growth of a young mind. In the Middle School each member of our community – parents, students and educators – is encouraged to engage our educational proposition. With this shared sense of educational purpose, we may embrace a variety of experiences, cultural perspectives and personal narratives as enriching ingredients, not challenging hurdles.
The Wilbraham & Monson Middle School provides this educational and developmental opportunity in a comfortable and safe setting, surrounded by a lush campus and state-of-the-art facilities. Many of our educated and experienced staff live on campus and call WMA home, some raising children on our grounds while all strive to provide a similarly nurturing but rigorous environment for the students who matriculate here.
Our program and staff support and guide adolescents through the physical, social and intellectual challenges of Grades 6 through 8, working to establish a solid foundation while giving each opportunities to push the academic envelope.
Director of the Middle School