Last month, the LCS Academy counselor, administrative staff, and high school students enacted their Middle School Culture Initiative after months of strategizing, developing, and planning. Bringing this vision to life following brainstorming sessions starting in October, the initiative aims to cultivate collaborative and open communication, therefore bringing forth a more positive culture within the middle school. Middle school is a crucial time in the physical, emotional and psychological development of students. Ensuring that students feel not only welcomed and supported at school, but also that they have positive connections with their peers is imperative for their ongoing personal growth.
With the rise of bullying on a national level, especially through online platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, proactively addressing issues surrounding middle school culture is essential in preventing negative behaviors from arising and addressing issues when they emerge. One of LCS’ core pillars is Great Character, something that the school places significant importance on both daily in the classroom and also in the extra-curricular lives of their students.
Character Education is an ever-present influence at LCS as all staff members aim to support the internal drive in their students to become caring, responsible individuals with a strong moral compass. This also includes fostering the desire in their students to contribute positively to the community they are in, both now and as they go forward in their lives. Developing the intricate relationship between knowledge, core values, and practical competencies necessary for success in life is an ongoing process that requires a thoughtful and introspective approach. A critical aspect of developing good character for young people is establishing and maintaining positive relationships with their peers. Middle school can be a time of many changes, challenges, and a larger sense of freedom and responsibility than they had in elementary school, something that can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate by oneself. During this time of uneasy transition, it is also important to acknowledge the progress students make as they advance in both their knowledge and life experience, by their peers, parents, and school. One of the ways the school recognizes and celebrates the successes of their students is by hosting character assemblies in order to highlight students who are committed to being a positive influence as well as a leader in their academic and personal lives.
In order to approach this complex and delicate issue head-on, Academy Counselor Gloria Katers decided to develop a middle school culture initiative that would encourage students to more effectively communicate with one another, build stronger inter-personal relationships, and connect with older peers in order to foster student to student mentorship. “This initiative was a way for us to really let every middle school student know that they have a voice and the ability to change their environment for the better,” Katers said when speaking about the motivation behind the project.
To begin the development of the program, teachers were asked to nominate high school students that they felt demonstrated strong character and that would be excellent mentors for younger students. After a group of 7 students from 9th-12th grade were identified, the team met to discuss what tactics they felt would be most successful in bringing this project to fruition. The high school students then took the lead in identifying issues to discuss, creating team building projects, and pinpointing ways to get through the younger students. After a student developed survey was given to the middle school students, it was identified that roughly 70% felt that there were cliques in the school but that only 30% felt that they were included in one.
Beginning in February, high school representatives held break-out sessions with students from 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, initiating conversations about enhancing positive student to student and student to staff relationships. The team building activity involved the groups building a castle out of cardboard as a team in order to be voted the best amongst the groups. High school students leading the sessions spoke with students about how inclusiveness can build a sense of community as well as teach them how to interact in a kind way with others who may have a different background or interests than themselves. High school senior Caled Al-Adsani, one of the leaders of the high school team, spoke to the importance of the initiative by saying, “This isn’t just something for us to put on our resumes, we really want to help improve the school by showing the middle schoolers that this is a difficult time, but that they will be much more successful if they work together to overcome those challenges. We want to make sure that we leave the school having made an impactful difference.”
After the recent conclusion of the first round of team building sessions, the leaders of the initiative are now eager to gain feedback on the first set of activities in order to continue to improve the initiative moving forward. Such a complex issue requires constant attention, reflection, and adaptation, something this team is looking forward to taking on.
While middle school may always be a time of adjustment and rapid development, helping to guide students through this time in their lives successfully is of vital importance. Preparing middle school students to enter high school and then the world as well-rounded and exceptional members of society is an extremely important mission at Loveland Classical Schools. Though this mission is ongoing and constantly presents new challenges, it is a project that all those involved are proud to be a part of and contribute to.