Fall 2013, we expanded programming to include the school year. Capitalizing on our unique position at the intersection of the public and private school communities, we instituted a project-based learning program to provide students from both schools widely different life experiences and opportunities to work together toward a common goal. The addition of a school year program led to real friendships and increased empathy across lines of race and socio-economic circumstance. As is all too evident, these are much-needed values to instill in the future leaders of our city. The school year program also increased the participation of both public and private school students in our more academically focused summer programming. This year, building on our highly successful model, we further refined our school year program by engaging community partners to provide high-quality programming across all partnerships.
Our planned three-year rotation with different school year programming partners will provide a unique experience for each year a student is with Middle Grades Partnership.
We began this fall by collaborating with Baltimore Center Stage. Students from each pair of partnered schools will work on storytelling under the tutelage of Center Stage teaching artists. Storytelling will teach writing, empathy and broaden horizons by making each student aware of the other’s background, challenges and successes. Students will take the stage and tell their story in a culminating public performance for students, their families, and the wider community. Through public speaking, we help our students become better communicators while learning to give and receive personal critiques, articulate their thoughts and ideas, encourage their creativity, and enhance their verbal proficiency.
Next year, we will collaborate with the Canadian based WE Schools. Together, the partnerships will investigate and launch a service-learning project addressing an issue such as hunger, poverty or lack of education. Students will develop a local project that translates to an international issue. Our students will gain an understanding of the root causes of many social problems, an appreciation for the interconnectedness of the world and of how they can be part of a solution. Students will present their findings and final projects at a community-wide event.
The third year of Design Thinking for the Social Good is currently in planning. We selected Design Thinking because it develops the logic, empathy, reasoning skills, grit and imagination that will be required in the workforce of the future. Furthermore, Design Thinking builds habits of perseverance in middle school students, teaching them to use setbacks as tools to find solutions to the problems they face.
The Middle Grades Partnership directors and teachers have the responsibility of tailoring the curriculum and creating the programming that best meets the needs of their students ensuring they accomplish the demanding program standards that help ensure an engaging balance of academic, personal and interpersonal skill building. No two partnerships do this in exactly the same way. Each of the Middle Grades Partnerships enjoys enriching opportunities ranging from: horseback riding, overnight camping, dance, theater and the arts (programs that have been taken out of the public school curriculum), Shakespeare performances, college visits, canoeing and sailing trips and museum tours in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC. At the end of the summer, students celebrate their summer activities with family and friends during a culminating ceremony at each partnership.