Capitalizing on our unique position at the intersection of public and private school communities, we have instituted a project-based program that provides students from both schools and widely different life experiences the opportunity to work together toward a common goal. The addition of a school year program has resulted in authentic friendships and increased empathy across lines of race and socio-economic circumstances. As is all too evident, these are much-needed values to instill in the future leaders of our city. The school year program has also increased the participation of both public and private school students in our more academically focused summer programming. 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. In 2017-2018, we collaborated with the Baltimore Center Stage on storytelling. The culminating event brought over 300 students, parents, teachers, and community members together to hear 20 students perform their story on the big stage. The students had a chance to have their voices heard and, just as importantly, the community had a chance to listen to what our young people have to say.
Last fall, Middle Grades Partnership collaborated with The Institute for Leadership and Purpose at Calvert School. Upon reflection of Middle Grades Partnership’s vision and current spectrum of programming, we decided that what our students needed most were the tools that would enable them to turn their learning and ideas into effective action. Thus, the goal of The Institute for Leadership and Purpose at Calvert School was to create a meaningful, school year, leadership series for our students to learn about contemporary issues affecting Baltimore and provide skills and opportunities to develop our students as leaders. This program enhances the mission of Middle Grades Partnership through a dynamic curriculum and strategic partnership with community organizations such as BUILD and Baltimore CORPS. Students will be empowered with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to be agents of change in their schools and in our communities. This fall our students continued with their leadership projects. In May 2020, our students will once again come together and present their projects to their peers, families, teachers, and community members.
Summer learning loss is a serious challenge to millions of American students. Summer off from school might be fun for kids, but it contributes significantly to their underachievement. Summer learning loss in math and reading can set students back months, and the loss for low-income urban students is greatest. In fact, two-thirds of the achievement gap between successful and unsuccessful students is attributable to unequal summer learning opportunities. Our summer programming provides students with opportunities that ensure summer learning gains: academic and enrichment classes taught by the best teachers from both schools, exposure to new and varied challenges in a supportive environment, and 150 hours of programming five full days a week for five weeks over the summer.
Middle Grades Partnership is enriching and not remedial. Integrated into the core subjects (reading, writing, and math) are classes that may include history, global studies, media studies, environmental studies, a full complement of STEM subjects, Shakespeare, poetry, or foreign languages. One partnership integrates all subjects into well-developed, weekly Design Thinking projects. Class sizes are small with discussion and critical thinking key to the work. Our teachers create collaborative experiences in problem-solving and group projects. In addition to traditional academic subjects, our partnerships offer art classes, ceramics, dance, challenge courses, theatre, and multi-disciplinary math and music combinations that take full advantage of the private school campus resources. Last year our students enjoyed horseback riding, overnight camping, stream studies, designing and launching their own rockets, college visits, canoeing and sailing trips, and museum tours in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC. In one partnership, students studying anatomy dissected a fetal pig. In another, they produced ‘TED Talks.’ Our teachers are experts at tailoring programming to meet the developmental needs of students. They differentiate both structure and instruction between grade levels and learning styles.
Our rising ninth-graders are given more freedom and responsibility while being paid through Baltimore YouthWorks. Rising ninth-graders accepted to top high schools have a tremendous amount of summer work to complete. We give them a safe place to work with access to computers, libraries, teachers, and resources. In the afternoons they serve as mentors and helpers and participate alongside the younger students in sports, trivia, swimming, and games.
At the end of the summer, all students celebrate their summer activities with family and friends during a culminating ceremony at each partnership.