Our Wildwood, Winter 2017, Volume 40

m i d d l e s c h o o l f e a t u r e

by Steve Barrett, DIRECTOR OF OUTREACH

advisory is essential– every day

place, our once pioneering Wildwood approach is now in high demand by schools worldwide seeking knowledge and training through the Wildwood Outreach Center.

MONDAY— BEGIN WITH COMMUNITY

Each Monday morning, the entire Wildwood student body and faculty (grades 6–12) come together for All School Meeting and twice a month, middle school students stay for a middle-school-only meeting that brings together all 180 6th–8th graders. Here, announcements are made, and the advisory chosen to host that week engages their peers in fun challenges and contests, like sculpting a Pokémon character in two minutes with clay and straws. Then, students who have been “caught in the act” of positive, community-minded behavior and nominated for recognition by their teachers will hear their names called out by Assistant Director of Middle School Collette Bowers Zinn. Afterward, Division Two students (grades 7–8) head off to their advisories for Roses and Thorns conversations. The rooms are set up with chairs in a circle and students— along with their advisor—share one “rose” from their weekend (something that went well) and one “thorn” (something that didn’t go well or

Every student in Wildwood’s middle school begins each day with advisory. Advisory is a time and place intentionally positioned to provide a bridge between the school day and students’ lives outside of school. The practice of giving students this bridge dates back to the founding of Wildwood’s middle and upper schools. While the idea sounds simple, even obvious, it has taken decades for other schools to catch up. Now, an increasing number of schools organize their students’ day around a group or class like advisory, because it is meaningful for both academic and social reasons.

WHAT HAPPENS HERE Students gather in groups of about 15, led by a teacher who serves as the students’ mentor and advocate. These adults provide an essential link between home and school. In this informal setting, students have the space to develop supportive relationships with adults they trust, and with a small group of peers. Advisory becomes a comfortable space where kids can try out new ideas and explore their identities. In the process, they cultivate a sense of self—academically, emotionally, and socially. “I think it’s great to have a community of people that you can fall back on,” reflects 6th grader Jamie B. on her experience so far this year. “Your advisory is a group of people that you can trust.” With this vital combination of connection and learning, students experience a curriculum that’s an essential part of the Wildwood way. The most current academic and brain research guide our advisory program, which correlates social-emotional support with educational outcomes. With years of data now solidly in

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