Adding Dimension to the Middle School Advisory Program
Nate Buffum, DCD Middle School Head
As the teammate ran the route and cut right for the sideline, she used a forehand throw of the Frisbee to score the first points of the game. Meanwhile a group of students were inside contemplating an alliance in the game of Atlaza, a teacher-student designed board game. Down the hall a few students were putting the finishing touches on their cookie recipe in hopes of creating a delectable snack for the next day. Welcome to middle school activities!
In a few weeks, middle school students will soon be taking a break from class to toss the frisbee, take a bike ride, meditate, build miniature trebuchets and catapults, yell answers to Anomia, answer trivia questions, or participate in a host of other activities. This “break” is an activities period that is an integral part of DCD’s advisory program.
About ten years ago, the middle school faculty was looking for a way to embrace the interests of both teachers and students. Questions like, “Can we have a chess club?” to “What is geo-caching?” to “How does a Zumba class work?” have echoed in our hallways over the years. Our advisory program was in its infancy, having migrated from a traditional homeroom model, and seemed ripe for including programs and curricula that allowed students and faculty alike to get to know each other in a different environment.
We decided to create an activity period that could meet once a week for about half an hour over the course of six weeks during each trimester. The activity could be initiated by either a student or a faculty member. Students would choose from a list of activities and be placed with other students from across the the three middle school grades. Initially almost all of the activities were facilitated by middle school faculty, but recently students have become more involved in designing the activities and even faculty members outside the middle school have contributed their passions to this program. Two years ago we enhanced the program to include specific clubs that meet for an hour each week over the course of the winter term. Such clubs have included debate, 3-D printing, robotics, and ceramics.
The activities period was designed to provide both challenges and opportunities for students where they learn how to work and develop peer relationships in a multi-grade level group. With a wide variety of offerings, students are presented with an opportunity to experience something new, which often leads to further exploration. The activities period also allows students and faculty alike to have fun— to take a break from their studies and routine. We all come out of the experience having seen school in a slightly new way, reenergized, and excited for the next opportunity.