Groups 3 & 4 (5th – 8th grade)
NCCL offers a unique program for middle-school students as they face new challenges in their academic, social, and emotional worlds. We do this by understanding the distinctive needs of these students and carefully creating an environment that addresses them.
Group 4 students (grades 7 and 8) spend their Friday afternoons in the apprenticing program, working at area businesses and gaining organizational and interpersonal skills. (Read more.)
All NCCL students are involved in community service projects several times a year.
RUNNING ALL-SCHOOL MEETINGS
Every Friday teachers and students from Groups 1-4 meet in the gym for a weekly All-School Meeting followed by an all school sing along. Group 4 students take turns running the gathering of 90+ people.
Every 8th grader is required to do a comprehensive research project before graduating. They choose a topic to research, collect information and record it, synthesize the information, formulate a thesis statement, and present the information in three different genres. They complete a citation page and an endnotes page at the end of the project. Then they present the information to the class in a minimum of a 20 minute presentation where they discuss their project and present their genres as well as run a question and answer session. (See more.)
MORE ABOUT THE MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAM,
by Marilynn Magnani, Educational Director and Group 3 Teacher:
As we all know, the middle-school years are both exciting and confusing times for children. During these years students develop the ability to bring abstract thinking to their academic studies. They begin to reason about the world beyond their community, how it affects them and they affect it. This is the time when children start to forge identities independent from the adults who have raised them. Peers take on new significance and fitting in is of the greatest importance. Likes and dislikes are expressed with exuberant passion one minute and uncanny silence the next. It is a time when children need to be listened to and often feel as if they are not; a time when children act as if consistent, concerned adults are an intrusion; and, a time when such adults are extremely important.
Because of our small size and low student-teacher ratio, NCCL is unequaled in its ability to guide students through these years. In many middle schools, a teacher works with close to a hundred students a day. Here at NCCL, two teachers, working as a team, are responsible for twenty-four students. This makes an immense difference in the academic, social, and emotional areas.
Obviously, in the academic subjects, small classes are a great advantage. Not only can the teachers devote more time to each student, they are able to give complex assignments which get to the underlying concepts and issues of a topic. They can allow plenty of time for the students to contribute to discussions, ask questions, respond to the comments of others and, most importantly, to think and reflect. There is time to let the students’ interests and questions shape the course of study.
Students in middle school can think deeply about ideas and can form original thoughts and opinions if given time and guidance. This, rather than tests and grades, is the goal we truly value and the rewards are great. With an emphasis on original thought and a say in what is studied, students become personally involved and we know that such involvement leads to lasting interest and understanding.
But, academics are not the only important need that must be met for middle school children. Their social and emotional worlds are changing rapidly. They need to be able to express their concerns in a supportive environment and trust that they will be listened to. The close relationships they form, both with their peers and the teachers, are crucial in the development of such trust. Our approach is simple; we genuinely care for and respect each student. And, although we know that these students often like to get lost in the anonymity of a large group, we also know that a small group allows for greater connection and responsibility to others and a deeper understanding of oneself. The middle school students have a class called Choices which is a forum for bringing up issues they face as they mature. Some of these are age-old issues and some have come with contemporary life. There are issues about feeling different and being left-out, about difficulties with siblings and parents, there are questions and concerns about drugs and alcohol, questions and concerns about romance and changing bodies.
All are taken seriously. Concerns are brought up, anonymously or not, with the understanding that all discussions are confidential. The students give advice and support to each other, and the teachers answer their questions with open honesty. Many former NCCL students have come back to let us know how meaningful it was to have had a place to discuss and contemplate these very important issues.
Another unique part of the middle school curriculum is the apprentice program. Each seventh and eighth grade student apprentices in a local business or organization one afternoon per week. This experience takes the students out in to the community and gives them a glimpse of what is happening locally and how businesses are run. Many of these placements have turned into high school jobs. More importantly, however, the apprentice program gives the students the opportunity to show that they are responsible and capable.
There is another aspect of the NCCL program that could easily be overlooked, but one that we know is very important. We are a community of about ninety students, ages six through fourteen, and twelve teachers. We are much like a large, extended family. No child goes unnoticed and every child is needed to make the community whole. Students of all ages get to know each other. These mixed-age relationships are beneficial to all, but they are especially important to the middle school students who are drawn away from their fast paced adolescence by the childhood needs of the younger students. Helping and playing with the younger ones brings out, in the older students, the qualities of patience, acceptance and responsibility. Indeed, the middle school years are both exciting and confusing and the students face many challenges. Isn’t it wonderful?