Middle School Academy expands to seventh grade

Middle School Academy expands to seventh grade
Posted on 11/25/2019
Academy expands to seventh gradeMehlville School District is expanding the Middle School Academy to include seventh grade for the 2020-2021 school year.

Current fifth and sixth graders can request Academy classes for next school year when they will be in sixth or seventh grade on their Middle School Course Request forms which are typically distributed in February or March.

The Academy is housed within each of the district’s four middle schools and presents students with blended learning opportunities, including project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, personalized learning and guided teacher expertise. In the Academy, two subjects are studied in context with one another. For example, a math and science class might be taught together, or a social studies and English Language Arts (ELA) class might be taught together. Each school determines how core classes are clustered in the Academy. 

Combining two courses into one double class period allows teachers to guide student learning of the Mehlville School District curriculum while providing greater depth of learning. At Bernard Middle School, social studies and ELA are taught together.

“It’s incredibly cohesive because all of the books we read have a social studies/historical type twist to it,” Bernard Middle School teacher Jefferson Stephens said. “When the kids have been reading, I’ve been pulling out ELA standards and mixing it with social studies.” 

The Academy also encourages students to develop skills they will use as working adults; like how to work as a team and solve problems.

“It’s more collaborative, so the kids are working together,” Washington Middle School teacher Eric Theby said. “You can work in smaller groups and push them to get to the point where you need them to.”

“In elementary school, we did a lot of our teacher sitting and talking to us,” Buerkle Middle student Elise Barbier said. “Now we get to do more hands-on and a lot of project-based learning. 

The classes also allow for personalized learning through student choice. Students are supplied with a playlist/menu of tasks and pick and choose what they complete at any given time during the week.

“They like being able to choose which activity fits their mood or energy level for that day,” Bernard Middle teacher Amber Mathews said. “I know if the students are feeling overwhelmed, they might choose something where they’re sitting and working, or on a day when they need to get up and move, they may pick something more kinesthetic.”

Teachers have observed that allowing for student choice has created an increased level of student buy-in to learning.

“It’s catered around their likes and interests,” Oakville Middle School teacher Emili Harvey said. “They always want to be part of it because they’re the ones that created it.”

“With our classes, we’re saying ‘we see you and know you’re only eleven or twelve years old, but we also know you’re capable of doing some amazing things,’” Oakville Middle School teacher Sam Brotherton.

The personalized approach allows students to learn at their own pace in addition to allowing teachers to devote more time to individual students.

“Last year, if someone wasn’t on the exact same page, you had to go back to what they were doing,” Washington Middle School student Reagan Kirkpatrick said. “With this, if someone is behind or you’re ahead, it doesn’t matter because you’ll all get to the same place in the end.”

“You have more time to individually talk to students because you’re not just in front of the classroom talking all of the time,” Buerkle Middle teacher Susan Weedman said. “You’re in the back saying ‘Hey, come over, pull up a chair. Let’s see where you’re at and what we need to do.’” 

Any sixth or seventh grade student can participate in the Academy, and teachers say the methodology is beneficial to all students regardless of their learning-style.

“I really believe this is for everybody,” Buerkle Middle School teacher Dan Regan said. “I think everybody deserves a choice in their learning and with that choice is empowerment. Everybody deserves to feel empowered. If only we all felt that way, what could we accomplish?”

You can register for the Academy by selecting the courses listed on your middle school’s request form. View answers to some frequently asked questions about the Academy, contact your child’s middle school or watch the video for more information.
The Mehlville School District strictly prohibits discrimination and harassment against employees, students or others on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or sex including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity and other characteristics protected by law. The following individuals have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: contact Adam Smith at 314-467-5006 or [email protected].