On Friday, October 1, after they finished their ERB tests, Grade 6 students took part in the first Grade 6 mentoring program, organized by the Middle School International Student Union (ISU). This year, the MS ISU has three co-presidents, one from each grade level: Tindra (Grade 8), Sienna (Grade 7), and Benjamin (Grade 6). Over the summer, as they met to discuss the upcoming school year, one of the initiatives they came up with was the Grade 6 mentoring program “as a way to help the current Grade 6 students feel welcomed and included in Middle School. We wanted them to have a guide to help them understand and learn about how Middle School functions, while still having fun. Due to the pandemic, we wanted them to get to Middle School feeling excited instead of stressed.” Goals for the program include:

  • Creating bonds between Grades 6, 7, and 8 to form new friendships and have fun.

  • Helping Grade 6 students understand Progress Reports in onCampus.

  • Offering advice. 

  • Giving Grade 6 students the opportunity to be part of school projects.

  • “... last but not least, to have FUN!!!”

With the help of Middle School Assistant Principal Eric Beck, the co-presidents asked Grades 7 and 8 students to volunteer as mentors, then organized them into groups. Each mentor was matched with two or three Grade 6 students, ideally people with similar interests (though the co-presidents realized this could be difficult!). Mr. Beck thought the Friday after ERB tests would be a good time to launch the program, since there would be a longer block of time for the students to meet. The co-presidents liked this idea and decided to create “a three-part experience to help [mentors/mentees] get to know each other better and unwind after the ERBs.” The groups rotated through three different stations, spending about 25 minutes at each.

One station “had a mini quiz game that covered some of the important things to know about managing their assignments and their progress reports. Correct answers led to a small reward of cookies and a cupcake.” As Mr. Beck pointed out, “some of the questions were deliberately things that the Grade 6 students wouldn’t know, so they definitely had to ask their mentors for help. It was a way for the Grades 7 and 8 students to talk to them about how progress reports are different from what they are used to at the Primary School. Some of the questions were specific to onCampus, like ‘how do you find out where your missing assignments are?’ And so the Grades 7 and 8 students pulled out their iPads and gave them tours of onCampus. But because it was peer-to-peer, instead of having an adult tell them how it works, it was a great way to build in some actual mentoring.” 

At another station, the students made decorations for the Halloween dance at the end of the month. Mr. Beck said, “this was great, because it makes them feel part of the dance and the preparation for it. The Grade 6 students have never been to a dance. The Grade 7 students have never been either, but the Grade 8 students talked about it a little bit, and what happens at dances. There is a tremendous amount of social anxiety around dances, and so this was a brilliant way to talk about that anxiety in a low stakes setting.”

The last station was playing board games and other activities under the Carriage House tent.

When reflecting on the first iteration of the Grade 6 mentoring program, Mr. Beck was thrilled: “What I love is that the students came up with this program, not me. It’s very student-centered. The students are mentors, not the adults. When the older students were concerned it might feel awkward, I told them, ‘It probably will be awkward at times. It’s Middle School — everything is awkward. But think of the message you are sending to the Grade 6 students: there are Grades 7 and 8 students who care about how you are doing on this campus and want to help you, and are willing to volunteer their time to help you, rather than go to lunch with their friends, or have their free time, or whatever. They WANT to be here with you. That’s the message we want to send, as opposed to intimidating the younger students. This is the kind of school we want to be. You’re helping us be the kind of school we want to be.’ ”

Perhaps the program could best be summed up as it was by one Grade 6 student: “Middle School is fun but it is also nice to have an extra hand and a friend to back you up when times are tough because that's what WIS is all about: community, friendship, respect, and kindness.”