It’s just a matter of time.
This statement can be applied in so many ways. Time to work. Time to play. To to grow. Time to learn. Time to explore. This past year, one of the tasks for our faculty was to examine and reflect on how we use time in the middle school, and how can we best use that time to achieve the mission of Harding Academy. While working through this task, the Schedule Task Force came to honor many positive benefits and programs of the current school day that we wanted to preserve, but also identified new curricular and co-curricular programming and uses of time that would benefit the students’ experience and fulfilment of our school’s mission.
Having physical education become a day-to-day part of the curriculum in the middle school has been a desire at the forefront of the Schedule Task Force’s priorities. Research around wellness and fitness stresses the importance of physical activity as a critical component to keeping teens and pre-teens healthy, as well as the positive impact of aerobic activity creating peak brain performance. With this in mind, we began to examine what structural changes would need to happen in order to accomplish a grade-level physical education experience during the curricular day, for each grade. We didn’t have to look too far, as we currently have physical education during the last period. All we needed to do was to re-imagine that structure, and re-assign this period of time by grade throughout the day. Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, all middle school students will now have physical education a minimum of two times per week in addition to their after-school interscholastic athletic pursuits. To accomodate this programmatic growth, the middle school academic day will run just five minutes longer than its current 3:20 PM ending, with a 3:25 PM daily finish.
This new and creative utilization of the current time structure also affords some opportunities for additional programming. We are excited to expand Mr. Ballow’s Design class past just a sixth grade offering, and now include each middle school student. This will enable all students in grades sixth through eighth the vehicle to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test as they seek to solve complex, real-life problems in our iLab.
Additionally, throughout this past school year, our math department has been engaged in a comprehensive examination and (re)construction of the middle school math curriculum. From their research and design thinking, they have developed a model that will offer a multi-course, differentiated approach to enrich our most able math students, challenge those who are progressing on or above grade level, and support those who are still coming into their own. In addition to the two levels of math currently offered at sixth grade, the program will extend the advanced offerings in seventh and eighth for those who display readiness for more complex material. These changes will also offer course work for those students who may need additional growth and exposure to skills before taking on pre-algebra in seventh or algebra in eighth. These initiatives position all our students to further build their confidence and math skills based upon where they currently are, relative to their individual needs.
It was just a matter of time. Today we are excited to share with the community these new programmatic enhancements in the middle school, starting in the 2019-2020 school year. As the schedule of the day continues to be refined, there will be more details to come as we continually seek to educate and inspire young people to become thoughtful, creative, lifelong learners and self-disciplined, responsible, caring citizens.
All the best,