Harding Wolf Pack Mentors 5th Graders About Middle School
One of the laws, or traditions anyway, of the kid jungle has long been that the bigger kids boost the younger, smaller ones over fences that get in their way. Crossing the boundary of one territory into the next can be both exciting and intimidating. It helps to get help from trailblazers who already know the ways around the wider world.
That’s the principle guiding the latest leadership foray of the Harding Wolf Pack. Seventh graders are returning to the neighborhood elementary buildings from whence they came to mentor 5th graders who will be joining them next year in the magical, mysterious land of middle school.
“Data and common sense both suggest that 6th graders can struggle making the transition to middle school,” said Harding Vice Principal Jake Troja. “After meeting with my team of teachers, we came up with a way to make our 6th graders feel welcomed and give them a sense of belonging in advance.”
Throughout this week the middle school vets have visited the Harding feeder schools (Moulton, Findley, Cattell and Oak Park) to start what’s envisioned as a year-long process. This morning at Cattell they broke into lots of small groups to administer a survey designed to identify the 5th graders’ chief apprehensions and uncertainties about what awaits them next year. Over the course of a series of return visits in the months to come those concerns will be addressed and calmed.
The survey covered a wide range of issues, from changes in routines like switching from class to class throughout the day to more complex dynamics like bullying. There were also questions geared to identify particular areas of interest so that opportunities to pursue them can be explained later.
Justin Blietz teaches science at Harding and he went along on the Cattell visit. “This is all about building relationships,” he said. “For the 5th graders it takes some of the unknowns out of the transition next year and for the kids already at Harding it’s another great way for them to practice and model positive leadership.”
For now the wall dividing Moulton, Findley, Cattell and Oak Park from Harding may still look tall from the 5th grade side. But the reach back across it this week makes clear that it’s surmountable. By springtime the 5th graders will be straddling it and next fall they’ll make the jump safely to the other side. Thanks to a pack of friendly wolves who maybe discovered this week that those leadership muscles they’ve been developing make it much easier to leap back across than it was to get over in the first place, way back when they were 5th grade cubs themselves.