Mat­ta­woman holds boot camp for new sixth graders

Pro­gram aims to ease tran­si­tion to mid­dle school

Maryland Independent - - News - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

In­com­ing sixth graders at Mat­ta­woman Mid­dle School got a taste of what mid­dle school is like last week dur­ing a three-day boot camp.

The boot camp, which took place Tues­day through Thurs­day morn­ing last week, in­tro­duced in­com­ing sixth graders to the ba­sics of life in mid­dle school.

“Sixth graders are the most ner­vous, the most un­sure, they’re the most over­whelmed, so I thought if we could bring in sixth graders be­fore school starts, teach the pro­ce­dures, teach them how to get into their lock­ers even, then it would de­crease a lot of anx­i­ety on the first day of school,” Prin­ci­pal So­nia Blue Jones said.

The pro­gram was a first for Mat­ta­woman, the only mid­dle school in the county to de­velop a pro­gram for its in­com­ing mid­dle school stu­dents, ac­cord­ing to Jones.

Jones said that out of ap­prox­i­mately 320 in­com­ing sixth graders, 175 reg­is­tered for the sixth grade boot camp, ex­ceed­ing her ex­pec­ta­tions.

“It has been phe­nom­e­nal,” she said.

Jones said she handed the ex­e­cu­tion of the idea to her sixth grade ad­min­is­tra­tor, Tiy­ata Win­ters.

“She grabbed hold of this idea with both hands and ex­e­cuted the idea as if I had done it my­self,” Jones said, adding that the idea of calling it a “boot camp” re­flects the camp’s “fun yet se­ri­ous” tone.

“I didn’t want to call it an ori­en­ta­tion camp or ‘fun in the sun at Mat­ta­woman,’ or some­thing fluffy like that. I wanted the kids to know we’re go­ing to have fun, but this is se­ri­ous stuff, and you need to be fo­cused,” Jones said.

Jones said the boot camp has cov­ered every­thing from how to work in groups, sign­ing up for and earn­ing points for the school’s Pos­i­tive Be­hav­ior In­ter­ven­tions and Sup­ports (PBIS) pro­gram, sign­ing up and el­i­gi­bil­ity for ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, con­flict res­o­lu­tion, self ad­vo­cacy, and even a “fash­ion show,” in which teach­ers mod­eled what not to wear to school.

“We’ve done so many work­shops, it’s re­ally been amaz­ing,” Jones said.

On Thurs­day, they also took part in a fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy les­son; stu­dents were given Mat­ta­woman “money” based on their fifth grade fi­nal re­port card grades, which they could use in the de­vel­op­ment of a monthly bud­get. They could use the money to pur­chase what sort of car, phone, en­ter­tain­ment, cloth­ing and ac­com­mo­da­tions they would want as an adult, by vis­it­ing dif­fer­ent sta­tions around the gym­na­sium.

“We wanted them to get the idea that they have to work hard for the good things in life,” Win­ters said.

Kayleen Smith, 11, said she was re­ally ner­vous about start­ing a new school be­fore com­ing to the boot camp.

“In fifth grade, I was re­ally scared about be­ing pro­moted to the sixth grade, but when I came to the boot camp, I said, ‘I can make new friends here, meet new teach­ers and get to know peo­ple more,’” Kayleen said.

Jamee Fra­zier, 11, said she was also ner­vous about com­ing to a new school be­fore at­tend­ing the Mat­ta­woman boot camp.

“I think com­ing here has helped me pre­pare a lot for sixth grade,” Jamee said.

Jones said she hopes the pro­gram will also help foster strong re­la­tion­ships be­tween stu­dents and staff.

“I be­lieve that strong re­la­tion­ships are para­mount to stu­dent suc­cess,” Jones said. “Now I can call some of them by name on the first day of school, I’ve watched their per­son­al­i­ties, so I have some idea of who brings what to the class­room.”

Win­ters said she hopes the boot camp will help al­le­vi­ate the anx­i­ety of com­ing to mid­dle school.

“They’re start­ing a whole new school,” Win­ters said, “they used to be the ‘top dogs’ of ele­men­tary school and now they’re the ‘ba­bies’ of mid­dle school, so I want them to be less anx­ious.”

She said an­other ben­e­fit is the op­por­tu­nity to form new con­nec­tions with other stu­dents and with teach­ers.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Ju­lian Scrivens, a Mat­ta­woman Mid­dle School teacher, helps in­com­ing sixth grader A.J. Evans-Jones pick what kind of car he would like to “buy” dur­ing a fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy project at the school’s three-day boot camp last week.

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