Many pupils find the transition from elementary to middle school a difficult one to make, but school officials at Harlem Middle School aimed to make that step a little easier just two days before the school reopened for classes.
The school held a Summer Success Day Camp,, giving Harlem Middle's rising sixth-graders and their parents the opportunity to meet their new teachers and classmates, tour the school and master their locker combinations.
"What this is designed to do is to reduce the anxiety," said Anna Dobbs, Harlem Middle's graduation coach. "The parents sometimes have more anxiety than the students."
This is the first year the school has offered such a program, and of the 124 registered sixth-graders at Harlem Middle, 75 pupils were in attendance.
The program is offered by middle schools nationwide and is designed to reduce high school drop-out rates, Dobbs said.
Pupils and parents started their morning off in the school's auditorium and then headed to their individual homerooms, where the six sixth-grade teachers discussed their class curriculums.
The pupils were then dismissed and set about finding their lockers and practicing their combinations, which appeared to be a big source of anxiety among the future sixth-graders.
Catherine Woodman said she wanted to come to Harlem Middle two days early to see her friends and check out the school.
"It teaches me how to use the lockers," she said, which she had opened five times during the practice period.
A scavenger hunt, designed to acquaint the pupils with their surroundings, followed locker practice.
Sixth-grade teacher Karen Manion said she thinks the school's day camp is a great idea.
"It alleviates the fear of parents," the grammar and language arts teacher said. "We've got to make them feel comfortable."
Overall, 17 pupils will fill out Manion's homeroom class this school year. Seven sixth-graders showed up in her class Saturday.
"They're going to have a head start on where to find things," she said.
During the scavenger hunt, sixth-grader Jeffery Pardubsky seemed to echo Manion's thoughts.
"I'm finding out where everything is in the school," he said.
Another goal of the program was to include parents in the process, Dobbs said.
"The parental involvement is what is so great," she said, adding that more than 50 parents showed up with their children.
Parents at the middle school felt it was important for their children to meet teachers and see the school ahead of time.
"It's a new level in his life," said Angel Kamara about her son, Alex. "It can be intimidating."
But Kamara has no doubts about her son's success.
"He's a bright young man," she said. "I know he'll do well."
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