Every day offers Ms. Behnken and her students new opportunities to grow in knowledge and challenges to stretch that knowledge with new, real-life applications. Sixth graders recognize the high expectations and accountability to which they are held and rise to both. When facing seemingly insurmountable problems, students struggle together, brainstorm strategies together, and solve together. They build self-confidence and self-reliance in problem-solving, developing the skills necessary for leaders in their local and global communities.
A variety of learning styles and skill sets are incorporated into each lesson and each day, providing students the avenue to express and self-assess their learning where their strengths lie. New, previously unrecognized strengths emerge by experimenting beyond what is familiar and comfortable and daring to be innovative and unique.
“The greatest teachers teach what we can’t learn from books.” (plaque in 6th grade classroom)
Grounded in the belief that building strong character is as important as building strong educational foundations, the 6th grade classroom is one of mutual respect, kindness, support, and regular affirmation of each other. Taking risks is encouraged and the personal successes that result from them are celebrated. Collaboration and cooperation are the standards for the students partnering in their learning. Whether they’re working in the classroom, eating in the lunchroom, or playing on the playground, inclusivity and positive attitudes are the culture the students take with them. This culture affects the interactions they have with all those around them and they are known for it by the schoolmates and staff that connect with them throughout the day.
“When we work together on projects, I get to hear other people’s ideas and see how there are other ways to think about things. This helps me with when I’m doing my own work later on.” (from a 6th grade student)
The sixth grade curriculum is rich and invigorating. In the Language Arts, students focus on becoming effective at supporting opinions based on context and facts rather than emotion, on being stronger inferential readers, and on communicating effectively with different audiences in creative written, oral and artistic formats. The math curriculum demands application of skills and strategizing various methods of problem-solving, encouraging the “outside the box” thinking of great mathematicians. The earth science curriculum provides opportunities for students to explore and experience the many facets of earth’s ecosystems, energy sources and structure, while the History curriculum helps students gain a greater appreciation and understanding for how ancient civilizations and rulers affected the civilizations, economies, and governments of today’s world.
Highlights of the 6th grade experience include a 5-day trip to Catalina Island, community service events, decorating ceramics pieces at a ceramics lounge, and participating in a year-end Geography Bee.