Principal Marc Light looks at the camera, he is wearing a grey suit and smiling. The King David School's logo is behind him, silver on a wood background.

Engaging and enriching our Middle School

The middle years of schooling are often characterised as a challenging time for learning. Students at this stage tend to be developing a stronger sense of their identity and typically experience an imperative to prioritise their social world above their studies. Over these years, they often transition to seeing their peers as the central authorities that provide greater influence on attitudes and behaviours than their teachers or parents. They are also attracted to learning opportunities that emphasise real-world application and are especially focused on concepts of fairness and justice.

We know that the most successful school programs are built on an understanding of who the students are, what motivates them and how best to engage them. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers acknowledges this as it designates the number one standard for teachers to be “know students and how they learn.”

It is clear that leveraging knowledge of the way our students think and desire to learn is vital in ensuring that our curriculum, programming and pedagogy runs with and not against the grain. Middle school children can get the most out of their school when we adjust our approach to teaching them in line with their development.

For this reason I am so proud about the development of our Middle School and the rich and engaging learning opportunities we offer that utilise this understanding.

Two strong examples of this from this week spring to mind. The Year 6 Holes Day and the Year 9 Nitzan Artivism Street Festival.

This week our Year 6 students consolidated their study of Louis Sachar’s Holes with an engaging activity designed to allow them to share their knowledge, work in teams and have a great social experience while doing so. The students dressed as characters from the novel, and then in small groups participated in an escape room activity where their combined knowledge of the text helped their team ‘escape’. The teams were so energetic and proud of their knowledge and it was clear that this activity was particularly designed to motivate them to give their all. The rich lessons from the novel were delivered while the students were having a fabulous time.

The second example was a celebration of the incredible Nitzan program that is the highlight for many of our Year 9 students. The program is specifically targeted around peak interests and needs of the middle school student. It occurs every Wednesday, where rather than their usual periods of study, the students engage in a full day of experiential learning which is structured around developing their independence, engagement in a personal project and a broad focus on social justice and community mindedness.

The Artivism event was the culmination of the semester’s Nitzan journey and our students were able to present their learning to their community and families. We had students who had explored deep social issues such as misogyny and mental health challenges which they developed into outstanding slam poetry. Another group worked on a beautiful mural that now adorns the external wall of the Multi Purpose Room at Magid Campus. Yet a third was focused on the need for blood donations and were able to obtain pledges to donate from attendees.

The students decided to raise money for Magen David Adom (MDA) and created a range of items and other money making ventures to achieve this. Students were involved in a cooking group and others in building a pizza oven. These were utilised to cater the function and raise money for the charity. Other students used the School’s technology resources including the laser cutter and 3D printers to produce items to sell. The students from the fashion group designed clothing and tote bags for sale. The dedication of the students led to over $1500 being raised to support MDA.

The event peaked with a beautiful moment where the Nitzan band, comprising of students Wilkie and Oscar along with Nitzan Coordinator Gordon Dorin and Year 9 Coordinator Brad Smith, rocked out to the classic Sister Sledge song ‘We are Family’.

Our thriving Middle School program is purposefully built around a deep understanding of where our students are at developmentally and how to orient teaching experiences to meet their needs. The examples I have presented are just two of myriad rich learning experiences that ensure that our students are set up for success.

Shabbat Shalom,