An Independent School • Grades 5-12
March at the Middle School: 8th graders apply their passions to real causes
March at the Middle School: 8th graders apply their passions to real causes

by Ted Chen, Middle School assistant director

Right before midwinter break, 8th grader Nour G. visited my advisory group of 5th graders to talk with us about the impact of microfibers from our clothes ending up in our oceans, polluting the water, and impacting the ecosystems. Both 5th-grade math and science teacher Jamie Monkkonen and I agreed that it was a great, engaging presentation. At the end, Nour informed us about the concrete, tangible steps we can take to help address this issue, led the students in an activity to check their understanding, and provided them with ocean treats in the form of seaweed! 

Nour was just one of the many students who presented a topic as part of the personal development SPARC project (Student Passions Applied to Real Causes). In this assignment, 8th-grade students identify an issue about which they are passionate, research it, choose a medium to publicize their issue, and create an advocacy plan. This year's topics ranged from marine pollution to mental health to the imbalance in racial representation in the media. Students presented in a variety of ways – from slideshow presentations to creating art pieces to performing rap songs in front of the community. 

The SPARC project is a new addition to our Personal Development course, and a result of two years the faculty spent reviewing, reflecting, and recreating the curriculum. Our goal is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to live a healthy and rewarding life in middle school and beyond. To achieve this aim, we work to empower students to understand themselves, make intentional values-based decisions, practice healthy behaviors, and positively engage with others in their local and global communities. Classes include topics such as identity, identity in community, healthy relationships, emotional health, brain basics, puberty, and mindfulness.

The SPARC project is a great example of our teachers creating relevant, engaging assignments that allow students to build upon the foundation of knowledge that they've acquired up until that point. For example, the units leading up to the SPARC project had students learning about leadership. They took the Myers-Briggs test to learn about themselves as leaders and how they interact with others, and they interviewed people they identified as leaders in a community. All of this information helped inform their SPARC project, which required them to step into the leadership spotlight and advocate for their cause. It was inspiring to see the students' work; their passion was evident in each and every project.

Here are some March dates to keep in mind. As always, details about times and locations are located on the web calendar.

Friday, March 2: The third Middle School service learning day. Grade-specific information was emailed to families. 

Monday, March 5: Middle and Upper School music students perform at Music in the City at Benroya Hall. Reception starts at 6 p.m. and the concert starts at 7 p.m. 

Wednesday, March 7 through Friday March 9: The 5th-graders are on their outdoor trip at NatureBridge! See Greta Block's email for information. 

Friday, March 9, 7-10 p.m.: The 7th- and 8th-grade dance is in the Middle School gym. 

Monday, March 12, 2:30-3:30 p.m.: Parents and guardians are invited to a Q&A with Middle School administrators in the Middle School Dining Room. Look for an email from Jodi Kennedy to RSVP. 

Thursday, March 15: Course sign-up forms are due for returning students (going into grades 6-8). 

Monday, March 19, 7-8:30 p.m.: The 9th-grade curriculum night for current 8th grade families. This is an important event for current 8th-grade parents and guardians; students are welcome to attend. Led by Upper School Director Felicia Wilks and Assistant Director Hans de Grys, the event will provide an introduction to the Upper School curriculum and an overview of the decisions rising 9th graders are making when choosing courses for next year. It's a great opportunity to ask questions about the Upper School curriculum and academic programs and departments. The event takes place in Kent Evans Auditorium, which is in Allen-Gates Hall (the science and math building) at the Upper School. Eighth-graders will turn in completed course sign-up forms in their math classes on March 26. 

Tuesday, March 20: Photo day! It's free to get a photo taken to update a student's ID. Order forms for printed photos are sent home with students.

Wednesday, March 21, 7-8 p.m. The Mark J. Bebie '70 Memorial Lecture features Julie Lythcott-Haims. The lecture is free, starts at 7 p.m., and everyone is invited. Learn more

Monday, March 26, 7-8:30 p.m.: Welcome to 8th grade/GSL night. This event is for the parents and guardians of rising 8th graders and will cover details about the 8th-grade GSL program. Attendance is required for at least one parent/guardian from each household. 

Friday, March 30: Spring midterm grades and comments are posted. An email will be sent to parents and guardians when they are available.  

And don't forget the Rummage Sale on the weekend of March 17 and 18. Watch for information from the PGA – it's always a fun community event! 

Ted Chen is Lakeside's Middle School assistant director. You can reach him at 206-440-2721.