Bullis Charter School seventh-grade students are spending the last weeks of school preparing their final project, a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a culmination of all the specialized skills they learned this year.
The 20 seventh-graders received a junior high experience unlike the norm. The regular curriculum was contained in nine-week blocks interspersed with three-week intersessions of specialized learning.
“The intersession served as a respite. It helped them energize and really enjoy school,” said Bullis Middle School Team Leader Lisa Stone. “The intersessions made the year fly. It was something they looked forward to but at the end of each intersession, they were ready to return to the regular schedule.”
The nine-week blocks of curriculum included physical education, electives (drama, art and music), English/language arts, math, history, science, foreign language (Spanish or Mandarin) and advisement. The intersessions comprised small group instruction on woodwork, textiles, food, renewable energy, tech challenge, engineering, design, technical and performance.
“We believe in developing the whole child,” said Bullis Superintendent Wanny Hersey.
Part of developing the whole child is offering emotional education as well, which the seventh-grade program provides through mentorships and leadership classes.
“The small group has allowed the teachers to have more meaningful interactions with the students,” Hersey said. “The teachers are able to really get to know (them).”
The advisement sessions included brainology lessons that take an introspective look at how each student learns, takes notes and studies.
“Studies show in middle school the engagement piece goes down,” Hersey said. “Sometimes middle-school students focus on the wrong things. This is the ideal age to guide them, because they can actually think at a higher level.”
Hersey said the program helped the students internalize and answer such questions as: How do I overcome my weaknesses? What are my strengths? Who am I? Who are the people I should look up to?
Parent Lucy Hsu said she appreciates the smaller classes.
“I think it is a benefit that the class is only 20 students,” Hsu said. “That they are able to operate at a really small size and customize to the kids is terrific.”
Hsu’s son Jarrod is at a high math level. She said she is happy the school continues to teach him at his level.
The middle-school program also provides students an opportunity to experience new and unique sports and play them competitively.
Bullis Charter School seventh-graders competed in a triathlon, fencing, table tennis and volleyball. For most competitions, they compete in a league of small schools.
“We really like playing in this league because it welcomes learning and trying” Stone said.
The sports program encourages participation at every level – from novice bike riding to competitive volleyball – every student is included in the competitions.
Looking ahead, Hersey said that the eighth-grade program, scheduled to begin next year, would be similar to this year’s seventh-grade structure, but the intersessions will focus more on becoming well-rounded citizens, with a larger emphasis on service.