“The differentiating design question for the faculty and administration at Williamsburg Northside is “How involved are the students in the learning?” This key value runs throughout the entire school. We believe that when students are excited about the subject matter or the skill they are mastering, their learning will skyrocket. Middle School students must feel empowered and intellectually respected.” – LIBBY HIXSON, MIDDLE SCHOOL PLANNING DIRECTOR.
A New Middle School for New York City Students
The planning underway for the September 2018 opening of our Middle School (Grades 5 to 8) is moving full steam ahead with the creation of student academic schedules, design of new science and art labs, and drafting of faculty profiles underway. Students at WNS will graduate Middle School as confident learners and enthusiastic participants in their own education. To that end, they will have developed the strong academic skills needed to prepare them to continue their education at well regarded high schools while maintaining their love of learning.
At the core of our design process is a commitment to three underlying principles.
1. A Strong and Positive Sense of Community
Williamsburg Northside is built on a foundation of supportive students, parents, faculty, and administration. The group prides itself on warmth and inclusivity. Close, meaningful relationships with teachers and peers are critical in the Middle School years of tremendous cognitive and physical growth. We know that our students will thrive in a community small enough that everyone knows their names and yet large enough to offer rich and exciting opportunities. Therefore, we are designing a division based on the enrollment of two sections per grade. A strong advisory program will ensure close attention is given to the well-being of each individual student and family.
2. Engaging and Challenging Academics
Research is clear that student engagement equals student success. Tackling relevant psychological, philosophical, and political questions captivates Middle School students as it mirrors their desire to engage with the adult world. Building on the child-centered, interdisciplinary learning in the Pre- and Lower Schools, our Middle School students are now ready for more rigorous demands. Our carefully designed curricula will focus on depth rather than breadth using inquiry, projects, and challenging problems to maintain engagement. At the same time, we provide our students with multiple opportunities to practice and refine the important skills of writing, reading, speaking, problem solving, and critical thinking thus building academic skills crucial to this stage of development. The key is to embed these skills in an absorbing curriculum.
Throughout middle school, students need to be encouraged to extend their borders, to try new activities, gain new skills, handle frustration, and not lose confidence. Opportunities for both collaboration and individual choice motivate students by providing peer support, feedback, independence, and friendship.
These are the years where students discover new talents and passions. Athletics, drama, daily foreign language, community engagement, robotics, literary magazines and other co-curricular offerings and clubs become focal points for their journey of self-discovery. Learning to lead and learning to follow are important skills acquired in middle years.
The outcome will be engaged, excited, and well-prepared learners.
3. A Faculty of Committed and Knowledgeable Individuals with Demonstrated Expertise in the Middle School Years.
The highest of design aspirations cannot be met without a committed and knowledgeable faculty. We seek teachers who take responsibility for all of their students learning by assessing and addressing individual learning needs within a common curriculum. We will hire a founding faculty that has demonstrated success teaching in the Middle School years.