December 16, 2018

Mini Musings - Voice & Choice In Our Eighth Grade

by Tim Campbell, Middle School Director

At the end of the first trimester, McGillis eighth grade students were tasked with generating a business proposal regarding an aspect of the school they would like to see changed or improved. While working with a budget of five-hundred dollars, the only requirement was for students to keep our School’s purpose, mission, and values as the common denominators of each component of their proposal. As Rachel Gardner, the lead teacher of “SLAM” (Service Learning at McGillis) puts it: “Our hope is that in cultivating these transferable skills we will develop future leaders better prepared to take initiative, think critically, respond empathetically, and collaborate effectively as students begin solving the social and environmental challenges facing them locally, nationally, and globally.” 

While Ms. Gardner and the SLAM teaching team developed the project, our eighth grade students put reins on the idea and galloped with it. Groups of 7-8 students collaborated over the course of two Explorations sessions to identify and develop the essence of their proposals; simultaneously they created and practiced dynamic presentations to deliver to a panel of adult judges. Their proposals were remarkably well-delivered, and it was difficult for the panel to make a decision.

In the end the proposal to form a student leadership council in our Middle School was declared the “winner.” Not only does the idea meet the purpose of serving the school community, it also provides a wonderful opportunity for students to be further empowered within the scope of our Middle School. The idea is student-centered and student-driven. So what’s next? Students will meet with a Middle School teacher and with me to plan for implementation in the spring. They will steer the process, make big decisions, and do so within the framework of the McGillis community values. I can’t wait to see what comes of this thoughtful proposal!