Every Student at Nature Hill Intermediate School Has a Story – Here's How We Learn Them
Start To Learn Their Story Early
The staff at Nature Hill Intermediate School understand that moving from elementary to intermediate school can be frightening and challenging for students and parents. To help make the transition less intimidating, the Nature Hill team uses several programs to begin meeting students and families early, before the new school year begins.
In the spring, fourth graders from Ixonia, Greenland, and Meadow View Elementary Schools visit Nature Hill to see the school and learn what it means to become part of the Nature Hill "Wolf Pack." The visit is a good way to introduce students to the school while they're with their classmates and fourth grade teachers in a field trip environment. This visit allows the Nature Hill fifth grade teachers to observe student personalities and interaction when the students are in a more comfortable and relaxed situation.
After the visit, Nature Hill Administrative and Student Services staff meet with all of the elementary school staff teams. They learn more about the incoming fifth grade students and plan for any additional support that might be needed for specific students.
The final spring event is a fifth grade transition night with students and families. Parents meet the Nature Hill teachers and learn more about the school and changes they can expect for the new school year. While families are meeting teachers, students meet with outgoing fifth graders to talk about Nature Hill and being part of the "Wolf Pack."
Where Everyone Belongs (WEB)
It's important for teachers to get to know their students, but it's equally important for students to feel comfortable enough to share their personalities at a new school. Where Everyone Belongs (WEB) is a program developed to help incoming fifth graders feel familiar and comfortable at Nature Hill, so they're already part of the Wolf Pack on the first day of school. The program also gives students resources and tools that they can use if they need help or have apprehensions about their first year at Nature Hill.
Nature Hill eighth graders, Camille Jostad, Adam Lois, and Samantha Jappinen, are all WEB leaders who helped lead the fifth grade WEB experience in August. Samantha described the program at the Oconomowoc Area School District School Board meeting on October 16. She said, "WEB makes a fifth grader's transition from elementary school to middle school a little easier. We also play games and do activities with the kids to make their transition a little easier. It makes the kids know they're part of a community at school. We hope that 5th graders feel connected to the 8th graders through WEB."
Eighth grader Adam Lois explained the day-long WEB program in August. "This is the day where we meet the fifth graders. We all come into an assembly and we make a giant tunnel and have all the fifth graders run through it. It's just a cool way to introduce all the fifth graders to the school. After that we break up into small groups where we play different games with them and get to know the fifth graders."
The WEB program then extends throughout the school year, with the eighth graders periodically meeting with their fifth grade WEB team, to see how they're doing and offer guidance or help with anything they can.
Camille Jostad concluded the School Board meeting presentation by explaining what the WEB program meant to her when she was an incoming eighth grader. "In WEB I met new people who are now my best friends. It helped me so much just getting to know them and be social with them. I walked around the school and I got to see all my classes and see where the lunch room is. I also got to use my lock which was really helpful. Now being a WEB leader, I want to make the fifth graders feel comfortable and welcome coming into our school."
Learning a Student's Story Within the Classroom
Nature Hill Intermediate teachers, Kelly Boldt and Shelly Favorite, explained some of the approaches they use to build community within their classrooms, beginning the very first day of school. "This year we were excited with the one-to-one technology. We decided to take some activities we've done in the past with learner profiles, using paper and pen, and instead put it into a technology format."
Shelly Favorite explained further saying, "in addition to wanting to build our community, we wanted the kids to get to know each other on a personal level, on a learning level, and everything about them that's going to help them be successful in the classroom." To accomplish this community building, they created a Google Classroom with a variety of activities for the students to complete in small groups. They included videos, questionnaires, interactive games, and writing sections. When the groups completed all of the sections, they created a "teach us about you" project, where they made a video, a slide show, or a collage that they shared with the class. It worked very well for their students, and brought everyone together.
Nature Hill Principal, Chuck Olson, concluded by saying, "our goal is to learn our students story, to understand their learning profile. When we know our students stories, we can build classes that meet every students unique learning needs."
Left to right: Nature Hill 5th grade teacher, Shelly Favorite, 5th grade teacher, Kelly Boldt, Samantha Jappinen, Camille Jostad, Adam Lois, and Nature Hill Intermediate Principal, Chuck Olson