Seventh Grade Teachers Olivia Halverson and Marie Stanton have been keenly aware of how their students are interacting with each other this year and how pandemic protocols make connection difficult. With classes both in person and on Zoom before spring break, in addition to restrictions over lunch, there weren’t the usual opportunities for students to connect. “We noticed a need for students to authentically engage with one another socially this year, especially as we returned to school nearly full time in person following spring break,” said Halverson. Stanton mentioned that she had planned and implemented interest groups before that were wildly successful, and they began to brainstorm.
They determined that to ensure buy-in from these Middle School students, it was imperative for kids to have a choice in what they wanted to do. And when the students were choosing based on interest, they were likely to meet new students with whom they may not have had much interaction prior to joining the group. A survey went to every 7th grader where they were able to rank what they were interested in doing. Options included cooking, reading to Beasley friends, playing board games or Minecraft, do-it-yourself projects such as jewelry making and knitting, cricket and squash, and outdoor games. The 7th grade team worked out a plan to accommodate the students in spaces that ensured social distancing while still allowing them to learn and interact with each other.
Halverson and Stanton also worked on how to incorporate LEAD into the interest groups. What is LEAD? It’s a component of our social emotional learning program for grades five through eight that stands for:
L – Learn with curiosity and joy
E – Embrace challenge
A – Advocate for self and community
D – Demonstrate collaboration and teamwork
Students who attended MICDS in 6th grade completed “passion projects” last year that briefly focused on solving dilemmas and diving into topics within the community in a group setting. “Our 7th grade interest groups were meant to be a logical next step, as students now turned more introspectively into their own “passions” or interests to develop a skill for themselves,” said Halverson. The interest groups also tied in with the “My Best Self” work the 7th grade did together earlier this year, since the goal is to assist students to become their best selves—in the classroom, in extra curriculars, in character, and now in their interests.
The interest groups were planned for advisory time, breaking up the normal schedule and allowing students to interact with others outside their advisories. “I think it went well,” reported Halverson. “Many students came to me on a day this week when we had normal advisory asking, ‘Do we have interest groups today?’ I could feel their enthusiasm for the groups, as it was something different and exciting for them to partake in during the school day!” She and Stanton are looking into building out the groups a bit more and having them run throughout all of next school year.
Ian Zar ’26 enjoyed the time. “I like them. It’s something different. So yeah, they’re good,” he said.
This year the 7th grade students enjoyed four interest group meetings. Check out these photos to see them in action: