April 17, 2016 Life in the Sixth Grade at Christ Church Day School
Pick a random day to stop by Christ Church Day School (CCDS) in Coronado, and you’ll find a school that is pretty much run by sixth graders. Rather than send students on to the uncertain world of middle school, CCDS chooses to invest another year in these children who are just starting to bloom with confidence. What better way to nurture and grow that confidence than to continue on the path they’ve been on rather than send them where they’re likely to be relegated to the bottom rung of a new hierarchy. The administration at the school wholeheartedly stands behind their position that keeping sixth graders for another year before middle school has immeasurable benefits. And with that driving force, the school creates a spectacular final year for their students to experience. Here’s what their world, which is truly a capstone experience, looks like.
Start the Day
Before the day starts, AM ambassadors are waiting in the parking lot to greet students. They open doors, help children out of cars, and monitor their path to class. When it’s time for school to begin, a sixth grade student will ring a handheld bell while another pair raise the American and Episcopal flag on the school’s flag pole.
Each morning the whole school is treated to a piece of classical music through the intercom system. Armed with the knowledge they’ve learned in previous years, the sixth graders are able to present the piece providing details about the featured composer and song.
All throughout the day, there are various opportunities and responsibilities for sixth graders to sharpen their speaking skills and build their confidence—one of the main goals CCDS aims for with all of their students. This is especially evident in their twice weekly chapel services.
On Tuesdays and Thursday, sixth graders take on several roles during chapel including being class chaplains, doing readings, acting as chalice bearings for the once a week communions, and simply being general role models for the younger children.
Along those same lines of being role models, each sixth grader is assigned a kindergarten buddy for the year. The pair will get together for activities like reading or completing a holiday craft. This special relationship benefits both kinders and sixth graders. Kinder students are always excited to see their buddy during the day and sixth graders learn patience and responsibility dealing with a younger child.
Along with their regular academic classes, children take Spanish class four days a week, physical education three days a week, music classes twice a week and spiritual nurture one day each week. They’re also in charge of the school’s yearbook. Students gather and produce content, collect and take pictures, and do all the design work. The administrators believe this is a great opportunity for students to hone their skills in many different areas. While all students have access to technology both in the classroom and in the tech lab, sixth graders enjoy the benefit and responsibility of obtaining a personal laptop. The students receive Macbooks, which they can use during class as well as take home for homework, research, and class projects.
Beyond the Classroom
There is a large service component running through Christ Church Day School. Every student learns the value of service through various lessons and outreach projects, and in their final year, sixth graders must complete ten volunteer hours. These hours are in addition to any service component they participate in during school, as they are required to do their hours outside of the school day. One such opportunity is in January when the church hosts a spaghetti dinner where the sixth graders don aprons and serve as the wait staff. They received training ahead of time to learn how to seat guests, take orders, serve food, and clean up. This experience, serving a couple hundred people, gives them a greater appreciation for those who do those jobs for a living.
Another, and possibly more appealing way the kids get their hands dirty, is during their archaeological dig. Students are split into two groups in which they create a civilization and artifacts. Then they take their artifacts to Coronado beach to bury them. While the students are having fun in the outdoors, discovering the other teams civilization through the artifacts they discover, they are developing strong critical thinking and cooperative learning skills.
CCDS sixth graders will not only be mature enough to move onto middle school, but their academics prove up to par as well, if not exceedingly so. Reports from the feeder schools show seventh graders that came from CCDS are academically well prepared and also ready and willing to step into leadership roles. Most children join right in with no indication that they hadn’t attended the previous year. In fact, this program has become so well known that recently parents have enrolled their children in CCDS as new students just for sixth grade.
CCDS understands some parents may wonder if their sixth grader will miss anything by staying at the elementary vs. moving on to the middle school. There is actually more to be gained than lost, and students will eventually enter their intended middle school all the more prepared. Even the special programs offered at grade six in middle schools are available to CCDS students. The school partners with Coronado SAFE and the Coronado Police Department to provide programs like “Drug Store” which is a drug awareness and prevention program and “G.R.E.A.T. Program” which covers violence, making good choices, and gang prevention.
And, if it’s sports you’re after, sixth grade students from the Day school can (and do) join local middle school teams or those of the local recreation center.
One of the most exciting opportunities for these upperclassmen are the two trips they take during their last year of school. In the fall, students go to Camp Stevens, an Episcopal camp in Julian. Under the camp staff direction the Sixth grade teacher and students spend three days in cabins and doing outdoor activities. In the spring, they travel to the east coast for a nine-day trip of a lifetime in which they visit various places including Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., and the Plymouth plantation. This is such a spectacular trip that teachers and parents accompany them. Among the highlights of the trip is when students take what they learned during all their years at CCDS and act as docents on the historic freedom trail in Boston and when they see famous museum pieces that they studied in art history.
The culmination of this outstanding final year of elementary school is the graduation ceremony in which the entire school and all the families attend. This beautiful presentation takes place in the chapel where students have a bio read about them and their years at school. Awards for academic and service achievement are given and students receive their diploma and get to wear a graduation gown. With knowledge in their brain, love and dedication in their heart, and responsibility on their sleeve, the sixth graders of CCDS are ready to shine as they move to their new role as middle schoolers.