“Perhaps the greatest gift you can give to any child, particularly an adolescent, is to see more potential in them than they can yet see in themselves and to ask more of them than they dare to imagine they can achieve,” says Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School and former Middle School director. For one week in October, Inly’s Middle School puts this philosophy into practice, asking students to push beyond their comfort zones.
During this week, while 8th grade students participated in an internship or attended a conference on the United Nations in New York City, the 7th grade students participated in Project Week. As seventh grader Bella explains, “Like many things at Inly, project week was amazing and different.”
In a nutshell, Project Week is about internship training. The 7th graders begin the process of thinking about what kind of internship would be best for them and how to secure an internship. “Project Week and internships are powerful experiences for students as they feel the challenge and valorization of real, authentic work. These types of experiences are what set our graduates apart with regards to their maturity, self-awareness, and confidence,“ said Middle School teacher Paran Quigley.
Project Week includes a range of workshops and activities that enable students to learn about their own strengths and stretches, their natural work styles, and to give each student a better sense of self. Teachers also lead discussions on how to communicate these strengths and styles to potential internship hosts.
Head of School, Donna Milani Luther led a workshop in Myers-Briggs assessment (MBTI), which is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.
Another key component of Project Week is the selection of special classes taught by Inly faculty and staff. Students take one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon each day. This year, the course offerings included rap, gardening, improvisation, dance, and knitting. Although the classes might sound like a series of hobbies, it turns out that the students learned much more than basic skills.
Spanish teacher Lynda Jackson taught knitting, where the students had the satisfaction of not only learning a skill, but completing a project to show for their time. One knitter said, “I am very happy that I chose knitting, because we made hats!”
Kevin Norton, Building and Grounds Supervisor, taught Can we build it? Yes we can!, a class that “entered a whole new world of gardening,” as one student described. Students built a raised garden bed, starting by determining which plants would be best for a winter garden, locating the best placement for the bed, and then designing and building the bed themselves.
In Rap, Rhythm, and Romeo, musical artist and instructor Jimmy Juste taught the students about literary devices, the history of rapping, and slam poetry as well as discussing the differences in how people view the world. One student commented, “[We] helped each other to create these great pieces. The seventh graders really turned from classmates to rappers to poets.”
In order to help the students focus, Jimmy started each class with relaxation exercises. “My favorite thing in this class was the meditating,” said Bella. Another commented, “Most importantly, we got to know ourselves a lot better. We found out we can write creative raps. Nobody had a clue they were such good rappers.”
Jimmy’s afternoon class, Juste Do It, offered an improvisation workshop. A popular choice, the class taught more than how to be funny. “Improv is not just a chance to goof off and be funny; in fact, improv theater has many different transferable skills packed into it,” said one participant. “The biggest thing about improv is being yourself. You have to let loose, even if it means going outside of your comfort zone.”
In Dance, Dance Revolution, Middle School teacher Nina Franzino taught the students dance styles such as Latin and Hip Hop. As in the other classes, students explored different styles and approaches to dance and made connections to the world outside the classroom. One student remarked, “I learned different styles of teaching and dancing throughout the week. The experience helped me understand certain qualities in my peers that I did not know before.”
“We got to know the teachers a lot better, too. It was shocking to see how good a dancer Nina was. We thought she was just a Spanish teacher,” said another.
Project week provided seventh graders with a platform for discovering themselves and understanding others in a format that was interactive and engaging. Julie explains the value of this exercise, “Adolescence is a time of trying things on, making the theory real, taking a step closer to the adult they are becoming. We help our Middle School students do this through our fall immersion week.”
The students not only spent time during the week capturing their thoughts through journaling, but also making presentations to their peers about their experiences. One student summarized the week well, “All of the seventh graders had a great week. They bonded, did projects together, and even worked on their resumes…so much was accomplished this week and I am proud of it.”