How our 6th and 7th Graders Worked Together to Accomplish Team Challenges ... in the HAWKS Nest

Emma Creeden


Living Our Mission in the Middle School

By Emma Creeden, 7th Grade English Language Arts Teacher and 7th Grade Team Lead

Every grade at Carroll forms a really nice community amongst themselves, but I had noticed there was not a lot of interaction between our grades. We have so much wonderful space on campus, and the ability to adjust our schedules to create time for meaningful activities and pursuits to educate the whole child—and I saw an opportunity.

That’s how the HAWKS Nest project came to be.

I had a meeting with Mike Copacino, the 6th Grade Team Lead, to brainstorm ways to connect our 6th and 7th Graders. We asked ourselves, “How can we make sure the sixth graders in the Copacino building are engaged and part of the same community as the seventh graders in the Storrow building?” We decided to become more deliberate about forming those connections, and growing the mentoring skills of our 7th Graders.

It’s developmentally appropriate for adolescents to be very inwardly focused, in their own bubbles, but now we’ve built in time to discuss what community means and what it means to be part of one—a springboard to the work Carroll is doing around perspective-taking and inclusion.

Building on Carroll’s popular hawk mascot and the Middle School guiding principles of Honesty, Accountability, Work ethic, Kindness, and Safety, we created the HAWKS Nest. We paired small cohorts of 6th and 7th Graders together to collaborate, to design, and to solve specific challenges. Through the process of working together, we hoped students would get to know each other, and then find a few more faces around campus to say “hi” to during the day. For the 6th Graders, we hoped it would help them see themselves as peers to the older students—and in turn, the 7th Graders would have an opportunity to mentor and build critical leadership skills.

Our pilot HAWKS Nest program included three challenges, one per trimester, that last 2-3 days in length. For the first challenge, the students built hawk nests using a specific set of materials in small, mixed-grade groups of 4-5 students. The first day, the students introduced themselves, got to know each other, and brainstormed ideas for how they might approach the challenge. On the second day, the groups gathered on the lower fields to build their nests.

We purposely designed the challenge to be physical—no computers—and to have lots of space for ideas, making mistakes, and learning through communication. We hoped that it would provide opportunities for students to take on different roles, like being a leader or an idea generator, and to work together and form connections with others. It wasn’t about the end product—it was about building skills.

Middle School HAWKS Nest Challenge

The challenge ended with a set of questions designed to guide reflection: What went well? What surprised you? What would you do differently next time? What roles did you take on? Did everyone participate? How can you help others to participate? We were thrilled with what we saw and heard, and hung the hawks’ nests around campus as a symbol of a unified, connected community.

For the second activity, the students were challenged to use a string “grabber” to pick up and reconfigure plastic cups into multiple different structures, with each participant holding an end of the string during the whole challenge. Students stayed in their same groupings, and by building on the connections they’d started and being connected physically, we saw the barriers fall even more.

On Day One, they were a bit reserved and shy as the students became reacquainted. On Day Two, they encouraged one another, they shared stories, and they showed more openness toward one other.

For the final challenge of the year, the students will be sharing ideas as a way to help them be invested in the experience—and we can’t wait to grow the program further. Some of the ideas we’re exploring are integrating smaller, less structured activities—during lunch/recess, and so on—to allow students to hang out, see each other casually so those friendships can form more fully. That’s where relationships are built.

“What I've liked about HAWKS Nest is being able to see 6th Graders and to talk to them personally and hearing how their first year of middle school is going—how they’re feeling and what’s working out for them. One thing I learned about myself is that I enjoy helping and mentoring the younger kids.”

Mateo Saldana, 7th Grade Student
 

This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection 22-23: Living our mission every day as an inclusive community of learners

  • Carroll Connection 2022-23



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