By Beth Steklac, Director of Admissions and Assistant Head of School
Our middle years students won’t look back on their years at Mackintosh Academy as a time when they were lost in a crowd, overwhelmed by cliques or tuned out or bored in class. At Mack, our middle schoolers are supported by a warm, caring community of teachers and students who make sure that each student can learn more about their unique selves, explore new ideas and challenges, and contribute their skills to tackling real-world problems.
The Mackintosh Middle Years IB program engages our students on every level and provides not only academic rigor, but a nurturing environment that gives students the confident foundation they need to move successfully into high school. Our students move into rigorous programs throughout the metro area and report back that they felt well-prepared and ready to succeed in high school.
Our middle school program transcends the simply academic, providing rich opportunities for hands-on, real-world learning. Here is a snapshot of the many aspects of our Littleton MYP program that set our students up for success in high school and beyond:
Greenhouse: Middle school students took the lead in filling our greenhouse to the brim with vegetables and greens. With the assistance of a local horticulturalist, the greenhouse has been transformed into an active garden supplying produce to the community most Fridays. The students were instrumental in receiving a nearly $5,000 grant from the Colorado Garden Foundation to install a hydroponic system that will increase yield and offer new opportunities for scientific exploration.
Community Project: From training service dogs to spreading peace through art, from vegetarian cookbooks to community gardens, our eighth-grade students undertook personal community service projects and presented their learning to the Mackintosh community.
World Affairs Challenge: Building on classroom experiences, each year students prepare for the World Affairs Challenge that takes place in early March at Regis University. This challenge, “dedicated to developing tomorrow’s global leaders,” has become a significant middle school experience. This year, students looked at problems and solutions in building “Smart Cities.” Our two teams examined natural disasters and alert/response systems and looking at recent flooding in Bangladesh and funding/relief systems. One team took third place in the competition.
Eradicating Infectious Disease: Each year, the MYP does a three-subject unit. This year, students are examining the spread of infectious diseases and their possible eradication. This unit combines mathematics (modeling of exponential growth) science (pathology and vaccinations) and Language Arts (persuasive writing) to provide a fully immersive experience in a real-world problem.
Shakespeare: Following Mackintosh tradition, our middle school students once again wowed us with a stunning stage performance. This year the students performed As You Like It. With an in-depth study of the text during Language and Literature classes and inquiry into their individual characters, the students easily shared a complex story with even our youngest students, who were on the edge of their seats for a full hour and a half.
The United States Civil War and Transcendentalism: The International Baccalaureate program allows deep exploration into the hows and whys of our world and world events. The unique opportunity to combine disciplines like Humanities and Language Arts opens the door to interesting connections. This year the Middle School students explored the curious juxtaposition of the rise in transcendentalism and the build-up to the Civil War.
Leadership: The Leadership Council has continued to provide a platform for middle school students to develop leadership skills. This year, our Leadership Council has organized several school assemblies, run a successful school spirit week, and initiated several service projects. For the first time ever, we ran a full-fledged election choosing a student body President and Vice-President. This process involved all students in middle school – some as candidates, others as campaign supporters. The candidates had their own web pages and published platforms and were interviewed by members of the local press in a real-life press conference. Many candidates ran on environmental or social platforms. The successful President and Vice President are now working diligently to fulfil their campaign promises.
Paper Pets: During this year’s Genetics unit in science, students participated in an exciting paper pet simulation. Each of the pets started out with homozygous traits and through mating and random distribution of mutations we watched our pets evolve over several generations. Watch out for “spotted-nose malady!”
Service: This year will culminate with our Middle School bi-annual service experience, a week-long trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Students will work hard in various support projects including skirting trailers, building bunk beds and creating community gardens. In the evenings, they will meet with village elders from the Lakota tribe to learn more about native culture and modern day challenges on the reservation. In preparation for the trip students are exploring the theme, “When you speak, we listen.” They are researching the current state of indigenous populations around the globe. Throughout the year, middle school students also have the opportunity to work with their year-long buddies in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, and to visit a local preschool for arts outreach, inspiring our youngest community of learners.