We wanted to see what Middle School is like – from the students’ perspectives – so we caught up with three girls to help paint a picture of life in the middle of BSS – and what comes next.
GRADE 7: Starting out strong
Kitty Yin may be new to BSS – this is her first year at the school – but she’s got a lot to compare it to. In fact, you’d have to call Kitty something of a school expert: her family has traveled around a lot and BSS is her ninth school. Actually, it’s more than just a school, it’s her home: the studious 12-year-old is one of BSS’s boarders, alongside about 80 other students from around the world.
So what about the middle school program stands out to the seasoned student? “I really like how at BSS there is a lot of opportunity to try new things.” (So far, the highlights have included cross-country skiing and swimming.) And it’s not just that she has the chance to try something once: Kitty feels that her diverse interests are encouraged and nurtured. “I love to draw – I’m quite involved in art, but I also love to read and do math. And I like that I don’t have to choose between all the things I enjoy.” She’s also grateful that middle school gives the students an opportunity to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. “It’s nice to have the time to adjust before starting high school. Before, I wasn’t ready, but now I have the chance to learn.”
Grade 7 has been keeping her busy, but she’s quite clearly engaged by it too. She talks gleefully about the books she’s reading for English (“I find them very deep and inspiring,” she says), her projects about 3D design technology and the nature of structures, and learning about international migration and settlement in social studies.
One project that Kitty found especially meaningful was her research on the Filles du Roi for social studies. “These girls were sent over from France to New France to marry the early settlers,” she explains. “Many of these women were orphans, and some were only 14 years old.” Kitty chose this topic because she connected to it: 14 is close to her age, and she’s also moved a great distance at a young age.
Born in China, Kitty moved with her family to PEI when she was 8 and now boards with other worldly girls at BSS. Studying the Filles du Roi, Kitty realized not only how far she’s moved, but also how far women – and society – has come.
Kitty boards with many girls whose journeys have taken them just as far from where they started; girls from Japan, Jamaica, Hong Kong and Russia, Mexico and elsewhere. She loves boarding. “Every minute, you’re surrounded by people from around the world,” she says. She’s also fond of another boarder: a friendly cat called Pebbles.
And even though she’s only been at the school for a couple of months, Kitty is already putting down roots and making plans. And, appropriate for a girl named Kitty who’s a little in love with a cat: she’s planning on becoming a vet.
Even now, not even though Grade 7, Kitty already feels that she has grown during her time in middle school. “I’m a lot more independent because I’ve been living without my parents. I’ve learned a lot of time management and how to deal with life by myself.”
Lauren Adolphe started at BSS in junior kindergarten a decade ago. Now in Grade 8,
Lauren is a girl of many passions. She loves math, plays a mean game of badminton and is an internationally competitive Irish Dancer.
She has an uncommon ability to articulate the exact nature of her interests. Math, which she’s quite passionate about, appeals to her not only for its practicality, but also because she enjoys the class discussions about different ways of finding solutions to problems. She really enjoys how the middle and senior schools work together on house events because she finds it very rewarding to interact with girls in different age groups. She’s looking forward to Senior School because she’s eager for more leadership opportunities and a greater course selection.
She’s actually already decided which courses she wants to take next year. Among them: Latin, because it will help her move toward becoming either a doctor or lawyer. She’s having difficulty deciding, she tells me. Medicine appeals to her because she finds science fascinating; her inspiration for the law is an aunt, who she looks up to as a role model.
Her future plans may be big, but her middle school memories are no less meaningful. Middle school is a time when many ideas started to jump out of the textbook. Lauren describes, fascinated, how one 8th Grade math class brought geometry into three dimensions. “We went on a walk in downtown Toronto for Math Trail, observing how geometric shapes and other mathematical concepts were a part of the shapes of buildings all around us. The teachers led us, but it was up to us to recognize the different concepts in action. This made math come alive for me. It demonstrated to me the practical side of math and how it is an integral part of our everyday life. It was amazing to see it in reality, and not just in the workbook.”
Lauren also sees the middle school as an important transitional period. “The middle school provides all students with a small school feel within a large school because it has its own teachers, advisors and curriculum. I now feel confident that I am well prepared to transition into the senior school.”
And she’s not afraid of balancing her dance training with the demands of senior school next year. “I have developed really good time management skills,” she says, sounding much older than her 13 years. With 10 local competitions and international events that have taken her to Nashville, Ottawa and Disneyworld, Irish dance certainly keeps her feet busy, but she’s not letting that slow down her school plans.
GRADE 9: The next step
Simone Marsden started BSS in Grade 7, and she hit the ground running, getting active in academics, volunteering and athletics. Despite the fact that many of her new classmates had known each other for years, Simone says she felt at home at BSS right away. Part of the reason? Middle school teachers are really connected to the students, she says. “They really care about what you’re thinking, and we got a lot of one-on-one time with them.” So even though she found the coursework challenging – “BSS operates at a much higher level academically than other schools,” she says – it wasn’t long before she felt completely absorbed in her classes.
Another reason why the transition was easy: “We have a lot of fun,” she says. “The athletic program is amazing. We have a rock-climbing wall at school. You go to birthday parties for that, and we do it in school!”
But to hear Simone talk about her experience in both middle school and senior school, it’s clear that the environment at BSS has really allowed her to thrive. She’s curious, confident and has an incredible range of interest, which she’s been able to cultivate. So instead of starting Senior School by feeling intimidated or afraid, she’s excited. Here’s a shortlist of what Simone is excited about: making it to the OSSA swimming competition, getting further into biology and chemistry, and participating in interdisciplinary performance arts, because she really loves to dance.
She can already see how the threads of her interests are coming together. In Grade 8, she was encouraged to choose a topic for investigative research class that she really connected with. She chose to combine her interest in environmentalism, science, animals and social issues and did a presentation about whale hunting. She examined the issue in different cultures, looked at how governments reacted to it, and researched the ecological effects. “I’ve always been an environmental person,” she says, “But it really opened my eyes.” She hopes to pursue her love for animals and interest in science as a veterinarian.
For Simone, her biggest middle school epiphany came in a Grade 7 geography class. “We were learning about how the earth was formed, and Miss Rogers was teaching us about Pangaea and plate tectonics. A lot of us had never heard of that before. To demonstrate it, we all peeled oranges in class, and tried to put the peels back together again. It really brought it to life, we could all picture how the countries, all the provinces, all came together as one big island,” she says. “It really made me think of things differently, and see the world in a whole new way. You can learn about ideas every day in school, and I realized that it was possible to learn things that were completely new and different than what I usually think about the world.“
To Simone, middle school was a place where she could enjoy these moments while getting ready to take the leap into senior school. “It gives you an in between place, so you don’t feel overwhelmed,” she says.
She says that the middle school really helped her grow as a person. “I know that I have the study habits to take on anything, and I’m not scared of challenges.”
And while she’s busy looking forward, she’s also spending a lot of time helping the girls behind her. She’s reading to girls in the junior school twice a week, and really enjoys tutoring and mentoring the younger girls. It’s all part of giving back to the community that she feels so connected to.