Middle school is a whole new ballgame.
When sixth graders walk through the doors at the beginning of the year, they’re no longer the oldest kids in school, they’re the new ones. Ones who didn’t need a combination to get into a locker, or read a class schedule and move room-to-room several times a day.
To ease the anxiety of first-day jitters, Mattawoman Middle School held a three-day boot camp for its incoming sixth graders. Principal Sonia Jones hoped for about 100 kids, 175 signed up — more than half of the sixth grade class.
The camp — held from 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 22 to 24 — went through the basics. Opening a locker, reading a schedule, who’s who on the administration team and staff, meeting the school resource officer, researching clubs and activities, and touring the school were among the activities.
On the last day of the program, students participated in a Shopping for the Future activity to help them see the connection between future success and current academic achievement. They were given Mattawoman Bucks in an amount corresponding with their grades and told to “shop” for housing with utilities, transportation, clothes, recreation and other odds and ends. Each station had four options from luxurious to economy. Every A earned the student $1,000, each B was rewarded with $800 down to $200 for any E.
“All of this is based on grades,” said Niya Cox, counting out her Mattawoman Bucks and working on a budget. “You have to get good grades so you can get a really good job.”
Jones had the idea for the boot camp for a while. Tiyata Winters, the school’s administrative intern, ran with it. Teachers staffed the boot camp as volunteers. “The teachers volunteered their time just because they believe in the vision,” Jones said.
Joseph Evans, an eighth grade science teacher, said he won’t teach the students at the boot camp for a few years, but being a kind face in the hallway can help ease the stress of starting at a new school as the youngest students. “They’re meeting new people, you want to be a familiar face on the first day of school,” he said.
Five elementary schools feed into Mattawoman. The boot camp not only introduced the kids to the school, but to each other, Jones said. “We’re covering every aspect of life as a sixth grader at Mattawoman Middle School,” she said.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,400 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Marvin L. Jones, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.