Student-Centered Schedule Changes at Middle School

September 15, 2017

Middle School gathered for an off-site intro to advisory groups

Middle School Director Joe Williamson shared at Back to School Night that, in addition to moving to an eight day schedule, CAIS has added three student-focused improvements to the new schedule.  A student clubs period and Zhang Heng period have been incorporated into the schedule, each meeting once every eight day schedule cycle, and the start time of the school day has been moved ahead 45 minutes.

Student Clubs

Students in the middle school have expressed a desire to form student clubs. In the past, these clubs were forced to meet during lunch break, which limited how much they could accomplish. The new club period gives the students an 80 minute meeting time after lunch once every eight days to meet with other students to pursue shared interests. Envisioning that students will create their own clubs in the coming months, the initial offering of clubs was created by the faculty and includes clubs that focus on:

* Chinese Mentoring (of lower school students)

* Tennis and Racquet Club

* Maintaining a Butterfly Garden

* Harry Potter Club

* Origami/Paper Folding

* Creating a Literary Magazine

* CAIS News

* CAIS Robotics Team

The Zhang Heng Period

Originally named the “da Vinci” course by ISM scheduling consultant, Simon Jeynes, the faculty renamed the period after Zhang Heng, a Chinese Polymath who lived during the Han Dynasty. More academic than the MS clubs, the ZH classes are designed as opportunities for faculty and students to delve into topics in which they have a high level of interest and otherwise would not have an opportunity to study in the regular middle school curriculum. The first set of Zhang Heng classes include:

* SF and CA Ballot Measures

* Yoga for Athletes

* Chinese Knotting

* Google Earth

* The CAIS Story Hour

* The CAISbery Committee (Choose the Best Book of 2017)

* Reading and Making Maps

* Graphic Design

* Archimedes

* The National Math Club

As with student clubs, our hope is that the students will come up with ideas for Zhang Heng classes that will meet later in the year.

Late Start

The Middle School day begins at 8:45 a.m. this year, a change providing two significant benefits to the students. The first is that the late start will allow a forty-five minute period for the faculty to meet each morning. Under the direction of Cristina Calcagno and Adam Ross, the faculty are using a professional learning community model to collaborate to improve the student learning experience. Meeting in teacher collaboration teams by grade level or academic discipline, the faculty are utilizing the time between 7:45 and 8:00 each morning to improve the professional practice and identify and develop opportunities for cross-curricular collaboration.

The second benefit is that the late start provides our students the opportunity to get a little more sleep. While the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends 9-12 hours of sleep each night, most middle students are actually only getting 7-8. The campus is open to receive students at the usual 7:30 a.m. start time, but students may arrive as late as 8:40 a.m. and still be on time for their first class.