6th Grade Q&A with Ed Bolman and Kelly Bornmann
by Head of School Lee Thomsen
Country Day Middle School Teachers Ed Bolman and Kelly Bornmann play an important role in helping 6th grade students acclimate to middle school, engage meaningfully in our program, and begin paving the way for a successful high school experience.
What makes Country Day’s 6th grade program so exceptional?
Ed: We have small classes and a close knit community. Our classes offer hands-on learning experiences alongside a rigorous academic program. Everything we do has an end goal of improving students both academically and socially as they get ready to enter high school.
Kelly: Our teaching team works together closely and is fully committed to helping each student become more independent by supporting their academic, social, and emotional growth. Our students look forward to coming to school and by and large enjoy the school day.
What do you love about teaching 6th grade?
Ed: I love helping students connect what they are reading in their textbooks to what they can do in the real world. One of my favorite lessons is the bridge project that we do in 6th grade math. We study Geometry in the second half of the year in great detail – learning about stress, shape, and force, etc. - and then apply that knowledge in real life. Students design, blueprint, and build their own bridges in class and then test them to see how much weight they can hold. Colleges like MIT do similar projects for engineering courses. It is amazing to see what the kids come up with, and it is pretty impressive to watch a bridge made of 80 popsicle sticks hold up 363 pounds between two desks. Especially when you consider that these bridges are built by 6th graders on their own, using only popsicle sticks and wood glue. They don’t have help from their parents, just class lessons, and their own hard work.
Kelly: My favorite thing about teaching 6th grade is everything! This age is just so much fun. Students are on the cusp of so many changes – intellectual, social/emotional, cognitive, and physical. It was my favorite time as a parent, and I love the opportunity to help my students navigate this time in their life. I have many favorite lessons from 6th grade science, but the best ones are when the students are working together and actively involved in real-world application of the skills and content that we have learned in a given unit – like our Paper Roller Coaster Project, our interdisciplinary Scientists in the Field unit, and our Solar House Project.
What are the most important elements of the middle school experience for students and why?
Ed: It’s important for students to be able to mix hard work with having fun so that they enjoy learning. Fun and education do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Kelly: Middle school is a time of great change for students. They need to experience opportunities to know who they are as an individual, student, friend, child, and a member of our community. They also need to know that their core needs are being met. Students know they have a safe place here and adults they can trust to guide them through challenges. Like any good roller coaster – there are times of fear, elation, dread, and relief - but with the right school and the right people in that school, middle school can also be one of the best experiences of your life!
How is middle school an important preparation for high school?
Ed: The skills that students build in middle school are the ones that will carry them forward to succeed. Learning how to take notes, study, manage their time, work with diverse groups of personalities, and step outside of their comfort zone ensures that our students become great advocates in their own learning.
Kelly: Sixth grade is a foundational year where many students experience independence for the first time. We teach and guide students in how to handle that independence in their academic and social lives. While we have academically rigorous classes that lay the foundational knowledge for high school level classes, some of the most important preparation is through the teaching and development of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, time management, and executive function. All of which will lead students to be better prepared for the rigors of high school.
What is the biggest benefit of Country Day’s middle school program?
Ed: Students that go on to our high school from middle school are often some of the most well rounded and balanced students you will find. Our exceptional academics, arts, and athletics programs coalesce to foster the growth of young individuals who are confident in themselves. I’ve definitely seen my own son’s growth at Country Day since he began as a Pre-K student. At age 16 he is doing things in his high school classes that I don’t think I ever would have tackled on my own at that age. He also plays three instruments, runs track, and maintains straight A’s. He is just one example that I can point to since he is my own, but there are lots of kids like him all throughout Country Day.
Kelly: I have been lucky enough to teach in a variety of different school settings, but what I love most about Country Day is how well we get to know our students. Our small class sizes, campus design, and schedule really allow us to do that. I also love my colleagues – they are some of the most committed and personable teachers I have ever worked with. We love what we do and it shows in how we care for our students, approach our teaching, and build our community.
>>Learn more about admission to middle school at www.saccds.org/apply. Apply by December 20 for priority admission for the 2020-21 school year.