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Woodbury Middle School held its annual "Camp 6" program last week, Aug. 12-14, where sixth graders meet with teachers and counselors, walk their schedules, try out their lockers, get their school binders ready and talk with current students. Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith.

Woodbury sixth graders eased into whole new world

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Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

The first day of school can be scary for any student, but imagine going into a completely different building with a completely different culture.

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That's the situation sixth graders face at the beginning of every year when they make the leap from elementary school to middle school.

"We noticed that there were a lot of things that were kind of ingrained in our school system that we expected kids to know," Woodbury Middle School sixth grade teacher Kaycee Moore said. "But, when they walk in and had deer eyes we realized we had to spend some time on different things."

WMS helped to ease students' transition into middle school last week during the school's annual Camp 6 program.

Camp 6, now in its second year, was held Aug. 12-14 and drew a total of 288 sixth graders.

"It's not only a great way for the students and the families to get acquainted to the school in a very relaxed environment," Moore said, "it also provides teachers a chance to see who they are going to be meeting in a few weeks. Everyone can form connections before the school year even starts."

Lake Middle School also held a Camp 6 program last week.

The first day of camp primarily focused on the Where Everyone Belongs program, where students are teamed up with an eighth grader to help with the transition to middle school.

The day consisted of large group activities and games where students got to know the eighth grade mentors.

"We want them to feel comfortable and know that they're welcome here," Moore said.

The second and third day of Camp 6 splits the group up into groups of 15 where students work with teachers to learn their schedules, master their lockers and understand more about the school.

"It's a lot about the cultural norms of the building," Moore said.

Additionally, a new element this year was that sixth graders participated in a question and answer panel with the WEB Leaders and the Welcome Cats, another student group that tries to make students feel welcome.

"A teacher can answer a question from a teacher standpoint, but there's something really cool about having an older kid in the school fill you in on the top secrets of the school," Moore said.

First day struggles

Moore said the biggest struggles she sees students battling at the beginning of the school year are mastering their schedules and learning their way around the building.

"They struggle with seeing the big picture," she said. "A lot of times it's the nerves that causes them to forget things, so it really helps them to know that there is a face that they do recognize in case they do have a question."

Having a familiar face is where the WEB leaders come in, Moore said.

Moore said talking with the WEB leaders will help ease some of the nerves incoming sixth graders may have because these students have been through it themselves.

WMS eighth grader Jack Hays said he decided to become a WEB leader because he didn't want this year's sixth graders to have the same fears he did when he first entered sixth grade.

"I felt nervous when I first came here," he said, "and I wanted them to feel more comfortable."

Eighth grader Nicole Virgin said for her, being a WEB leader is about showing sixth graders that middle school is fun.

"I wanted kids to have fun at middle school and not be worried," she said.

Eighth grader Edna Dawit echoed Virgin's sentiments.

"I wanted the kids to feel comfortable and have fun," she said.

For several of this year's WEB leaders, learning their schedules was the biggest challenge they faced on the first day of sixth grade.

"Being in a bigger building and having to switch classes is challenging," Virgin said.

"When I came here, I was kind of scared," seventh grader Mekhi Moore said. "I didn't know there were going to be eight classes in eight different rooms, I thought it was just one class."

For Hays and Dawit, the challenge was making friends and finding their place.

"I had to learn to get out of my comfort zone," Hays said.

The WEB Leaders said they have enjoyed seeing students grow during Camp 6.

"I like seeing them opening up," Virgin said.

During the school year, the WEB leaders will represent friendly faces to help with homework, help with friend problems and generally just be there for support.

"I want to see them happy and having fun," Mekhi Moore said.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
(651) 702-0976
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