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Moving on to middle school not so scary

Tim Hauserman

Next fall there will be a new crop of students moving into the sixth grade at North Tahoe Middle School. It will all be very exciting for the kids, but also demanding. There will be lockers with combinations to remember, a number of different teachers and moving around from class to class. But perhaps the most challenging element will be the meeting of lots of new faces from other elementary schools.In the case of Kings Beach Elementary and Tahoe Lake Elementary, students are not only meeting one another for the first time, but many come from different cultural and language backgrounds. Finally, sixth graders are about 11 years old right on the cusp of becoming a teenager. Given all these factors, it may not be surprising that there are sometimes conflicts between sixth graders when they reach middle school.Its a very emotional time of life. As someone who has watched two girls pass through middle school, I can offer a few words of encouragement release your hands from your hair; it gets better. Administrators and teachers from both Tahoe Lake and Kings Beach Elementary schools understand these momentous changes and for several years have been attempting to soften the blow. Danny Hyde, Tahoe Lakes principal, says his staff is always looking for ways that kids at both schools can get together in a common activity, as a way to get to know one another and have a positive relationship before they get to middle school. Kings Beach Elementary Principal Eileen Fahrner saw the issue first hand when she was vice-principal at North Tahoe Middle School. With the assistance of Kings Beach teachers Michelle McCann-Green and Molly Holiday, and Tahoe Lakes Dawn Rye and Dave Goggin, Fahrner recently organized a science day for fifth graders at both schools.During this special day, students were assigned pen pals from the other school to spend the day with. The students learned about conflicts that have occurred in the past, and talked about ways to prevent them in the future. They worked together to develop rules of how kids should act towards each other. But it was mostly a day of having fun together, highlighted by a fascinating science presentation from the Lawrence Hall of Science. Sometime this spring, another opportunity for interaction between the two schools will occur when Kings Beach students travel to Tahoe Lake Elementary for Living History Day. While adjusting to differences can be a challenge for students entering North Tahoe Middle School, it is also an opportunity once they leave our mountain haven, students will meet people with a rainbow of diverse backgrounds, races, religions and beliefs, languages and attitudes. Cities all over the United States, and especially in California, are a true melting pot. Since most Tahoe kids leave the area after high school, spending time in school with students who speak a different language is a little positive step towards getting ready for the world over the hill.Tim Hausermans book, Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children, will be published next month by University of Nevada Press.


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