Fifth grade is a new beginning for Gordon students, starting with the architecture. For the first time, they have classes on the south wing of the school. They’ll use the second floor of the Joukowsky Family Library, and discover staircases and catwalks—even elevators!—that they never knew existed. They have lockers, with doors, and classrooms with high ceilings and windows that look out on views they'd never seen before.
Fifth grade is also a bridge year between Lower School and Middle School. They’ll have more autonomy, and responsibility, than ever before, but they remain grounded in a supportive community. Students begin each day in homeroom, allowing students to create a strong sense of belonging, and build new habits of learning before they navigate the halls on their own.
Fifth grade's ballroom dancing project is a vivid example of what becomes possible during this transition. During a ten-week program, students learn dance steps and the cultural history of the merengue, fox trot, rumba, tango, swing, and waltz. Along the way, guest artist Rodney López uses the conventions of ballroom dance to build social skills and strengthen the sense of community among all participants.
New opportunities appear on day one of fifth grade. The Middle School athletics program offers three seasons of interscholastic competition, with every student guaranteed playing time. After school theater includes a Middle School play and a musical. The weekly fifth and sixth grade activities block presents students with an array of elective options, for the first time in their Gordon careers. The first of the annual Middle School overnight experiential learning trips provide an entirely new way to bond with teachers and classmates.
With these options come new decisions. They can’t do it all, and Gordon is ready to partner with students and their families as they weigh priorities and face new time management challenges. That conversation begins before the first day of school, as each fifth grader and their parents meet with the Middle School director in August. Google Classroom is introduced, reshaping the experience of organizing, executing, and handing in assignments. Middle School study halls can be a powerful resource for a student who knows how to use them, allowing students time to compare notes with one another and follow up with teachers.
As they acclimate to this new environment and these new opportunities, they take stock of themselves anew. Initial written assignments include personal timelines that allow them to view their own histories in new ways, while giving them tools they'll use in their study of ancient cultures throughout the year. Through the advisory program, which begins in fifth grade, they’ll express themselves and connect with one another through daily facilitated conversation. They’ll also have a chance to test themselves academically in new ways, as they become eligible to participate in the National Geographic Geography Bee and compete for a spot on Gordon's championship MathCounts team.
Becoming a fifth grader also means joining a larger community of Gordon's Middle School, a place that prides itself on being a place where everyone can find a sense of belonging. That community convenes every week at Middle School meetings, and fifth graders will connect with their older peers during activities block, on the athletics fields, on stage, and during the student-led daylong teach-ins that happen over the course of the year. These teach-ins use academics to draw the Middle School together; students and teachers design workshops to pause and dive more deeply into what national events like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the National Day of Silence requires of them as citizens of a diverse and global world.