Eighth graders joined the high school Anatomy and Physiology class on Dec. 11, during which they made models of spines using marshmallows and rice crackers. (Photo by Jacqueline Chao)

New shadow program lets eighth graders choose classes based on interest

The school started a new shadow program this academic year designed to enhance the experience of eighth graders and keep visits more focused.

Hadley Pennington Keefe, director of admission and enrollment management, helped develop the new shadow program for eighth-grade students visiting the high school.

The program allows eighth graders to attend classes in the high school based on their interests. A survey was sent to eighth graders that allowed them to choose from different categories: humanities on Nov. 6; athletics, visual and performing arts on Nov. 29; STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)  on Dec. 4; and physical education and medicine on Dec. 11. Although originally scheduled for Nov. 14, the date for physical education and medicine was changed due to the school closure during the California fires.

Students were also asked to select their goals, with a dozen options such as becoming fluent in a language, trying a new sport, getting into a competitive college or having an internship. Students could also include a goal of their own.

Parents were sent a similar survey asking what they thought their child was interested in and what they wanted their child to accomplish during high school.

Students and parents were also given the option to meet with head of high school Brooke Wells to ask questions or express concerns.

Wells used the results of the survey to schedule the themed days, organizing the students into the different categories.

Wells said he tried to target a long-period class, lunch and an activity or elective to fit each theme.

The STEM group visited the physics classroom during long period, ate lunch with the math and science tutoring club, and then spent time in the computer lab.

The shorter day was meant to be more focused, according to Wells.

“The idea (was) that you focus on what you’re interested in, get to see the classes you really want and not necessarily spend the whole day in classes you’re not that interested in,” Wells said.

However, if students do want to stay the full day, Wells said that’s OK,  too.

“Four or five students wanted the full-day experience,” Wells added. “And they’re welcome to do that.”

Eighth grader Eeshwar Doma said he enjoyed the shadow day. Doma was part of the STEM group.

“I went to physics,” he said. “It was really fun because we did a lab.”

Doma also said his group got to play Kahoot and eat pizza.

Keefe said a big goal of the new system is to better connect eighth graders with high schoolers who share similar interests.

“In previous years, we noticed (middle school) students sticking together,” Keefe said. “They weren’t necessarily making those good connections.”

Keefe added that making these connections with high schoolers could help students get a better sense of what the high school has to offer, and that it would allow them to discover opportunities they might want to pursue.

So far, Keefe said the feedback has been positive.

“We’ll discover more about whether or not we’ve met (our) goal after the enrollment season begins, and we start engaging with students and families and ask them how it went,” she said.

“My office and the high school office will reconvene in the late spring, and we’ll talk about whether this model was effective this year and whether or not we should keep using it.”

Wells said the shadow program will continue to evolve based on feedback.

“It’s ultimately what the experience is for the kids,” Wells said.

—By Ethan Monasa

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