Our approach to social and emotional education is developmental and rooted in Synergy School’s Agreement System. We believe an environment in which our students feel safe and valued lays the foundation for learning that is meaningful, engaging, and challenging. Through implicit and explicit instruction, we teach our students how to think about how they learn and to become aware of their strengths and the strategies that are helpful to their learning. It is this sense of empowerment that also allows them to develop compassion for others and resiliency when faced with failure or disappointment.
At this age, our students learn the social skills needed to play and work cooperatively with others. They display curiosity, initiative, the desire to explore, and enjoyment with few inhibitions. We provide them with opportunities to problem solve, take turns, listen to others, ask questions, follow directions, make choices, express themselves in a variety of ways, use imagination in play, work cooperatively in small groups, and work independently on tasks. These students also benefit from Big Buddy/Little Buddy relationships with the 9 to 11 year olds, where the older children provide powerful modeling of sharing and caring.
In this age group, children show more independence from their parents and families. They start to think about the future and begin to understand more about their place in the world. We encourage them to take more responsibility for their schoolwork and their relationships with friends and classmates. We guide them in resolving conflicts with peers. We also encourage them to see things from other points of view.
As children start to form stronger, more complex friendships and peer relationships, they are encouraged and guided to become increasingly independent in their problem solving with each other. As academic expectations increase, we explicitly teach the skills of executive functioning such as time management and organization. Students also participate in a regular mindfulness practice and a mentoring relationship with the 4 and 5 year olds, which nurtures their own development of empathy.
This is a time of rapid and profound changes – physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. At this age, our students are more independent, making more of their own choices about friends, interests, and school. We provide them with a safe place to explore their growing sense of self through a strong advisory program, multiple leadership opportunities, problem solving and decision making roles in the school, and many occasions to explore moral and ethical issues. Our middle school students emerge as self-confident young people with their own voice, ready for the challenges of high school.