Middle schoolers return to school ‘Viking Strong’

Aug 31, 2017

Wareham Middle School has a new fight song, an archaeological dig and the Asgard Council in store this year, a few of many things Principal Peter Steedman said he’s looking forward to.

The Asgard Council will encourage leadership traits in students. A student will be selected by teachers each month to receive a specific award based on the traits they have exhibited. The awards are named after Viking gods: for example, the Tyr Award will be given for cooperation and the Odin Award for strong leadership. The student and their class will have smoothies and play leadership games during lunch as their reward.

The Viking emphasis will continue with the Viking Strong positive behavioral system that rolls out this year. Clear expectations will be established for hallway, classroom and lunchroom behavior, such as eye contact, good posture and engaged learning.

Steedman said the focus will be on behavior in hallways and how students enter and exit the classroom, emphasizing that these carry over into in-class habits. “Respectful, responsible, thoughtful,” are the buzzwords of Viking Strong. Specific lessons on expected behaviors will be taught weekly during “Viking time.”

Another weekly addition is focusing on mindfulness techniques in homerooms. Physical education teacher Nichole Stahmer will be leading these, helping students focus on breathing and calming their minds. Once the students have picked up the skills, Steedman said he hopes students can take over and begin leading the exercises.

Each sixth grade homeroom will adopt a college as its own, learning their fight song, decorating with the college’s school colors and exploring the majors that college has to offer. This will help students start thinking about the future early and possible college programs that might interest them, Steedman said.

Project Lead the Way, which provides “compelling, project-based opportunities for kids” has added several new programs, Steedman said. There are hands-on activities centered around challenges in subjects including robotics, energy and environment, computer science, design and modeling and green architecture.

Each ties in with other fields; for example, green architecture will have a humanities component, with students making decisions a city planning board would make when implementing green architecture. Project Lead the Way, secured through a grant, was introduced last year, but the robotics and design and modeling components are new this year.

The archaeological dig is planned for this spring. Students will work with the humanities department, “creating their own CSI,” Steedman said. Items will be buried outside the school and students will have to develop a story as they unearth artifacts.

Wareham Middle School is now an International Baccalaureate (IB) candidate school, the first in a three-year process. Steedman said IB will allow greater interdisciplinary conversations to take place once implemented. Wareham High School already has rolled out the IB program and students are able to take IB courses starting this year.

“It’s the strongest academic program on the planet,” Steedman said. “IB very much aligns with who our teachers are. It’s not just teaching stuff, it’s teaching kids.”

There are seven new teachers joining the middle school this year, including a new special education director and a new band and choir teacher.

“Our faculty are amazing educators and even better people,” Steedman said. “It’s great being their principal in that I can just sit back and watch them do amazing things with their classrooms.”