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Greenwich's Western Middle School Teams Up Kids

GREENWICH, Conn. – Western Middle School is easing its students into a new method of learning called “teaming,” which Principal Terry Starr-Klein says may help the school attain International Baccalaureate status.

“We changed from what would have been a more junior high concept of scheduling to a middle school model, which is having smaller groups of learning, known as teams,” said Starr-Klein. “I think in the long run everyone is going to think this is a better way to approach middle school students.”

The International Baccalaureate Program is a globally minded education program designed to develop “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to its mission statement. The program fosters a cross-subject approach in framing curriculum, much like those outlined in the Greenwich school district’s Vision of the Graduate . Western Middle School will begin pursuing IB accreditation over the next two to three years after attaining approval by the Board of Education in the spring.

The students are divided into five groups of 90 to 105 kids total: one Grade 6 team, one Grade 7 team, two Grade 8 teams, and one split Grades 6 and 7 team. “Because of a number issue, the split team has all the same teachers but maintains their own separate curriculum,” said Starr-Klein. “Other schools do different configurations, and it still works.”

Each team has five teachers for each subject, including math, language arts, social studies, science and special education. Each teacher also instructs in writing and reading. World language, English As a Second Language, and unified arts, such as physical education and music, teachers are shared among all teams.

“It will be better for the kids. I mean, it’s proven that it has been. The whole middle school concept has been around since the 1980s,” said Starr-Klein. “It’s better for them knowing they have the small group they can work with and the teachers are the same.”

“Each team will be working on one interdisciplinary unit this year. That’s one of the requirements for our IB application is we give them an example of an interdisciplinary unit,” she said. “Teachers meet every other day to discuss curriculum in terms of how they integrate and how to make connections.”

For the teachers, Starr-Klein says the method allows for teams to be more involved in decision-making in curriculum and to support one another through meetings among faculty who all teach the same subject. “When you’re a smaller school and you only have maybe one teacher teaching say, pre-algebra, you don’t have anybody to communicate with that’s teaching the same subject. So by meeting with all the math teachers who know that content, they can help you to create a unit for the International Baccalaureate,” said Starr-Klein

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