News Release: HAMILTON, Bermuda – What can a middle school do to promote a positive learning environment? For MSA, community and collaboration in afaith-basedenvironment are the key components of a middle schoolwhere students are eager to learn as they transition into adolescence.

“Middle school is a time of significant change in a child’s life,” stated MSA Principal, Anna Faria-Machado. “Children do a lot of growing up in these few years and that rapid growth impacts their social, emotional, and mental health. From ELP to Grade 12, our focus is on the whole child; middle school is potentially the time when this approach is the most crucial.”

One of the most unique aspects of MSA’s middle school is its dedication to collaboration. MSA incorporates Kagan Cooperative Learning at all grade levels to teach small groups of students to work together in the classroom. This takes on particular significance in middle school, when students feel aneed to belong.

“The way we use Kagan Cooperative Learning breaks down barriers within the classroom,” stated Mrs. Machado. The students work together, they value each other’s opinions, they get to know one another, and they encourage their classmates because –much like in the real world–their individual success is tied to their team’s success. By helping students to verbalize what they’re learning within their teams, Kagan Cooperative Learning also makes students feel less awkward and more confident to better express themselves during individual work.”

Mrs Machado credits this approach with more positive interactions outside of the classroom. “Studies have shown that friendships reduce feelings of loneliness and depression in teens. Our students build

friendships in class that carry on after the bell rings. In middle school, we welcome many new students who need to form friendships with students who have been at MSA since kindergarten; the bonds they form in class make this transition easier.”

Following the Alberta Curriculum from Kindergarten to Grade 12, MSA’s middle school prepares students to transition seamlessly into high school. The students physically change classrooms for each subject. They also choose a foreign language and whether they would prefer to study choral music or an instrument.

Machado continued: “While we lay the foundations for the academic changes that occur in high school, our middle school program is far more nurturing and structured so that the students develop a sense of belonging and community. We find that they thrive when they feel supported and have time to develop the organizational and study skills that are necessary for success.”

In middle school, the students are also introduced to a broad selection of options courses and extracurricular activities, including sports, tech, debate, and gardening.

“When we say that our students are well-rounded, this means so much more than ticking off a checklist for university admissions,” stated Mrs Machado. “We’re talking about educating the whole child and enabling them to follow their passions. Our students discover and develop their interests and talents.”

Recognizing the developmental significance of these early adolescent years, MSA has designed its middle school program to enhance its students’ overall wellness and social-emotional skills. For students whowould benefit from professional counselling, Solstice is at MSA daily to offer individual and group emotional counselling, conflict resolution, and restorative discussions.

“It all comes back to honoring the whole child,” concluded Mrs Machado. “Yes, we follow a prestigious curriculum and our students perform well academically, but we also help our students to make choices that will provide them with tools to find happiness and success in all aspects of their lives. Prioritizing wellness, partaking in sports and activities that bring them joy, making deep and meaningful friendships, learning to work in teams, working on their social-emotional skills, developing a sense of community —these are the things that allow middle school students to thrive.”

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