New Carrollton camp helps ease transition to middle school

April 24, 2013

Maryam Thomas, the sixth-grade instructional lead teacher at Charles Carroll Middle School, said that even this late in the school year, she still sees sixth-graders struggling to acclimate to the structure of middle school.

“Even shifting into the fourth quarter, the kids were so confused,” Thomas said.

Officials at the New Carrollton school hope a new summer camp for incoming students will introduce the structure of middle school and let them learn the organizational and time management skills they need to succeed.

David Curry, who became principal of the school in January 2012, said the school will host three one-week summer camps for the estimated 90 incoming sixth- and seventh-graders. Some schools that feed into Carroll go up to fifth grade and others go through sixth grade.

There will be an extended orientation, teaching study skills and how to juggle multiple subjects and teachers.

Curry said he came up with the idea while trying to figure out ways to keep academic performance high during middle school. Some children who did well in elementary school tend to struggle with the new environment, and it affects their grades and scores on state standardized tests, he said.

“A lot comes down to the organizational piece,” Curry said. “There’s an expectation [in middle school] to manage notebooks or class assignments from four or five different teachers, while they’ve usually only dealt with one teacher in elementary school.”

Curry said the program, paid for with Title I funding — federal money for schools with a large number of low-income students — also will include summer enrichment camps for sixth- and seventh-graders enrolled at Carroll, as well as a camp for children who did not meet proficiency standards on state standardized tests.

Lynn McCawley, a spokeswoman for Prince George’s County public schools, said she was unaware of any similar programs in county middle schools, but Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale and Oxon Hill High School both plan to offer a summer camp for incoming ninth-graders.

Curry said that, because of renovations scheduled at Charles Carroll Middle this summer, the free camp will be at nearby Parkdale High School in Riverdale.

Thomas said the program also will encourage parents to remain involved in student activities.

“It really coincides also with parents having to share some responsibility,” Thomas said. “They do an excellent job of being visible and volunteering from first through sixth grades, but in middle school they say, ‘Now, you’re 11 or 12. You’re a big boy, and you can do this on your own.’ ”

Barbara Fisher, 63, of New Carrollton said her two grandchildren attend Carroll. She said she wished they had access to a summer program like this when they began attending the school.

“When our students first go to a new school, especially coming from elementary into a middle school, the environment is so different,” Fisher said.

“I think it’s a tremendous idea to get them in there early, just to get accustomed to the middle school environment.”

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