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Sixth Graders Unlock the Secret to Middle School

Kids at blue lockersShouts of "Who likes asparagus?" and "Who lived in another state?" rang out in Teresa Dzubak's sixth-grade science classroom as students questioned each other for the classmate scavenger hunt game on the second day of school. They learned who had siblings, who had a magazine subscription, and who spoke multiple languages.

In Jim Savarese's sixth-grade social studies classroom, students debated how to create posters depicting school policies, club offerings, and special events. Once completed, the groups will present their knowledge to their classmates.

These activities are part of Sixth Grade University, a multi-day orientation to assist North Salem students with the transition from elementary to middle school. "It's a lot of information all at once before we can start academic learning," said Savarese. "Each teacher takes a piece of it and works with the students to familiarize them and build their comfort level."

In the middle school quad, sixth-graders practiced opening and closing their lockers with English teacher Lynn Colwell. Many became proficient enough to challenge each other to see who could open it fastest.

Kids drawing at a deskon one large sheet of papersHudson shared the secret to his winning locker spin. "My older sisters; they taught me how to open my locker. They made me memorize my combination," he said.

"It feels really good that I can open my locker already," said Valerie. "We don't need many supplies yet, but I feel organized and ready."

Inside each sixth-grade locker is a green chart listing the supplies students need for each class. It reminds them that the blue folder is for math while the yellow folder is for world language. Math teacher Katie Ticker helped them set up their binders and label the sections.

"The list of supplies makes me feel more prepared for the day. I can use it to plan for each class, like I may need my backpack for English since it needs more supplies," said Keaton.

"It's important that students have a smooth transition to middle school," said Colwell. "We're creating a strong foundation, so students are not only prepared for their next class but for the next stage of their education. They know what's expected of them and how to approach new subjects and teachers confidently."

All the preparation is paying off. "I feel more organized already," said Jayla. "I like this because there's more freedom, I can walk between classes on my own, and I'm with different students in each class.”

"I'm feeling nervous, but I'm getting into my groove," said David as he returned to class with his friends.