Transitioning from one school to another is a big milestone in the lives of our students and families. While we celebrate the achievements and growth of scholars making the leap to a new school level, the exciting prospect of starting a new chapter in their educational journey may feel daunting to them. In the matter of a summer they go from an environment where they blossomed into the oldest group of students to an unfamiliar setting where they have been reset to the youngest class.
Each school in our district goes to great lengths to assuage the nerves and worries of transitioning students. Fridley Middle School hosts several events at the end of the school year to welcome incoming fifth graders and their families, with the goal of making middle school feel like home.
“Moving from elementary school to middle school is a really large step,” said Dr. Amy Cochran, principal of FMS. “It’s something that we want to celebrate, but we also want to ensure that students are ready and comfortable with that transition.”
The first event, Fifth Grade Parent Night, happens in February, giving parents and guardians ample time to prepare themselves and their children for the transition to FMS.
“We talk about the schedule, elective options, activity opportunities,” Cochran explained. “That evening is an opportunity for families to get their questions answered and to start to be comfortable with the middle school.”
For the next event, FMS coordinates with both Hayes and Stevenson Elementary to bus their fourth grade students to the middle school on separate school days in April, where they are integrated into the fifth grade classrooms for an afternoon of meeting fifth grade teachers and students, touring the school and engaging in some fun ice breaking activities.
FMS Assistant Principal Matt Engelhardt emphasized the importance of partnering with the elementary schools to ensure a smooth transition for incoming middle school scholars.
“One of the beautiful things about Fridley Public Schools is that we’re smaller, which creates a feeling of community,” Engelhardt stated. “It allows us to have an intimate knowledge of our students and set up the best learning environment for them. The elementary schools do a great job of passing on information so we can provide for our students’ needs, and then we give that information to the high school when they make their next transition.”
Last but not least is Fifth Grade Orientation Night in May, which allows students and their families to visit the middle school one more time before summer break.
“That night is for students and families to spend time here together,” Cochran said. “Meeting all of the fifth grade teachers, spending time in those classrooms, getting a tour of the building, practicing lockers, and lots of opportunities for one-on-one time with myself and the assistant principal to get to know us and ask any questions they’re still wondering about as we get ready to welcome them in the fall.”
The emphasis on gradually acclimating incoming fifth graders carries into the first day of the new school year at FMS, when they are the only class of students in attendance.
“First and foremost, we want them to feel comfortable in their classrooms with their new teachers,” Engelhardt explained. “As well as getting used to lockers, where the lunchroom is, where the gym is. And then slowly throughout the year we transition to more opportunities for growth and autonomy so that by the end of fifth grade they’re ready to seamlessly transition to sixth grade.”
FMS takes special care in tailoring the fifth grade experience by borrowing traits and routines students are accustomed to in fourth grade, allowing them to feel at ease while acquainting themselves with their new surroundings.
“The idea behind that is it lets students get familiar with the building and environment,” Cochran noted. “They spend time with one teacher just like they do in fourth grade, they sit with their classroom at lunch, and their teacher walks with them everywhere they go just like in elementary school.”
“Our goal with the transition process is to make them feel comfortable, but also really excited to come join us at Fridley Middle School,” Engelhardt added. “We’re excited to have a new group of Fridley Middle School Tigers come here and have a great school year!”
No matter which Fridley school your student might be calling their new home next fall, rest assured our staff are ready to welcome them and continue to mold them into world-class learners.
Watch the video below to see more of what Fridley Middle School does to prepare incoming fifth grade students for the big move to the middle school.