What is a typical day like for a BASIS Independent Manhattan 6th grader? One student summed it up by saying, “It’s hard, but it’s fun.” Well, there is definitely a lot more to it than that. Here, we take a look inside the classroom by following Neve R. and the grade 6 class, otherwise known as the element: Iodine. Through the day, they are faced with challenging work, new lessons and information, and choices at every turn. Read on to see what a day in the life of a 6th grader looks like at BASIS Independent Manhattan.
Mr. Camba got the day rolling with World History. As a Subject Expert Teacher of History, he is a master storyteller of his subject and today he captivated the class’ attention with the prompt “Egyptians are the most concerned about when they die…where are they going?” After a walk-through of the process for getting to the afterlife or "Judgement of the Dead," the students’ faces lit up when he told them they’ve probably seen this whole lesson in-person before at the Egyptian Wing of The Met.
During the passing period, students were still buzzing from their lesson! They recounted the story from World History to their next period teacher on the walk through the hallway. Neve shared that she enjoyed today’s lesson very much because at her previous school they learned about Egypt, but not as in-depth as they are studying right now. She also loves what they’re doing in Mr. Camba’s class because it is connected to what they're doing in art class—drawing their own Egyptian death masks.
Fine Arts Electives
Typically, the 6th graders split up at this time and go to their fine arts elective. Each student has a choice between Band/Orchestra, Drama or Visual Arts. Today, they convened as a full class in the theater for a character education workshop. These are being conducted on a monthly basis across all grades in partnership with the Dean of Students to talk about the life-long lessons of empathy, compassion, managing emotions, and solving problems. Today’s theme was about empathy and, specifically, the difference between empathy and sympathy. In a game that played out similarly to musical chairs, one student stood in the middle and said, “move if…” and then a statement like “You’re wearing shoes!” “You’re new to BASIS Independent Manhattan!” “You like noodles!” “You’re from a different country!” It led to moments of understanding that others are like you and you can relate to others even if they’re different. Neve was surprised to learn that one of her classmates was from Russia.
6th graders have two periods of science each day. They have physics, chemistry, and biology three times per week to begin their in-depth knowledge of these subjects. To follow up their test last week, Biology & Chemistry Subject Expert Teacher, Ms. Kost, called on students to share their study strategies and provide recommendations for studying success. Neve talked about how she studied for the test: “Usually, I like to do flashcards because they work for me and because I’m so busy during the week; I use the weekend as a time to study.”
Neve has figured out how to balance the challenge of being a BASIS Independent Manhattan student while continuing to pursue her passions outside of school. She spends eight hours a week dancing ballet, lyrical, and jazz in addition to being part of a competitive dance team. She is able to get her homework and studying done by taking advantage of Student Hours, which is a time after school to meet with a teacher individually and go over coursework or get assistance when needed.
Back to biology! The students were broken into groups and tasked with creating an original presentation recapping the first four units that were covered to this point: Cells, body organization, bone labeling and the skeletal system. Choices came in again when students had to decide how to present the material to the class. An encore performance was requested for the group that performed a rap-style presentation on bone labeling. Watch the video on our Facebook page.
When you see a stampede of students coming your way, it's a safe bet that it's lunch time. The offering from our lunch provider (Butter Beans) is the favorite of the week: Taco Tuesday! Over turkey tacos, Neve and her friends talked about the upcoming Halloween mixer and how cool it is that one of our very own teachers is a real DJ who will be DJ’ing the mixer. Then it is recess time, Neve and her friends found a table in the garden to hang out and continue chatting with some homemade slime made by a classmate. After enjoying the sunshine, it was time to head back in for Latin.
The BASIS Curriculum has students study Latin in grades 5 and 6 to create a bridge across everything they are learning in the Sciences, English, and History. In class, Subject Expert Teacher Mr. Camba went over translations and assessed how long it took students to complete these in their homework. Mr. Camba reached out specifically to the ones who struggled. Neve chimed in saying, “English to Latin…I get it, but Latin to English is harder.” Mr. Camba agreed and said it just takes more practice. They spent the class focusing on the hard one first (Latin to English) and before the 50-minute class period was over the students went from saying: “There’s no way I’m ever going to learn this.” to Mr. Camba declaring they now actually have a working grasp on it. A student spoke up and said, “You’re a good teacher.”
The day for students is purposefully broken up with blocks of movement or recess to give them a balance and outlet for their energy. In P.E. the 6th graders just started their ultimate football season. Teams were made and they chose their names: “Team Twinkies,” “The Unicorns,” “NY Giants Jr.” and “BASIS All-Stars.” In addition to encouraging healthy competition, they worked on giving a sign of respect to opposing teams. The 6th graders had no problem here and quickly gave out high-fives or handshakes.
Academic Enrichment (AE)
Now it’s time for study and snack time during Academic Enrichment, the 25-minute period built into every 5th and 6th grader’s daily schedule. The 6th graders have a physics test and a biology quiz tomorrow. With the Biology & Chemistry Subject Expert Teacher, Ms. Kost, in the room, Neve was able to find out the structure of the quiz on bone labeling. She and her classmates were very calm and Neve’s flash cards came out. She said, “I feel super prepared because I studied really hard last weekend and memorized everything. Once I got the hang of it, it was easy.” During snack time, conversations carried on about what snack combinations are yummy or gross (pickles and peanut butter?) and then segued into a full-on English discussion about the book they just finished for class, A Wizard of Earthsea.
Some 6th graders shuffle off to a different classes depending on their math level: Pre-Algebra with Mr. Schuman or Algebra with Ms. Samuel. I stick with Neve in Pre-Algebra and class starts off as it always does with homework review. The students take an active role by volunteering to go to the front of the room and show their work on the board. This allows them to really master their work as they learn from their mistakes and their peers. Then comes the lesson: terminating and repeating decimal numbers and exponents. Like a wizard, Mr. Schuman moves through the classroom pointing at whiteboards the students hold up to tell them if the answer they arrived at is correct or not. He doesn't move on to the next question until they all get it right and understand the problem.
The day presses on for its grand finale. After hearing Neve and her friends talking in AE about the end of the novel, it was obvious the kids were eager to have their discussion in class. English Subject Expert Teacher, Ms. Moriarty, congratulates the class on finishing A Wizard of Earthsea. Ms. Mo (as the students affectionately call her) says she purposefully chose the hardest book to start off the year. Summaries that each student completed were turned in and led to a lively discussion about the end of the book. Nearly every student raised a hand to share their point of view and were ecstatic to be called on. Ms. Moriarty would do her "excited dance" when the kids would share something that was spot on. The class will take this newfound understanding and create their final analytical essay.
At last, the academic school day is done. Neve says goodbye to her friends who are going to Student Hours or extracurricular activities at school (like tennis, chess or theater). I ask how it has been starting at BASIS Independent Manhattan this year and Neve replies, “I have already made some really good, close friends! It has been really nice starting here this year because there is a lot of support…from your teachers, staff, and everybody.”
I also spoke to Neve’s mom and she added to this by saying, “I love that the environment challenges Neve academically, but does it in a way that is warm, fun and supportive. I've been so impressed with how much she has learned in only five weeks of school. The jump from 5th to 6th grade was a big one! She is already much more independent and getting the hang of managing her time.”
After spending the day with Neve, she kept saying that she loved Egypt and loved biology (with the help of her flashcards!), but before I said goodbye, I had to ask her why it is that she seems to love BASIS Independent Manhattan. She replied, “Each day is full of really fun, cool information that you didn’t know before, which is really nice. And also, I just really like Tuesdays.” I thought it was because of the tacos, but she quickly assured me it was because of the subjects.
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