WHAT IF… we could reimagine the middle school experience?

The need to better serve our young people has never been clearer or more urgent. As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, many parents and teachers see students struggling to engage with learning and to establish purposeful connections with each other and with school itself. Across the district, our educators and leaders are digging deep to create the learning experiences our students need. We also see an opportunity to expand our thinking about what is possible and be creative about where, when, and how learning happens. 

WHAT IF… the city of Salem became your students’ classroom?

Designed collaboratively with teachers, students, and families, the pilot will embrace the whole city as a laboratory for students’ learning, doing, and becoming by using flexible schedules & deeply engaging with community partners outside of the regular classroom as a means to achieve the common goals of all SPS middle schools to respect the diversity and agency of learners and cultivate purposeful, creative, and authentic learning experiences. 

WHAT IF… we made it happen?

Well, that is exactly what we are going to try to do.

SPS is launching an innovative pilot for the 2022-2023 school year that seeks to deepen the district’s work around rethinking the experience of middle school. We want to collaborate with our students, educators, and families to create opportunities for our students where learning is purposeful, authentic, and connected to each other & the community.

The pilot will consist of two eighth-grade homerooms (~40 students), their core teachers, and support staff. The pilot will be led by Chelsea Banks. The program will take advantage of access to the cultural, historic, and natural resources of Salem. Flexible spaces and schedules will support collaborative, immersive, and impactful learning experiences. The pilot will not be a separate school, but a “learning hub” program within SPS middle schools. This summer, there will be an opt-in lottery for those who wish to join this pilot program. Families will have until Wednesday, August 3rd to opt-in by completing this form. We seek to have the students in the pilot reflect the full rising 8th grade class across Salem Public Schools.

In partnership with our new partners at the WPS Institute, we envision students in the pilot will:

  • Help Salem become your classroom by engaging with Salem sites and institutions through immersive experiences that help students learn from and in the community (e.g. project-based learning), including regular field trips and potentially overnight trips
  • Work collaboratively on interdisciplinary projects in longer blocks of time that develop their agency, reflect their interests, and receive authentic feedback 
  • Engage in service, civic action, or internships

To deepen the ongoing work throughout the district to meet the needs of our students, we will:

  • Work together to create their learning community, supported by social-emotional rituals such as morning circles, self-reflection, and other restorative practices
  • Access technology (e.g., Lexia and other tools) to support personalized learning
  • Create a student-driven learning environment in partnership with educators
  • Develop learning explorations that are purposeful, authentic, and connected 

WHAT IF… we succeed?

The success of this pilot program will prepare students for their high school experience and beyond by creating spaces for innovative thinking and creative uses of community resources. By focusing on students’ independent learning, problem-solving, real-world contexts, and collaboration skills, we believe it will prepare students both academically and personally to pursue their dreams in high school and beyond. This pilot will help inform the future of middle school in Salem. Together, we could potentially change the way we think about learning. Join us to learn more, and be part of exploring this change for Salem Public Schools!

WHAT IF… I want to learn more?!

We will be hosting multiple listening and learning opportunities this summer to hear more about what Salem families and students want to see in the pilot and share more information with families about how to get involved. 

  • If you are interested in learning more, please complete this short google form so that we can reach out!
  • If you know you want your rising 8th grader to be considered, complete this opt-in sign-up form.
  • You can also email Chelsea Banks (cbanks@salemk12.org) or (781) 771-7831, who will be leading this pilot.

Join us at one of the following events to learn more:

Please take a moment to let us know if you’ll be joining: https://forms.gle/v9NabD3QEWvNLHav7 

Family Drop-in Opportunities:

  • Thursday, 7/28 – 8:30-9:30am at the Collins Middle School cafeteria with coffee & donuts
  • Monday, 8/1 – 6:00-7:30pm at Saltonstall (back yard) with light snacks
  • Tuesday, 8/2 – 8:00-9:00am at the Collins Middle School cafeteria with coffee & bagels
  • Wednesday, 8/3 – 3:00-4:00pm at the Collins Middle School cafeteria with light snacks

Zoom Links:

  • Thursday, 7/28 – 12:00-1:00pm, Virtual Lunch & Learn in English & Spanish
    • https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87648014237?pwd=RmhWODFQQkJYRXJ4MDEyU1gxU3VJQT09
    • Passcode: 443609
  • Monday, 8/1 – 12:00-1:00pm, Virtual Lunch & Learn in English & Spanish
    • https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82050032267?pwd=VTdDNXhoeS9Pa0dVcklqRWd5SE10UT09
    • Passcode: 424739
  • Tuesday, 8/2 – 5:00-6:00pm, Information & Discussion in English & Spanish
    • https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81699540757?pwd=Y0NHeXNORDRmcUY4Wm4vQ256Uk9xdz09
    • Passcode: 712976

Frequently Asked Questions: 

  • This pilot is an option for all rising 8th-grade students to “opt-in” – from Collins Middle School or Saltonstall K-8. If more than 30-40 students opt-in, there will be a lottery with seats allocated reflective of the total 8th-grade population. The lottery will be at the end of the first week in August (~August 4th). If students from Saltonstall opt-in and get a seat in the lottery, they would transfer to Collins for 8th grade.
  • The pilot will use personalized learning and projects to meet the 8th-grade curriculum to ensure students are ready for 9th grade. We look forward to sharing examples of how those learning experiences meet multiple goals in some of our outreach opportunities listed above. 
  • The pilot’s “home base” will be at Collins Middle School (29 Highland Avenue) with regular off-campus learning opportunities. It will follow the Collins school day (8:10am-3:10pm) and the SPS school year. Students will have the same access to transportation and after-school activities. 
  • The details of the pilot will be built with the students, teachers, families, and partners beginning this summer! The goal is for the learning experiences to truly empower and reflect the interests and needs of the students.