Academics / Community

Young dragons to fly in Fall 2016: Dana Hall adds 5th grade

The 2016-2017 school year will face many changes with not only a new Head of School, but also a 5th-grade class added to the Dana Hall Middle School. Dana Hall has recently announced the plans to become a 5-12 secondary school.

The 5th-grade class will consist of only one section, about 12 girls. Because 5th-graders are only age 10 and 11, an elementary school model will be set up for the girls with only one classroom and one teacher. Those of you who have spent any time in the Middle School might be wondering where the 5th-grade classroom will be. According to Caroline MacNichol, Head of Dana Hall Middle School, the plan is to renovate the basement in Johnston Main to become the new Middle School art center, while turning the art room into a 5th-grade classroom.

Caroline Erisman, Head of School, explains how “research shows that the earlier girls get into single-sex classroom, the better the outcomes will be.” Dana Hall strives to increase self-confidence and higher self-esteem amongst girls, and the research shows that these better outcomes will come out of starting in 5th grade. Also, competitor schools Newton Country Day School and Winsor both have a 5th-grade class, and Ms. Erisman wonders if Dana is “losing some excellent students who choose to leave their public school after 4th grade.”

Along with the elementary school model, the curriculum will include a lot of foundation work, making sure girls have a good basis of math facts, spelling, and grammar as they continue throughout Middle School. As a language requirement, Ms. MacNichol says the current 6th-grade requirement of Latin will be now be in the 5th-grade class instead; the 6th-grade girls will now take a trimester each of Spanish, French, and Latin as exposure to the different languages. The 5th-grade students will also become involved in athletic requirements and sport teams just as the rest of the middle school is. Ms. MacNichol even raised the idea that a lot of the teams the Middle School plays include 5th-graders as this a “common middle school design.”

The application process for prospective 5th-grade families will start in the fall. Ms. Erisman explained that she thinks this will attract current Dana Hall families with younger daughters as well as brand-new ones.

Although some details still need to be worked out, Ms. MacNichol said that the class colors for the 5th-grade class could possibly be blue and white, which would ensure that the rotating class color pattern would not be altered in any way. Ms. MacNichol also said that it is possible that end to enders could now become girls who have been at Dana from 5th and 6th grade through graduation.

Ms. MacNichol is excited about the Middle School social chemistry that will happen more naturally with a the 5th grade. Ms. MacNichol referred to the 7th and 8th grade always being friends, leaving the 6th grade to mostly hang out with each other. Now, she believes that the 5th and 6th grade will hang out together. Claire Strahan ’18, who attended the Middle School 6th for through 8th grade, agrees, pointing to the “giant maturity gap between the 5th and 8th grade, but the 5th grade and the 6th grade will mix well together.”

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