Eights on Nine: Shore's Ninth Grade Program in Demand

Bill Fisher
Shore's ninth grade class for 2016-17 appears on track to be the largest in years, with at least 15 current eighth graders returning, and two or more new students entering Shore's ninth grade program from other schools in the area.

This is great news, according to returning eighth grader Sarah Smith. "I've made so many great friendships this year, and I’m excited to meet new people next year. I’ve heard about the students coming from other schools, and to me that's important. It’s like an intro to high school, with people coming together from many different backgrounds."

What's attracting more eighth graders to our ninth grade program? New experiential learning trips could have something to do with the increasing demand. This year, on top of longstanding trips to Squam and Mountain School, ninth graders traveled to Glendora, Mississippi, to work with Ipswich-based Partners in Development on building a house for a needy family; and the class recently returned from a visit to California, where they studied issues around water rights and the environment.

"The trips are really something different," said Kiara Wilson, another eighth grader who will be returning next year. "When I heard the 9th graders this year were going to California and Mississippi, it was amazing. It’s the first year Shore 9th graders have ever traveled that far."

Daniel Blundin, who will also be back for Shore's ninth grade, agreed. "
The trips really make Shore unique; I don’t think a lot of schools have this type of program. We get to have a totally different kind of learning experience. It’s nothing like school, and you’re with your friends and classmates a lot more, doing completely different things."
"Everyone grows closer," said Smith. "You get to see your teachers outside of school, right alongside the students. Especially at a place like Yarmouth, when we didn’t have any outside 'officials' with us, everyone could just talk around the fire, and we all got closer."

The unique size and approach of Shore's ninth grade program is equally appealing to students, for a variety of reasons.

Blundin is looking forward to a class of 15-17 students. "
I think it’s a great size," he said. "It’s small enough to get lots of attention from teachers and really get to spend time with one group of kids, but it’s big enough that you can branch out and meet more than just a couple of people."

The heavily discussion-based, student-led classes in the ninth grade program are surely another attraction for many, as are the unique, cross-discipline course units that enhance subjects in science, history, art, and languages through hands-on design challenges in the Innovation Lab.

"In science this year," said Wilson, "we had a really unique concrete lab [studying how different methods and materials affected its strength]. We were in the science lab for one class, and then for the next we were in the Innovation Lab working with our partners to form concrete and then test its strength."
"Looking back on some of my iLab projects," said Blundin, "I realize they were really good experiences, even though they were incrediby challenging. In sixth grade, we built water pumps [as part of a history unit related to water scarcity]. Building the pumps required us to think on our own, and not just follow the rules. We actually needed to invent something on our own, without help from our teachers. It was very, very difficult, but it was a great learning experience."

These eighth graders relished taking advantage of Shore's wide range of offerings in the arts and athletics, and they'll continue that next year. Said Blundin, "There's just so much to do outside the traditional classroom. If you want to join a singing group, or you want to act, or you want to do a sport, it’s all right here."

Added Smith, "The musical was a highlight of my year. It was unlike anything I’d ever done before, especially with Mary Poppins flying across the stage. It was so different from what I’ve done before, and to think that it happened at school, instead of a theater camp, is amazing."

"Almost everything I like to do and want to do, I have the opportunity to do here," said Smith. "And that’s something I really like. Especially because we have Eighth Hour, where sometimes I go to Puellae, or I can meet with my teachers or work in the iLab if I want to. And then directly after I get to work on the musical or sports. I just think it’s really cool that I have that opportunity to do everything I like at school."
Being involved in so much can at times be challenging, admitted Blundin. But, he said, "I think it’s a good learning experience to have, when you really need to learn how to manage your time, and be smart about deciding how you’re going to spend your time. There are definitely times when it feels chaotic - like on a day when I have one Eighth Hour to talk to five teachers - but it’s good chaos."

Said Wilson, "I can’t imagine going somewhere else and getting something less than what we have here at Shore."
    • Kiara, Sarah, and Daniel

    • Sarah and Daniel both performed in 'Mary Poppins'

    • Daniel competing at track

    • Working in the iLab

    • Kiara on the softball field