Hamilton International Middle School has a student population of 850, which can make incoming 6th graders who were previously regarded as big fish in their elementary school ponds feel like tiny minnows in a vast ocean. But the staff at Hamilton know this, which is why the first day of school is reserved only for welcoming 6th grade students, and making them feel comfortable by showing them around the school, and demonstrating the most important thing they’ll need to know: how to open a locker! Kidding aside, the transition for kids from elementary school to middle school can be a daunting step for both parents and students; but during a recent open house, Principal Chris Carter assured parents that he, along with Assistant Principals Jo Shapiro and Jesely Alvarez, and the 70 or so faculty and staff, work hard to nurture and care for every student as if they were their own.
When we wrote about Hamilton last year, we emphasized the fact that the school has quite a lot to offer students, and boy, we weren’t kidding, as you’ll see in these next few paragraphs. Academically, Hamilton is a full service school with programs including Spectrum and APP for advanced learners, Special Education for students who need specially-designed instruction with both inclusion and self contained classes, and services for English Language Learners (ELL). Hamilton also has a very rich International Arts program that includes performing arts, band, orchestra, and choir.
There are three components that the District uses to define Hamilton as an international school. The first is Academic Excellence for All, which Assistant Principal Jo Shapiro explained as a strategy using research-based best practices. She adds that, “Every day, in every classroom, there is a purpose that is clear to the students, and all the activities in that lesson will be related to that purpose.” Assessments are given at various times throughout the unit and at the end of the unit, and teachers will reformulate lessons or keep going based on how well the students understand the material. The second component is World Language, which is offered to students during all three years in Japanese or Spanish. The third component is global perspective in every classroom, whereby students learn how they are truly citizens of the world by addressing issues that impact people from around the globe. This year, the school is focused on water conservation, and each grade level will undertake different actions to address the issue, including a day of service, where 6th graders, for example, do a shore cleanup at Green Lake.
Principal Carter demonstrated a typical day in the life of a Hamilton student using the following sample schedule: There are six class periods during the day. Periods one and two, for example, are language arts and social studies, and students are in the same class with the same teacher for both. Third period is science, and fourth period is math, which also extends into a homeroom class for things like targeted reading, and Olweus bullying prevention, which teaches kids empathy and anti-bullying strategies. The school creates assemblies to celebrate kids doing well, or to address any concerns. Lunch is also a part of fourth period, which is 30 minutes in the Commons area, and is grade level specific; and then math takes up rest of the period. Fifth period is World Language, and sixth period is PE or International Arts. Students can do World Language and International Arts in lieu of PE as long as they have a PE waiver, fulfilling 90 hours of required physical activity in an approved recreational program, signed off by a coach or a trainer.
As if a day filled with all of these strong academics and enrichment programs wasn’t enough (keep ‘em busy, I say!), the Hamilton Out of School program, or HOST, in conjunction with the YMCA, offers many after school activities that are free for students. In addition to activities like Chess Club, classes on architecture, drama, and graffiti art, there are also recreational activities that can satisfy the required hours needed to fulfill PE time. Programs go to 4:30, and students can take assigned activity or Metro buses after the programs. There are also athletics for students to try out including Girls Soccer, Girls JV Soccer, and Co-Ed Ultimate Frisbee in the Fall; Girls and Boys Basketball in the Winter; and Boys Soccer, Co-Ed Ultimate Frisbee, Track, and Volleyball in the Spring.
If you’d like more information about Hamilton, visit their website: http://hamiltoninternational.org/. Hamilton also has a rich tradition of parental involvement, including an active PTSA, and parents of incoming 6th graders are encouraged to join now.