By Steve Sears
Hilltop Elementary and Mountain View Middle School utilize a transition preparation program called Move-up Day, where 4th graders participate in activities with 7th and 8th grade student mentors, and this includes a visit by the older grades to the elementary school, and a move-up day at Mountain View, where the younger students meet their teachers and tour the school.
David Heller, Principal of Hilltop School, says “There is a move-up day process I would think for every elementary and middle school, but I think what makes our unique is that Nicole Lanka, the school counselor at Mountain View, actually has her student council presenting to the fourth graders. So it’s not necessarily adults talking to kids, it’s students talking to students, so I think that’s one of the more unique aspects of what we do here and one thing that I think makes it more is that the students are more receptive because of the fact that they’re listening to peers. Some of those peers might be their older brothers or sisters, or friends of older brothers or older sisters – so it’s people who they know. There’s some comfort in knowing who’s talking to them and they’ve lived in this, rather than hear it from a Principal, teacher, or counselor.”
Mountain View 7th and 8th graders are known as the “Mountain View Mentors”. The program in its current form is in its fifth year. “They are selected by our teachers,” says Aimee Toth, Mountain View Principal, “and they are meant to represent a wide range of different types of students who are academically strong, those who are athletically inclined, those who are involved in extracurriculars. We are trying to reach all different types of students. Some of the kids who are chosen as mentors happen to have siblings who are 4th graders – every year there’s a kid or two that everybody knows. The reason why we use both 7th and 8th graders is so when our 4th graders arrive in August; they have some familiar faces as the 7th graders move up to 8th graders and there’s still that connection there.”
Move-up Day means visits between schools for both grades. Mountain View Mentors will travel to Hilltop, and vice-versa. There is also for the latter an evening program for parents that the students run as well. Parents rotate to different classrooms and Mentors present to parents; the parents afforded the opportunity to see what evolution their child will have during their four years at Mountain View. “It’s a really nice opportunity for the kids, and the parents love it because the parents don’t want me talking to them for two hours about the transition to middle school; they want to hear it from the perspective of our students,” says Toth.
“Another advantage,” says Heller, “is they (the parents) get to see where their child will be in four or five years when they are in 8th grade. They get to look at the growth our students have, look at the leadership opportunities that this school provides all children.”
Per Heller, from the 4th grader perspective, dealing with slightly-older peers, hearing about the transition they went through a few years earlier, and then their relatability to that, is what helps them transition more smoothly. “They can relate to the mentors that they’re working with.”
Toth adds, “From Mountain View’s perspective, it provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to take a leadership role and a mentoring role.”