Friday, September 21, 2007
CCHS revamps freshman orientation
Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS), with over 1,250 students, can seem like a daunting place for new freshmen. Students from Carlisle, the Concord Peabody and Sanborn Middle Schools, the METCO program and private schools all come together. Most freshmen know a little over 100 kids on their first day. Last spring, CCHS physics teacher Brian Miller suggested to the school senate that perhaps some activities could be incorporated into Freshmen Orientation Day, which is the day before classes start, to instill a sense of community in the freshman class and encourage incoming students to meet members of their class outside their usual social circle. Hence, a new Orientation Day was born.
In the past, freshmen met the administration, found their classrooms and met their teachers on Orientation Day. The day did not center around meeting other students. Also, it was only a half-day.
This year the day was extended to a full day and students were broken into small groups of around seven, with some number of girls and boys from each Concord, Carlisle and Boston Middle Schools. Each group was led by an upperclassman and was named after a particular candy, such as "Twizzlers" or "M&Ms."
After a few name games, each group cycled through 12 different team-building activities which were run by teachers to help students get to know one another. One activity, called "the Human Blob," had the group huddled tightly together with a piece of tape wrapped around the perimeter of the group. They had to move together to retrieve an object some distance away without breaking the tape. Another activity had the group jumping rope all together. Sometimes activities included more than one group, such as the four-way tug-of-war.
A scavenger hunt was also created to help students learn the layout of the school and where their classes were. Freshmen met all their teachers during this exercise. There was a barbecue for the freshmen after the activities were completed. Miller said, "There was lots of good energy throughout the day."
Miller, who is starting his fourth year at CCHS, is the advisor to the school senate. He is also the assistant varsity coach for soccer and indoor track and an advisor, with Ray Pavlik, for the Class of 2009. Miller said, "The key to the success of the day were the upperclass leaders. Without them, it doesn't work."
After the school senate decided to modify Orientation Day, 48 students applied last spring to help run it. In June and throughout the summer, five students worked with Miller to come up with all the activities, figure out what supplies were needed and how to structure the day. All 48 upperclassmen came the day before Freshman Orientation Day to get ready and "put it all together," commented Miller. They came up with a skit, a parody of a freshman day, which was quite a hit with the students. Miller said, "They had to be willing to put themselves out there!"
A Concord parent organized the barbeque and other parents helped register the freshmen. A grant from the Parents Association covered the costs of the supplies needed for the activities, lunch and t-shirts for the 34 teachers who volunteered to help with the activities. Upperclass leaders had to buy their own t-shirts and candy for their groups.
Many students enjoyed the day and were quite excited about high school. Miller hopes to have the groups of freshmen meet again in a month to foster more friendships across the class.
© 2007 The