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Freshman Experience Eases Students' Transition

Teachers across different disciplines collaborated with groups of students during fall semester at Morristown High School.

What was your freshman experience like?

If it was like most of ours, it was probably a little awkward. A little intimidating. Hey, it happens—it's definitely a transitional time.

At Morristown High School, that awkward, intimidating time has been aided by what is being called--coincidentally enough—the Freshman Experience.

Dubbed a "safety net for kids" by MHS instructional leader John Madden, the cross-curricular collaboration provided, he said, aid in critical reading, problem solving, research, collaboration and communication.

And, according to freshman Matthew Mahoney, it helped make the transition from middle school to high school a little smoother.

"We have to break uncomfortable barriers," the Morristown resident said. "We need to communicate well."

To do that, the Freshman Experience kept smaller groups of the students collaborating from class to class, instead of spreading them all out and having them fend for themselves right out of the gate.

"They don't fear not knowing people, as a lot of them have the same teachers," Madden said. "It's easier to bond with students and teachers."

One of those other teachers, English teacher Danielle Firavanti, said the group has four core teachers who meet once a week to discuss their students--what's working, what isn't, which helps catch problems before they get too big to handle.

Unlike last year where she did not have much exposure to other teachers in other subjects, communication between the other educators in the Freshman Experience "makes it worlds easier," she said.

"That advantages are there is an emphasis in cross-discipline planning," Firavanti said. "There are different perspectives and different ideas."

That has shone through in Firavanti, Madden and fellow teacher Scott Klepesch's Freshman Experience, "Sol Lewitt Project," which is studying the famous minimalist and conceptual artist's work through the lens of not only art appreciation, but in other disciplines like English and science.

"No discipline is in isolation," Madden said, citing the project's studies through design, film, behavioral studies and meta-cognitive learning. "They are taking control of learning."

For freshman Claudia Prevete, of Morris Township, "the Freshman Experience has been beneficial to students and with the way the whole freshman class works. It's been a great, interesting way to start the year."

It's also how students will need to be educated in the 21st Century, Madden said.

"It's learning how to learn," he said. 

"The project really helped us understand what of person you are," Matthew Mahoney said. 

Kim M January 08, 2013 at 12:37 PM
The kids are coddled in middle school (FMS) now with the house routine which could be part of the reason for potential trouble adjusting to the large high school arena. However, hopefully kids who need help won't fall through the cracks with this new arrangement....kids like those with undiagnosed ADHD who are not hyper or disruptive

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