From South to Saxe: Fifth-graders serve as tour guides
Editor’s note: This is the second of an ongoing series about the transition to middle school in New Canaan.
NEW CANAAN — Instead of going to the movies or having a sleepover on a Friday night, 105 Saxe Middle School fifth-graders were at school. Wearing red and black New Canaan gear, they gave tours to over 1,000 fourth-grade students and their families from across the district, showing them the school that only one year ago, they weren’t attending.
“The biggest benefit is the pride I see the kids take in the school,” said Steven Clapp, fifth grade administrator at Saxe. “It’s great for fifth-graders but settles parents and fourth-graders, too. It allows them to have a positive, vicarious experience.”
The tours, which start off with free pizza donated by Pinocchio’s and end with a dance party, are part of several events planned to help fourth-graders ease the transition to Saxe in the fall.
This is the third year the school has hosted the fifth-grade-led tours. According to Clapp, this was due to suggestions from students.
“It’s kids talking to other kids on how easy the transition really is,” he said. “The idea is to flip the power dynamic.”
Families register for tour time slots in advance of the event. When they arrive, they’re greeted by tables filled with Saxe gear for sale so they can embrace their new school. A counselor pairs them with a student tour guide with whom they’ll eat pizza before starting the tour. There are icebreaker questions at each table to ease the group into the process. Then the tours begin, assisted by a dozen teachers stationed around the school.
Around 7 p.m., fifth- graders MacKenzie Hart and Kelsey DeVito paired up to lead the Burke family around the school. The two told soon-to-be fifth-grader Meara Burke about the ins and outs of fifth grade, from the policy on cellphones to the school bus that takes students downtown to tips on how not to handle your new locker. They showed the Burkes a fifth-grade classroom, their lockers, the gym and other places the South School student will have to go during her first year at Saxe.
“There’s nothing to be worried about,” Kelsey said of the transition. “I have more freedom. We didn’t have as much freedom last year.”
The two girls became fast friends when they were assigned lockers near each other at the beginning of the school year.
“You meet a lot of friends in fifth grade,” MacKenzie said.
When asked why the two decided to give up their Friday nights to spend at school, the two expressed enthusiasm for the building they hardly knew less than a year earlier.
“I like it,” Kelsey said of her touring experience. “I like being a leader, and I want to give tours of Saxe so kids don’t worry about it. I like being a role model.”