Scholars “Zoom” into Reading

by Ashley Sirls, Associate Director of Leadership Development

Every summer at Rites of Passage (our 14-month Academic Enrichment Phase graduation ceremony), scholars are told that they are no longer in Rainier Scholars, but they are Rainier Scholars. This ceremony marks the beginning of their middle school years; the formative period where identities are tried on, “real” grades are earned, and friendships are forged. Rainier Scholars has developed the following themed middle school workshops to support this transition.

  • 6th grade: I am a Scholar: Building identity and resiliency
  • 7th grade: I am a positive community member”
  •  8th grade: I am a leader”

You can find a list of grade-level books and reading guides here.

Each month students are asked to read a book piggybacking off the theme of their workshop. We have a seminar to discuss the text and tie it back to an active learning skill. These monthly middle school workshops are designed to support their growing academic independence and identity development, while keeping their Rainier Scholars community strong. More than ever, students need this support. Recently, we hosted our first sixth-grade workshop on Zoom. We encountered little technical difficulty thanks to the efforts of a fabulous Academic Counseling team that met students in small groups the prior week and made sure they were tech-ready.

Nearly 50 scholars came together to discuss The Pearl by John Steinbeck and think more deeply about effective decision making. We asked, “how does one decide right from wrong?” and students challenged the decisions of Kino and his wife. They debated what it means to be greedy, what it means to be powerless, and what it means to fight for what you believe in.

This aptly timed and themed workshop demonstrated our middle schoolers are thinking critically about humanity and the current state of affairs. It is crucial that Rainier Scholars continue to create spaces, even if virtual, where students can share their knowledge and lean on one another.

Up soon, seventh-graders will discuss The Enemy by Charles Higson. It is about surviving a zombie apocalypse that only affects adults!