One challenge of this unique school year across all three divisions has been to build a sense of campus community. Teachers and administrators have worked hard to ensure that students get to know one another beyond the scope of their Zoom classrooms. On the Carmel Campus, one approach has been to invite grade 8 students to lead weekly morning meetings with different lower division classes.

Each grade 8 student is assigned a lower division class. They visit that virtual class weekly to lead a morning meeting—sharing news, facilitating conversation, and leading activities. 

Middle Division history teacher Amy Spencer explains, “Elementary students begin their day with Morning Meeting, so grade 8 students now join in once a week. grade 8 advisories have been paired with an elementary classroom—from pre-k through grade 4. Once a week, grade 8 students plan a greeting or an activity to lead with the younger class. Greetings include questions about favorite animals, foods, or even holiday traditions, and this is done verbally with the whole group, through drawing pictures on their whiteboards, and through student-led breakout rooms.”

The weekly meetings led by eighth graders give younger students a chance to get to know the oldest students of the middle division. The meetings afford older students the opportunity to witness their own growth and to feel a sense of leadership in the community, even if they are not able to physically experience being the oldest students on campus. 

According to Ms. Spencer, “Before COVID, grade 8 students had many opportunities to engage in leadership, including helping with carline in the mornings and leading during Carmel Campus assemblies. With the start of the school year online, we had to get creative in order to provide new leadership opportunities.”

Both older and younger Pirates have benefited from this change to the morning meeting routine, and both express joy about this bonding experience—with eighth graders regularly returning to their own classes to express their excitement about activities shared with their younger compatriots. (Especially after competing in particularly intense battles of “freeze dance” or completing intricate and involved virtual scavenger hunts!)