The normally quiet summer hallways at the Knightdale High School of Collaborative Design bustled with motion for three days last week during a lengthy freshman orientation.
Although Knightdale High normally hosts a half-day orientation to help transition students from middle to high school, school administrators say that three days were necessary with the redesign and emphasis on relationship-building.
“The camp went awesome, kids were engaged and high-energy,” said assistant principal Ryan Rosendahl.
On Wednesday, the students were split into five groups that rotated classrooms to practice problem-based learning.
Communities in Schools, a program that partners with schools to help with student success, attended in droves to help the students with their projects.
In one classroom, a couple dozen students cheered wildly for each other as they competed to build the most sturdy bridge – out of marshmallows and spaghetti.
Next door, a more quiet group of former eighth-graders learned about kinetic and potential energy by constructing balloon-propelled cars.
Down the hall, a science teacher instructed students how to extract DNA from strawberries, and in another, students entertained themselves through a combination of STEM-learning and blowing bubbles with bubble gum.
Fourteen-year-old Isaiah Dunn, who will be coming from East Wake Middle School, said his favorite activity was a group challenge to build “collaboration.”
“We toured the school and played some games inside the gym,” he added about the day’s activities. “They’re getting us ready for school.”
Throughout the lessons, teachers were clear to emphasize that “this isn’t middle school anymore” throughout their instruction in class.
“We got kids out of their comfort zone, which is good,” Rosendahl said. “They’ll be doing that in a year-long seminar in the freshmen institute. They’re gaining leadership, team-building skills that they’ll need through Knightdale High and need in the workforce someday too.”
On Thursday, the last day of orientation, staff spent the day introducing students to the Google Drive system, on which they will depend heavily throughout the year. They wrapped up the week with a dance party and ice cream social before starting school August 24.
“This year we’re really emphasizing building relationships, and this was an opportunity for teachers to meet students and students to meet each other,” Rosendahl said. “Building relationships in a half-day isn’t going to occur.”