WEB eases middle school transition

Incoming 6th graders at Prairie River Middle School have a new support system in place to guide them in the transition to middle school. WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) was implemented this year at PRMS, providing a structure for 8th grade students to serve as mentors to the 6th graders.

WEB activities last week brought 6th graders together with the 8th grade WEB leaders to ease anxieties about the start of the school year.

“The goal is getting them really comfortable with the middle school and easing any anxiousness about the first day of school,” said PRMS teacher and WEB coordinator Mark Seaman.

PRMS will still hold the traditional 6th grade and new student orientation this week, when students and parents can find their lockers and classrooms and drop off materials.

“Today (WEB activities) is not about that at all,” Seaman said. “We hope that when they come the first day they’ve bonded with some kids and have a go to person in their 8th grade WEB leaders.”

During last week’s WEB activities, the 6th graders got to know their 8th grade mentors and each other. Team building activities included lessons in positive peer relationships, as well as strategies for being successful in middle school.

PRMS Principal Gerald Beyer is excited about the way WEB fits into the vision of the school. For middle school age children, developing positive peer relationships is important.

“It’s a great way to introduce students to the culture of the building,” Beyer said. “In the middle school, the relationship part is one of the areas you try to focus on. We try to create a culture where there are not issues that get in the way of learning.”

The 8th grade WEB leaders were selected through an application process.

“There was a lot of interest even though this was totally new,” Seaman said.

From the many who applied, 38 were chosen as WEB leaders.

“We were looking at leadership potential,” Seaman said. “Grades were the last thing we looked at.”

Seaman said he’s very proud of the way the 8th grade leaders have taken ownership of a brand new program to assist younger students.

“Our two days of training were phenomenal,” he said. “They bought into the philosophy of trying to change the climate of the building to an extremely positive one. This has been so much better than we could have even thought it would be.”

The incoming 6th grade class was broken down into groups of 9 or 10 students, with two WEB leaders assigned to each group.

Being a WEB leader is a year-long commitment. The WEB groups will meet once a month throughout the school year for activities.

WEB is the middle school version of Link Crew, a program that has been helping freshman transition to Merrill High School for 10 years. At MHS, a select group of upperclassmen serve in a mentorship role for the freshmen. Both programs are supported by the Boomerang Project.

At PRMS, 6th graders coming from a variety of elementary schools all come together. The 6th grade class is divided into three teams, with two core teachers per team.

MHS Link Crew coordinator Amy Heimerl, who is also a nationwide instructor for the Boomerang Project, initially brought the idea for WEB to PRMS. Teachers Mark Seaman, John Bezier and Ryan Martinovici volunteered to lead the program at the middle school. The three went to Chicago for training over the summer.

“We definitely wanted to bring this philosophy back home,” Seaman said. “This is a good school, we want it to be a great school.”

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