Atwater and Lake Bluff Passages Program

All sixth grade students at both Atwater and Lake Bluff Elementary Schools completed their personal passages presentations over the last few weeks of the school year. 

Passages provide an important authentic learning opportunity for the students to reflect on their academic and social and emotional growth as they transition from elementary school to middle school, and give students agency to pursue topics that are relevant to their lives and interests. 

“I feel like passages are important because they make you realize all you’ve achieved and that you’re ready to go to SIS,” says Lake Bluff sixth grader Cash Brunner. “It’s a really big project. You reflect on all the other things you did, see how much you’ve grown, and that you’ve actually learned a lot during your time at school.”

The students worked hard on their presentations for many months and spent a lot of time making revisions and practicing for the big day.

“We did most of our preparation for passages in Google Docs, where we had five different sections for the five different parts of our passages,” says fellow sixth grader Tess Miota.  “We wrote in there, went through it many times, and then got lots and lots of feedback to prepare, so that was really helpful for editing. A lot of the prep was through peer feedback. We’d go outside, sit with a partner and read them our passage, then our partner would give us feedback and tell us how to improve and just be very nice and very helpful.”

“We not only had a lot of time for feedback from students but we also had a lot of feedback from our teachers,” adds classmate Maria Jonas. “And we had a lot of time to review it and revise it ourselves as well.”

The students were asked to share their essays with a virtual audience this year, consisting of parent and family members, as well as a panel of adults (community members, Board members and District administrators). Each essay was unique to the student’s own experiences and following the presentation, the audience members were able to ask questions and provide feedback touching on academic, character, personal and social growth. 

“One thing I shared in my passage is two poems that I wrote recently because one of my passage sections focused on how I have grown in writing poems,” says Maria. “Each of the poems centered on one different thing that I have learned.”

“One thing I shared in my passage was how I got better at reading responses over the past two years,” adds Cash. “I’ve improved because of having online school. I had more time to work on them because it was easier for me to edit a document on the computer than on paper.”

Tess explained that something she shared was her organism research project. “[In my passage] I described how I grew between the drafts of that project and how I realized what I could do to make it more detailed but also visually appealing and nice.”

Passages will continue to expand over the next few years to involve eighth grade and eleventh grade students, and the faculty who will lead these SIS and SHS Passages are set to begin professional development with partners at UWM in Fall 2021. This initiative is being funded by a $30,000 grant received from the Braitmayer Foundation earlier this year. More information on the Passages expansion will be forthcoming.