Fifth-Grade Preview Offers Information, Hands-On Experiences for Students


Jackson Zentner

Mrs. Cathy Hansen bonds with some of the fifth-grade students while getting to know them in the newly renovated Library/Media Center.

Middle School is an important stage in any student’s life; they learn important study habits, start preparing for high school, become more independent, and earn more privileges. On the evening of December 2, Benjamin welcomed fifth-grade students and their parents to begin this journey. The event provided students the opportunity to meet their future sixth-grade teachers, learn about the academic programs, sports, and arts offerings, and take their first steps through the Firehouse, the sixth-grade hub where their English, history, and science classes are located. 

The Middle School Preview this year was a little different than last year because the event was in-person rather than online. 

“I think it was really important that we could do this event on campus so the students and parents could see firsthand all that the Middle School has to offer,” said P.E. Department Chair Ms. Erica Lazarus. “Being on campus provided the opportunity to show the newly renovated library as well as the extremely innovative STEM Center. I also loved that we included a performance by the Sparklers – their poise and enthusiasm definitely added positive energy to the evening,’’ said Lazarus.

After the Sparklers performance, Mr. Jeffrey Cavallo, Mrs. Diana Rios, Mrs. Amy Jablonski, Mrs. Lindsey Tanona, Mr. Nicholas Crisafi, Mrs. Andrea Dumont,  Ms. Erica Lazarus, Mrs. Marci York, and Mrs. Cathy Hansen welcome the fifth-grade families in the gym prior to leading their groups on tours of the campus. (Jackson Zentner )

Eighth-grade student Bryce Seger was one of these Sparklers that performed at the beginning of the evening in the gym. 

“Performing at the preview was really exciting for me and the rest of the dance team,” she said. “It was a new and different experience, and we all had lots of fun.  We also got to kick off the preview night which was very cool because our dance was the parents’ and students’ first impression of the Middle School. I felt really honored when we were asked to perform, and we were all thrilled when we got the invitation,” said Seger.

According to Mr. Nicholas Crisafi, coordinator of academic affairs, the administration wanted to keep the evening simple for families while highlighting the most important aspects of the sixth-grade experience.  

“In order to maximize the experience for those who attended, we split the fifth-grade families into groups based on colored wrist bands,” said Crisafi, who helped organize the event along with Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy and Academic Dean Mrs. Stephanie Oster. “There were three main areas: the firehouse, the STEM Center where we had our student panel and Sphero station, and the library/media center where families could learn about the Middle School’s arts and athletics. Fifth-grade students also received some hands-on experience with the equipment in the new TV studio.”

From the perspective of the teachers, the event was a success and a great representation of the School. 

“From what I saw, the event ran smoothly,” said sixth-grade English teacher Mrs. Denise Ponchock. “I did not receive direct feedback, but students and parents seemed engaged, inquisitive, and eager to begin their middle school journey. This event is really important for the fifth-graders and their parents because it allows students and families to see how rich, supportive, and appropriately rigorous our curriculum is,” she said. 

In addition to the Sparklers performing, there was also a panel of students that shared information about the Middle School as 

well as their own individual experiences. 

“I really enjoyed meeting all the new kids, and seeing what they were excited for and curious about in middle school,” said Student Council President Sage Ponchock, a member of the student panel. “We talked a lot about the blue and orange competition and extracurriculars. I think that new students really enjoyed hearing about the fun parts of being a part of the Middle School.”

Eighth graders Dev Maharaj, Sage Ponchock, London Allen, and sixth graders Mason Coles and Allison Kelley help answer questions from fifth-grade students and parents in the Maglio Family STEM Center. (Jackson Zentner)

Many of the panelists provided helpful advice too. 

“The best advice that I could give [the fifth graders] is that they shouldn’t worry about middle school because they will ease right into it,” said fellow eighth grade panelist Dev Maharaj. “You have a lot more freedom and get to decide for yourself more often. You shouldn’t worry about finding friends, either, because it is really easy to find people who have things in common with [you] and who can relate to you,” he said.

“I think that the fifth graders really need to understand that the work will be difficult, but the teachers are always there to help them through. The most challenging aspect of middle school is definitely time management, but if you plan ahead and don’t procrastinate, you will get all of your work done,” said Ponchock.  

The middle schoolers not only dulled the fifth grader’s fears, but also mentioned some things to look forward to by sharing some of their favorite memories. 

“The best part of middle school for me is Field Day because it is a fun competition, and you get to know your team really well,” said Ponchock. 

“I think my favorite middle school memories would have to be between Field Day and the sixth-grade St. Augustine trip because they were both really cool experiences that I have never really had before in school,” said Maharaj.

The middle school students such as the ones on the panel for the fifth-grade preview were an excellent example of how TBS students grow and adapt from one division to the next. 

The panel of middle school students was amazing,” said Lazarus. “They were informative, authentic, and helped the students to understand what they can expect during their middle school years,” said Lazarus.