Hoosac Valley Grade Six Students Create Handbook for ‘New Kids’ Students / iBerkshires.com

The sixth-grade students who produced the manual presented it to the school committee last week. The book gives new students information on what it is like to go to the Hoosac Valley.

CHESHIRE, Mass. – The Hoosac Valley Regional School District has adopted a “New Kid” textbook created by sixth-grade students at Hoosac Valley Middle School.

The students, program director Kristen Palatt and sixth-grade English teacher Shelby Gale presented the manual to the school committee last week. The board then voted unanimously to approve it alongside the current student handbook for incoming students.

School committee member Erin Milne said the students’ presentation was one of the best she’s seen as a committee member.

“It’s one of the clearest pieces of communication I’ve seen come out of the district in my five years here,” she said. “I know how hard it is to be informative while still being really welcoming and friendly to your audience, and I think that’s a very difficult balance to strike, but I think you’ve done a really exemplary job here. .”

The manual provides a school map, daily schedule, information about teachers, administrators, sports, and after-school programs. The students made it a class project, with help from Palatt and the teachers, after reading “New Kid,” a graphic novel by Jerry Craft, as part of their English class.

“We kind of understood by looking at the book and seeing what was wrong and what we should be doing and what hasn’t happened in the past,” said Summer, one of the students at sixth grader who worked on the textbook.

Gale said students could choose several recommended novels from the social-emotional curriculum, but they were interested in “New Kid” because it was a graphic novel. She said she thinks the story explores many real-world issues that students face.

“It explores issues of race, socio-economic status, and also what it’s like to adjust to a new school,” she said. “They came up with these amazing ideas of how it could be more easily integrated into school and how you can make everyone feel welcome.”

One student, Lucas, said he was recently a new student at Hoosac Valley and could relate to the main character in the story.

“About a month ago I was the new kid on the block,” he said. “I came here and we were doing this project and it kind of went down well with me as a new kid on the block.”

Another student, Genevieve, said she and others learned to be more helpful to new students.

“I think that taught most of us to welcome everyone and not be so rude all the time,” she said. “In the book, there was a bully at school. And one of the things that struck me was trying not to let bullies conquer you.”

Gale said she was thrilled with the students’ engagement with the text and the strength of their presentation skills.

“Especially coming out of a pandemic, where presentations and speaking in front of crowds and those kinds of skills weren’t really at the forefront of our learning,” she said. “So to see them exercising that muscle and practicing that.”

Palatt thanked the teachers for the work they did to help the students create the manual.

“I just want to also thank the sixth grade teachers who are here, who have given up their preparations and their joint planning and their lunches to support the vision of their students in this work,” she said.

School committee chairman Michael Mucci said the textbook should benefit both new and incoming fourth graders.

“It’s obviously very different from our textbook, which isn’t that fun to read for middle schoolers, adults, or parents,” he said. “But it’s something that gets your hands on it, strikes up a conversation, and probably leads to something pretty positive.”

Keywords: HVHS, school project,