Walkabouts, named after an Australian Aborigines' rite of passage and one of our Middle School trademarks, are semester-long projects that are entirely child-directed and typically independent from whatever the current class theme is. The emphasis is on personal growth and life skills. The goal is to help students develop the qualities that will make them successful in their future life and careers: initiative, responsibility, problem-solving and interpersonal abilities, organization, adaptability, perseverance, self-assessment, confidence. The student chooses a personal challenge, sets his or her own goals and is asked to document and, later, present, how the goals were met, which difficulties were encountered, what was done to overcome them. Not meeting one's initial goals is acceptable as long as the student demonstrates effort toward them and can explain why the project could not go as planned. Realizing that one was too ambitious, for instance, is an excellent learning experience which does lead to growth, thus fulfilling the basic aim of a Walkabout.
Because our school values personal growth as much as academic growth, the Walkabouts bear as much weight in our assessment of high school readiness and are thus as important for Middle School graduation as are the academic portfolios assembled through the years. Walkabouts document a maturing process: we expect more from a Walkabout at the end of middle school than from one at the beginning.
The Walkabout reception in May is the opportunity for middle school graduates to reflect on and share the story of their personal growth through the six walkabouts they will have done during their three years of middle school.
We thus urge all families to take Walkabouts seriously, support their child in choosing challenges that are meaningful for him or her, keep in touch with whomever mentors the project and be available should the child need some help or encouragement. The presentations for this Fall's walkabouts are scheduled for January 20th and 23rd.
Winter Break is an excellent time to check in and make sure your child will be done and ready to present at that time.