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Innovative Incline School Programming Middle School Style

August 14, 2023 | Kathy Slocum

 From: ‘LIVE.WORK.PLAY. Summer 2023’

Middle school is a tricky developmental time for humans. It’s when we start to become self-confident enough to both be a part of and separate from a variety of groups. It’s when we are most keenly aware of how our peers are behaving and when labels like math nerd or class clown can stick. Importantly, it’s also when academic interests begin to solidify. Research has shown that if a student does not show interest in a particular subject, like STEM for example, by 4th or 5th grade, they will not do so. This is particularly true for higher-level classes (like STEM) as students will not have the basic skills needed to take courses later on.

Luckily, Principal Kari Michael and the staff at Incline Middle School understand this complicated developmental time. They know that relationships are built on shared experiences, interests, and goals and they work to provide those shared opportunities for students.

When students feel a part of a group, they also tend to work harder, care more, and invest in the cohesion and success of the group. IMS has done a great job creating a number of avenues for students to build those relationships while experiencing new activities. Here are a few examples of the unique programming offered at IMS.

Wednesday Exploratory Session

Principal Michael developed this weekly program to help students re-engage in school post-pandemic and/or to have an opportunity to get caught up in subjects that they may need more support in.

Students who are on track academically can choose from a variety of experiential opportunities, while those who need academic support can work with a subject teacher in their area of need.

Several options are offered each quarter and are meant to broaden student interest and allow them to challenge themselves. Students choose from a variety of themes and with the generous support of our local community, have been able to go off-campus and learn more about different subjects. Incline Education Fund sourced and funded student activities in partnership with local businesses. From skiing with Nevada

Nordic and Tahoe-Multisport, to leadership classes with Bowl Incline, to a glimpse into the animal world with Pet Network, and to Incline Education Fund-sponsored water safety lessons and a spring special with Truckee’s Gateway Mountain Center, IMS students can widen their horizons, develop new interests and even start thinking about potential future careers.

The IMS Robotics Program

Incline Education Fund was recently awarded a $50k grant from the Nevada Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation & Technology to scale up the robotics program at Incline Middle School. The curriculum is aligned to Nevada Academic Content Standards for Computer Science and integrates a final, capstone project each semester. Those projects give students the opportunity to address a real-world issue and require them to present their solution to a public audience. Robotics is offered both as an elective class and an after-school LEGO Robotics Club. Additionally, IMS has created a Girls Who Code Club that is supported by the local AAUW chapter.

The program is proving to be highly successful. Levels of student engagement, teamwork, and collaboration have exceeded expectations and the capstone projects are a great way to showcase student work.

This robotics program is a bridge for those students interested in STEM, as they can solidify skills they’ve developed in the Incline Elementary School Makerspace program and build the foundation they need to succeed in the Incline High School Engineering & Entrepreneurship program. Incline public school students can now take dedicated STEM courses from K-12th.

Wellness Zone

IMS has also created a place where students can learn to address their personal emotional regulation skills. The Wellness Zone is a quiet space where students can get 1:1 academic support or work independently on a project. It is also a space where counselors can run small groups and provide lessons to our special needs students. Detailed Wellness Zone data reports are proving the effectiveness of students having access to a space where they can go to get help when neede

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