Blake Hammond believes Merrill Middle School sixth graders really are becoming the young adults we want them to be.
Families that are familiar with Merrill Middle School already know about the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and its expectations and results. For the families that don’t have a middle school student or perhaps are researching middle schools, Merrill Middle School on Grand Avenue has much to offer.
In his 14th year of teaching sixth grade science, Hammond loves that one of this school’s IB focuses is to produce lifelong learners and create active citizens in the students’ own communities starting in the family, at school, in Des Moines and even their global community.
Before Hammond focuses on the IB program or even science, he likes to take the first five or six weeks of every school year and really focus on the sixth grader. He understands these students are not elementary students anymore and not quite middle school students yet. He wants their experience into middle school to be safe and confident, so they do team building exercises. They address issues by doing activities together. They focus on their lockers and timing between classes. They focus on having homework more often now and remembering it.
“This is the right age for me,” Hammond says. “I am heavily committed to helping sixth graders with this transition. It’s a very important transition.”
Once this important transition settles, they can begin sixth grade science. As with all subjects at Merrill and the IB emphasis, communication is a key component. So, even in science, Hammond steers the discussions to real world learning and how each student can contribute his or her own ideals and communicate them.
“Parents expect that their students ‘do’ in my class,” Hammond says. “Using the textbook is a distant third. Direct learning and processing through communication are first and second.”
Simply put, even in science you have to communicate effectively.
Hammond’s teaching style parallels the IB program.
“We have families who drive from all parts of the city to be part of Merrill, and that’s the ultimate compliment for everyone at Merrill,” Hammond says.