Dawson County Middle School started the 2021-22 school year with a number of new renovations and improvements, allowing administrators to expand the number of art, music and other elective classes available to the students.
According to DCMS Principal Kim White, the back wing of the middle school was previously used for storage and didn’t house any classrooms. With new renovations completed over the summer, students will go back to school with a slew of new options for elective, or “connections” classes.
“I’m so blessed that the board and Dr. Gibbs has given us the opportunity to finish the new area to give our students opportunities,” White said. “Without the new wing, our building was not set up to meet the needs of twenty-first century learners, so it’s state-of-the-art.”
Additions include larger chorus and band rooms, an engineering and technology room, and a computer lab where students can learn computer coding and programming. In moving classes like chorus and band into the new wing, the middle school will also be expanding the athletic department with a new weight room and wrestling room.
All of the new classes are aimed at offering students more options for connections, to help find what each student is passionate about before they move up into junior high and high school.
“The purpose of this middle school is so that we can create a connection between us all the way to the high school with the pathways,” White said. “Our job is to really start laying a foundation for the pathways so that by the time they get to the high school and they get to the college and career academy that they really understand where their passions are, what they’re interested in and what it is that they might wanna do so they can go deeper into that college and career path.”
The connections teachers work closely with teachers at the junior high and high school to determine what to teach the students at the middle school level to best prepare them for the higher grades, according to White.
“They’ll get a taste of technology and engineering,” White said. “They’ll get a taste of computer programming. They’ll get a taste of the typical P.E. and health. They’ll get a taste of general music and art. Kids who don’t choose band or chorus will get like a little smorgasbord of things. Some of them will have their eyes opened to ‘That’s cool, I wanna know more.’”
White said that many of the new classes, such as computer programming, will have students learning the foundations of skills that they can someday follow into a career if they so desire.
“In our programming class, kids learn to code and build websites; we all know that technology and web design have huge openings for kids so they’re gonna be able to run circles around me as far as what they can do,” White said.
Another class White said she’s especially excited about is the new technology and engineering class, which will soon include 3D printers and potentially a laser engraver for the students to learn how to use.
“Our technology and engineering classroom is one that I’m very excited about; we’re gonna have some 3D printers in there and we’re looking for grants for a laser engraver, so they’re gonna be able to draft prototypes of things and actually print them out so it’s gonna go from their head to their hands,” White said. “Kids are gonna be building and creating.”
White said that students and parents were excited to see the new wing at the middle school’s open house. It officially opened for students to use on the first day of school. While the renovations have been a process, in the end White said that the building itself is a great example of the creativity she and other administrators hope to spark in the middle school students.
“The best part of connections is that it’s hands-on learning,” White said. ”Kids can’t go to connections and not critically think and not be pushed to do something; it’s more about doing than it is about the typical, multiple-choice test. Everything begins with an idea and that’s what connections are about — beginning with an idea and ending with a product — and the building is just an example of that.”