Mill Valley’s Ring Mountain Day School Launches New Middle School Program to Address Adolescents’ Struggle With Self Image in Today’s Media Culture

November 30, 2009

Based on THE BODY PROJECT by Joan Jacobs Brumberg, 8th graders learn to defend themselves against the barrage of media messages afflicting youth self-confidence and achievement.

MILL VALLEY, Calif., Nov. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Ring Mountain Day School, in northern California, takes a proactive approach, incorporating positive body awareness as part of its school culture. As part of their science and nutrition curriculum this semester, eighth graders at this Mill Valley middle school are encouraged to evaluate messages and media expectations. Current adolescent issues will be spotlighted for Ring Mountain students as they are put in historical perspective, demonstrating how the preoccupation with the body has intensified in the twentieth century.

Based around Joan Brumberg’s book, The Body Project, eighth grade boys and girls will begin examining some of the subtle and not so subtle influences of the media culture in which they live. Rather than waiting to examine what was done to them when they are adults, in retrospect, teachers at Ring Mountain hope addressing their experience now, in guided discussions, will equip students with perspectives that will help them respond actively to social pressures that are already upon them.

Program highlights include:

  • Discussion classroom format on Body Project based on chapter reading assignments such as “Perfect Skin”, “Girl Advocacy” and more
  • Video commercial review including the Dove campaign for “Real Beauty”, New York Times’ “Sex Lies and Videotape” and “the Merchants of Cool”
  • Art and Poetry review including “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

“Boys and girls, in our relentless media culture, middle school students must cope with aspects of their physical maturation at an ever younger age, when they are really still children emotionally…” said Dr. Nancy Diamonti, Ring Mountain head of school.

The middle school years have long been identified as among the most difficult for students. Often at the start of adolescence, high-achieving students who sailed through elementary school show a marked decline in motivation and performance as they move into middle school.(i) Depression and low self-esteem in both boys and girls become far more prevalent, and all of this happens against a backdrop of increasing academic demands and expectations.

Gender issues are debated at all levels of education, but they often come particularly into focus in middle school. Single-sex classrooms have recently seen resurgence as parents and schools have struggled to find a solution to the sudden decline in achievement which often occurs when students reach middle school. (The No Child Left Behind Law cites single-gender classes as an “innovative” tool to boost achievement.) But they are more likely a Band-Aid fix for what is really a much larger issue in early adolescence.

“We know that students achieve more when their teachers expect them to do so, but how much is their achievement influenced by what their society expects from them?” Diamonti added.

Ring Mountain Day School is a preschool through eighth grade program in Mill Valley, based on the progressive education model of John Dewey. Ring Mountain Day School’s is a student-centered program which creates a dynamic learning environment to stimulate creative thinking, motivate academic excellence, and instill a lifelong desire to learn.

Learn more at www.ringmountain.org.

(i) Lynley Hicks Anderman & Carol Midgley (1997), What Current Research Say to the Middle School Level Practitioner (pp.41-48).

(i) Rycik, James (2008). Revisiting the Gender Gap, American Secondary Education 36(3).

SOURCE Ring Mountain Day School

Source: newswire

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