Middle school can be really tough. Miserable, in fact. My own daughter went through it recently, so I can speak with some authority. Kids are mean to each other. Really mean. And girls are often worse than boys. If your kids are in or have gone through Middle School, you will know what I mean. If your kids are not there yet ... prepare for a rough ride!
Why is this so?
Simple, really. Hormones. Physical changes. Insecurity.
Middle school is ... just that, really. It is the middle, between two other phases. When kids hit fifth grade they begin to change physically. They are getting bigger and they are starting to mature. Between 6th grade and 8th grade they become something which is still a child, but not really, and also now a teenager, although not quite. Neither truly child anymore, yet not quite teenager, kids in middle school are caught in a middle ground where the rules are muddy and the routines are different and not familiar, and where their bodies feel gawky, their faces break out and their friends get weird and mean. Middle school is tough. Surrounded by uncertainty, kids in these years often find security in offensive behavior. Sarcasm and cynicism are everyday weapons. Step out of the pack and they immediately become a target of scorn and derision. Safety is found in conforming. Being part of the crowd. Fitting in.
So what can we do for these kids?
Obviously, the same magician and juggler that worked so well in Grade One will be a disaster in Grade Seven. Putting an elementary performer in front of a middle school audience can be like throwing him to the lions! Watch out! There will be blood.
But there are programs that work well for audiences in middle school.
Science is almost always a good idea for middle school assemblies and enrichment. Take a chemistry show, for example. No matter how stoically determined to have a bad time a 7th grader is when he enters an assembly, putting a display of liquid nitrogen in front of him, or setting off a string of controlled explosions and flame bursts... well, not even the most determined little spoilsport can resist explosions and fireballs!
A portable planetarium is also a great idea for middle school assemblies. To begin with, it takes place in the dark! Duh! Young teenagers love the dark! So they are predisposed to like what is going to occur before it even starts. But then, to show them a ceiling full of stars created with a $40,000 digital star projector, and take them through a black hole in space... and combine this with a savvy and hip presentation style by a skilled performer... well, it has always worked so far, and never failed to produce extreme high five's and exuberant pleasure.
Finally, for the 8th grade, as I have said many times before, there is no better social studies program than Lincoln. They study American history, from 1800 through the Civil war in the 8th Grade. Lincoln lived from 1809 until the end of the Civil War. They study things like the Missouri Compromise, the Dred Scott Decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates and the lead up to the Civil War. Lincoln, of course, was central in most of that. It is a perfect fit. And, additionally, many schools take their 8th Grade to Washington, DC on a field trip each year. Right before or right after such a trip is a perfect time to arrange a visit from Mr. Lincoln.
So, if you are seeking ideas for Middle School assemblies and enrichment programs, don’t despair! There are choices, and good ones! Just don’t try to book the wrong act. Oooh.... I still remember watching one particular performer, a magician, trying to do his elementary routine in front of 700 7th graders. It was not pretty. Blood on the walls. Ooooh. Uh, uh. Not again. No way.
Geoff Beauchamp is the Regional Manager of Mobile Ed Productions where "Education Through Entertainment" has been the guiding principal since 1979. Mobile Ed Productions produces and markets quality educational school assembly programs in the fields of science, history, writing, astronomy, natural science, mathematics, character issues and a variety of other curriculum based areas. In addition, Mr. Beauchamp is a professional actor with 30 years of experience in film, television and on stage. He created and still performs occasionally in Mobile Ed's THE LIVING LINCOLN.