DOWNERS GROVE – Incoming seventh-graders at Herrick Middle School were introduced to their new home Aug. 14 during one-hour sneak preview sessions.
“Basically, it’s middle-school boot camp,” said Julie Quinlan, a school counselor who helped start the sneak preview program 13 years ago.
Ten teachers and a group of eighth-graders welcomed the students during three, one-hour sessions designed to prepare them for life as middle-schoolers.
“It’s brand new to them,” Quinlan said. “Our main objective is to be positive and have fun.”
Students gathered in the cafeteria for introductions before breaking into small groups and heading into the hallways to practice opening lockers.
Mastering a combination lock is a source of anxiety for new students, who were accustomed to storing coats and school supplies in cubbies during elementary school, Quinlan said.
“We wanted to give them a chance to practice,” she said. “The eighth-graders walk them through everything.”
The first day also included a raffle and the distribution of school T-shirts.
“They are really nervous and quiet today,” said Amy Landman, a teacher’s aide. “There’s pressure opening a combination lock.”
One-hour sessions on Aug. 14 and 15 focused on understanding class schedules and moving from class to class during four-minute passing periods.
Students participated in a scavenger hunt designed to familiarize them with the building. The challenge was to find the main office, fitness center, gym, band room, orchestra room, learning resource center and counseling offices in order to win a prize.
On the final day, students participated in a mock schedule and learned how to fill out their planners.
“They have a lot of questions,” Quinlan said.
She added the program also is intended to help students become familiar with new classmates. Students from seven of the district's elementary schools attend Herrick, along with children from various private schools.
Social worker Julie Ekman said the eighth-graders are largely responsible for the program’s success.
“They really run the program,” Ekman said. “They’ve been through it.”
Eighth-grader Abby Bulthuis said she recalls the help she received during last year’s sneak preview program.
“When I first walked in, I was nervous,” Abby said. “The last group of eighth-graders helped us a lot.”
Abby added she enjoys meeting new students during the three-day preview.
“They have someone that they know,” she said.