When Bonner School, a Montana middle school, resumed classes this fall they decided to shake things up a bit and try to implement some changes that would help the students through the difficult transitional years of sixth through eighth grades. Studies show that body awareness combined with wide ranging levels of physical maturity, often cause girls to hang back and participate less in coed gym classes. But in a small school, same-sex classes were a scheduling challenge. To make it all work, in addition to gym the computer classes are now single sex as well.
After nearly two months, the results are even better than expected. Gym teacher Josh Illig sees more participation by girls that are less athletic and has seen their confidence grow, not just in gym class but in general. The boys are louder and more physical during gym, but exhibit far more concentration during the computer class time with the same-sex environment.
There is still plenty of class time and free time when the students share the classroom and develop the skills to work with each other. In this critical time though, the girls especially, have the chance to increase their body confidence and activity levels; both critical developmental issues in the middle school years. This preparation for the larger world of high school and beyond gives all the girls a chance to feel strong and confident, critical to success in any setting. The boys as well are benefitting from increased activity during gym and a more focused environment in another critical skill area, the computer class. The girls as well remarked that it was quieter and easier to work in the computer class with the all girl setting.
This is a win-win solution, requiring a little imagination and the determination to foster the growth of all the kids in one of the most difficult and important times in their schooling. The result; strong bodies and strong minds growing from resourceful and creative administrators and staff.