Watkinson’s vibrant community is founded on a commitment to respecting both individuality and diversity of all kinds. In service of this ideal, Watkinson teachers have developed a series of Rites of Passage—experiences that all students within a given grade level share, many of which include an element of public display, presentation, or performance. Thus, over their years at Watkinson, all students know that “Shakespeare Monologues” mean a great deal to kids finishing their middle school experience; they look forward to this year’s “Civil Rights Day” (what will Mr. Sailor come up with next?); and they have first-hand understanding of the challenges leading up to the 11th grade monologuse. The following Rites of Passage have become shared excitement, nervousness, support, and understanding between all of the kids—one more way that Watkinson helps them to truly know and appreciate themselves and each other.

Read on to learn about and experience more of Watkinson’s Rites of Passage—each of which is a direct extension of Watkinson's mission to "help students shape their lives and the world around them."

List of 8 items.

  • All Students, All Grades

    Service Days
    School-wide event that takes place in the spring of each year in which all students and teachers set out in their advisory groups to give back to the communities in which we live. On these days, among other tasks, we serve at soup kitchens, provide manual labor in community gardens, supply boxes of meals for food pantries, and offer our services at homes for the elderly, community centers, and elementary schools.
  • Sixth Grade

    Core Values Curriculum
    The year-long English and social studies curricula in which students learn to identify and understand how Watkinson’s core values function in their own lives, in the lives of others, and in the life of the school community. Students make this study through reading, writing, and various activities and assignments throughout the year. 

    Water Walk
    Supporting a Solution to the Worldwide Water Crisis
    Each spring, after an entire year of exploring various aspects of the worldwide water crisis, each sixth grade student chooses a solution to the problem. Research begins in earnest, in preparation for a speech in an effort to convince their peers why their solution is the best, the most plausible and most worthy of financial support. After much debate and questioning, students weigh their options carefully and vote for their favorite solution. Next, students prepare for a water walk to simulate the daily walk that many women and children take in countries around the world whose water source is remote. Students solicit pledges from family, friends, and folks at school. They carry water from the nearby Hog River around campus, experiencing a small part of the physical manifestations of this daily necessity. All the money raised is sent to support the solution that was voted most worthy by the class.

    Storm Drain Stenciling
    Stenciling storm drains in local neighborhoods saying: “Dump No Waste Drains to River

    Every bit of water that finds its way down a storm drain eventually ends up in Long Island Sound. Whenever it rains, the water goes down a storm drain which first leads to the Park River, a river  that runs through and under parts of Hartford. The Park River then leads to the Connecticut River, and then finally follows to Long Island Sound. Long Island Sound is the nursery and habitat for many living sea creatures. Storm drains take the job of dissolving runoff water, but it can also carry nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution is storm water that is infected, and can carry extra nitrogen, causing fish and other sea creatures to develop tension.
    You can reduce nonpoint source pollution by doing the following:
    • Wash your car at a car wash where the water is cleaned and collected afterwards. This way, the soap won’t drizzle into the storm drains.
    • Pick up your pet’s waste. Pet waste can give bacteria and additional nitrogen to the water.
    • Clean the litter and organic matter that is clogging up the storm drains.
    • See photos from the 2010 storm drain stenciling day. 
  • Seventh Grade

    Around the World
    A trimester-long project in geography class in which students become virtual tourists and explorers of the world through researching different global physical and cultural geographies, creating travel itineraries, and writing travel-log entries of their adventures and discoveries abroad. 

    Sample Travel Itinerary for North America
    By Brett G. ’10

    From CT, I’d travel to New Hampshire to see the state capital, Concord. Then I’d travel to New York City to see, among other things, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, From there, I’d continue to the capital of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. Then it’s on to George Washington’s House in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Next, I’d visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore is the next stop on my cross country trek. From there, I’d visit Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Continuing my journey, I’d check out the Petrified National Forest in Arizona. Santa Fe, New Mexico’s state capital, is my next stop. And last on my trip is The Alamo is San Antonio, Texas.
  • Eighth Grade

    8th Grade Exhibitions
    A trimester-long process in which students look at themselves as learners and create individual projects that incorporate and demonstrate their findings. Students receive one-on-one coaching throughout and present their projects to parents, teachers, peers, and 7th graders—an audience of about 15 adults and students. 

    A recent letter from a parent about her daughter's exhibition process:

    My daughter's Exhibition went well, and we so appreciate your work with her and especially that you took the time to give her feedback in a timely way so that she could incorporate it into the presentation for the next step.  Every time that it happened,  she came home and talked about what your feedback was and diligently tried to then make it work with the next improvement process or with the cards.  Breaking it down into pieces is so key to the successful outcome.

    The process is a quite a process, but has an excellent timetable and supports to make this a great learning experience for the students.  You can see the confidence on their faces at the end.
    I know it takes a lot of time to work with each student and their individual story, but what a wonderful outcome!
    I was so touched by the metaphors selected and how they matched the student; and the teachers gave all kinds of opportunities  for each of the 7th grade observers to speak and ask questions; and think about their situation for the next year.  It was so integrated, just like the unique learning process at Watkinson. 
    You’re a great teacher, thanks for loving the students so and giving them your best, so they can find and be their best.

    Shakespeare Monologues

    A several week project in English class in which each student is assigned 30 to 60 lines of a Shakespearean monologue to analyze and understand fully, and then to memorize and present to the rest of the middle school and the 8th grade parents. Watch a video of Brutus’ funeral speech here.
  • Ninth Grade

    The first step in the four-year process that maps every student’s potential, possible, and realized paths throughout their Watkinson experience through considering their strengths, needs, intentions, and passions—bringing to light long- and short-term goals; projecting academic class schedules, activities, and weekend or summer opportunities; and attending to each student’s progress towards meeting Watkinson’s mission, C4S, and core values.
  • Tenth Grade

    10th Grade Exhibitions
    A year-long process in which students become collectors, evaluators, and exhibitors of their own 9th and 10th grade work in the areas of writing, applying the research method, problem-solving, and collaboration. Students receive one-on-one coaching throughout and present their findings to a small and focused audience for feedback and commendation.
  • Eleventh Grade

    Immigration Fair
    A trimester-long assignment in American History in which students deeply explore the history and culture of an immigrant group of their choice through first-hand interviews, historical research, and written and oral presentation to other students and teachers. 

    LEAP Day
    The official “kick-off” day for the college process in which the students retreat off campus to learn about resume and college essay writing, to practice interview skills, and to receive information about pieces of the college process such as filling out application materials, teacher recommendations, and financial aid. This event is followed up at Watkinson by evening informational events for parents, one-on-one college counseling, and college fairs.
  • Twelfth Grade

    Unlike other graduations, ours puts the student at the center by having no VIP speaker. Rather, we invite our students—as many as want to—to speak or perform; the program thus develops organically and individually, from year to year. With as many as 17 of their peers taking center stage before the awarding of diplomas, all students come away feeling that this final rite of passage was truly their own.