by Campbell Bates, Staff Writer, February 2021
Nobles middle schoolers have different schedules, different classes, different teachers, different afternoon programs, and even a different building, Pratt Middle School, from upper school students. Although it can feel negative that the middle school is so separate from the rest of the school, many people see this “Pratt Bubble” as a positive aspect of the school because they believe it prepares middle school students for the high school years to come.
The independence of the middle school gives younger students a close-knit community to connect with and an easy introduction to Nobles. “The fact that the middle school is separate from the high school helps us transition so that when we do get to the high school, we are familiar with where to go and what’s happening,” Olivia Peters (Class VI) said.
Though there is minimal interaction between the upper and middle schools, shared experiences and other connections like assembly, middle school mentors, and older siblings can help to bridge the gap. Peters has two older siblings, Hannah Peters (Class II) and Noah Peters (Class IV) and said, “I don’t see my siblings as much as I thought I would, but having them here definitely helped because they taught me the ins and outs of Nobles.”
Afternoon program is another important way for middle school students to forge relationships with their teammates and coaches. “I love the community in the middle school, and I think sports are a big part of that,” Peters said. Having a way for students and teachers to connect outside of the classroom reduces the stress of getting to know people at a new school. Some middle school students are members of varsity or mainstage programs, and are further integrated into the high school community. Peters said, “As a new sixie this year, I did middle school field hockey, and that was really fun for me because I got to know a lot of people in the grade above and it was nice to have kids to connect to.” Oftentimes, these relationships continue throughout Nobles and long after graduation. A middle school teacher or advisor may become a coach or mentor throughout a student’s high school career.
Although middle school students have many activities unique to themselves, there are also opportunities for upper and middle school students to share experiences. Assembly is an important pillar of the Nobles community that connects the entire school by uniting everyone in one auditorium. In this way, middle school students are involved in school activities, announcements, and performances.
Though the middle school has opportunities to connect with the high school, there is also plenty of distance between the two because many middle schoolers find it helpful to have their own space and building. “It’s nice that we can get comfortable with the school before being thrown into high school,” Peters said. Only having to interact with the reduced class size of 60 kids, rather than all  kids of Nobles, helps make this transition to Nobles easier.
Even though middle school students form their own community, this doesn’t mean they only interact with people in their own grade. Charlotte Walkey (Class I) said, “Because of the middle school, I became close with students in the grades above and below, as well as just my grade.” These inter-grade relationships formed in the middle school become very important parts in the lives of current and past middle schoolers.
Walkey is now a member of the Middle School Mentor Program, a group of 14 seniors dedicated to connecting with middle school students. They host movie nights, special lunches, and help teach Personal Development (PD) classes. “Nobles is a close community, and middle school mentors play an important role in connecting the two branches of the school,” Walkey said.
The middle school mentors are a great resource for the younger students because they have gone through everything themselves and can relate to them. For example, Walkey understands how it can be overwhelming to be at the same school as kids five years older, so she relates to students who are content with the middle school being somewhat separate. Walkey said, “I remember when I was in middle school I was scared of high schoolers. The mentors are here to show that the high school is not scary, and we want to help them.”
The type of setting (class, advisory, or free time) also influences how easily the students connect with the mentors. “I don’t think the middle schoolers get enough interaction with the high schoolers, and it would be great if we could hang out with them in a relaxed environment,” Walkey said. COVID-19 has limited the amount of all-school events, and this has decreased the ability for the school to come together in a setting outside of the classroom. But even in this time, events like Friday Night Lights, the Winter Musical, and the Dance Show have helped bring the community together in a safe way.
Attending classes, games, movie nights, advisory, and middle school assembly for two years means the bonds formed between the teachers and students in each small grade are strong. Overall, though the middle school can feel like a “bubble,” it is helpful for the younger students to have a close-knit community that they will value forever. Though the Nobles Middle School is slightly separated from the high school, there is the right amount of opportunity for connection with the high school. Even still, separation is not such a bad thing.