Students in the Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley's Middle School International Track spend seven hours a week learning French — but science class is taught in English. Credit: EB

We all know that middle school years can be rough. Children go through a lot, mentally, emotionally, physically, and developmentally. So many aspects of their lives are changing rapidly, and bad decisions can easily be made.  Many adults have negative feelings about their middle school years.

The negativity of these formative years should not be taken lightly — middle school is a stepping stone, and our kids’ experience matters and shapes what will be next for them… high school and beyond. 

Things are changing for pre-teens today, and some educators are aware of the importance of these very specific transitional years and are offering a program that engages students in a very unique and exciting educational journey.  At Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, it comes with learning a foreign language, and shifting students’ perspectives to a bigger world.  

Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley has been recognized to be one of the most vibrant bilingual programs in the East Bay for 45 years now.  A few years ago EB started an international track. It’s an opportunity for 6th graders, who don’t already speak French, to join the international program just for the middle school years and benefit from the school’s mission and vision.

Students enroll in a strong academic program that will get them ready for high school and learn to speak French well, with seven hours of instruction in French per week and an opportunity to learn about the culture and history of France and francophone countries. During their three years at the middle school, international track students become competent in French without sacrificing any subject matters or important skill building. Students experience a unique multilingual and multicultural environment that opens their minds to understanding our complex world.

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Shelli Strand, mother of one of the first IT students, said  “When I was in middle school, I didn’t like it. I had no idea that middle school could be this wonderful. My daughter is happy, she gets up every morning looking forward to going to school, meeting her friends, doing her school work […] It’s really exciting!” 

Ecole Bilingue Middle School is also great because of its size: with about 100 students, it is a school where everyone knows and cares about each other. Teachers, the head of school, and the support team know that each student is unique. Social Emotional learning continues to be an important part of the experience and these crucial-to-master soft skills are practiced here. Creating an inclusive and kind environment, where students feel they belong, is very important for the success of the program.

Chloe, a 7th grader, reflected on her experience, “It’s really amazing because everyone is being so kind to me. And Elliot, who graduated in June, said, “I really liked the international track because I like the small class. I feel we can really know each other and connect.” 

EB Middle School students get to navigate an engaging, dynamic pedagogical environment. The experiential learning and field trips are usually the favorite memories of EB students —  Catalina Island in Grade 6, and then Washington DC in Grade 7.  It is in Grade 8 that they truly celebrate all their hard work by going to Paris for two weeks, staying with French families, and experiencing, sometimes for the first time, true immersion into the culture and language they have been learning.

Find out more about this unique opportunity for creating happy middle school students.

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