While the 2019-2020 academic year began in earnest on September 4th, you would be hard-pressed to find students toting textbooks in The Hun Middle School. That’s because this year commenced with The Hun Way, an eight-day orientation program designed to help students grow and develop personally and socially, as well as academically. “We believe so strongly in this essential community foundation that we set aside several days in the beginning of the year for this work,” explains Ken Weinstein, middle school head.
“Students who are intentionally introduced to their own emotional intelligence during adolescence are shown to have better relationships, coping skills, and academic success throughout life,” he adds. “They are better equipped to recognize and manage their own emotions and develop communication and leadership skills that advance them academically and socially in profound ways.”
The Hun Way, a game-changing orientation program, offered a blend of teambuilding, positive psychology, cultural competency, and gender-role learning through a series of engaging activities and discussions. The programming was designed to equip students with a deeper understanding of their individual strengths as well as their differences. “We were very deliberate and proactive in establishing the Hun culture, right from the start, that we value so much, says Mr. Weinstein. “The Hun Middle School is a place with a true sense of community and by studying our common ground and respecting our differences, the students learned how to be a meaningful part of that community.” Activities ran the gamut from tackling gender stereotypes while planning a fictional birthday party to discussing the history and impact of the “n” word. “Some of the conversations were challenging but this is where the leaps in growth take place,” says Mr. Weinstein.
Students were also introduced to the Positive Education Program, a widely acclaimed strengths-based program developed locally by Katie Curran of Proof Positive. “Our Middle School faculty has been engaged in this program for more than a year and are already seeing the benefits in their own work and understanding of our individual strengths,” adds Weinstein.
The seed for The Hun Way was planted more than a year ago by Jennifer Anderson, assistant head of middle school, and Chantille Kennedy, middle school counselor. “The idea behind The Hun Way was to proactively and intentionally create a positive, cohesive, and connected community from the first day of school,” says Ms. Anderson. “It helped students and teachers connect as humans, beyond math or history, while learning how to take care of each other in a positive way. The emphasis of the week was to establish positive connections by understanding that our differences are not what set us apart but what make us special.”
The eight-day program also included a retreat at Camp Bernie, an annual Middle School tradition packed with fun outdoor teambuilding opportunities. The Hun Way concluded with field trips to Philadelphia, where sixth and seventh graders visited The African American Museum, and Washington, D.C., where eighth graders visited Howard University and The National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“Our students learned so many things, from working together in teams and helping others grow to understanding our expectations, that they never would have had in a one-day retreat,” says Mr. Weinstein.
Of course, nothing tops hearing it straight from a student. "Elementary school taught me math but middle school teaches me to be a better person," says Joe Poller ’26.