5Cs in action at Central Middle School

5Cs in action at Central Middle School


If we want our students to grow up to be problem solvers, innovators, critical thinkers, designers and risk-takers, we need to give them practice now while they are forming their learning habits.  That is exactly what happened in a recent 7th grade science unit at Central Middle School.  CMS students collaborating



Students studied attributes of heat and cold in the context of sports injuries suffered by Golden State Warriors players.  The lessons, which fit into the guidelines of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), challenged students to learn about heat and cold, develop healing remedies for sports injuries, and then create a plan for promoting their remedy. Students performed lab experiments in which they studied chemical reactions to heat and cold, used biology to learn about the impact of heat and cold on the body, invented a cold pack that can be used to treat injuries, and then produced a commercial to advertise the cold pack.


The unit on heat and cold was a perfect example of how the Habits of Mind that are the centerpiece of the whole child approach to learning prevalent in the San Carlos School District are embedded in a lesson.  The District’s Strategic Plan calls for teachers to incorporate a deliberate focus on Habits of Mind including ownership, communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and citizenship, often referred to as the 5Cs.  In this unit, all of the Habits of Mind were woven into the lesson designed by the 7th grade science teachers as students learned about the chemical reactions to heat and cold, and used real-world problem solving to develop a product to treat sports injuries.


The 7th grade science unit is only one example of the 5Cs in action at Central, though.  The 5Cs are incorporated in all academic classes, and also in school activities planned by students.  The teachers themselves model the 5Cs in the way that they collaborate and support students, innovate in the classroom and foster citizenship and ownership among the students.


Principal Tom Domer explained that social-emotional wellness is a key component of learning and the school climate at Central.  “We are intentional about activities that lead to a positive school climate.” The school especially focuses on responsibility, support, respect and safety, and reminds students of those values with signs that are posted around the campus.


Signage at CMS

Central builds awareness of good citizenship habits by designating weeks to themes such as “No Name Calling”, which builds awareness about anti-bullying, and Ally Week, which teaches students to be an “upstander” rather than an “bystander” when they witness injustice.   Students themselves come up with the activities, through the leadership of the Associated Student Body (ASB). In a recent activity, all students wore ribbons representing causes that were meaningful to them, and communicated with peers and teachers about their cause and why they chose it.



Central campus supports 5Cs


Central’s beautiful new building lends itself to nurturing the SCSD Habits of Mind. On any given day if you walk around campus, you may find students collaborating to use creativity and exercising critical thinking to build a hydraulic arm in the Tinker Lab, working on research together at a high-top tables or a booth in the Commons, designing a clay gingerbread house in the art room, conducting a chemistry experiment in the fully-equipped science lab.  Central follows a modified block schedule, providing teachers longer lesson times, making project-based learning possible.


Central offers a wide range of elective classes, including Spanish, computer design, art, music, innovative design, which combines technology and design thinking, and World Languages, which offers students the opportunity to study a language of their own choosing using a computer-based learning program.  All students enroll in one elective, and students can enroll in a second by taking an optional Zero period in the morning.



On Thursdays, students participate in a Quest period.  Teachers offer a 6-week unit on a topic of their choice, and students select a Quest class based on their interests. Topics have ranged from film analysis to photography to electronic sports and gaming, Zumba and ultimate Frisbee.  Students can also choose Genius Hour, which allows them to design their own independent project during Quest period.


“Central is special, and a lot of the reason is our amazing teachers,” said Principal Domer.  “They are happy to be here, and good at what they do. Our teachers work well together, and they put our students first. If a student needs help, they are there for them. They make themselves available to help before school, after school and during lunch.  They are a strong and dedicated team!”