"Dive In" Program Meets More Students, and the Moment

"Dive In" Program Meets More Students, and the Moment

Dive In Commonwealth is making a splash this summer with its unique community—one that is curious, fun, and ever-expanding. 

Interested in the classic texts? Mr. Conolly will take you back in “Voices of Ancient Egypt.” Or perhaps you’re looking for more modern codes? Mr. Singer will get you up to speed in “The Foundations of Computation.” 

Such is the variety offered in Dive In Commonwealth, an opportunity for middle-school students from underserved backgrounds to jump head-first into a Commonwealth education. In its second summer, Dive In now boasts fourteen faculty members and thirteen courses, a tremendous leap from last summer’s two teachers and two classes.

In the arts, students study the silver screen in “Understanding Cinematic Storytelling” and then step onto the stage themselves in “Acting: Games, Storytelling, and Self Expression.” As an introduction to creativity that abounds in the Commonwealth studios, Ms. Nieto, assistant director of the program, leads “Photo” and “Sculpture.”

English and math continue for all six weeks for the new cohort of rising eighth graders, while returning students, now rising ninth graders, take two science courses (“Matter and Change” and “Introduction to Biology”). To complement the traditional English class, “Creative Writing: Poetry” is now on the docket. 

Yoga, too, is a new venture for all students, incorporating stretching and mindfulness, plus the stories from Indian mythology that accompany the poses, per requests from knowledge-hungry students.

Nationwide protests of systemic racism and growing support of Black Lives Matter have further affirmed Dive In Commonwealth's mission to increase access for students of color. Here, Dive In is poised to meet this historic moment. A large part of the expanded curriculum incorporates topics of diversity, inclusion, and identity, and so Dive In continues with this vital work. 

Spanish teacher Mónica Schilder led the first week with a mini-course, "Owning my Voice," in which students reflected on and discussed identity (be it racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, or any other.) Fellow Spanish (and history) teacher César Pérez will teach “The Latino Experience: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality,” while Mandarin teacher Rui Shu offered “Chinese Language and Culture” (an early favorite, according to a Dive In newsletter). Meanwhile, history teacher Melissa Glenn Haber is leading an occasional book club on “New Kid,” a graphic novel about a student who starts at a new school where diversity is lacking and where he struggles to fit in. 

In one of Ms. Dale's english classes, students hailing from Framingham to Boston tackled Edith Pearlman’s “Inbound;" the short story by a local author tells of a family’s adventure on the Red Line and in Harvard Square, providing the perfect metaphor for one of the aims of the program: to connect Commonwealth with more communities and students across the city.

Due to the pandemic, students take classes in the building only in the morning, where they are split into two small groups, and return home for lunch and virtual classes in the afternoons. And yet the community built in person, starting last year with the first cohort, has grown seamlessly. This strength comes down to the glowing personalities of the middle schoolers, all eager to learn, and the dedication of faculty and current students who support them.

“We heard that one student ‘can always find something to laugh about and can always make you laugh, too!’ another who is ‘a little rebellious, stands up for what she believes,’ and another who is ‘kind, always looking for ways to help someone else,’” program director Ms. Eskelund wrote in a newsletter to families. 

“And so we build our community together, learning about one another's passions and quirks as we dive into a summer of discovery and friendship.” 

To read more about the history of the program and its founding, check out this feature profile from the most recent edition of Commonwealth Magazine, and to see the students in action, view our photo album on Flickr.