Ready for middle school
Ready to change the world

Seabury has taken inspiration from Tacoma's historic and beautiful bridges to build our fifth grade program into a bridge between elementary and middle school.

Fifth grade is an important year of transition for students. As they get ready for middle school, they must learn to be more independent, to manage their time and resources effectively, to solve problems in both academic and social situations, to collaborate, and to dig more deeply into their studies.

Challenge and preparation

Seabury’s Bridges program provides fifth graders with academic challenges that are individually designed to meet the needs of each learner, while preparing students for the new freedoms and responsibilities of middle school. With a focus on leadership development, students see community leaders in action and experience what it means to be a leader through service projects and special programs in and out of school. 

The community is their classroom

Bridges uses Tacoma and its many resources as a learning lab where students experience first-hand how our community works and what effective leadership looks like. It puts students face-to-face with local leaders from government and social services, as well as scientists, artists and entrepreneurs. The fifth graders meet once a week at Seabury's downtown middle school campus, which becomes a base for their field studies, which have included the Pierce County Elections Center just a few days before Nov. 8, 2016, Tacoma Police headquarters and Tacoma Rescue Mission where they helped sort personal hygiene supplies and handed them out to clients.

Concept: Systems

The concept of "Systems" is a year-long guide for their explorations of civics, social services, the economics and ecology of Puget Sound – and other systems, including infrastructure, transportation and health care. They develop questions, and work with community liaisons to develop an action plan for a service project. The fifth graders also take part in a complex simulation in which they develop their own governments and interact between countries to ensure each country can develop its economy.

Leadership and independence

As they learn from community leaders, fifth graders get opportunities throughout the year to develop their leadership skills and to become more independent. They run the school store, an enterprise that involves ordering inventory, managing operations and accounting for sales. They mentor younger students throughout the year, and helping with STEAM projects, buddy reading and partnering during other classroom activities. On their days downtown, they eat lunch at the Farmer's Market or other restaurants and must make their own nutrition choices and manage their own money.

Ready to make a difference

Students in the Bridges program head to middle school ready to lead, ready to think, ready to problem solve, ready to learn, and ready to make a difference in the world around them.


  • Each Bridges student ...
  • Out and about
  • Mentors younger children
  • Understands the electoral college
  • Makes lunch choices and manages money at the Farmers Market
  • Writes creative stories, persuasive essays and a play
  • Helps run the school store
  • Speaks comfortably and politely to adults in the community
  • Understands how cells work
  • Learns advocacy skills
  • Enters a film in the 90-Second Newbery competition
  • Uses MLA format for citations
  • Writes research papers
  • Understands how systems work together to help a community run
  • Understands U.S. government systems, and other government system
  • Develops and presents a community service action plan
  • Learns and practices debate skills
  • Grasps U.S. and world geography
  • Uses the scientific method
  • Participates in community service
  • Uses primary and secondary sources
  • Designs a farmers market of their own
  • Practices coding using a variety of programs

In Bridges' pilot year, 2016-17, Seabury's fifth graders have met with a wide variety of community leaders and toured a number of community organizations. They include:

  • Pierce County Auditor's office
  • A Tacoma City Councilman
  • Tacoma's human resources director
  • A MetroParks commissioner
  • Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society


  • Tacoma Information Technology department
  • A Superior Court judge
  • A prosecutor
  • Democratic headquarters
  • Republican headquarters
  • Tacoma Police headquarters
  • Pierce County's election division
  • Pierce County auditor's office
  • The head of Tacoma Farmers Markets
  • FISH Food Bank
  • Pierce County Council member
  • Tacoma Rescue Mission
  • Puyallup tribe's shellfish biologist
  • Tacoma's Economic Development Department
  • The State Capitol
  • University of Washington Tacoma
  • Tacoma General/Multicare

Find out more in the Seabury School Curriculum Guide


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