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Social-emotional learning (SEL) in the ACDS Middle School takes center stage with the unique, custom-designed class we call Advocacy.

Advocacy fosters close relationships in a small group of students meeting with a single teacher every day, all year long. Students in Advocacy learn how to relate and communicate effectively, to speak up for their needs and be receptive to those of others, to manage conflict and disagreement, and to feel safe in a world increasingly defined by change. Opportunities for learning support and health and wellness conversations are also included in the program. 

Advocacy at ACDS is a comprehensive, fun, and integrated approach to fostering the social-emotional growth of middle schoolers.

Social-Emotional Learning 

In middle school, social-emotional learning is just as critical to student development as it is in their elementary years. Research bears out that building interpersonal skills, self-regulation and connectedness in middle school is vital for students to thrive in high school, college, and beyond. 

Yet these needs may be overlooked in middle schools that place singular emphasis on academic proficiency, or in settings with such large classes and grade-level groups that individualized attention and relationships become impracticable. Studies support decades of experience at ACDS in showing that social-emotional learning is fundamental to academic success, especially as high school and college becomes ever more rigorous, competitive, and stressful, and young people lack the coping skills to manage the pressures they face at school. 

Advocacy: A Uniquely ACDS Experience

Even though teachers use an Advocacy curriculum to guide instruction, students may not even know they’re experiencing a lesson! Advocacy at ACDS is student-focused and student-driven, comprised of as little as an exchange of creative, fun greetings, to a longer lesson focused on one of the program’s five themes:

  • Building community
  • Community service
  • Honoring identity and diversity
  • Learning support (including technology instruction)
  • Health and wellness

Advocacy helps our middle school students to:

  • Develop agency and decision-making skills as they move toward greater independence and autonomy in adolescence
  • Access opportunities for learning support, become self-advocates, and plan to lead student-parent-teacher conferences
  • Learn how to build community with activities in their smaller groups as as a grade level cohort
  • Relate to their changing world by honoring diversity and identity
  • Consider their community and the impact they can each have; through Advocacy, students have opportunities to work with charities and non-profit organizations to make their impact real.

To learn more about Advocacy at ACDS, please contact Head of Middle School, Mr. Jeremy Adams.



I enjoy Advocacy because I like how we are able to share and learn about other people, plus talk about things we are passionate about.

Ben, 7th Grade Student