Middle School Curriculum
Adolescents need a healthy balance of variety, structure, and our curriculum is purposefully designed to engage students to achieve their personal best academically and socially. We build upon their growing inquiry-based skills developed in the Lower School, while beginning to prepare them for the expectations of the Upper School. Many classes begin to offer more opportunities to work in collaborative groups to encourage peer to peer learning and take academic risks to build resiliency, while also providing students with more academic variety to support their growing passions and interests.
Supported by our three Centers of Excellence, we offer a unique grades 6-8 curriculum that is relevant, challenging and robust. Every student is supported at their current academic level, with some students pursuing high school level courses while others might be beginning their study of a new world lanugage. Our experienced and dedicated faculty strive to make learning impactful AND exciting. It's not unusual to see our students outside testing their individually created airplane or discovering art inspiration from the nature they experience on our 93-acre campus. We find learning in a hands-on, experiential way pays dividends in the ability of our students to think critically and creatively as they connect concepts learned in the classroom to real-world applications.
Middle School is a time of extraordinary growth in self-awareness. To support positive academic and emotional growth in our students, we established the Middle School advisory program. Each student is assigned an advisory group, a small, often close-knit grade-level group that is led by a Middle School faculty advisor. The advisor serves as an adult advocate with the opportunity and responsibility to know and support individual students. Advisory groups meet daily during the school day.
The group focus is on issues that relate to students in their roles as people, as learners, and as members of the community. The ultimate goal is for students to understand themselves better in each of these roles. Throughout the year, students explore topics as varied as developing personal goals, celebrating accomplishments within and outside of school, and examining the factors that enhance and interfere with their learning. It is also a comfortable place to “decompress,” which is developmentally important for early adolescents. The advisory group is intended to offer students a safe, supportive forum for dealing with issues of significance to them. Advisors provide advisees with an attentive ear, caring support, and sound advice throughout the year.
Middle School Curriculum Highlights
The language arts/English program in the Middle School is focused on developing effective and creative communicators in both written and oral form, with broad exposure to literary works and analytical tools. Students expand on close reading strategies to create evidence-based analyses of both fiction and non-fiction texts while enhancing grade-level grammar and language skills.
The Middle School mathematics program continues to develop a student's understanding of mathematical concepts gained in the Lower School by diving deeper into specific subject matter. Our unique program teaches mathematics in a collaborative, peer-to-peer approach which is proven to positively impact a student's ability to learn math concepts more deeply, usefully and permanently. Sixth grade focuses on geometry, problem-solving, number theory and statistics. In seventh grade students are placed in Pre-Algebra or Algebra 1, and eighth grade follows with Algebra 1 or Honors Geometry, both of which are Upper School-level courses.
Middle School students build further refinement of their understanding of the scientific method and inquiry that was first introduced in the Lower School. Sixth grade focuses on life science, including cell function and processes, evolution, genetics, ecology and the human body. Physical science is the core topic in seventh grade, which is broken down into chemistry and physics, the study of chemical reactions, atomic theory, force and motion and simple machines. The eighth grade class studies earth science, geology, atmosphere, water systems and astronomy.
Seventh and eighth grader students also participate in the annual Science and Engineering Symposium, preparing their own independent research project. Our students often excel in the regional and state level science fair competitions, often earning many superior and excellent ratings.
The concepts of understanding, accepting and embracing differences and similarities of mankind that started in the Lower School continue as the Middle School social studies and history courses take an even broader worldview. Students begin with studying the four ancient world cultures in sixth grade, culminating in the annual Big Dig project. Seventh-grade students are introduced to the origins, concepts, organizations, and policies of the United States government and political systems around the world. Students engage in debate, research, and critical thinking to determine how our government and international governments are structured and their place within these systems. Eighth-grade students take a thematic approach to the United States and its history. Through whole group discussions and examination of primary and secondary sources, students seek to understand the cause and effect of these events and how they impact their lives today.
Choral and instrumental music is offered to further develop musical talents and appreciation. In sixth, seventh, and eigth grade, students choose between choir or string orchestra (violin, viola, cello, bass).
Middle School art provides a studio approach to visual arts learning. Discrete design elements are connected to students’ personal experiences to teach aesthetic perceptions, historical and cultural developments, and visual art knowledge and skills. When appropriate and possible, class work is integrated into other classes to foster a more intense personal connection to learning.
All Middle School students participate in the annual Middle School spring musical, a rewarding experience that builds confidence, teamwork, and performance skills. Students may choose to try out for various stage roles or join stage crew.
The Middle School offers both French and Spanish courses for all experience levels. Students can continue to study their previously selected language from Lower School, or can begin the study of a new one. In the Middle School, grammatical concepts and structures are introduced and play an integral role in developing and advancing students’ overall communication skills. Successful completion of sixth through eighth-grade world language classes gives students two Upper School credits.
Highly qualified Middle School students also have the unique opportunity to enroll in honors-option coursework in Level 2 French or Spanish where they are expected to complete additional class work and assignments throughout the school year.
At the end of eighth grade, students have the opportunity to participate in a five-day trip to Quebec City in Canada. Accompanied by their French, Spanish, and other teachers, they stay at a hotel in the city, visit old Québec, and learn aspects of its history and current events.
The goal of the Middle School technology department is to use technology as a seamless part of the learning process. Whenever possible, skills are taught through their integration into the classroom subject areas. Standards include demonstrating proficiency in the use of hardware, organizing and maintaining logical file management systems, using a variety of software applications, practicing responsible uses of technology, online research skills, creating innovative products using digital media, and keyboarding.
Students continue to build healthy living habits while developing advanced movement, skill, and coordination through exposure to various sports and games. For those wishing to compete in athletics, our athletics program offers a variety of Middle School sport teams.