The intent of the Middle School Architecture Program is not to train the students to be architects, but to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills through the process of design. By working both independently and cooperatively towards a solution, they must consider the constraints and consequences of their design decisions. In all projects and discussions, they begin to use the vocabulary of architecture, as well as the specific tools and terminology of architectural design.
The Architecture Program provides an opportunity for design minded students to delve deeper into the field of architecture. The themes, specific architectural content, and projects vary from semester to semester, but each session contains the same intent. The children take on authentic exercises and problems that might be presented to a professional architect. For example, projects include designing a small bungalow, a restaurant, an outdoor classroom, a sculpture garden, a park, a stained glass window, and a World’s Fair Pavilion, among other things. Students take on challenges that are local and experiential, making the exercises personally meaningful to them, and of great value as they build a sense of place. This effort is often supported by field trips to neighboring places like historic landmarks, parks, and sculpture gardens. To expand their horizons, the local community aspect of the projects is often paired with a larger scope. For instance, they might take on the study of the work of a specific architect or firm, famous park and garden designs, an aspect of city and regional planning, interior design, school related projects, multi-cultural ideas like Japanese and Islamic courtyards, or something whimsical like tree houses or games. The project themes are often students driven, while the curriculum content of the class is based on a serious study of architectural principles and concepts. These universal understandings support the students’ current and future studies and encourage them to continue to explore the world around them.
The goal of the Middle School English Program is to create literate, thoughtful communicators who are capable of managing language effectively as they negotiate an increasingly complex and information-rich world. Integrating each grade’s theme with essential questions and pertinent study units supports students as they become critical thinkers who express their original ideas with confidence and integrity. As students continue to read a variety of novels, short stories, poems, plays, visuals, and nonfiction works, they become more effective readers, writers, and speakers. Vocabulary development and precision is an important outgrowth of literature and language study. Students write to discover and clarify what they think, to explore their ideas, and to communicate with others. They engage in a variety of writing genres and experiment with various methods of development. By focusing on the six traits of excellent writing (ideas and development, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and conventions), students learn to express themselves effectively as they develop their own individual voices. In Middle School, students master the skill of writing a five-paragraph essay and learn to view grammar, usage, and sentence construction as integral parts of the drafting and revising process. As they acquire specific skills and strategies for writing, speaking, listening, and reading, students learn to think abstractly, to solve problems, to make decisions, and to question the world around them. Students engage in discussion models that encourage inquiry, self-expression, and active citizenship. In Middle School English, students learn to express themselves with clarity, power, and fluency.
The seventh grade English program consists of four units: Cultures and Traditions; Perceptions- Ability versus Disability; Labels- Own, Accept, or Reject, A Sense of Place. These units help seventh graders to better understand vulnerability, power, and change as they question the impact of stereotyping and prejudice. Through the study of language and literature, seventh graders refine specific skills and strategies in writing, speaking, reading, viewing, and listening. Students read a variety of novels, short stories, poems, visuals, and nonfiction works to become more facile with both written and spoken language. Seventh graders focus on understanding analysis as it relates to literature and how to select quotations and develop original ideas based on those quotations.
Seventh grade students study a short novel designed for middle school students, which they are required to read over the summer. They work with a series of vocabulary and comprehension questions for each chapter. The class explores the world of French cheese. After working with a PBS documentary on the subject, they present a cheese of their choice to their classmates. The year ends with a biography of an important French figure who influenced the world, such as Marie Curie or Louis Braille. The seventh graders write weekly journal entries on a given theme to practice using target vocabulary. In grammar they review prepositions and additional irregular verbs.
Seventh graders continue the work begun in sixth grade. Working with Unit 1 of the Cambridge Latin Course, its supplementary materials, and Cambridge’s interactive website and web books, students absorb the language, culture, and history of the Romans through reading stories about a real family that lived in Pompeii during the first century AD. Students master the four verb conjugations in the present, imperfect, and perfect tenses, and learn the first three noun declensions in the nominative, dative and accusative cases through participating in classroom activities and playing assorted learning games. While continuing to explore basic Latin and English grammar concepts, students become confident with Latin pronunciation, increase English vocabulary through the study of derivatives, and further develop their awareness of the history, culture, and life of the Romans.
Throughout Middle School, library instruction focuses on the skills and strategies necessary for students to become skillful and ethical researchers. Areas of study include: conducting effective web-based searches, determining reliability of websites, avoiding plagiarism, navigating databases, citing sources, accessing relevant information, note taking, and acting responsibly when gathering and using information. At each grade level, students are given opportunities to use materials, information, and strategies to complete writing assignments for content area classes. Students are taught an information search process which they use to complete research assignments.
The Middle School Math Program is designed to help students better understand their grade’s theme by relating profound ideas to practical, mathematical applications. Each study unit includes a rigorous practice of skills, varied levels of difficulty, and challenging real-world problems and applications. Lessons and activities often include student lead demonstrations and explanations of the steps and processes involved in problem solving. Class notes and examples are frequently shared with students to aid in reviewing and practicing for mastery. The program is geared to develop the whole child. Essential to the Middle School Math Program are interactive endeavors and project-based applications. For many of these activities, students have the opportunity to work individually or in small groups to apply what they have learned in the classroom.
The seventh grade Math Program consists of seven units: Algebraic expressions and integers; Solving equations and inequalities, whole numbers, fractions and decimals; Exponents and scientific notation; Ratios, proportions, and percentages; Linear functions and graphing; Spatial thinking; and Irrational numbers and Pythagorean theorem. These units help seventh graders better understand vulnerability, power, and change as they question how math changes their perspective on the world.
Middle School students continue practicing solfège by sight-singing rounds and part-songs. Students sing rounds in two, three, and sometimes four parts and in foreign languages. They sing three-part choral music and begin to explore their changing voices while they focus on developing resonance and improving their diction. In addition, students apply their skills to learn more technically and rhythmically challenging pieces for mallet percussion. They continue their study of international folk music, learning music that is consistent with the International Day theme for that year. By the end of eighth grade, students will have learned at least one piece from each of the major periods of music history: the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Twentieth Century.
The Middle School Science Program is designed to help students better understand their grade’s theme by asking essential questions that pertain to units of study. Each unit includes in-depth presentations and hands-on activities that give context to new concepts while building vocabulary and strengthening note-taking skills. Student centered and/or designed field and laboratory experiments challenge students to apply developing skills and newly acquired knowledge in a meaningful way. To augment in-class learning, students have at home access to the teacher’s PowerPoint notes online and reading assignments in the Prentice Hall Science Explorer textbook series. Geared to develop the whole child, one of the cornerstones of the Middle School Science Program is the wide variety of inquiry-based explorations and experiments that students engage in throughout the year. For many of these activities, students have the opportunity to communicate their findings in lab reports that include detailed, mathematical and graphical analysis of their exciting discoveries.
The seventh grade Science Program consists of seven life science units: Introduction to living systems; Plant function; Classifying life; Introduction to cells/single celled organisms; Cell function; Heredity; and Evolution. These units help students better understand vulnerability, power, and change as they explore the susceptibility of natural biological systems and address the effects of human cultural development. Seventh graders explore a broad range of life science topics that prepare them to better understand the natural world and to be successful in future classes in the biological sciences. Topics include classification of living things, cell structure and function, plant structure and function, heredity, and evolution.
The Middle School Social Studies Program covers exciting and compelling periods of human history while integrating each grade’s theme with essential questions and informative study units. Each unit includes work on geography, government, religion, philosophy, and cultural achievements. Through a variety of activities designed to develop higher order thinking, students make inquiries and learn important concepts. Role-play, simulations, art activities, debates, Socratic Seminars, the examination of primary and secondary sources, and research, aid students in learning a variety of skills like note-taking, writing persuasive pieces, and preparing and delivering oral presentations. Throughout each unit, students are asked to make comparisons, ask questions, analyze information, and draw inferences. In this way, students develop the ability to make sense of historical facts, and to connect what they learn to the world around them. Through activities that invite students to engage with the diverse cultures they encounter, they assimilate historical and cultural information in a meaningful way that supports critical thinking and active citizenship.
The seventh grade social studies curriculum focuses on the topic of connections among peoples and civilizations. To better understand vulnerability, power, and change, seventh graders question the impact of cultural connections, the effects of belief systems, and the concept of winners and losers. Investigation of these topics is structured in three units: The Islamic World; The Silk Road; and Cultural Exchange and Transformation in Europe.
What is the relationship between art and change? This is the essential question that guides the seventh grade art curriculum. This question is explored through a series of sketch assignments, art observations, class discussions, and several projects exploring the concept of change through the theme of landscape. The projects include “en plein air” landscape paintings of the Willow campus, traditional ink landscape paintings, nature inspired contemporary abstract ink paintings, small monument designs that convey a message for positive change in the world, chiaroscuro cloth drawings, and surrealism linear perspective dreamscapes. These projects are designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of concepts such as spatial depth, linear perspective, chiaroscuro shading, design and form; while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.
Students in grades 6 through 8 further their education in fitness, recreational activities, body movement, individual and team sports. Through ongoing assessment of personal fitness levels, students monitor their own progress toward the attainment of lifelong personal fitness goals. The physical, social, and emotional aspects of lifelong health are examined and students practice individual sports that promote the attainment of individual fitness goals.