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 sixth grade English Program consists of four units: The Ripple Effect; Unexpected Connections; The Greater Good; and Nature vs. Technology and Development. These units help sixth graders better understand their place in the world as they examine the impact of their choices and how an individual’s choices can shape a better future. As students enter Middle School, they strengthen their ability to analyze varied and complex texts, develop arguments, synthesize information from multiple sources, examine different perspectives, and engage in self-reflection. Sixth graders read The Giver and Hoot, among other varied literature selections.
Sixth grade discovers the concept of ‘francophonie’, a term for the community of French speaking countries throughout the world. To illustrate this study, the students read the story of two young boys going back to school in Madagascar. They prepare and share a presentation in French for their classmates, following the model of the UNICEF book A School Like Mine, which features school children on all continents. The second half of the year is dedicated to the study of French geography and presentations of regions of France, complete with gourmet food! Middle schoolers have weekly homework assignments. Their work is graded. Grammar work focuses on present and passé-composé tenses of IR & RE conjugations as well as the futur proche and the present tense of avoir, être, aller, faire.
The course provides students with an introduction to the Latin language and Roman culture. Through the Cambridge University Press text Minimus: Starting out in Latin, students learn about a real Roman family that lived in Vindolanda near Hadrian’s Wall in Roman Briton during the second century AD. The course is divided into 12 units each of which includes the study of grammar, vocabulary, derivatives, Roman culture, and mythology. Study of mythology is supplemented with additional books and audiovisual materials and culminates in an end of the year gods and goddesses project. In grammar, sixth graders develop beginning vocabulary and translation skills as they study nouns and adjectives in the first two declensions (focusing on the nominative and accusative cases), and learn the four verb conjugations in the present tense. Cultural projects focus on the Roman world- dress, homes, customs, legends, and mythology. Homework, special projects, and assessments serve to solidify and expand student learning and accomplishment.
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 led 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 sixth grade Math Program consists of nine units: Whole Numbers and Decimals; Data and Graphs; Number Theory and Fractions; Operations with Fractions; Ratios, Proportions, and Percentages; Tools of Geometry; Geometry and Measurement; Exploring Probability; and Introduction to Algebra. Throughout these units, sixth graders question how math can help them define their place in 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 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 sixth grade Science Program consists of eight physical science units: Experimental Design; Introduction to Matter; Solids, Liquids, and Gases; Elements and the Periodic Table; Motion; Forces; Energy; and Sound and Light. These units help sixth graders better understand their place in the world as they question how the laws of the physical world guide human behavior. The year begins with an extensive exploration of the scientific method with activities highlighting scientific questioning, observation, measurement, data collection, and data analysis. The course then proceeds into topics of physical science including matter, atoms, motions, forces, energy, sound, and light.
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 sixth grade social studies curriculum focuses on the study of ancient civilizations from about 1200 BCE to 500 BCE, the age of empires. The program is divided into three large units: Ancient India and China; Ancient Greece; and Ancient Rome. Sixth graders strive to understand their place in the world as they question to what degree cultural heritage influences beliefs and decisions and whether domination is a sustainable strategy for success.
What is the relationship between art and story? This is the essential question that guides the sixth grade art curriculum. Sixth graders explore this question through a series of sketch assignments, art observations, class discussions, and several projects on the theme of story from multiple perspectives. Projects include volumetric line environments, charcoal self-portraits that use expression to tell a story, masks inspired by Greek mythology created from recycled materials, symbolic personal crest “swords”, figure drawings, and dynamic wire figure sculptures. These projects work to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of concepts such as contour line, volumetric line, proportion, portraiture, form, contrapposto, dynamic movement, abstraction, and symbolism 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.