Middle School Curriculum

The Middle School program is designed to ease each student through the important transition from child to young teen. From our dedicated sixth grade wing and specialized tutorial program to the reassuring anchor of our student advisory system, students have support systems in place to meet new academic and personal challenges.

Curriculum by Subject

Art

The art curriculum stresses individual growth and gives students the opportunity to explore, express and develop their creative talents in a non-competitive studio atmosphere. An array of art media, technical and evaluative skills, concepts and vocabulary are introduced. Students are encouraged to understand the visual arts in relation to history and culture, and to appreciate self-expression and non-verbal communication as an integral part of the human experience.

Grade 6 Art

  • May include 2D design, drawing, painting, collage, clay, 3D media

Grade 7 Art

  • May include 2D design, printmaking, 3D design, sculpture/assemblage, video, drawing

Grade 8 Art

  • May include drawing, painting, mixed media, printmaking, assemblage, 3D media

Learn about the art curriculum at the Senior School.

Athletics & Activities

Grades 6-8 Athletics & Activities

At the Middle School, we strongly believe that skills and lessons learned on the athletic field and dramatic stage can be just as important in life as the academic accomplishments. Our co-curricular program of athletics and activities provides each student with choices that include competitive team sports, non-competitive group sports, drama and art opportunities, as well as opportunities in math and science competitions. Every student chooses one activity in each of the three terms, and at least one of those selections must be a “movement” option.

In athletic options, students are coached by faculty members as well as outside coaches, with the goal of providing the student with the fundamental skills and strategies of that particular sport. Students are expected to be prepared for each practice and to fully take part every day, whether practice or a game.

Lessons learned in these afternoon activities include winning and losing with dignity, grace and character. Coaches stress the importance of sportsmanship, perseverance, teamwork and cooperation. Opportunities for leadership are available to all students within every team.

General competition guidelines:

  • Sixth graders in a competitive activity could have one game per week
  • Students in seventh and eighth grades will have no more than two games per week

View a list of athletics & activities

Skill-building activities:

  • Demonstrate competency in the fundamental skills used in each sport/activity
  • Demonstrate continued development and understanding of a particular sport/activity at each grade level
  • Exhibit self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork, and understanding the value of each in every sport
  • Understand that the values of self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork can be applied in daily life, not only on a playing field
  • Understand the challenges of competition

Learn about athletics at the Senior School.

Computer Science

As personal devices become more integrated and widespread in society, understanding the languages and program design at their core becomes more crucial. Middle School computer science is a platform for students to become more knowledgeable about the coding and development behind their phones, apps and games. Students focus on computational thinking, introductory robotics and writing computer programs to solve problems. In an environment that welcomes creativity, tinkering and play, students build iteratively and with an artistic eye to reach a finished product. From writing code that powers Sphero robots around a course to learning program design in Scratch, Code.org and Python, students develop tools to assist, entertain and enrich.

Grade 6 Computer Science

After an introduction to Middle School technology, sixth grade students venture into the world of robotics and computational thinking using Sphero robots, tape mazes and their imaginations. After learning to solve problems using algorithms and pattern recognition, students pivot to a unit on game design using the Scratch. Originally developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch gives students early exposure to programming concepts through blocks and events. To end the year, computer science and art classes blend together to enhance the art team's Cities project through automation. By combining Arduinos, sensors, LEDs, servos and programming, as well as traditional craft materials, students will tap both creativity and technology to build a city of the future.

Resources include:

  • Arduino technology
  • Scratch programming language by MIT Media Lab
  • Sphero app-enabled robotic ball
  • Hummingbird Robotics Kit

Grade 7 Computer Science

To begin the year, seventh grade students use Sphero robots to learn and master problem solving skills. Using computational thinking and program design, students work to solve real-world problems such as human interaction and search and rescue in a hostile environment. Then they apply their knowledge of programming elements to a unit on design thinking and app design. They begin by redesigning the morning routine of a classmate, and then develop solutions through technology. The course then pivots to investigate the languages that machines use to communicate. As an introduction to programming elements such as conditional statements, functions and variables, students develop web apps in Javascript using Code.org's Applab. Then, students end the year by developing a mobile app in Javascript that solves a real-world problem for a peer.

Resources include:

  • Sphero Robotics and Lightning Lab
  • Code.org Computer Science Principles Course
  • Code.org AppLab

Grade 8 Computer Science

To begin the year, students use design thinking to redesign Shady Side Academy's Code of Ethics to reflect the digital age. By investigating how technology and ethics intersect, students gain an understanding of how mobile devices influence identity. They then pivot to a robotics unit that uses the Lego Mindstorm Robots to investigate autonomous movement through actions, sensors and decision making. Students end the unit by solving a complex maze using only the robot's sensors. To end the year, students get their first exposure to a canonical language by learning the basics of Python. Students learn both the syntax and power of the language by creating functions and manipulating graphics. Students create functions that generate Moire patterns using the turtle graphics library.

Resources include:

  • Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kit
  • Python programming language

Learn about the computer science curriculum at the Senior School.

English

The English program at the Middle School uses guiding questions to help students develop as critical thinkers while building a strong foundation in literature, writing and the mechanics of the English language. Students read a variety of authors and forms, including myths, fairy tales, poetry, short stories, memoirs, plays and novels. Through writing and revision, students learn to express ideas in formal paragraphs and essays. They also work on creative writing projects in poetry, fiction and memoir, and develop their personal literary taste through independent reading. Grammar and vocabulary are taught in all three years of the program.

Grade 6 English

In sixth grade English, students extend themselves as writers, readers and thinkers through a yearlong pursuit of the question “What is identity?” Writing assignments, literature choices and vocabulary are all matched to this essential question. Students practice writing and revision through informal writing and poetry as well as formal writing about literature. Students write multi-paragraph essays after instruction on the components of effective introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions. They learn how to extract convincing examples from a text, how to write analysis that explains their importance, and how to draw a conclusion that applies ideas to a larger context. As readers, sixth graders identify the literary elements of plot, setting, theme and characterization in multiple genres and become familiar with figurative language such as metaphor, simile, imagery, hyperbole and personification. They learn to think of books as carefully crafted artworks, discussing techniques such as foreshadowing and their effects on readers. Core reading outside of class allows students to explore and expand their literary tastes, and teachers match texts to individual students’ needs. Vocabulary instruction introduces new words with an emphasis on using the words with precision of meaning in appropriate contexts. Projects and selected activities make connections to the sixth grade social studies course.

Skill-building activities:

  • Writing a formal essay with an introduction, body and conclusion
  • Writing poetry and fiction
  • Free writing to generate ideas for writing and for discussion
  • Revising to improve content
  • Proofreading to improve mechanics
  • Discussing literature on metaphorical and literal levels, either in small groups, book clubs or within the larger class
  • Identifying and using the eight parts of speech
  • Working effectively with others
  • Preparing for discussions, quizzes, tests, presentations and a final exam

Resources include:

  • Fever 1973 by Laurie Halse Anderson (required summer reading book)
  • A read-aloud text which changes from year to year but has included The Giver by Lois Lowry and A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  • Poetry by Emily Dickinson
  • Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat
  • Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick
  • Poems, myths, folk tales and fairy tales from various cultural traditions and time periods
  • The Great Grammar Book
  • 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know

Grade 7 English

Through the study of novels, short stories, poetry and plays, and through reflecting and writing about their own lives and experiences, seventh grade English students strive to answer the question “What is empathy?” Students hone their understanding of the literary elements of plot, setting and characterization in order to read between the lines and uncover theme in an assigned text. Plot structure and literary devices are identified and analyzed for their effect on the reader, and students apply their knowledge by crafting an original short story. When writing formally, students develop a keen understanding of implementing organizational and grammatical structure. Students particularly focus on how to craft an arguable thesis from an independently developed or self-selected question, how to identify, embed and cite quoted evidence in support of the thesis, and how to draw a conclusion that applies ideas to a larger context. Monthly selection of a core reading text allows students to relish a favorite genre, find further challenge, or explore an area of interest.

Skill-building activities:

  • Writing a formal paragraph with a topic sentence, evidence, analysis and conclusion
  • Writing a formal multi-paragraph essay that defends a thesis statement
  • Using properly cited evidence to prove a thesis
  • Revising to improve content and mechanics
  • Building vocabulary through daily word study
  • Identifying various functions of parts of speech within the structure of a sentence
  • Identifying and using clauses and punctuation in various sentence types
  • Note-taking: annotating a text to record personal response and highlighting to identify literary elements
  • Preparing for discussions, quizzes, tests and a final exam

Resources include:

  • The Great Grammar Book, Marsha Sramek
  • Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Outsiders, S.E. Hilton
  • The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
  • Assorted short stories

Grade 8 English

The eighth grade English curriculum is built around the guiding question “What is justice?” As readers, students will be challenged to analyze increasingly complex texts written in a variety of periods, disciplines and genres. During daily opportunities for whole-class study of texts, students draw inferences from texts, examine the progression of theme and explore the development of complex characters. Through regular literary analysis, students carefully focus on craft in their own writing, focusing specifically on making collegiate word selections, creating an engaging formal tone, studying the ways that structure influences meaning and using voice and audience intentionally. Students develop the analytical skills built in previous years with the goal of expressing ideas with clarity and precision. Throughout the year, students write for different purposes, in multiple modes and to various audiences. Whether writing persuasive argument, personal narrative/memoir or literary analysis, students engage in the process of reflection, revision and rewriting. Grammar study focuses on creating more complex syntax and challenges students to examine the ways that language conveys meaning. Titles within the core reading program are largely self-selected. Corresponding lessons and workshops instill in students a sense of purpose and confidence which will be required for continued growth. This process fosters self-directed, critical thinkers who are curious, informed and disciplined academics.

Skill-building activities:

  • Examining literature thematically and structurally
  • Development of inference and other comprehension skills which support self-monitoring of understanding
  • Application of intentional, systematic textual annotation and note-taking structures
  • Using phrases, clauses and sentence types to convey an idea clearly, precisely and elegantly
  • Writing literary analysis, personal narrative/memoir, persuasive argument and other forms/genres with a sense of purpose and attention to audience
  • Engaging in well-supported, responsive Socratic Seminar which requires active listening and textual concentration
  • Expression of complex ideas through multiple modes
  • Application of understanding of word origin and meaning to excel in on-going, largely individualized vocabulary study

Resources include:

  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Assorted short stories, memoirs and poetry
  • Vocabulary series from American Heritage Dictionaries
  • The Great Grammar Book by Marsha Sramek
  • Sentence Composing for High School by Don Killgallon

Learn about the English curriculum at the Senior School.

Health

Middle School students participate in health class for one semester every year. The program provides up-to-date information to support students in making healthy choices that affect their physical, mental/emotional and social well-being. The curriculum is age-appropriate at each grade level and helps students to learn how to make better decisions and how to effectively communicate those decisions to others. Students are encouraged to increase their health literacy in order to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Grade 6 Health

Sixth graders have health classes twice per seven-day cycle for one semester. Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to health and wellness
  • The Health Triangle
  • Basic nutrition concepts
  • Tobacco
  • Peer pressure

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention
  • Demonstrating the ability to access valid health information and health-promoting products and services
  • Practicing health-enhancing behaviors to decrease health risks
  • Analyzing the influence of culture, media, technology and other factors on health
  • Demonstrating the ability to use communication skills, goal setting and decision making to enhance health
  • Advocating for personal, family and community health

Grade 7 Health

Seventh graders have health classes three times per seven-day cycle for one semester. Topics covered include:

  • Review of health concepts
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Illegal drugs
  • Addiction and the nervous system

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention
  • Demonstrating the ability to access valid health information and health-promoting products and services
  • Practicing health-enhancing behaviors to decrease health risks
  • Analyzing the influence of culture, media, technology and other factors on health
  • Demonstrating the ability to use communication skills, goal setting and decision making to enhance health
  • Advocating for personal, family and community health

Grade 8 Health

Eighth graders have health classes three times per seven-day cycle for one semester. Topics covered include:

  • Advanced nutrition concepts related to sports performance
  • Body Image and the effects of media
  • Eating disorders
  • Male and female anatomy
  • Teen relationships
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • HIV

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention
  • Demonstrating the ability to access valid health information and health-promoting products and services
  • Practicing health-enhancing behaviors to decrease health risks
  • Analyzing the influence of culture, media, technology and other factors on health
  • Demonstrating the ability to use communication skills, goal setting and decision making to enhance health
  • Advocating for personal, family and community health

Learn about the health curriculum at the Senior School.

Library

The library program in the Middle School encompasses a variety of skills and activities:

  • Applying knowledge of the resources and opportunities the library offers locally and remotely to personal and educational needs.
  • Locating, interpreting and using information for identified projects, reports, multimedia presentations and other works.
  • Demonstrating proficiency with both print and non-print resources and emerging information technologies.
  • Applying ethical standards to the gathering and use of information.
  • Applying news literacy skills across all formats of information.
  • Applying research skills across academic curriculum, independently and with others.
  • Exhibiting an appreciation of literature personally and as part of the human and cultural experience.

Grade 6 Library

Research is an integral part of the sixth grade library program. Through the collaboration of the library and classroom, students learn to identify, locate, access, evaluate and use information specific to the academic discipline. Students use Destiny Quest, the library catalog, and other reader advisory sites to search, review and recommend books. Specific information skills such as defining research topics, using note cards, citing sources and evaluating websites are key components of research. Students gain an appreciation of literature through core reading, book talks, genre studies, borrowing, annual book fair and author visits. Students use multiple literacies and technologies to create and share projects.

Grade 7 Library

Research continues to be an integral part of the seventh grade library program. Continued collaboration of the library and classrooms enable students to build upon prior information-seeking skills. Specific information research skills such as evaluating sources of information for bias and credibility, executing database searches, using footnotes and citations, recognizing plagiarism and building bibliographies are scaffold upon previously learned skills. Students are introduced to GoodReads, a reader advisory site that promotes sharing and discussion of books. Students’ appreciation of literature is further enriched through projects, annual book fair, author visits and genre studies.

Grade 8 Library

The goal of eighth grade library is for students to be more independent in their use of the library for research and reading. Guided review of research skills and available resources, both print and non-print, prepares students for self-directed library work between the library and the classroom. Specific skills such as sophisticated search strategies, website evaluation, database searching and citing and ethical use of information supports learning in the classroom. Students are encouraged in this last year at the Middle School to stretch themselves as readers through more challenging fiction and non-fiction titles. This is executed through the use of teacher and student recommendations, GoodReads advisory website, multi-library borrowing and projects that promote and review literature.

Learn more about SSA's libraries.

Mathematics

The Middle School mathematics curriculum engages students with the how and why of mathematical procedures, and instructs them in several important principles:

  • Using the language of mathematical discourse
  • Using mathematics as a tool for modeling and solving problems
  • Using mathematical skills, concepts and procedures in situations that simulate real-world applications
  • Becoming proficient in the use of complementary technology

Two sequences of mathematics courses are offered. Most students take Grade 6 Math, Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1. Advanced math students may be placed into Pre-Algebra in sixth grade based on a placement test, followed by Algebra 1 and Geometry. Highly accelerated math students have the option to pursue independent study courses in math.

Grade 6 Math

In sixth grade math, students develop an understanding of how and why mathematical procedures work using the Math in Focus: Singapore Math curriculum. Students learn to master the arithmetic operations of whole numbers, decimals, fractions and percents. They learn and apply number theory including prime factorization, GCF, LCM, square roots and square numbers, and are introduced to positive and negative integers. From the beginning of the course, students use algebraic approaches to solve equations, inequalities and word problems, while also learning the basics of geometry, such as measuring segments and angles, finding perimeters and/or areas of polygons, and finding volumes of prisms and cylinders.

Skill-building activities:

  • All skills are developed using the concrete-to-pictorial-to-abstract method
  • Mastering arithmetic operations with whole numbers, decimals, fractions and percents
  • Applying techniques of number theory
  • Learning and using algebraic problem-solving approaches
  • Becoming familiar with positive and negative integers and their arithmetic operations
  • Learning basic geometric principles
  • Learning perimeter, area and volume formulas

Resources include:

  • Math in Focus - Course I, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt

Grades 6-7 Pre-Algebra

Pre-algebra students continue to develop their mathematical proficiency through the Math in Focus program by building and extending the skills learned in sixth grade math. Students work with more complex expressions and equations involving signed numbers. They develop the skills needed to recognize pattern and structure and to reason logically to solve word problems. Students study special angles such as vertical and alternate-interior angles, and are introduced to probability.

Skill-building activities:

  • Developing an ability to simplify multi-step expressions and to solve multi-step equations
  • Gaining knowledge of direct proportions
  • Learning to work with geometric principles.

Resources include:

  • Math in Focus - Course 2, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt

Grades 7-8 Algebra I

In Algebra I, students use their abilities to simplify expressions and solve equations to explore polynomials and factoring of quadratic expressions and equations. They study the concepts of graphing on a Cartesian coordinate plane, functions and systems of equations. Students also learn to apply the rules of exponents and radicals.

  • Performing operations with signed numbers, including simplifying numeric and algebraic expressions
  • Solving and graphing linear equations and systems of linear equations with various methods and interpreting information from their graphs
  • Factoring quadratic expressions and using factoring to solve quadratic and algebraic equations
  • Setting up and solving word problems algebraically
  • Using technology to solve problems, experiment, interpret results and verify conclusions

Resources include:

  • Algebra I: A Common Core Curriculum, by Big Ideas Learning

Grade 8 Geometry

By introducing students to the principles of logical reasoning in geometry, students develop their deductive and inductive reasoning skills. Students learn to provide informal justifications and arguments as well as two-column proofs and paragraph proofs.

Skill-building activities:

  • Reasoning and proving fundamental aspects of mathematics
  • Analyzing two- and three-dimensional figures, including their congruence and similarity
  • Calculating areas and volumes
  • Appreciating geometry as a deductive system

Resources include:

  • Geometry, Holt McDougall Larson

Learn about the math curriculum at the Senior School.

Music

Grades 6-8 Music

The Middle School music curriculum emphasizes individual growth and provides opportunities for all students to understand, participate in and enjoy the art of music as a lifelong experience. The study of the creative process and self-expression in music fosters self-confidence and develops an appreciation of the historical and cultural aspects of music. All students take music classes in grades 6-8 and can choose a large ensemble participation class (Concert Band, Chorus, String/Keyboards) or General Music (music appreciation for non-performers). In addition, students may choose to audition for smaller performance ensembles (Jazz Band, Core Choir, Select Strings).

Middle School Concert Band

Middle School band emphasizes instrumental performance and ensemble playing. Age-appropriate classical and contemporary music is studied, rehearsed and performed. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history, and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Students are required to have their own band instruments and possess basic note-reading skills. They are expected to practice music outside of class as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Participation in school concerts and the graduation ceremony are required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gaining awareness of the function of his/her instrument group individually and in relation to the larger ensemble
  • Maintaining a discipline of practice outside of school
  • Warming up
  • Practicing dynamic control and articulation
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Practicing large ensemble progress, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School Chorus

Middle School chorus emphasizes vocal performance and multi-part ensemble singing. A wide range of classical and contemporary music is studied, rehearsed and performed. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Previous formal training is not required, but at a minimum, the student should be able to match pitches played on the piano, and sing a major scale (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do). Students are expected to practice their music outside of class, as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Participation in rehearsals and concerts are required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Singing on key, harmonizing and blending
  • Developing an awareness of his/her individual function within a vocal group and in relation to the larger choir
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Executing rhythmic and tempo indications accurately
  • Interpreting dynamics and paying attention to proper phrasing
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Listening for interplay between and among mixed parts
  • Practicing large ensemble progress, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School Strings/Keyboards Ensemble

The strings/keyboards ensemble allows students experienced in violin, viola, cello or bass violin to practice and perform as a string ensemble. Students should have their own instrument and possess basic note-reading skills. Since there is rarely a full complement of string instruments to make a full ensemble, keyboard synthesizers are used to provide additional string sounds (keyboard players are also asked to play select piano parts). Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

This ensemble performs classical and contemporary music and occasionally a jazz-for-strings composition. Students are expected to practice their music outside of class, as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Full participation in rehearsals and concerts is required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Developing an awareness of his/her individual function within the instrument group and in relation to the larger ensemble
  • Applying proper instrument technique
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Executing rhythmic and tempo indications accurately
  • Interpreting dynamics and paying attention to proper phrasing
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Practicing ensemble-playing, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School General Music

General music coursework involves the basic components of rhythm, melody, harmony and musical form. Students develop skills and vocabulary to analyze and discuss a variety of musical genres, through class participation, musical listening, ear training, in-class singing, playing instruments and cooperative learning. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gaining music appreciation from hands-on experience
  • Identifying dynamic changes, meter signature, syncopation
  • Developing critical listening skills by identifying vocal and instrumental tone color, orchestral families
  • Understanding developments of musical history
  • Learning the anatomy of melody: major and minor, melodic contour, phrases, monophonic, polyphonic, homophonic textures
  • Understanding harmony: identifying tonal and atonal music, blues scale, harmonic textures, dorian and mixolydian modes
  • Identifying repetition and contrast in dynamics, tempo and articulation
  • Identifying verse-refrain (AB), theme and variations, subject and episode, arch, rondo, sonata-allegro, augmentation and improvisation

Resources include:

  • Share the Music, McGraw Hill

Learn about the arts curriculum at the Senior School.

Physical Education

Grades 6-8 Physical Education

The Middle School physical education program strives to reach students of all ability levels and directly encourage their psycho-motor, cognitive and affective growth. The program encourages students to adopt regular physical activity as a means of maintaining physical health and an avenue toward total wellness. Students are exposed to a wide variety of developmentally appropriate curricular offerings that include individual and team sport activities, rhythm and dance activities, aerobic and strength training activities, lifetime activities, cooperative group activities and outdoor adventure activities. The objective of the physical education program closely follows national physical education standards.

All students have one semester of PE classes and one semester of health classes. Sixth graders have PE two times per seven-day cycle, while seventh and eighth graders have PE three times per cycle.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gain competency in the motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities
  • Gain an understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies and tactics as applied to the learning of physical activities
  • Understand the importance of participation in regular physical activity
  • Achieve and maintaining a health-enhancing level of physical fitness
  • Exhibit responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings
  • Gain understanding of the values of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction

Learn about the athletics program at the Senior School.

Science

The science program exposes students to a variety of topics in the world around them, through a mixture of classroom, laboratory and field-trip experiences.

  • In Earth Science, students explore factors that influence the global environment.
  • In Life Science, students gain an appreciation for the organization and interactions of living organisms in their immediate world.
  • In Environmental Science, students explore the effects of natural and unnatural processes, and the interactions of the physical components of the planet, on the environment.

In all three years of the program, students develop written and verbal communication skills through reading, interpretation of data, and organizational and analytical-thinking activities. Computation, equation-solving and graphing are also important mathematics applications that are incorporated into the curriculum.

Grade 6 Earth Science

The sixth grade earth science course integrates reading, writing and thinking skills with scientific inquiry. Students conduct scientific investigations through laboratory experimentation, library research and field trips. Course information is presented in a flipped-classroom format and reinforced through hands-on laboratory activities in class. Topics covered include: the nature of science, minerals, rocks, weathering, erosion, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, fossils, geologic time, weather, pollution and robotics.

Skill-building activities:

  • Reading a section of the textbook and taking notes
  • Connecting classroom discussions to real world examples and problems
  • Studying and preparing for tests
  • Solving problems with experimentation
  • Working in a lab group to conduct experiments
  • Generating questions to answer through scientific investigation
  • Using scientific language in written communication
  • Using the Internet and library resources to conduct research

Resources include:

  • Earth Science (Glencoe 2005)

Grade 7 Life Science

The seventh grade life science course covers a wide range of topics and skills in the field of biology. Students learn about lab equipment and safety procedures while using the scientific method to perform experiments. Also introduced are the parts of the cell, the principles of Mendelian genetics and the levels of organization of the human body. Students review a description of the human body systems and their functions, and also gain knowledge of the six kingdoms of classification and the tools that scientists use to classify living organisms.

Skill-building activities:

  • Identifying and safely using lab equipment
  • Learning the proper format of a lab report
  • Constructing and interpreting graphs
  • Writing comparison/contrast answers
  • Solving probability and genetics problems
  • Learning dissecting techniques for owl pellets, flowers, animals
  • Creating and reading a dichotomous key
  • Writing a research paper based on original work

Resources include:

  • Biology, Stephen Nowicki, Holt, Reinhart and Winston 2012

Grade 8 Environmental Science

The eighth grade environmental science course introduces students to some of the basic concepts of environmental science. Topics include human interaction with the environment, tools and techniques for studying environmental science, the biosphere, the cycles of the ecosystems, pollution and energy usage. Students incorporate reading, writing and thinking skills into scientific investigations and traditional homework assignments. Course information is presented through lectures, PowerPoint presentations, projects, demonstrations and hands-on laboratory activities.

Skill-building activities:

  • Identifying and safely using lab equipment
  • Constructing and interpreting graphs
  • Reading sections of the textbook and taking notes
  • Connecting classroom discussions to real world examples and problems
  • Following step-by-step lab procedures
  • Working in a lab or research group with specified roles
  • Analyzing experimental data to construct a reasonable conclusion
  • Using the Internet and library resources to conduct research

Resources include:

  • Environmental Science, Houghton Mifflin Hardcourt Publishing Co., 2013

Grade 8 Physics 1

The eighth grade Physics 1 course places an emphasis on designing and executing well-controlled experiments, collecting consistent data and developing skills for analyzing, interpreting and explaining the data. Students will develop and use models to explain phenomena that occur in the natural world using the fundamental physical principles from Newtonian mechanics. Topics of study include constant velocity motion, accelerated motion, Newton’s Laws and energy.

Skill Building Activities:

  • Designing experiments keeping dependent and independent variables in mind
  • Using Vernier sensors to record data
  • Analyzing and interpreting data with the aid of LoggerPro software
  • Working in a laboratory group with specific roles
  • Writing relevant analyses and conclusions based on experimental data

Resources include:

  • Physics 1 Binder
  • LoggerPro Software

Learn about the science curriculum at the Senior School.

Social Studies

The Middle School social studies curriculum helps students develop historical knowledge using inquiry, critical thinking, decision making and interpersonal skills. Students cultivate an appreciation for cultural differences, historical periods, and continuity and change, while also exploring the concepts and practices of civic life. Through various activities, students build skills in reading, writing, organization and analysis.

Grade 6 Social Studies: World History

The sixth grade world history course focuses on the geography, history and cultures of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The program is further divided into units covering topics suited to each region of the world. Each unit begins with a geographic introduction emphasizing location, place, environment, movement and regions. Succeeding lessons focus on any of six thematic strands of social studies: history, geography, sociology, economics, political science and technology. In addition, students explore native cultures and religions of Asia, Africa and the Americas, and examine and analyze significant historical events that shaped modernity. The skills of reading, writing, thinking and computer literacy are practiced throughout each unit. The goals of the course are to familiarize students with non-western cultures and acquaint them with new and difference perspectives of the human experience.

Skill-building activities:

  • Investigating change, continuity, and resistance to change in cultures, governments, economic systems and social processes in different eras
  • Exploring the relationship between belief systems and cultures in order to make comparisons and influences
  • Developing critical reading skills to identify main ideas, frame of reference, fact and opinion, and bias
  • Developing writing, artistic, speaking, and research skills through essay writing, media skills and collaborative projects across disciplinary lines
  • Cultivating an information base in history and social sciences to recognize relevant connections between the past and present
  • Using technology for interdisciplinary research and projects

Resources include:

  • Multiple sources including the Internet, videos, newspapers, magazines, novels, poems and historical fiction

Grade 7 Social Studies: U.S. History to the 20th Century

Seventh grade history is guided by several essential questions, such as why people move and how people impact their surroundings, as students explore United States history from pre-Colonial times to the late 19th century. The course investigates relationships between and among historical events and concepts, and considers the events that shape history by viewing them from the geographic, social, political and economic perspectives.

Skill-building activities:

  • Using independent research and cooperative problem-solving to form connections between the past and the present
  • Integrating social studies skills and content with skills developed in English, art, science and math courses
  • Articulating ideas in a variety of forms including the artistic, oral and written forms
  • Using technology for interdisciplinary research and projects

Resources include:

  • The Americans, Danzer, Gerald, Klor de Alva, J. Jorge, Krieger, Larry, S., Wilson, Louis, E., Woloch, Nancy, McDougal Littell. Evanston, Ill. 2002
  • Numerous videos, DVDs, maps, primary sources, newspapers and magazine articles, and the Internet

Grade 8 Social Studies: U.S. History: The Modern Era

Eighth grade students examine the consequences of imperialism, World War I and the years between the wars. Students also analyze World War II and its aftermath, particularly the Cold War, Civil Rights movement, Korea and Vietnam Wars, terrorism and contemporary social problems. The course compares various ideological systems such as capitalism, socialism and communism, from autocratic to democratic, along with the evolution of U.S. foreign policies in dealing with the challenges of the 20th and 21st centuries. Using current and historical events, students explore the modern federal government's responsibilities and patterns of foreign and domestic policy decision-making.

Skill-building activities:

  • Participating in both individual and group learning activities such as debates and simulations
  • Evaluating both the decisions of government and the decision makers
  • Developing historical and social science knowledge using inquiry, critical thinking, decision-making and interpersonal skills
  • Exploring the concepts and practices of civic virtues and citizen responsibility
  • Developing reading, writing, research, organizational and analytical skills

Resources include:

  • The Americans by Gerald A. Danzer, et.al, McDougal Littell, Boston, 2002
  • The Nystrom World Atlas of United States History, Nystrom, Chicago, Ill. 2002
  • The World Almanac and Book of Facts, World Almanac Books. New York, N. Y. 2011
  • Numerous videos, DVDs, maps, primary sources, newspapers and magazine articles, and the Internet

Learn about the history curriculum at the Senior School.

Study Skills

Grade 6 Study Skills

All sixth graders take a Study Skills course where academic and organizational skills are developed and reinforced. Students explore individual strengths and weaknesses, determine their learning styles and discover strategies for success in their academic and arts courses. Topics include preparing a nightly individualized study plan, specific study techniques, time management, active listening, reading textbooks, taking notes, highlighting, reviewing notes, test preparation, concentration, use of library and online sources, managing homework and self-advocacy skills.

Resources include:

  • The Middle School Student's Guide to Ruling the World, Susan Mulcaire
  • SOAR Study Skills, Susan Woodcock Kruger
  • Learning to Learn, Gloria Frender

World Languages

The Middle School world languages program consists of courses in Latin, Spanish and Chinese. All students will develop skills to understand the grammar and syntax of each language. The curriculum helps students to build a vocabulary in each language and make connections with English word derivatives or cognates.

  • In Latin, students develop the ability to read and write with accuracy.
  • In Spanish and Chinese, students develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.

As they learn each language, students explore the geography, history and customs of Chinese and Spanish speaking countries, along with the Roman influence on Western civilization, including mythology.

Grade 6 Spanish, Latin and Chinese

In the sixth grade, all students take one trimester each of Spanish, Latin and Mandarin Chinese. In each class, students learn the fundamentals of the language, and in Spanish and Chinese speaking and listening skills as well as writing are stressed. At the end of sixth grade, students choose from one of the three languages to pursue for the next two years as seventh and eighth graders.

Skill-building activities:

  • Speaking and listening
  • Written communication
  • Grammar and syntax

Grade 7 Latin

Seventh grade Latin continues the introduction of the language and culture of the Romans. Students gain a broad Latin vocabulary and learn many associated English derivatives. Analytical skills are rigorously developed, as Latin provides an ideal foundation in the grammatical logic of European language. Students also explore Roman culture and its influence through large project-based thematic units such as mythology and history. The study of Latin provides students with an invaluable basis for the study of other languages, including English, and a grasp of ancient historical factors that continue to define our own civilization.

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning the grammar and syntax of Latin
  • Becoming conversant with grammatical terminology and the skills necessary for learning a language
  • Expanding English vocabulary by learning words that are derived from Latin
  • Develop sense of history and cultural inheritance through projects, readings and class discussion

Resources include:

  • Cambridge Latin Course, 5th edition, 2015, Cambridge University Press

Grade 7 Spanish

In seventh grade Spanish, the intent is for students to familiarize themselves with the language and the cultures that various Spanish-speaking countries offer. Students practice vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, which will aid them in building their Spanish speaking and listening skills. The units covered throughout the year, such as greetings, daily routines, family, school, etc., are built on each other to ensure proficiency in the Spanish language for the students.

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning vocabulary and grammatical structures
  • Applying and recognizing various verb conjugations
  • Developing writing and oral skills
  • Discussing and comparing different Spanish cultures

Resources include:

  • ¡Qué Chévere! Middle School Spanish, 2016, EMC Publishing

Grade 7 Chinese

The focus of seventh grade Chinese is to introduce students to both the Mandarin Chinese language and modern Chinese culture. Students study basic, practical vocabulary, grammar, culture and pronunciation. This course helps students build basic speaking and listening skills while introducing Chinese characters. Students learn to express themselves and communicate with others on topics closely related to their own experiences and daily life. The units cover familiar topics such as introductions, home and family, classroom activity, shopping and numbers. Upon successful completion of this course, students are proficient in the pinyin phonetic alphabet, able to write approximately 60 radicals and 70 Chinese Hanzi characters from memory, and able to recognize more than 200 Chinese characters. This class also introduces students to elements of Chinese culture including food, calligraphy, poetry, music, movies, painting and crafts.

Skill-building activities:

  • Introduce and discuss vocabulary and grammatical structures related to everyday activities
  • Reinforce culture by incorporating interdisciplinary cooperation and collaboration, such as computer, art and library research.
  • Paired conversational situations, audio activities, speaking evaluations and projects
  • Writing autobiographies and composing skits
  • Discuss and compare different aspects of Chinese culture

Resources include:

  • Discovering Chinese Volume 1, Simplified Chinese version, Third Edition, 2008, Better Chinese Ltd.

Grade 8 Latin

Students in eighth grade Latin learn advanced grammar and syntax. Complex linguistic concepts and rhetorical devices are studied in detail. By translating sections of Latin prose and creating substantial compositions in the language, students see Latin as a means of communicating narratives, thoughts and ideas. In addition, our ongoing study of Roman culture embraces themes crucial to an adequate understanding of the modern world.

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning the grammar and syntax of Latin
  • Becoming conversant with grammatical terminology and the skills necessary for learning a language
  • Expand and enrich English vocabulary by learning words that are derived from Latin
  • Develop sense of history and cultural inheritance through projects, readings and class discussion

Resources include:

  • Cambridge Latin Course, 5th Edition, 2015, Cambridge University Press

Grade 8 Spanish

In eighth grade Spanish, students continue to familiarize themselves with the language and the cultures that various Spanish-speaking countries offer. Students practice vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, which will aid them in building their Spanish speaking and listening skills.

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning vocabulary and grammatical structures
  • Applying and recognizing various verb conjugations
  • Developing writing and oral skills
  • Discussing and comparing different Spanish cultures
  • Practicing short dialogues and engaging in conversations

Resources include:

  • ¡Qué Chévere! Middle School Spanish, 2016, EMC Publishing

Grade 8 Chinese

In eighth grade Chinese, students to continue their experience in both Mandarin Chinese language and modern Chinese culture. Students study basic, practical vocabulary, grammar, culture and pronunciation. The course helps students build basic speaking and listening skills while introducing Chinese characters. Students learn to express themselves and communicate with others on topics closely related to their own experiences and daily life. The units cover familiar topics such as introductions, home and family, classroom activity, shopping and numbers. Upon successful completion of this course, students are proficient in the pinyin phonetic alphabet, able to write approximately 100 radicals and 100 Chinese Hanzi characters from memory, and able to recognize more than 400 Chinese characters. This class also exposes students to elements of Chinese culture including food, calligraphy, poetry, music, movies, painting and crafts.

Skill-building activities:

  • Introduce and discuss vocabulary and grammatical structures related to everyday activities
  • Reinforce culture by incorporating interdisciplinary cooperation and collaboration, such as computer, art and library research.
  • Paired conversational situations, audio activities, speaking evaluations and projects
  • Writing autobiographies and composing skits
  • Discuss and compare different aspects of Chinese culture

Resources include:

  • Discovering Chinese Volume 2, Simplified Chinese version, Third Edition, 2008, Better Chinese Ltd.

Learn about the world languages curriculum at the Senior School.

Curriculum by Grade

Sixth Grade

In sixth grade, during the transition to Middle School, students receive care and guidance in the sixth grade wing, where dedicated advisors and teachers help ensure their success.

Grade 6 Art

  • May include 2D design, drawing, painting, collage, clay, 3D media

Grades 6-8 Athletics & Activities

At the Middle School, we strongly believe that skills and lessons learned on the athletic field and dramatic stage can be just as important in life as the academic accomplishments. Our co-curricular program of athletics and activities provides each student with choices that include competitive team sports, non-competitive group sports, drama and art opportunities, as well as opportunities in math and science competitions. Every student chooses one activity in each of the three terms, and at least one of those selections must be a “movement” option.

In athletic options, students are coached by faculty members as well as outside coaches, with the goal of providing the student with the fundamental skills and strategies of that particular sport. Students are expected to be prepared for each practice and to fully take part every day, whether practice or a game.

Lessons learned in these afternoon activities include winning and losing with dignity, grace and character. Coaches stress the importance of sportsmanship, perseverance, teamwork and cooperation. Opportunities for leadership are available to all students within every team.

General competition guidelines:

  • Sixth graders in a competitive activity could have one game per week
  • Students in seventh and eighth grades will have no more than two games per week

View a list of athletics & activities

Skill-building activities:

  • Demonstrate competency in the fundamental skills used in each sport/activity
  • Demonstrate continued development and understanding of a particular sport/activity at each grade level
  • Exhibit self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork, and understanding the value of each in every sport
  • Understand that the values of self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork can be applied in daily life, not only on a playing field
  • Understand the challenges of competition

Learn about athletics at the Senior School.

Grade 6 Computer Science

After an introduction to Middle School technology, sixth grade students venture into the world of robotics and computational thinking using Sphero robots, tape mazes and their imaginations. After learning to solve problems using algorithms and pattern recognition, students pivot to a unit on game design using the Scratch. Originally developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch gives students early exposure to programming concepts through blocks and events. To end the year, computer science and art classes blend together to enhance the art team's Cities project through automation. By combining Arduinos, sensors, LEDs, servos and programming, as well as traditional craft materials, students will tap both creativity and technology to build a city of the future.

Resources include:

  • Arduino technology
  • Scratch programming language by MIT Media Lab
  • Sphero app-enabled robotic ball
  • Hummingbird Robotics Kit

Grade 6 English

In sixth grade English, students extend themselves as writers, readers and thinkers through a yearlong pursuit of the question “What is identity?” Writing assignments, literature choices and vocabulary are all matched to this essential question. Students practice writing and revision through informal writing and poetry as well as formal writing about literature. Students write multi-paragraph essays after instruction on the components of effective introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions. They learn how to extract convincing examples from a text, how to write analysis that explains their importance, and how to draw a conclusion that applies ideas to a larger context. As readers, sixth graders identify the literary elements of plot, setting, theme and characterization in multiple genres and become familiar with figurative language such as metaphor, simile, imagery, hyperbole and personification. They learn to think of books as carefully crafted artworks, discussing techniques such as foreshadowing and their effects on readers. Core reading outside of class allows students to explore and expand their literary tastes, and teachers match texts to individual students’ needs. Vocabulary instruction introduces new words with an emphasis on using the words with precision of meaning in appropriate contexts. Projects and selected activities make connections to the sixth grade social studies course.

Skill-building activities:

  • Writing a formal essay with an introduction, body and conclusion
  • Writing poetry and fiction
  • Free writing to generate ideas for writing and for discussion
  • Revising to improve content
  • Proofreading to improve mechanics
  • Discussing literature on metaphorical and literal levels, either in small groups, book clubs or within the larger class
  • Identifying and using the eight parts of speech
  • Working effectively with others
  • Preparing for discussions, quizzes, tests, presentations and a final exam

Resources include:

  • Fever 1973 by Laurie Halse Anderson (required summer reading book)
  • A read-aloud text which changes from year to year but has included The Giver by Lois Lowry and A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  • Poetry by Emily Dickinson
  • Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat
  • Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick
  • Poems, myths, folk tales and fairy tales from various cultural traditions and time periods
  • The Great Grammar Book
  • 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know

Grade 6 Health

Sixth graders have health classes twice per seven-day cycle for one semester. Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to health and wellness
  • The Health Triangle
  • Basic nutrition concepts
  • Tobacco
  • Peer pressure

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention
  • Demonstrating the ability to access valid health information and health-promoting products and services
  • Practicing health-enhancing behaviors to decrease health risks
  • Analyzing the influence of culture, media, technology and other factors on health
  • Demonstrating the ability to use communication skills, goal setting and decision making to enhance health
  • Advocating for personal, family and community health

Grade 6 Library

Research is an integral part of the sixth grade library program. Through the collaboration of the library and classroom, students learn to identify, locate, access, evaluate and use information specific to the academic discipline. Students use Destiny Quest, the library catalog, and other reader advisory sites to search, review and recommend books. Specific information skills such as defining research topics, using note cards, citing sources and evaluating websites are key components of research. Students gain an appreciation of literature through core reading, book talks, genre studies, borrowing, annual book fair and author visits. Students use multiple literacies and technologies to create and share projects.

Grade 6 Math

In sixth grade math, students develop an understanding of how and why mathematical procedures work using the Math in Focus: Singapore Math curriculum. Students learn to master the arithmetic operations of whole numbers, decimals, fractions and percents. They learn and apply number theory including prime factorization, GCF, LCM, square roots and square numbers, and are introduced to positive and negative integers. From the beginning of the course, students use algebraic approaches to solve equations, inequalities and word problems, while also learning the basics of geometry, such as measuring segments and angles, finding perimeters and/or areas of polygons, and finding volumes of prisms and cylinders.

Skill-building activities:

  • All skills are developed using the concrete-to-pictorial-to-abstract method
  • Mastering arithmetic operations with whole numbers, decimals, fractions and percents
  • Applying techniques of number theory
  • Learning and using algebraic problem-solving approaches
  • Becoming familiar with positive and negative integers and their arithmetic operations
  • Learning basic geometric principles
  • Learning perimeter, area and volume formulas

Resources include:

  • Math in Focus - Course I, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt

Grades 6-8 Music

The Middle School music curriculum emphasizes individual growth and provides opportunities for all students to understand, participate in and enjoy the art of music as a lifelong experience. The study of the creative process and self-expression in music fosters self-confidence and develops an appreciation of the historical and cultural aspects of music. All students take music classes in grades 6-8 and can choose a large ensemble participation class (Concert Band, Chorus, String/Keyboards) or General Music (music appreciation for non-performers). In addition, students may choose to audition for smaller performance ensembles (Jazz Band, Core Choir, Select Strings).

Middle School Concert Band

Middle School band emphasizes instrumental performance and ensemble playing. Age-appropriate classical and contemporary music is studied, rehearsed and performed. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history, and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Students are required to have their own band instruments and possess basic note-reading skills. They are expected to practice music outside of class as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Participation in school concerts and the graduation ceremony are required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gaining awareness of the function of his/her instrument group individually and in relation to the larger ensemble
  • Maintaining a discipline of practice outside of school
  • Warming up
  • Practicing dynamic control and articulation
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Practicing large ensemble progress, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School Chorus

Middle School chorus emphasizes vocal performance and multi-part ensemble singing. A wide range of classical and contemporary music is studied, rehearsed and performed. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Previous formal training is not required, but at a minimum, the student should be able to match pitches played on the piano, and sing a major scale (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do). Students are expected to practice their music outside of class, as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Participation in rehearsals and concerts are required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Singing on key, harmonizing and blending
  • Developing an awareness of his/her individual function within a vocal group and in relation to the larger choir
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Executing rhythmic and tempo indications accurately
  • Interpreting dynamics and paying attention to proper phrasing
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Listening for interplay between and among mixed parts
  • Practicing large ensemble progress, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School Strings/Keyboards Ensemble

The strings/keyboards ensemble allows students experienced in violin, viola, cello or bass violin to practice and perform as a string ensemble. Students should have their own instrument and possess basic note-reading skills. Since there is rarely a full complement of string instruments to make a full ensemble, keyboard synthesizers are used to provide additional string sounds (keyboard players are also asked to play select piano parts). Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

This ensemble performs classical and contemporary music and occasionally a jazz-for-strings composition. Students are expected to practice their music outside of class, as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Full participation in rehearsals and concerts is required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Developing an awareness of his/her individual function within the instrument group and in relation to the larger ensemble
  • Applying proper instrument technique
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Executing rhythmic and tempo indications accurately
  • Interpreting dynamics and paying attention to proper phrasing
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Practicing ensemble-playing, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School General Music

General music coursework involves the basic components of rhythm, melody, harmony and musical form. Students develop skills and vocabulary to analyze and discuss a variety of musical genres, through class participation, musical listening, ear training, in-class singing, playing instruments and cooperative learning. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gaining music appreciation from hands-on experience
  • Identifying dynamic changes, meter signature, syncopation
  • Developing critical listening skills by identifying vocal and instrumental tone color, orchestral families
  • Understanding developments of musical history
  • Learning the anatomy of melody: major and minor, melodic contour, phrases, monophonic, polyphonic, homophonic textures
  • Understanding harmony: identifying tonal and atonal music, blues scale, harmonic textures, dorian and mixolydian modes
  • Identifying repetition and contrast in dynamics, tempo and articulation
  • Identifying verse-refrain (AB), theme and variations, subject and episode, arch, rondo, sonata-allegro, augmentation and improvisation

Resources include:

  • Share the Music, McGraw Hill

Grades 6-8 Physical Education

The Middle School physical education program strives to reach students of all ability levels and directly encourage their psycho-motor, cognitive and affective growth. The program encourages students to adopt regular physical activity as a means of maintaining physical health and an avenue toward total wellness. Students are exposed to a wide variety of developmentally appropriate curricular offerings that include individual and team sport activities, rhythm and dance activities, aerobic and strength training activities, lifetime activities, cooperative group activities and outdoor adventure activities. The objective of the physical education program closely follows national physical education standards.

All students have one semester of PE classes and one semester of health classes. Sixth graders have PE two times per seven-day cycle, while seventh and eighth graders have PE three times per cycle.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gain competency in the motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities
  • Gain an understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies and tactics as applied to the learning of physical activities
  • Understand the importance of participation in regular physical activity
  • Achieve and maintaining a health-enhancing level of physical fitness
  • Exhibit responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings
  • Gain understanding of the values of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction

Grade 6 Earth Science

The sixth grade earth science course integrates reading, writing and thinking skills with scientific inquiry. Students conduct scientific investigations through laboratory experimentation, library research and field trips. Course information is presented in a flipped-classroom format and reinforced through hands-on laboratory activities in class. Topics covered include: the nature of science, minerals, rocks, weathering, erosion, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, fossils, geologic time, weather, pollution and robotics.

Skill-building activities:

  • Reading a section of the textbook and taking notes
  • Connecting classroom discussions to real world examples and problems
  • Studying and preparing for tests
  • Solving problems with experimentation
  • Working in a lab group to conduct experiments
  • Generating questions to answer through scientific investigation
  • Using scientific language in written communication
  • Using the Internet and library resources to conduct research

Resources include:

  • Earth Science (Glencoe 2005)

Grade 6 Study Skills

All sixth graders take a Study Skills course where academic and organizational skills are developed and reinforced. Students explore individual strengths and weaknesses, determine their learning styles and discover strategies for success in their academic and arts courses. Topics include preparing a nightly individualized study plan, specific study techniques, time management, active listening, reading textbooks, taking notes, highlighting, reviewing notes, test preparation, concentration, use of library and online sources, managing homework and self-advocacy skills.

Resources include:

  • The Middle School Student's Guide to Ruling the World, Susan Mulcaire
  • SOAR Study Skills, Susan Woodcock Kruger
  • Learning to Learn, Gloria Frender

Grade 6 Social Studies: World History

The sixth grade world history course focuses on the geography, history and cultures of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The program is further divided into units covering topics suited to each region of the world. Each unit begins with a geographic introduction emphasizing location, place, environment, movement and regions. Succeeding lessons focus on any of six thematic strands of social studies: history, geography, sociology, economics, political science and technology. In addition, students explore native cultures and religions of Asia, Africa and the Americas, and examine and analyze significant historical events that shaped modernity. The skills of reading, writing, thinking and computer literacy are practiced throughout each unit. The goals of the course are to familiarize students with non-western cultures and acquaint them with new and difference perspectives of the human experience.

Skill-building activities:

  • Investigating change, continuity, and resistance to change in cultures, governments, economic systems and social processes in different eras
  • Exploring the relationship between belief systems and cultures in order to make comparisons and influences
  • Developing critical reading skills to identify main ideas, frame of reference, fact and opinion, and bias
  • Developing writing, artistic, speaking, and research skills through essay writing, media skills and collaborative projects across disciplinary lines
  • Cultivating an information base in history and social sciences to recognize relevant connections between the past and present
  • Using technology for interdisciplinary research and projects

Resources include:

  • Multiple sources including the Internet, videos, newspapers, magazines, novels, poems and historical fiction

Grade 6 Spanish, Latin and Chinese

In the sixth grade, all students take one trimester each of Spanish, Latin and Mandarin Chinese. In each class, students learn the fundamentals of the language, and in Spanish and Chinese speaking and listening skills as well as writing are stressed. At the end of sixth grade, students choose from one of the three languages to pursue for the next two years as seventh and eighth graders.

Skill-building activities:

  • Speaking and listening
  • Written communication
  • Grammar and syntax

Seventh Grade

In seventh grade, students face new academic challenges and responsibilities while meeting daily with advisors who help them emerge successfully from the transitional time of sixth grade.

Grade 7 Art

  • May include 2D design, printmaking, 3D design, sculpture/assemblage, video, drawing

Grades 6-8 Athletics & Activities

At the Middle School, we strongly believe that skills and lessons learned on the athletic field and dramatic stage can be just as important in life as the academic accomplishments. Our co-curricular program of athletics and activities provides each student with choices that include competitive team sports, non-competitive group sports, drama and art opportunities, as well as opportunities in math and science competitions. Every student chooses one activity in each of the three terms, and at least one of those selections must be a “movement” option.

In athletic options, students are coached by faculty members as well as outside coaches, with the goal of providing the student with the fundamental skills and strategies of that particular sport. Students are expected to be prepared for each practice and to fully take part every day, whether practice or a game.

Lessons learned in these afternoon activities include winning and losing with dignity, grace and character. Coaches stress the importance of sportsmanship, perseverance, teamwork and cooperation. Opportunities for leadership are available to all students within every team.

General competition guidelines:

  • Sixth graders in a competitive activity could have one game per week
  • Students in seventh and eighth grades will have no more than two games per week

View a list of athletics & activities

Skill-building activities:

  • Demonstrate competency in the fundamental skills used in each sport/activity
  • Demonstrate continued development and understanding of a particular sport/activity at each grade level
  • Exhibit self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork, and understanding the value of each in every sport
  • Understand that the values of self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork can be applied in daily life, not only on a playing field
  • Understand the challenges of competition

Learn about athletics at the Senior School.

Grade 7 Computer Science

To begin the year, seventh grade students use Sphero robots to learn and master problem solving skills. Using computational thinking and program design, students work to solve real-world problems such as human interaction and search and rescue in a hostile environment. Then they apply their knowledge of programming elements to a unit on design thinking and app design. They begin by redesigning the morning routine of a classmate, and then develop solutions through technology. The course then pivots to investigate the languages that machines use to communicate. As an introduction to programming elements such as conditional statements, functions and variables, students develop web apps in Javascript using Code.org's Applab. Then, students end the year by developing a mobile app in Javascript that solves a real-world problem for a peer.

Resources include:

  • Sphero Robotics and Lightning Lab
  • Code.org Computer Science Principles Course
  • Code.org AppLab

Grade 7 English

Through the study of novels, short stories, poetry and plays, and through reflecting and writing about their own lives and experiences, seventh grade English students strive to answer the question “What is empathy?” Students hone their understanding of the literary elements of plot, setting and characterization in order to read between the lines and uncover theme in an assigned text. Plot structure and literary devices are identified and analyzed for their effect on the reader, and students apply their knowledge by crafting an original short story. When writing formally, students develop a keen understanding of implementing organizational and grammatical structure. Students particularly focus on how to craft an arguable thesis from an independently developed or self-selected question, how to identify, embed and cite quoted evidence in support of the thesis, and how to draw a conclusion that applies ideas to a larger context. Monthly selection of a core reading text allows students to relish a favorite genre, find further challenge, or explore an area of interest.

Skill-building activities:

  • Writing a formal paragraph with a topic sentence, evidence, analysis and conclusion
  • Writing a formal multi-paragraph essay that defends a thesis statement
  • Using properly cited evidence to prove a thesis
  • Revising to improve content and mechanics
  • Building vocabulary through daily word study
  • Identifying various functions of parts of speech within the structure of a sentence
  • Identifying and using clauses and punctuation in various sentence types
  • Note-taking: annotating a text to record personal response and highlighting to identify literary elements
  • Preparing for discussions, quizzes, tests and a final exam

Resources include:

  • The Great Grammar Book, Marsha Sramek
  • Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Outsiders, S.E. Hilton
  • The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
  • Assorted short stories

Grade 7 Health

Seventh graders have health classes three times per seven-day cycle for one semester. Topics covered include:

  • Review of health concepts
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Illegal drugs
  • Addiction and the nervous system

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention
  • Demonstrating the ability to access valid health information and health-promoting products and services
  • Practicing health-enhancing behaviors to decrease health risks
  • Analyzing the influence of culture, media, technology and other factors on health
  • Demonstrating the ability to use communication skills, goal setting and decision making to enhance health
  • Advocating for personal, family and community health

Grade 7 Library

Research continues to be an integral part of the seventh grade library program. Continued collaboration of the library and classrooms enable students to build upon prior information-seeking skills. Specific information research skills such as evaluating sources of information for bias and credibility, executing database searches, using footnotes and citations, recognizing plagiarism and building bibliographies are scaffold upon previously learned skills. Students are introduced to GoodReads, a reader advisory site that promotes sharing and discussion of books. Students’ appreciation of literature is further enriched through projects, annual book fair, author visits and genre studies.

Grades 6-7 Pre-Algebra

Pre-algebra students continue to develop their mathematical proficiency through the Math in Focus program by building and extending the skills learned in sixth grade math. Students work with more complex expressions and equations involving signed numbers. They develop the skills needed to recognize pattern and structure and to reason logically to solve word problems. Students study special angles such as vertical and alternate-interior angles, and are introduced to probability.

Skill-building activities:

  • Developing an ability to simplify multi-step expressions and to solve multi-step equations
  • Gaining knowledge of direct proportions
  • Learning to work with geometric principles.

Resources include:

  • Math in Focus - Course 2, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt

Grades 7-8 Algebra I

In Algebra I, students use their abilities to simplify expressions and solve equations to explore polynomials and factoring of quadratic expressions and equations. They study the concepts of graphing on a Cartesian coordinate plane, functions and systems of equations. Students also learn to apply the rules of exponents and radicals.

  • Performing operations with signed numbers, including simplifying numeric and algebraic expressions
  • Solving and graphing linear equations and systems of linear equations with various methods and interpreting information from their graphs
  • Factoring quadratic expressions and using factoring to solve quadratic and algebraic equations
  • Setting up and solving word problems algebraically
  • Using technology to solve problems, experiment, interpret results and verify conclusions

Resources include:

  • Algebra I: A Common Core Curriculum, by Big Ideas Learning

Grades 6-8 Music

The Middle School music curriculum emphasizes individual growth and provides opportunities for all students to understand, participate in and enjoy the art of music as a lifelong experience. The study of the creative process and self-expression in music fosters self-confidence and develops an appreciation of the historical and cultural aspects of music. All students take music classes in grades 6-8 and can choose a large ensemble participation class (Concert Band, Chorus, String/Keyboards) or General Music (music appreciation for non-performers). In addition, students may choose to audition for smaller performance ensembles (Jazz Band, Core Choir, Select Strings).

Middle School Concert Band

Middle School band emphasizes instrumental performance and ensemble playing. Age-appropriate classical and contemporary music is studied, rehearsed and performed. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history, and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Students are required to have their own band instruments and possess basic note-reading skills. They are expected to practice music outside of class as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Participation in school concerts and the graduation ceremony are required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gaining awareness of the function of his/her instrument group individually and in relation to the larger ensemble
  • Maintaining a discipline of practice outside of school
  • Warming up
  • Practicing dynamic control and articulation
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Practicing large ensemble progress, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School Chorus

Middle School chorus emphasizes vocal performance and multi-part ensemble singing. A wide range of classical and contemporary music is studied, rehearsed and performed. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Previous formal training is not required, but at a minimum, the student should be able to match pitches played on the piano, and sing a major scale (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do). Students are expected to practice their music outside of class, as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Participation in rehearsals and concerts are required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Singing on key, harmonizing and blending
  • Developing an awareness of his/her individual function within a vocal group and in relation to the larger choir
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Executing rhythmic and tempo indications accurately
  • Interpreting dynamics and paying attention to proper phrasing
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Listening for interplay between and among mixed parts
  • Practicing large ensemble progress, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School Strings/Keyboards Ensemble

The strings/keyboards ensemble allows students experienced in violin, viola, cello or bass violin to practice and perform as a string ensemble. Students should have their own instrument and possess basic note-reading skills. Since there is rarely a full complement of string instruments to make a full ensemble, keyboard synthesizers are used to provide additional string sounds (keyboard players are also asked to play select piano parts). Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

This ensemble performs classical and contemporary music and occasionally a jazz-for-strings composition. Students are expected to practice their music outside of class, as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Full participation in rehearsals and concerts is required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Developing an awareness of his/her individual function within the instrument group and in relation to the larger ensemble
  • Applying proper instrument technique
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Executing rhythmic and tempo indications accurately
  • Interpreting dynamics and paying attention to proper phrasing
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Practicing ensemble-playing, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School General Music

General music coursework involves the basic components of rhythm, melody, harmony and musical form. Students develop skills and vocabulary to analyze and discuss a variety of musical genres, through class participation, musical listening, ear training, in-class singing, playing instruments and cooperative learning. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gaining music appreciation from hands-on experience
  • Identifying dynamic changes, meter signature, syncopation
  • Developing critical listening skills by identifying vocal and instrumental tone color, orchestral families
  • Understanding developments of musical history
  • Learning the anatomy of melody: major and minor, melodic contour, phrases, monophonic, polyphonic, homophonic textures
  • Understanding harmony: identifying tonal and atonal music, blues scale, harmonic textures, dorian and mixolydian modes
  • Identifying repetition and contrast in dynamics, tempo and articulation
  • Identifying verse-refrain (AB), theme and variations, subject and episode, arch, rondo, sonata-allegro, augmentation and improvisation

Resources include:

  • Share the Music, McGraw Hill

Grades 6-8 Physical Education

The Middle School physical education program strives to reach students of all ability levels and directly encourage their psycho-motor, cognitive and affective growth. The program encourages students to adopt regular physical activity as a means of maintaining physical health and an avenue toward total wellness. Students are exposed to a wide variety of developmentally appropriate curricular offerings that include individual and team sport activities, rhythm and dance activities, aerobic and strength training activities, lifetime activities, cooperative group activities and outdoor adventure activities. The objective of the physical education program closely follows national physical education standards.

All students have one semester of PE classes and one semester of health classes. Sixth graders have PE two times per seven-day cycle, while seventh and eighth graders have PE three times per cycle.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gain competency in the motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities
  • Gain an understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies and tactics as applied to the learning of physical activities
  • Understand the importance of participation in regular physical activity
  • Achieve and maintaining a health-enhancing level of physical fitness
  • Exhibit responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings
  • Gain understanding of the values of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction

Grade 7 Life Science

The seventh grade life science course covers a wide range of topics and skills in the field of biology. Students learn about lab equipment and safety procedures while using the scientific method to perform experiments. Also introduced are the parts of the cell, the principles of Mendelian genetics and the levels of organization of the human body. Students review a description of the human body systems and their functions, and also gain knowledge of the six kingdoms of classification and the tools that scientists use to classify living organisms.

Skill-building activities:

  • Identifying and safely using lab equipment
  • Learning the proper format of a lab report
  • Constructing and interpreting graphs
  • Writing comparison/contrast answers
  • Solving probability and genetics problems
  • Learning dissecting techniques for owl pellets, flowers, animals
  • Creating and reading a dichotomous key
  • Writing a research paper based on original work

Resources include:

  • Biology, Stephen Nowicki, Holt, Reinhart and Winston 2012

Grade 7 Social Studies: U.S. History to the 20th Century

Seventh grade history is guided by several essential questions, such as why people move and how people impact their surroundings, as students explore United States history from pre-Colonial times to the late 19th century. The course investigates relationships between and among historical events and concepts, and considers the events that shape history by viewing them from the geographic, social, political and economic perspectives.

Skill-building activities:

  • Using independent research and cooperative problem-solving to form connections between the past and the present
  • Integrating social studies skills and content with skills developed in English, art, science and math courses
  • Articulating ideas in a variety of forms including the artistic, oral and written forms
  • Using technology for interdisciplinary research and projects

Resources include:

  • The Americans, Danzer, Gerald, Klor de Alva, J. Jorge, Krieger, Larry, S., Wilson, Louis, E., Woloch, Nancy, McDougal Littell. Evanston, Ill. 2002
  • Numerous videos, DVDs, maps, primary sources, newspapers and magazine articles, and the Internet

Grade 7 Latin

Seventh grade Latin continues the introduction of the language and culture of the Romans. Students gain a broad Latin vocabulary and learn many associated English derivatives. Analytical skills are rigorously developed, as Latin provides an ideal foundation in the grammatical logic of European language. Students also explore Roman culture and its influence through large project-based thematic units such as mythology and history. The study of Latin provides students with an invaluable basis for the study of other languages, including English, and a grasp of ancient historical factors that continue to define our own civilization.

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning the grammar and syntax of Latin
  • Becoming conversant with grammatical terminology and the skills necessary for learning a language
  • Expanding English vocabulary by learning words that are derived from Latin
  • Develop sense of history and cultural inheritance through projects, readings and class discussion

Resources include:

  • Cambridge Latin Course, 5th edition, 2015, Cambridge University Press

Grade 7 Spanish

In seventh grade Spanish, the intent is for students to familiarize themselves with the language and the cultures that various Spanish-speaking countries offer. Students practice vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, which will aid them in building their Spanish speaking and listening skills. The units covered throughout the year, such as greetings, daily routines, family, school, etc., are built on each other to ensure proficiency in the Spanish language for the students.

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning vocabulary and grammatical structures
  • Applying and recognizing various verb conjugations
  • Developing writing and oral skills
  • Discussing and comparing different Spanish cultures

Resources include:

  • ¡Qué Chévere! Middle School Spanish, 2016, EMC Publishing

Grade 7 Chinese

The focus of seventh grade Chinese is to introduce students to both the Mandarin Chinese language and modern Chinese culture. Students study basic, practical vocabulary, grammar, culture and pronunciation. This course helps students build basic speaking and listening skills while introducing Chinese characters. Students learn to express themselves and communicate with others on topics closely related to their own experiences and daily life. The units cover familiar topics such as introductions, home and family, classroom activity, shopping and numbers. Upon successful completion of this course, students are proficient in the pinyin phonetic alphabet, able to write approximately 60 radicals and 70 Chinese Hanzi characters from memory, and able to recognize more than 200 Chinese characters. This class also introduces students to elements of Chinese culture including food, calligraphy, poetry, music, movies, painting and crafts.

Skill-building activities:

  • Introduce and discuss vocabulary and grammatical structures related to everyday activities
  • Reinforce culture by incorporating interdisciplinary cooperation and collaboration, such as computer, art and library research.
  • Paired conversational situations, audio activities, speaking evaluations and projects
  • Writing autobiographies and composing skits
  • Discuss and compare different aspects of Chinese culture

Resources include:

  • Discovering Chinese Volume 1, Simplified Chinese version, Third Edition, 2008, Better Chinese Ltd.

Eighth Grade

In eighth grade, students begin to prepare for their move to the Senior School. They meet with advisors and teachers regularly and develop increasing maturity and focus.

Grade 8 Art

  • May include drawing, painting, mixed media, printmaking, assemblage, 3D media

Grades 6-8 Athletics & Activities

At the Middle School, we strongly believe that skills and lessons learned on the athletic field and dramatic stage can be just as important in life as the academic accomplishments. Our co-curricular program of athletics and activities provides each student with choices that include competitive team sports, non-competitive group sports, drama and art opportunities, as well as opportunities in math and science competitions. Every student chooses one activity in each of the three terms, and at least one of those selections must be a “movement” option.

In athletic options, students are coached by faculty members as well as outside coaches, with the goal of providing the student with the fundamental skills and strategies of that particular sport. Students are expected to be prepared for each practice and to fully take part every day, whether practice or a game.

Lessons learned in these afternoon activities include winning and losing with dignity, grace and character. Coaches stress the importance of sportsmanship, perseverance, teamwork and cooperation. Opportunities for leadership are available to all students within every team.

General competition guidelines:

  • Sixth graders in a competitive activity could have one game per week
  • Students in seventh and eighth grades will have no more than two games per week

View a list of athletics & activities

Skill-building activities:

  • Demonstrate competency in the fundamental skills used in each sport/activity
  • Demonstrate continued development and understanding of a particular sport/activity at each grade level
  • Exhibit self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork, and understanding the value of each in every sport
  • Understand that the values of self-discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork can be applied in daily life, not only on a playing field
  • Understand the challenges of competition

Learn about athletics at the Senior School.

Grade 8 Computer Science

To begin the year, students use design thinking to redesign Shady Side Academy's Code of Ethics to reflect the digital age. By investigating how technology and ethics intersect, students gain an understanding of how mobile devices influence identity. They then pivot to a robotics unit that uses the Lego Mindstorm Robots to investigate autonomous movement through actions, sensors and decision making. Students end the unit by solving a complex maze using only the robot's sensors. To end the year, students get their first exposure to a canonical language by learning the basics of Python. Students learn both the syntax and power of the language by creating functions and manipulating graphics. Students create functions that generate Moire patterns using the turtle graphics library.

Resources include:

  • Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kit
  • Python programming language

Grade 8 English

The eighth grade English curriculum is built around the guiding question “What is justice?” As readers, students will be challenged to analyze increasingly complex texts written in a variety of periods, disciplines and genres. During daily opportunities for whole-class study of texts, students draw inferences from texts, examine the progression of theme and explore the development of complex characters. Through regular literary analysis, students carefully focus on craft in their own writing, focusing specifically on making collegiate word selections, creating an engaging formal tone, studying the ways that structure influences meaning and using voice and audience intentionally. Students develop the analytical skills built in previous years with the goal of expressing ideas with clarity and precision. Throughout the year, students write for different purposes, in multiple modes and to various audiences. Whether writing persuasive argument, personal narrative/memoir or literary analysis, students engage in the process of reflection, revision and rewriting. Grammar study focuses on creating more complex syntax and challenges students to examine the ways that language conveys meaning. Titles within the core reading program are largely self-selected. Corresponding lessons and workshops instill in students a sense of purpose and confidence which will be required for continued growth. This process fosters self-directed, critical thinkers who are curious, informed and disciplined academics.

Skill-building activities:

  • Examining literature thematically and structurally
  • Development of inference and other comprehension skills which support self-monitoring of understanding
  • Application of intentional, systematic textual annotation and note-taking structures
  • Using phrases, clauses and sentence types to convey an idea clearly, precisely and elegantly
  • Writing literary analysis, personal narrative/memoir, persuasive argument and other forms/genres with a sense of purpose and attention to audience
  • Engaging in well-supported, responsive Socratic Seminar which requires active listening and textual concentration
  • Expression of complex ideas through multiple modes
  • Application of understanding of word origin and meaning to excel in on-going, largely individualized vocabulary study

Resources include:

  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Assorted short stories, memoirs and poetry
  • Vocabulary series from American Heritage Dictionaries
  • The Great Grammar Book by Marsha Sramek
  • Sentence Composing for High School by Don Killgallon

Grade 8 Health

Eighth graders have health classes three times per seven-day cycle for one semester. Topics covered include:

  • Advanced nutrition concepts related to sports performance
  • Body Image and the effects of media
  • Eating disorders
  • Male and female anatomy
  • Teen relationships
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • HIV

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention
  • Demonstrating the ability to access valid health information and health-promoting products and services
  • Practicing health-enhancing behaviors to decrease health risks
  • Analyzing the influence of culture, media, technology and other factors on health
  • Demonstrating the ability to use communication skills, goal setting and decision making to enhance health
  • Advocating for personal, family and community health

Grade 8 Library

The goal of eighth grade library is for students to be more independent in their use of the library for research and reading. Guided review of research skills and available resources, both print and non-print, prepares students for self-directed library work between the library and the classroom. Specific skills such as sophisticated search strategies, website evaluation, database searching and citing and ethical use of information supports learning in the classroom. Students are encouraged in this last year at the Middle School to stretch themselves as readers through more challenging fiction and non-fiction titles. This is executed through the use of teacher and student recommendations, GoodReads advisory website, multi-library borrowing and projects that promote and review literature.

Grades 7-8 Algebra I

In Algebra I, students use their abilities to simplify expressions and solve equations to explore polynomials and factoring of quadratic expressions and equations. They study the concepts of graphing on a Cartesian coordinate plane, functions and systems of equations. Students also learn to apply the rules of exponents and radicals.

  • Performing operations with signed numbers, including simplifying numeric and algebraic expressions
  • Solving and graphing linear equations and systems of linear equations with various methods and interpreting information from their graphs
  • Factoring quadratic expressions and using factoring to solve quadratic and algebraic equations
  • Setting up and solving word problems algebraically
  • Using technology to solve problems, experiment, interpret results and verify conclusions

Resources include:

  • Algebra I: A Common Core Curriculum, by Big Ideas Learning

Grade 8 Geometry

By introducing students to the principles of logical reasoning in geometry, students develop their deductive and inductive reasoning skills. Students learn to provide informal justifications and arguments as well as two-column proofs and paragraph proofs.

Skill-building activities:

  • Reasoning and proving fundamental aspects of mathematics
  • Analyzing two- and three-dimensional figures, including their congruence and similarity
  • Calculating areas and volumes
  • Appreciating geometry as a deductive system

Resources include:

  • Geometry, Holt McDougall Larson

Grades 6-8 Music

The Middle School music curriculum emphasizes individual growth and provides opportunities for all students to understand, participate in and enjoy the art of music as a lifelong experience. The study of the creative process and self-expression in music fosters self-confidence and develops an appreciation of the historical and cultural aspects of music. All students take music classes in grades 6-8 and can choose a large ensemble participation class (Concert Band, Chorus, String/Keyboards) or General Music (music appreciation for non-performers). In addition, students may choose to audition for smaller performance ensembles (Jazz Band, Core Choir, Select Strings).

Middle School Concert Band

Middle School band emphasizes instrumental performance and ensemble playing. Age-appropriate classical and contemporary music is studied, rehearsed and performed. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history, and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Students are required to have their own band instruments and possess basic note-reading skills. They are expected to practice music outside of class as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Participation in school concerts and the graduation ceremony are required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gaining awareness of the function of his/her instrument group individually and in relation to the larger ensemble
  • Maintaining a discipline of practice outside of school
  • Warming up
  • Practicing dynamic control and articulation
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Practicing large ensemble progress, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School Chorus

Middle School chorus emphasizes vocal performance and multi-part ensemble singing. A wide range of classical and contemporary music is studied, rehearsed and performed. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Previous formal training is not required, but at a minimum, the student should be able to match pitches played on the piano, and sing a major scale (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do). Students are expected to practice their music outside of class, as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Participation in rehearsals and concerts are required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Singing on key, harmonizing and blending
  • Developing an awareness of his/her individual function within a vocal group and in relation to the larger choir
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Executing rhythmic and tempo indications accurately
  • Interpreting dynamics and paying attention to proper phrasing
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Listening for interplay between and among mixed parts
  • Practicing large ensemble progress, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School Strings/Keyboards Ensemble

The strings/keyboards ensemble allows students experienced in violin, viola, cello or bass violin to practice and perform as a string ensemble. Students should have their own instrument and possess basic note-reading skills. Since there is rarely a full complement of string instruments to make a full ensemble, keyboard synthesizers are used to provide additional string sounds (keyboard players are also asked to play select piano parts). Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

This ensemble performs classical and contemporary music and occasionally a jazz-for-strings composition. Students are expected to practice their music outside of class, as their grade will reflect the level of improvement they make during each grading period and throughout the school year. Full participation in rehearsals and concerts is required.

Skill-building activities:

  • Developing an awareness of his/her individual function within the instrument group and in relation to the larger ensemble
  • Applying proper instrument technique
  • Reading and interpreting musical notation
  • Executing rhythmic and tempo indications accurately
  • Interpreting dynamics and paying attention to proper phrasing
  • Following musical direction as given through hand gestures or baton
  • Practicing ensemble-playing, musicianship
  • Building performance experience, technique and etiquette

Middle School General Music

General music coursework involves the basic components of rhythm, melody, harmony and musical form. Students develop skills and vocabulary to analyze and discuss a variety of musical genres, through class participation, musical listening, ear training, in-class singing, playing instruments and cooperative learning. Students are encouraged to understand music in relation to history and to appreciate musical self-expression as an integral part of the human experience.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gaining music appreciation from hands-on experience
  • Identifying dynamic changes, meter signature, syncopation
  • Developing critical listening skills by identifying vocal and instrumental tone color, orchestral families
  • Understanding developments of musical history
  • Learning the anatomy of melody: major and minor, melodic contour, phrases, monophonic, polyphonic, homophonic textures
  • Understanding harmony: identifying tonal and atonal music, blues scale, harmonic textures, dorian and mixolydian modes
  • Identifying repetition and contrast in dynamics, tempo and articulation
  • Identifying verse-refrain (AB), theme and variations, subject and episode, arch, rondo, sonata-allegro, augmentation and improvisation

Resources include:

  • Share the Music, McGraw Hill

Grades 6-8 Physical Education

The Middle School physical education program strives to reach students of all ability levels and directly encourage their psycho-motor, cognitive and affective growth. The program encourages students to adopt regular physical activity as a means of maintaining physical health and an avenue toward total wellness. Students are exposed to a wide variety of developmentally appropriate curricular offerings that include individual and team sport activities, rhythm and dance activities, aerobic and strength training activities, lifetime activities, cooperative group activities and outdoor adventure activities. The objective of the physical education program closely follows national physical education standards.

All students have one semester of PE classes and one semester of health classes. Sixth graders have PE two times per seven-day cycle, while seventh and eighth graders have PE three times per cycle.

Skill-building activities:

  • Gain competency in the motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities
  • Gain an understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies and tactics as applied to the learning of physical activities
  • Understand the importance of participation in regular physical activity
  • Achieve and maintaining a health-enhancing level of physical fitness
  • Exhibit responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings
  • Gain understanding of the values of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction

Grade 8 Environmental Science

The eighth grade environmental science course introduces students to some of the basic concepts of environmental science. Topics include human interaction with the environment, tools and techniques for studying environmental science, the biosphere, the cycles of the ecosystems, pollution and energy usage. Students incorporate reading, writing and thinking skills into scientific investigations and traditional homework assignments. Course information is presented through lectures, PowerPoint presentations, projects, demonstrations and hands-on laboratory activities.

Skill-building activities:

  • Identifying and safely using lab equipment
  • Constructing and interpreting graphs
  • Reading sections of the textbook and taking notes
  • Connecting classroom discussions to real world examples and problems
  • Following step-by-step lab procedures
  • Working in a lab or research group with specified roles
  • Analyzing experimental data to construct a reasonable conclusion
  • Using the Internet and library resources to conduct research

Resources include:

  • Environmental Science, Houghton Mifflin Hardcourt Publishing Co., 2013

Grade 8 Physics 1

The eighth grade Physics 1 course places an emphasis on designing and executing well-controlled experiments, collecting consistent data and developing skills for analyzing, interpreting and explaining the data. Students will develop and use models to explain phenomena that occur in the natural world using the fundamental physical principles from Newtonian mechanics. Topics of study include constant velocity motion, accelerated motion, Newton’s Laws and energy.

Skill Building Activities:

  • Designing experiments keeping dependent and independent variables in mind
  • Using Vernier sensors to record data
  • Analyzing and interpreting data with the aid of LoggerPro software
  • Working in a laboratory group with specific roles
  • Writing relevant analyses and conclusions based on experimental data

Resources include:

  • Physics 1 Binder
  • LoggerPro Software

Grade 8 Social Studies: U.S. History: The Modern Era

Eighth grade students examine the consequences of imperialism, World War I and the years between the wars. Students also analyze World War II and its aftermath, particularly the Cold War, Civil Rights movement, Korea and Vietnam Wars, terrorism and contemporary social problems. The course compares various ideological systems such as capitalism, socialism and communism, from autocratic to democratic, along with the evolution of U.S. foreign policies in dealing with the challenges of the 20th and 21st centuries. Using current and historical events, students explore the modern federal government's responsibilities and patterns of foreign and domestic policy decision-making.

Skill-building activities:

  • Participating in both individual and group learning activities such as debates and simulations
  • Evaluating both the decisions of government and the decision makers
  • Developing historical and social science knowledge using inquiry, critical thinking, decision-making and interpersonal skills
  • Exploring the concepts and practices of civic virtues and citizen responsibility
  • Developing reading, writing, research, organizational and analytical skills

Resources include:

  • The Americans by Gerald A. Danzer, et.al, McDougal Littell, Boston, 2002
  • The Nystrom World Atlas of United States History, Nystrom, Chicago, Ill. 2002
  • The World Almanac and Book of Facts, World Almanac Books. New York, N. Y. 2011
  • Numerous videos, DVDs, maps, primary sources, newspapers and magazine articles, and the Internet

Grade 8 Latin

Students in eighth grade Latin learn advanced grammar and syntax. Complex linguistic concepts and rhetorical devices are studied in detail. By translating sections of Latin prose and creating substantial compositions in the language, students see Latin as a means of communicating narratives, thoughts and ideas. In addition, our ongoing study of Roman culture embraces themes crucial to an adequate understanding of the modern world.

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning the grammar and syntax of Latin
  • Becoming conversant with grammatical terminology and the skills necessary for learning a language
  • Expand and enrich English vocabulary by learning words that are derived from Latin
  • Develop sense of history and cultural inheritance through projects, readings and class discussion

Resources include:

  • Cambridge Latin Course, 5th Edition, 2015, Cambridge University Press

Grade 8 Spanish

In eighth grade Spanish, students continue to familiarize themselves with the language and the cultures that various Spanish-speaking countries offer. Students practice vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, which will aid them in building their Spanish speaking and listening skills.

Skill-building activities:

  • Learning vocabulary and grammatical structures
  • Applying and recognizing various verb conjugations
  • Developing writing and oral skills
  • Discussing and comparing different Spanish cultures
  • Practicing short dialogues and engaging in conversations

Resources include:

  • ¡Qué Chévere! Middle School Spanish, 2016, EMC Publishing

Grade 8 Chinese

In eighth grade Chinese, students to continue their experience in both Mandarin Chinese language and modern Chinese culture. Students study basic, practical vocabulary, grammar, culture and pronunciation. The course helps students build basic speaking and listening skills while introducing Chinese characters. Students learn to express themselves and communicate with others on topics closely related to their own experiences and daily life. The units cover familiar topics such as introductions, home and family, classroom activity, shopping and numbers. Upon successful completion of this course, students are proficient in the pinyin phonetic alphabet, able to write approximately 100 radicals and 100 Chinese Hanzi characters from memory, and able to recognize more than 400 Chinese characters. This class also exposes students to elements of Chinese culture including food, calligraphy, poetry, music, movies, painting and crafts.

Skill-building activities:

  • Introduce and discuss vocabulary and grammatical structures related to everyday activities
  • Reinforce culture by incorporating interdisciplinary cooperation and collaboration, such as computer, art and library research.
  • Paired conversational situations, audio activities, speaking evaluations and projects
  • Writing autobiographies and composing skits
  • Discuss and compare different aspects of Chinese culture

Resources include:

  • Discovering Chinese Volume 2, Simplified Chinese version, Third Edition, 2008, Better Chinese Ltd.
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