Beyond the Classroom
At the Middle School, there are many activities that cannot be located on a curriculum list. These activities not only support our efforts in the classroom but also offer an important social dynamic, further enriching the daily experience for students. They also offer students the chance to develop and hone leadership and teamwork skills. Participation in these activities is optional and open to any Middle School student.
- Student Committees
- Science Olympiad
- Literary Magazine: The Spiral Staircase
- SSA Farm
- Science Fairs
- Philosophy Club
The Middle School offers a number of student-driven committees that allow students to explore different interests and take on leadership roles in the school. All students in grades 6-8 are encouraged to join at least one committee per year. Committees include:
- Admissions Ambassadors (grade 8)
- Athletic Assistants
- Black History Month
- Bookstore (grade 7)
- Community Service
- Daily Bulletin Announcers (grade 8)
- Library/Book Club
- School News Video Team
- Students Working to Assist Technology (SWAT) Team
- Study Buddies (grades 7-8)
- Performing Arts
- Women’s History Month
The Middle School Science Olympiad Team is a great source of pride for SSA, having won five state titles and advanced to the national tournament 10 times since 2003. Science Olympiad brings out the talents, resourcefulness and skills of young scientific minds. Team members compete in 23 events applying the principles of biology, chemistry, physics and earth science, as well as problem solving and technology. Competitors participate in a variety of events, such as building the most efficient tower, investigating crimes, tracking diseases, working with lasers, aquifer research and fossils, and more.
The Middle School Robotics Team participates annually in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition, which utilizes theme-based challenges to engage kids in research, problem solving and engineering. Each annual challenge has two parts, the project and the robot game. Working in teams of up to 10 kids, team members have about 10 weeks to build an autonomous robot that will complete pre-designed mission; analyze, research, and invent a solution for a given assignment; and create a clever presentation about their solution to perform in front of a panel of judges. The team competes in a number of local competitions during the fall and winter, leading up to the Western PA Grand Championship.
The Middle School's Literary Magazine The Spiral Staircase is a collection of works created, compiled and designed by students in grades 6-8. The magazine reflects the voices and visions of the student body, and features original art and photography, poetry, memoirs, short stories and essays. The student editorial staff works with a faculty advisor during the athletic/activity period during the spring term. Submissions from all students are welcome, and the editorial staff reviews them and collaborates on the creation and the production of the magazine.
The MATHCOUNTS competition program is an enriching and challenging program for Middle School students with an interest in mathematics. The program prepares students throughout the year to represent Shady Side at MATHCOUNTS events. The MATHCOUNTS program, under the leadership of the National Society of Professional Engineers, has more than 500 chapter competitions, 57 state competitions and one national competition. These competitions provide students with the opportunity to compete against their peers from other schools, cities and states. Shady Side's program has been awarded Gold Level status.
The Middle School extension of the SSA Farm includes eight raised garden beds on the school campus. In the spring term, students can choose Farm for their athletic/activity option and earn credit for working in the garden each afternoon. In the fall, a student Harvest Committee cares for the garden. Tasks for both groups include planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and general garden maintenance. Students may also volunteers to help the garden in the summer.
The Middle School Rocketry Team participates in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC), the world's largest rocket contest sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). Approximately 7,000 students from across the nation compete in TARC each year. Teams design, build and fly a model rocket that reaches a specific altitude and duration determined by a set of rules developed each year. The contest is designed to encourage students to study math and science and pursue careers in aerospace. The top 100 teams, based on local qualification flights, are invited to Washington, D.C. in May for the national finals.
Middle School students have the opportunity to participate in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) and/or the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair (PRSEF). Science faculty members are available to serve as mentors for science fair projects. Projects are judged during an in-school science fair, and selected projects represent SSA Middle School at regional competitions.
The philsophy club, call The Fatal Crust (Aeneid 7.115), is an ongoing student and faculty collaboration that seeks to identify and investigate philosophical problems, methodology and themes. The club meets weekly to share conversation and critique ideas. Topics of interest include the classical philosophical tradition, rationalism and empiricism in early modern philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, political philosophy and ethics. The discussion is driven by students and reflects their intellectual interests and priorities. While criticism and argument are central to the group’s dialectical approach, ideas are treated with consideration, individuals with respect.