Middle School Academics
The fourth grade curriculum consists of two course sequences or ability-levels. Both groups cover similar content areas, but are distinguished by the pace with which content areas are explored and by the degree of reinforcement necessary to achieve mastery. The textbooks for the course are from the Math in Focus series. In addition, a variety of supplemental materials and educational technology tools are used to encourage computational mastery, offer enrichment investigations, and reinforce key concepts. Throughout the Middle School, students work daily to master computational skills, develop problem-solving strategies, and build number sense using mental math and estimation. Students develop mathematical understanding as they use what they have learned to solve problems with real-life applications. The topics covered in fourth grade include: using numbers and organizing data, place value; multiplication and division of whole numbers; number sentences and logic problems; word problems; estimation; introduction to probability; perimeter and area; percents; addition and subtraction of decimals and fractions.
The fourth grade science curriculum is designed to maintain and build on the students’ enthusiasm and love of science, while giving them a solid foundation for success in the coming years. All topics are investigated through hands-on experiences combined with time to process the concepts through class discussions, lap reports, and group projects. In the unit on African biomes, students learn about the flora, fauna, and climate of African deserts, savannahs, and rain forests. They each choose an animal to research in a project with interdisciplinary connections to both social studies and studio art. Their study of static electricity centers around labs where they work with a partner to learn about the structure of atoms, ions and how charged particles interact, and the periodic table of elements. In the spring, the fourth graders’ study of skeletal systems culminates in “Bone-anza”—a team challenge where students create creative study games in preparation for trying to identify as many bones of the human body as possible.
The fourth grade social studies curriculum is designed to develop and foster a meaningful knowledge of our global society. The year begins with a unit on world geography, examining the different land and water forms on Earth. The students then study several African countries—Ghana, Tunisia, Kenya, Madagascar, and South Africa—as well as Mexico, China, and Japan. Within these subsequent units, the geography, people, and culture of each country are explored and researched, as well as compared and contrasted with the other countries. The curriculum is integrated with literature, the arts, math, science, and, whenever possible, their study of Spanish. Classes and projects help students develop their writing, research, presentation, and study skills; and special field trips and workshops such as “Africa Day” help bring the topics to life.
In fourth grade, classes are taught primarily in Spanish. Students are given frequent opportunities to interact through interpersonal activities and presentations that reinforce communication. Classes meet three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes. Our linguists continue to develop skills in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Writing skills evolve to sentences and short paragraphs reinforced through the use of technology. Our unit on Mexico is integrated with all areas of the fourth grade curriculum. The culmination of this theme, our Fiesta Mexicana, is a grade-wide cultural celebration of Mexico which enhances students’ study of the language.
As in fourth grade, the fifth grade curriculum consists of two course sequences or ability-levels. Both groups cover similar content areas, but are distinguished by the pace with which content areas are explored and by the degree of reinforcement necessary to achieve mastery. The textbooks used for the course are from the Houghton Mifflin Math and Math in Focus series. In addition, a variety of supplemental materials and educational technology tools are used to provide enrichment, help students develop computational mastery, and provide further practice when needed. The topics covered in fifth grade include: whole numbers, place value, the four operations with decimals, fractions and mixed numbers; writing mathematical equations to solve problems; order of operations; ratio and percent; geometry and measurement. Collaborative activities such as the “200 Point Challenge” help students strengthen their mathematical knowledge as well as their ability to solve problems, work as a team, and articulate their strategies and reasoning.
In fifth grade science, students gain a better understanding of the natural phenomena they encounter every day outside the classroom. In the opening weeks, fifth graders practice honing their ability to make observations, collect data, and convert units of measurement. Subsequent units on birds, chemistry, the circulatory system, physics, and climate change provide opportunities to deepen their understanding of the natural world and expand their skills in scientific analysis, research, and problem solving. Their study of chemistry and physics includes frequent labs, while the circulatory system unit introduces students to dissection. When learning about birds, a visit from a local bird rescue organization gives students an up-close look at several different birds of prey. In the spring, a forensic “mystery adventure” challenges students to use their best investigative skills, and their study of alternative energy includes a chance to design and build their own solar-powered oven.
Fifth grade students explore early American history from the American Revolution through the end of the Civil War. The curriculum combines research skills, historical fiction, experiential learning via field trips, and a broad range of collaborative activities to enrich and ensure student learning. Their study of the Civil War culminates in an in-depth study of an individual historical figure, such as Abraham Lincoln or Sojourner Truth. For this project, students write a research paper, prepare a presentation, create a diorama or multimedia project, and share what they’ve learned at the Civil War Fair, where each student comes dressed as their historical person.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- World Language (French, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish)
The sixth grade curriculum consists of three course sequences or ability-levels. In following the same philosophy of the fourth and fifth grade groupings, all groups cover similar content areas but are again distinguished by the pace with which content areas are explored, the degree of reinforcement necessary to achieve mastery, and the extensions provided for independent thinking. The courses are designed so that all students, regardless of their grouping, have a solid preparation and foundation to handle the rigorous and increasingly abstract concepts in the Upper School math curriculum.
Sixth grade math follows the scope and sequence of the Prentice Hall Mathematics, Course 2 textbook. In addition, numerous supplemental materials are used to enrich the students’ learning experience and strengthen their conceptual understanding. The topics covered in sixth grade include: number sense; exponents and negative exponents; the four operations with decimals, fractions and mixed numbers; word problems; integers; order of operations; ratios, rates, and proportions; complicated percent applications; geometry. Partner investigations and problem solving challenges are a daily part of math class; and projects such as “Race for the Presidency,” where students strategize on campaign planning and fund management, develop computational skill through engaging, real-world applications.
The sixth grade science curriculum is focused on experimental investigations that enable students to learn through hands-on discovery. Units on electricity, oceanography, the human body, and current scientific research reinforce earlier lessons, while laying the foundation for more advanced studies in biology and earth sciences in the Upper School. After a study of atomic theory, static electricity, and current electricity, students embark on an engineering project to design a blueprint and build a prototype or architectural model that utilizes what they have learned about electric circuits. The subsequent unit allows students to compare the engineering process with that of designing scientific experiments. In addition to projects, labs, reports, and discussions, students frequently participate in self-organized learning environments (SOLEs) where they are presented with a challenging question and work in small groups to come up with an answer. SOLE activities are one of the many ways Middle School students are encouraged to play a leadership role in their own learning.
The sixth grade social studies curriculum focuses on the cultures and civilizations of the ancient world: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Through the study of archaeology and anthropology, the students learn how and why civilizations developed and begin to identify the ways in which the ancient world has influenced our modern lives. The themes of geography, economics, religion, trade, government, and social structure are examined within each unit. Students continue to advance their ability to participate in class discussion, work collaboratively, present, and write persuasively, through projects such as their Egypt research paper and the Athens vs. Sparta debates, where students work in teams as they prepare to defend the strengths of their city state in a formal debate.