Emerging individuality: a comfortable transition into the teen years
As Middle School is a time of profound intellectual growth where children transform into adolescents asking what the world means and what their role in the world is, literature and history are used as vehicles of exploring these concerns. By integrating the themes of literature and history—and by creating an environment where discourse, questioning, gathering and analyzing data, and writing are the norms—the teacher facilitates such questioning, expressing and reflecting. Reading and writing truly are the centers of the curriculum, and our instructor draws on his training as an English major in college and a graduate student in creative writing to scaffold assignments in such a way that children grow significantly as writers. Within the curriculum the arts are used as vehicles of deepening comprehension and expression. The Seventh Grade classrooms tend to be vital with energy and discussion where children learn to speak, listen, read and write with increasing degrees of complexity.
Four 40-minute and one 90-minute classes per week.
The Seventh Grade curriculum is organized into six mathematical content strands that cover a number of skills and concepts. Along with solidifying students’ arithmetic skills, they study data analysis and probability (compound probability for dependent and independent events, fundamental counting principle and persuasive statistics), geometry of plane and solid figures (finding area, perimeter and volume of regular and irregular shapes, Interpreting relationships between geometric figures and construction using protractors rulers and compasses), solving one and two-step equations and inequalities, as well as graphing linear equations, converting between metric and customary measurement systems and creating and interpreting scale designs. Emphasis is placed on students being able to read, write and speak mathematically and apply their skills to solve unique problems and real world situations.
The Seventh Grade Math curriculum is guided by the University of Chicago Mathematics Project Transition Mathematics text. Information is disseminated through teacher lecture, class discussion, mini discovery labs and peer mentoring. Information is further reinforced using arts integrated projects, cross curricular projects, games and individual exploration reports and journaling. The curriculum is organized around five process strands: Problem solving, reasoning and proof, connections, representations and communication, which work to ensure deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. Furthermore, the program is set up to spiral; enabling lessons to build on and extend concepts and understandings so that children approach each new challenge from a firmly established foundation. This mathematics program is aligned with the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) standards.
Seventh Graders participate in co-curricular classes. They have French, art, music, science, computers, library, and P.E.
In his book, "Teaching for Thoughtfulness – Classroom Strategies to Enhance Intellectual Development", John Barell discusses what it means to help children learn to how to think critically.
Thinking, then, as I define it involves responding to problems and perplexities, some of which will be thrust upon us unexpectedly and others which we will consciously seek out for the fun or adventure of it. Either way, we begin to think when we recognize such an uncertainty and decide to do something about it.
By challenging students to take on not only scientific problems but social issues too we help them to learn to take personal control of their own lives now and in the future. Learning to create their own pathways is inherently a self-directed experience, not one where a student follows blindly and/or willingly someone else’s direction. In a our science classroom, students are challenged daily to figure out how to solve problems, work together and reflect on their work and its implications outside of the classroom.
Our Middle School Science curriculum is built around the following throughlines:
- What tools do scientists and artists use to make sense of their world?
- How does reflecting on my actions help be further my understanding?
- What does it mean to be a good steward?
- How are all things connected?
With the above ideals in mind, our Seventh Graders begin the year outdoors studying plants and their role in the ecosystem. From characteristics involving classification and reproduction to the role invasive species have, along with adaptations, students begin to have a sense of the complex role these organisms play in the world. Bacteria and viruses, their benefits and harmful effects, are studied next from both a historical and current perspective. Water then becomes the focus with the students researching local issues within our watershed and then moving in to the ocean. At this time the students engage in an arts integrated grand scale project involving the construction of a coral reef, kelp forest, life-size Orca whale or perhaps a submarine. Physics is introduced in the form of a unit on light and sound. Wave energy is studied using musical instruments – pitch, frequency, interference, resonance and other concepts are explored. The role of the electromagnetic spectrum and the concepts of light and color are studied. Human reproduction and child development ends the year. A Seventh Grade tradition is the performance of puberty skits portraying the role hormones and social issues influence the lives of the students on a daily basis. An event not to be missed!
The arts are integrated into the curriculum by the classroom teachers, with enrichment projects through cooperative ventures with the art teacher, such as creating art from a given country from a social studies unit. Students meet twice a week with the art teacher. They are given the opportunity to become more proficient with the variety of media available. They work with clay, markers, tempera paint and watercolors, collage, printmaking (using linoleum blocks and water based inks, plus plastic engraving plates with oil based inks), colored pencils, and constructions. Students begin looking at the Art History timeline, covering artwork from Prehistoric through Modern times. They create works of art using natural found materials, clay and construction materials. Students look at and interpret the work of artists from the Impressionist through Modern Periods. They also draw self-portraits and learn perspective techniques. Seventh graders may elect to take the Design and Production class, which offers projects in vehicle, home and furniture design, as well as the opportunity to work on the sets for the drama production. MIADs available to them in the visual arts domain are drawing and painting, clay, and studio art.
Fever—Laurie Halse Anderson
Gathering Blue—Lois Lowry
Ghost Boy—Ian Lawrence
House of the Scorpion—Nancy Farmer
The Keeper—Mal Peet
Kingdom of the Golden Dragon—Isabelle Allende
The Outsiders—S E Hinton
Wizard of Earthsea—Ursula K LeGuin
Hope was Here—Joan Bauer
Poems and Short stories: at least two a week by various authors