Academics

Students discuss another big idea

Middle school courses are rigorous and innovative. Our academic program provides students with frequent opportunities to collaborate on real-world interdisciplinary application projects. They spend time planning, researching, discussing, mining and evaluating resources, collaborating, and executing to produce authentic outcomes. Check out some of our project examples below.

 

Architecture In Action

The 9th graders are completing a year-long application project in math, English, and science to plan the innovative new MSR high school. To tackle this project they have invited experts to speak, toured area schools and LEED certified commercial and residential facilities, held countless brainstorming sessions, drafted detailed proposals, presented plans to the Board of Trustees, and created scaled blueprints. They will also create scaled models of their plans. Read their carefully crafted proposals here.

Uncovering Apartheid

Humanities and English just completed a joint 7th and 8th grade project exploring apartheid in South Africa. The students explored how art is used in activism and how artists in various genres (including photography, free verse poetry, and visual art) create meaning. They put their new skills to work creating their own mixed media expression of the essence of apartheid. See their digital exhibition here.

Grade Capstone ‘I AM’ Project

In their 9th year, students embark on a year-long exploration of a career of interest. They begin by evaluating what careers suit their personality, learning about the importance of networking, and planning a site visit to tour a real-world workplace. They lead the site visit to introduce their classmates to their career of interest. They also create résumés, learn about professional dress, sit for a mock interview, and prepare a professional presentation on their experience. It is an invaluable experience for their capstone year.

English

Students explore Greek heroes.

The English program at the Middle School goes far beyond just reading and discussing books — though we love to do that, too! While reading, discussing, annotating, and dissecting a text, students embark on inquiry-driven projects. These open-ended projects give students creative control along with a responsibility to think critically and abstractly, problem solve, collaborate, manage their time and materials, and take responsibility for their own experience. The teacher becomes a facilitator, providing the environment and framework each student needs for success.

Writing is also an integral part of the middle school English curriculum. The goals of the writing program are 1) to develop fluency with the process of writing, 2) to support the development and use of correct writing mechanics, and 3) to encourage students to see themselves as writers. Finally, no English curriculum would be complete without a focus on language. Using the Word Within the Word program, our students explore vocabulary and spelling through a variety of stem-based activities, including high-level analogies, creative tasks, and “mystery spellings” of difficult words. Over the course of their time at middle school, they learn hundreds of Greek and Latin stems!

Literature selections frequently connect with Humanities and rotate on a two-year cycle. Readings include: Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, October Sky, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Of Mice and Men, The Power of One, Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution, The Alchemist, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, Beowulf, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America, The House on Mango Street,and many short stories, poems, and news articles. We also encourage and support a vibrant independent reading program with our middle school media center, book talks, and reading journals.

Humanities

The Humanities course at the Middle School explores history, geography, and the social sciences. Students learn through a variety of classroom methods, including research and exploration, discussion, guest speakers, and reading and writing activities. Humanities is covered in a two year cycle, and a number of the topics addressed in Humanities overlap and mesh nicely with the English curriculum. Concepts explored and connected to the Humanities course include change, progress, survival, power, conflict, conservation and environmental awareness, influence, decision-making, culture, and peace. Specific topics include the history, geography, economics, and current events of Europe, the United States, Africa, Asia, and South America.

Math

The math program at the Middle School provides a bridge between the material-based Montessori method and the abstract world of mathematics in traditional high schools. The curriculum, based on the Common Core Standards, provides foundational skill mastery for Middle School Mathematics, Algebra, and Geometry. The program encourages deep insight into mathematical concepts that students apply to their own work and to real-world problems. Through a variety of activities and projects, students learn to appreciate the beauty of mathematics and its intellectual challenges.

Physical Education

A student builds new skills in PE

In accordance with Maria Montessori’s commitment to developing the whole person, our students meet twice a week for physical education in addition to their daily recess time. The PE program aims to develop healthy bodies and minds as well as a lifelong enjoyment of sport and games. Through traditional sports such as football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and volleyball as well as non-traditional sports such as tap ball, disc golf, stealth, and even a Montessori (and student-created!) version of the Hunger Games, students are encouraged to be “active participants” to ensure that they and their teammates are getting the most out of each particular activity.

Spanish

Students sharing and conversing in small groups.

Our Spanish program serves as a bridge between our students’ Montessori roots and the traditional academic experience of high school. Language acquisition skills are honed, meaningful communication in Spanish is enhanced, and connections are made to learning other world languages, as well. With our greatest emphasis being on culturally authentic oral communication skills, classroom activities range from structured and directed to those based on student choice and organic learning. While encouraging students to be lifelong language learners, we aim to impress upon them the real-life value of learning a second language as they go out into the world to serve others.

Music

Music at the Middle School is not only challenging, but fun and rewarding for our students. Our program offers students many opportunities to create, and perform music in a variety of settings. Music offerings are based on a continuation of the lessons learned in a hands-on Montessori classroom, but are accessible to any student, regardless of their musical background.

The objective of our music program is to instill a lifelong love, respect, and appreciation of music in all of our students. Our music program prepares students for their future, by helping them think creatively about the world around them. All students take a general music class each year, studying a wide variety of musical topics, including advanced musical notation and theory, ear training, and the history and technology of music. Students also participate in the Band, Chorus, or Percussion Ensemble as part of their performing arts elective. For more information about music at the Middle School, please visit the Music Department Website.

Speech and Debate

Created at the request of a student, Speech & Debate is a trimester-long enrichment class offered at the Middle School. Our curriculum, which is based on The Middle School Public Debate Program, includes speech writing, techniques for effective delivery, and experiences in public debate. The students engage in a variety of activities, all designed to improve their public speaking and debating skills.

Visual Art

A Greek vase in the making!

Every MS student takes art for a trimester each year. Over the three-year cycle, students gain experience with and develop skills using a variety of media and techniques. As well, they acquire an appreciation for art and artists across civilizations and history and discover the satisfaction of creating their own art. This year, students will complete three major projects.

The first is a mixed media challenge, using watercolor paints and color pencils to create a non-objective piece that focuses on color mixing and theory. Next, as an extension of their study of Ancient Greece in Humanities and English, the students will use hand-building techniques to create a clay vessel inspired by the Ancient Greek artists. Finally, they will complete a series of prints, carving linoleum blocks to create a printing plate and using block printing inks to pull individual prints. Over the next two years, other media will be explored, such as fiber arts, digital art, collage, sculpture, and photography.