The most exciting phrase to hear in science is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...
In 6th grade science, students explore the Earth's structure and its effect on organisms through group and individual inquiry, research projects, and modeling. They look at landscapes, geology, weather phenomena, energy resources, and space utilizing the context of local places, experts in the field, and 21st century skills. Students in 6th grade are introduced to the processes of analyzing scientific papers and formal scientific writing.
7th grade science focuses on Life Sciences and introduces the concept of scientific inquiry. With our own backyard as our classroom, students explore different ecosystems including how plants and animals have adapted to high mountain living. Following this, students look at how organisms use natural selection to evolve into what we see today. Science Fair provides an opportunity for each student to find their inner scientist, and projects are judged by local scientists from partner organizations including Steadman Philippon Research Institute, Walking Mountains Science Center, Eagle River Watershed Council, and the US Forest Service. 7th grade closes out the year with the study of body systems through hands-on labs, dissections and guest speakers.
8th grade science covers chemical and physical changes, properties of light and matter, and atomic structure. Students reinforce their observation and analytic skills through in-class and outdoor labs, and continue to write formal lab reports. Their skills are put on display at the Annual Science Fair judged by local scientists from partner organizations including Steadman Philippon Research Institute, Walking Mountains Science Center, Eagle River Watershed Council, and the US Forest Service.
On Reading: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ―Neil Gaiman
On Writing: “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard.”―Neil Gaiman
On History: “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” ―Winston Churchill
6th Grade English
Note: In 6th grade, literature and history are taught together. In the 7th and 8th grades, literature and history are taught separately.
In 6th grade humanities (a combination of literature and history), students explore the history and development of ancient civilizations and the contributions they have made to modern western society. Our journey begins in Mesopotamia, travels through time to ancient Egypt, continues to Greece, and concludes in Rome. We focus on universal themes shared by these cultures, including social rules, politics and characteristics of a civilization. In addition, we examine the everyday life of people living in these early societies. In literature, we read short stories, novels, and non-fiction articles that tie directly to the history we are learning. We also study the process of becoming a good writer and practice writing for a variety of audiences. Along the way, we study vocabulary, spelling, and grammar to aid in our pursuit of becoming better readers and writers.
7th Grade English
To hone close reading skills, 7th grade students will delve into literature featuring varied voices and perspectives. Our literature readings will come from many sources, including the novels New Kid, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, and The Outsiders. In addition, we will read short stories and poetry, and watch relevant films. A robust focus on independent reading will be a key component of the course and will be encouraged both during class and as ongoing homework. During student-led discussions, the class will learn to draw connections between what they are reading and the world around them. They will have the opportunity to express their own ideas through writing assignments of many different styles. Direct lessons in grammar and writing mechanics will further develop the quality of students’ writing. The course will incorporate new vocabulary words that directly support class content and augment students' reading and writing fluency.
8th Grade English
8th Grade English will center around weekly writing and reading workshops. The reading curriculum includes literature classics and a robust free-reading program. During a typical week, the class will also include lessons on grammar, vocabulary, and writing mechanics and style. The course will open with a short story unit in which students will study short stories from masters like Edgar Allen Poe and Kurt Vonnegut. Further literature studies will include Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The House on Mango Street. The class will also watch films, listen to podcasts, and use other media to complement the course as well as introduce, practice, and reinforce the fundamental rules of English grammar and usage. Students will study vocabulary that directly supports literature units and the class will develop and evaluate writing and presentation skills.
7th Grade History
This course will be centered around American Civics. We will uncover the origins of our system of government and the construction of the Constitution. Students will encounter other forms of government to compare and contrast them to our own. By analyzing the three branches of government students will leave this course with a strong foundation of knowledge regarding our system of government. Students will be asked to complete an end of the year assessment that pushes them to incorporate various topics and methods that we have discussed throughout the school year.
8th Grade History
This course asks students to dive into our recent past up to 200 years ago and learn about conflicts that have happened or are currently happening. We will begin our study with the War of 1812 and quickly move into conflicts of 19th Century Europe, Africa, and Asia where we will end our course with the current war in Ukraine. This course pushes students to understand cultures that may be similar or very different from ours and how certain events escalated into major conflicts. We will learn about aggressors and resistors throughout our study. Some examples of units are both World Wars, 9/11, Fall of the Qing dynasty, Belgian occupation of the Congo, American Slavery and the Jim Crow South, Taliban occupation of Afghanistan and the role of Women in Afghanistan, Apartheid in South Africa, and much more. My goal for this course is to have students be exposed to a plethora of World events before they enter 9th grade. This will allow them to have a strong understanding of recent world events that have shaped our world today.
"If I were again beginning my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with mathematics."―Galileo
6th grade math combines the practice of foundational math skills with an exploration of basic pre-algebraic and geometric concepts. Topics include: whole number operations, decimal, and fraction computation; variables and variable expressions; data displays; probability; integers; congruence; similarity; and geometric figures.
In 7th grade, students begin Pre-Algebra by reviewing negative numbers and variables. The focus of the course then shifts to solving equations, beginning with simple one-step equations and building to more complex, multi-step equations. Additional topics include fractions, rates, ratios, proportions, and percentages, with an emphasis on the inclusion of variables. To prepare students for Algebra, we cover linear equations and basic graphing techniques.
In 8th grade, Algebra I builds on the work accomplished in Pre-Algebra. Students explore increasingly complex linear functions and equation manipulation. Students also explore exponential and quadratic equations, FOILing and factoring, properties of exponents, as well as some basics in trigonometry.
The goal of the Middle School Visual Arts department is to continue exploring materials while beginning to focus on making art with intention. Students use a self-evaluation process and final critique method to enhance their ability to speak publicly and confidently about the work they are developing. Students can select from semester long courses that include Painting & Drawing, Handbuilding, and Printmaking. Students are introduced to the materials, techniques, concepts, and processes essential to understanding the visual arts and the role of the artist, through a series of projects, class critiques, videos, slide presentations, and various kinds of method studies. Our department believes that all students are artists and that everyone has something to contribute in the world of visual arts!
The Middle School Performing Arts department builds upon the knowledge learned in Lower School, while beginning to delve into greater depth in both instrumental and acting repertoire. Middle School students have opportunities to perform in the band or the Middle School musical. There is also an opportunity for students to learn the skills of working backstage in the theater through working on lighting, tech, set building, and more.
The Middle School Band performs a variety of musical styles, including jazz, pop, Broadway, and classical. Some past band selections have included Star Wars, Mango Tango, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Pirates Of The Caribbean, In The Mood, and Stars And Stripes Forever. As part of their music performance classes, Middle School students continue their study of music theory and are given the opportunity to engage in creative projects. Overall, it is our goal that Middle School students graduate to the Upper School with a solid understanding of music theory, knowledge of instrumental technique, and an appreciation of the work it takes to produce a unified performance.
The Middle School theatre elective is a year long course that performs a musical in the spring that supports students in developing and showcasing their talent as actors, singers, and dancers. Where Lower School students may have played simple, one-dimensional characters to which they could easily relate, Middle School students are challenged to take on roles that are a significant stretch. Past Middle School productions have included You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, High School Musical, Annie, and Grease. While the theatre elective is primarily focused on the annual Middle School spring musical production, there are additional projects that involve both scripted and improvisational performances.
The Middle School Digital Arts department offers courses in digital photography, programming and coding, design thinking, robotics and engineering, and utilizing the makerspace. The digital arts courses are designed to complement the hands-on studio experience, facilitating the integration of new media and artistic self-expression. Using a variety of software, students learn the basic tools and techniques for creating and manipulating images as well as transforming ideas into artwork, along with overall concepts of scanning and digitizing images. Students in robotics, programming, and coding courses will use programs such as Arduino, Blender, and Unity along with the C# programming language. Students in many of these courses also have access to the 3D printers, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, as well as hand and power tools in the makerspace.
The goal of Middle School Spanish is to create a fun and safe environment that encourages students to speak in the target language as much as possible. The class is driven by the proven teaching methods of TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) and OWL (Organic World Languages). These techniques are implemented through storytelling, reenactments, listening comprehension, role play, free reading, and games, all done in Spanish. In addition to vocabulary, 7th & 8th grade students read 2-3 novels per year. By the end of 8th grade, students are able to enter the Upper School with the ability and confidence to express themselves in the target language on a wide variety of everyday topics.
The goal of Middle School Mandarin is to encourage students to speak, read, and write in the target language as much as possible while engaging with authentic materials that accurately represent the culture and language. Students are encouraged to make mistakes, take chances, and become comfortable with speaking a language that is inherently different from languages such as English. The 6th through 8th grade Mandarin courses utilize the Easy Steps to Chinese and Integrated Chinese programs to prepare students for Upper School Mandarin and support the learning of Chinese characters. By the end of 8th grade, students are expected to gain proficiency in communication in areas such as greetings, family, work, dates and times, hobbies and interests, travel, and virtual communication (phone calls, texting, and writing emails).
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Middle School Physical Education department gives our students the knowledge to live a healthy lifestyle through instruction that incorporates both their physical and mental well-being. Courses teach skills that will support students in understanding what is required for participation in competitive and recreational activities in VMS. Students also learn how to properly train and maintain healthy habits to have a long and successful athletic career as well as a healthier lifestyle. Courses also teach whole body wellness, which includes mindfulness, healthy eating, yoga, meditation, and lifelong habits of keeping fit both physically and mentally. An important goal of the Middle School PE program is to create an inclusive atmosphere where students can participate in new sports and build the confidence to take part in VMS sports at a competitive level.