Middle School Curriculum

Science:

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'"Isaac Asimov

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 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. A Snow Science and Safety unit connects students to the science behind their recreation, travel, and personal interests. 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.
 

Humanities

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

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.

In 7th grade Literature, students explore texts concerning marginalized groups in U.S. history, including Native Americans, African Americans, and women. Throughout this course, the class is challenged to analyze and compare various forms of literature including The Diary of Anne Frank, Touching Spirit Bear, The Outsiders, and Monster. Student writers focus on grammatical skills and applying them to a variety of genres of writing. Class discussions are a frequent occurrence.

In 7th grade History, students explore history through the eyes of marginalized groups. We focus on Native Americans, African Americans, and women, which takes us from the colonial period to the present day. Throughout this course, students hone their independent research skills and make connections with geography, and current events and literature. Toward the end of the year, we use the lens of history to investigate the state of human rights in the world today.  During this class, students focus on the following skills: composing expository, persuasive, and creative pieces, as well as building websites and creating videos.

In 8th grade Literature, students explore texts concerning identity and one’s place in society. Throughout this course, the class is challenged to analyze and compare various forms of literature including The Book Thief, Of Mice and Men, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, To Kill A Mockingbird, Inherit The Wind and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Student writers focus on grammatical skills and applying them to a variety of different genres of writing. Class discussions are a frequent occurrence. 

8th grade History focuses on American government, history, politics, and current events, which culminates in a trip to Washington, DC. The core skills students learn in this class are research-driven formal writing, documentary filmmaking, note taking, debate, and oral presentation. Major projects include: producing a documentary on current events for the C-SPAN Student Cam competition, creating websites on local and DC public history, and writing formal research papers.
 

Math

"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, some basics in trigonometry.
 

Visual Arts

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." ―Picasso

The goal of the middle school visual arts program 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’ time is split between taking digital art courses and continuing to learn traditional methods of art making. 

The digital art course is 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 and transforming ideas into artwork, along with overall concepts of scanning and digitizing images. Painting and drawing software are utilized and classes stress individual growth. Throughout these classes the computer acts as a tool to create multiple forms of art.

The 3D and 2D classes’ primary goal is the development of an awareness and appreciation of the arts.  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.
 

Performing Arts

Middle school is a time of self exploration when students often come out of their shells, embracing opportunities for expression and attention. The opposite is also true, with introverts sometimes shying away from the spotlight. Middle School students may choose between choir and band, and also have the option of taking Theatre. The middle school performing arts program builds upon the knowledge learned in Lower School, while beginning to delve into greater depth in vocal and instrumental repertoire. The Middle School Band and Choir perform 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, Stars And Stripes Forever. In choir, students have performed Mama Mia, Valerie by Amy Winehouse (a cappella), and Summertime by George Gershwin. 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 and/or vocal technique, and an appreciation of the work it takes to produce a unified performance.

Theatre Elective

The middle school Theatre Elective is available to seventh and eighth grade students as an additional performing arts elective. Students learn elements of performance and stage acting techniques with an emphasis on improvisation and developing scripts through improvisation. The material presented each year is driven by that year’s focus and by student interest, and may vary.
 

Spanish

The goal of Middle School Spanish class 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 additional to vocabulary, 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.
 

Physical Education

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The middle school physical education program gives our students a physical outlet during the school day and teaches them foundational skills for participation in competitive and recreational athletics at VMS including soccer, volleyball, basketball, track and field, tennis and lacrosse. Students also use our fitness room in order to learn more about strength training by taking part in body weight and TRX workouts, stationary spin bike workouts and yoga. Classes are held in the school gymnasium, outdoor turf field and the fitness room at VMS. The 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.