Middle School Curriculum
The Middle School curriculum is an intellectually challenging, developmentally-appropriate program designed to meet the needs of early adolescent girls. The result is a cohesive three-year plan that bridges for each of our students the transition from concrete to abstract thinking, from girls to young women.
- Visual Art
- World Languages
- Physical Education
- Digital Media
- Performing Arts
- Technology and Middle School Laptop Program
In each grade, a team of core teachers shares responsibility for mentoring the girls by serving as advisors. Each student is assigned to an advisory group of about ten to twelve girls, and this group becomes her “home base” for support and community. The advisor’s job is to be the primary advocate for his or her advisees, getting to know them personally and academically, helping them with organization and study skills, communicating with parents on conference day and other times as needed, and facilitating each girl’s growth toward independence.
In addition, the advisor serves as the first point of contact for parents. Parent-advisor conferences are scheduled twice a year, in the fall and the spring. Parents may contact their daughter’s advisor if they have concerns or to request a conference at any other time during the year.
Middle School art provides a wide range of experiences in the classroom so that each girl can feel successful as she explores which media appeal to her. Students work with painting, drawing, sculpting, and mixed media materials, while building on existing skills and exploring new ones. There is ample opportunity for thoughtful discussion and intellectual challenge, while creating artwork that is personally meaningful and aesthetically strong.
Students are encouraged to stretch beyond their comfort zones to take artistic risks and discover new facets of imagination, new strategies for self-expression, and new ways of perceiving and interacting with the world. A diverse group of artists is used as inspiration at the beginning of each unit. The young artists are guided by support and suggestions from peers, as well as the instructor.
The goal of the art classroom is to be a safe and exciting arena for discovery and creation, so that students will leave the Middle School with a deepened appreciation and passion for the arts, as well as a sense of confidence in their ability to be skilled and empowered art-makers.
The Middle School world languages program encompasses four languages: Chinese, French, Spanish, and Latin. Most students enter 6th grade continuing their study of a modern language, and they achieve proficiency through Level 2 by the end of 8th grade. In addition, 8th grade students take Latin 1 concurrently with their modern language. All language programs emphasize communication in a second – or third – language by developing speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. The curriculum in each language utilizes Middle School-level textbooks and resources, and technology provides a window into the world with authentic images, sounds, and texts. In addition to learning essential grammar and vocabulary, language courses engage students with thematic units that reflect the diversity of world cultures in the various countries where each language is spoken.
Our Middle School student scientists follow an integrated program each year. We use themes to create a framework for understanding the connections between scientific disciplines. In this way, students learn that seemingly different processes, structures, or systems can be shown to have underlying similarities. Students are asked to learn science by engaging their hands and their minds. By engaging in science activities and analyzing their results, students learn the “whys” and the “hows,” not just the “whats” and “whens.” Ultimately, they learn to see science as a system for making sense of the world. At all times, concepts and skill development are emphasized over memorization of facts. A common thread throughout the three years is the emphasis on learning science and applying their knowledge to engineering projects.
The Middle School physical education program focuses on a wide range of activities, games, and sports. The curriculum explores skills and sports that are developmentally appropriate and sequentially planned throughout the middle school years. One of the main objectives for students is to recognize the value of physical education for fitness, social relationships, self-improvement, teamwork, fun, and positive sportsmanship. Students are encouraged to create goals, meet challenges, and strive for improvement based on their individual ability level. Throughout the Middle School years, they will develop a positive relationship between fitness, wellness, and activities that will sustain them over a lifetime.
The Middle School history curriculum provides age-appropriate opportunities for students to expand their understanding of themselves, the nation, and the world. Our challenging curriculum meets every student where they are to help them develop the social, emotional, and intellectual skills to become life-long learners.
Critical reading and writing are cornerstones of the Middle School history curriculum. Research and formal writing skills are nurtured at each grade level. Content and current event reading helps to grow their understanding of history in the context of world events. Educational experiences in history allow for an exploration of their sense of self. This includes reading literature, writing in journals, and engaging in debate. With role-play, mock trials, and performances, students strengthen their personal ethics. To encourage a concern for others, students participate in multiple community-service projects in 6th and 7th grade, and they complete a human rights unit in 8th grade.
As a Middle School elective class, digital media is designed to educate students in an ever-changing digital world. Available to 7th and 8th graders, with 6th graders eligible in the second semester, students are introduced to blogging, photography, and videography in a collaborative classroom. Projects are developed and pursued individually and in groups. Leadership and collaboration skills are enhanced as students take on different roles for multiple projects.
The Middle School English program is designed to foster a student’s growth and confidence as a thinker, reader, writer, and individual. In a supportive environment, students are asked to make connections between the issues and themes highlighted in literature to those found in their own worlds. Using fiction and non-fiction texts, as well as classic and modern writings, students strengthen their reading skills on a literal level. As critical thinking skills are emerging and maturing in this age group, they use strategies to uncover deeper meaning. Developing strong critical thinkers is a focus of the program. Students discuss and write about their insights to hone expressive language abilities, both creatively and analytically. Grammar is taught to bolster the effectiveness of the students’ language.
Additionally, using literature that represents a diversity of experiences – including racial, religious, physical, political, and socioeconomic – character education organically arises. Students actively see themselves in situations and think about how they would act or react. Universal themes that speak to the human condition allow students to expand their understanding of themselves and others through engaging with literature.
The integrated math curriculum in the Middle School is a rigorous, comprehensive program that focuses on student-centered, problem-based learning with rich investigations and challenges that allow the students to take risks, notice and test patterns, form conjectures, brainstorm and collaborate strategies, make mistakes, analyze their responses for reasonableness, support their opinions and solutions orally and in writing, and, consequently, develop solid arithmetic, algebraic, geometric, statistical, and problem-solving skills. By encouraging students to solve real problems in authentic contexts, we strive to foster independence, creativity, flexibility, and self-confidence in our students. Teachers guide and facilitate student-led problem solving, help students identify salient ideas, key concepts, algorithms, and strategies, clarify their thinking, and provide opportunities for reinforcement and extension of concepts. The integrated math curriculum encourages students to embrace a growth-mindset, and it respects and supports individual student learning styles.
The Middle School performing arts program includes a three-year curriculum of formal classes in dance, music and theater. Students in 6th and 7th grade participate in a yearlong music course and a semester each of dance and theater. In 8th grade, students choose two courses from among five arts electives: art of the musical, eighth grade dance, eighth grade singers (by audition), eighth grade theater, and visual art. Students may also elect to participate in chorus and dance company, which are open to all students and do not require an audition. Each semester concludes with a concert performance reflecting the array of curriculum offerings. In addition, the Middle School presents a musical theater production every year, open to all students by audition.
The music curriculum develops skills in music literacy, sight-reading, listening and analyzing, expression, and proper vocal technique. Students also enjoy hands-on experiences with keyboard, hand bells, guitar, and other instruments.
In dance classes, students learn techniques of Western concert dance forms, including jazz, modern and tap. Students explore dance steps, performance qualities, improvisation, composition, and stage presence throughout the semester.
RPCS believes that technology can foster and ignite some of the most creative ideas. With the Middle School laptop and iPad programs and a dedicated innovation space, we offer students endless ways to be curious and creative. Our technology program provides tools that are completely integrated into our classrooms and supports learning across all content areas. This integration provides students with purposeful access to research tools, digital libraries, and creative resources.
Our innovation space provides a dedicated makerspace filled with state-of-the-art 3-D printers, building tools, green screens, and materials for students to design and develop their ideas. The Middle School has a dedicated technology integrationist to help provide instruction and support for our youngest students, as well as learning opportunities and technology integration planning for our older students and faculty.