The Middle School curriculum builds on the integrated, interdisciplinary approach to academics that permeates learning throughout Principia School. Making connections between disciplines and learning how to analyze and apply information to a variety of issues and contexts are essential skills in today’s knowledge economy. With a focus on digital literacy, our Middle School students grow into 21st-century competencies from a strong foundation in the basics (language arts, math, history, and science). Plus, they learn how to be discerning digital learners, maximizing the educational benefits of Internet access, while facing down its distractions and diversions.
Daily sessions in language arts and mathematics establish an enduring educational base. Required grade-level history and science classes add to that foundation. Every middle schooler also takes a required art or music class, as well as studying Spanish every year and taking two Bible history classes during the three-year program.
Each semester offers a weekly opportunity to study “exploratories” or electives, and there are dedicated periods for each grade in Integrated Studies as well as in Digital Media. Our afternoon CATCH program allows for approximately 30 minutes fourt times a week during which students can start homework, catch up with a teacher for more information or support, or link up with other students on group assignments.
Each Middle School student is provided with a MacBook Air laptop for use during the school year. Using this tool, students become adept digital learners. Homework assignments are mainly, though not entirely, completed and submitted using the computer.
Field trips and annual weeklong class trips emphasize deep engagement with content and experiential learning. The locations and activities of trips are closely tied to the curriculum at each grade and bring to life aspects of history, language, culture, and science. In addition, they enhance our students’ confidence, worldview, and application of Christian Science.
The language arts curriculum is foundational to the overall academic program. Together, we probe and understand literary texts and use them to back up assertions and inferences, as students write, edit, and rewrite. Students critically consider a range of memoirs, poetry, short stories, and novels, and incorporate characteristics from each genre into their own writing. At each grade, independent thought and the crafting of logical arguments and strong conclusions are emphasized.
The language arts instructor maintains a teacher’s library with selections that appeal to both reluctant and advanced readers, and additional titles that challenge advanced readers. All students set individual reading goals and, through a combination of class novels and largely self-selected reading, broaden their interests and improve comprehension.
The Middle School math program trains students to think critically, communicate quantitatively, and appreciate the mathematical foundations of many modern accomplishments and advances. The curriculum aims to have all students algebra-ready by the end of eighth grade, and teachers strive to foster a problem-solving attitude that positively impacts other areas of learning.
Instruction is aligned with the Math in Focus® (“Singapore math”) program and helps students master concepts through a three-step process—moving from concrete to pictorial to the abstract. This builds a solid basis for understanding the relationships and values of numbers and symbols. With small, daily classes, teachers can group students according to progress levels and modify assignments accordingly.
Social studies cover a broad spectrum of academic subjects, including history, geography, government, economics, and civics. Exploring these subjects and identifying recurring themes helps students understand patterns of human interaction within small societies and great civilizations, past and present. The goal is to connect with the interwoven histories belonging to us and learn from them in order to buid a bright and noble future.
Students take social studies courses throughout the year. These courses highlight a wide variety of periods, places, people, and perspectives. In addition to various world histories, Unites States history will be a thread carried through each grade level.
A scientific approach to inquiry and the search for answers, combined with project-based learning and independent research, equip Middle School students to make the transition into high school science at the end of eighth grade. Assignments reinforce the application of mathematical and writing skills in the preparation of lab reports, research projects and presentations, and field expeditions. Each grade level studies science all year long.
This dual focus, project-based class provides students with structured choice and the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. One portion of the class is built around problem-solving units—authentic, real-world issues that call upon students to use their language, research, scientific, and other skills in coming up with solutions or analyses. The other portion of the class sets creates opportunities to delve more deeply into specific subject matter being studied in other cores classes—for example researching the customs of Elizabethan England, in conjunction with a language arts unit on Shakespeare.
Through their three years of Middle School, students will complete a comprehensive course that establishes an elementary foundation to learning the language. In an immersion-style classroom, students apply Spanish every day and express ideas in the present, basic future, and basic past tenses. Working in a collaborative environment, students create and present materials on a variety of topics while speaking with correct pronunciation and intonation. As a class we explore cultural practices, traditions, and themes in order to better understand Hispanic cultures and develop a broader understanding of our role as global citizens.
The integration of music education into the regular school day is a Principia hallmark—and students have the opportunity to be involved in music during all three years of Middle School.
There are several bands in Middle School and two choirs. All sixth graders participate in the Grade 5/6 Beginning or Advanced Band as well as in the Grade 5/6 choir. Seventh- and eighth-grade students may choose to participate in band and/or choir, or take an art class instead of music.
Acting, building, creating . . . our arts program covers these “ABCs” and goes well beyond, by integrating with subjects such as language arts and history.
All sixth-grade students take a weekly arts class and seventh- and eighth-graders may elect to take art instead of music. In visual arts, students learn to expressively use a range of materials and medi. They apply principles of art and design to two- and three-dimensional work in paper, paint, clay, wood, glass, and metal, among other materials. Exploring the role of inspiration, students discuss and evaluate work through group critiques and reflective writing, and develop specific techniques and skills. There are options for exploratory classes in studio art as well as acting and improv and creative writing.
Digital Media gives students the opportunity to be discerning consumers and creative producers of media. Students learn how to use media as well as to analyze and critique media, so they can become informed consumers. Furthermore, students will be engaged in deep, meaningful, creative and thoughtful production of media. Relying mainly on iPads, students will strengthen their technical abilities as they plan, communicate, and critique ideas. Several topics are integrated into other disciplines.
In three required classes (one each year), students emet one hour per week for the entire year to delve into the Bible. The aim is to cultivate an enduring understanding about the role of the Bible as a practical guide to life, the centrality of its “inspired Word” to the teachings of Christian Science, and a recognition of the need to discern its spiritual meaning.
For one morning each week, students dive into topics of interest to them, chosen from a menu of electives. Exploratories are delivered in a flexible format that allows for small group and individual work as well as close monitoring of progress. Frequent field trips and project-based learning help students come to grips with essential scientific, historical, literary, or artistic facts and skills, and understand their relevance and value to daily life. Most exploratory classes include students from all grade levels, though a few may be restricted to certain grades.
Physical education is included in the Middle School curriculum through a weekly PE session, as well as through the Project Adventure course. Conceived and founded by former Outward Bound instructors, Project Adventure uses the School’s outdoor climbing wall and ropes course. In both classes, students learn responsible personal and social behavior, effective interpersonal and decision-making skills, goal setting, appropriate risk taking, and problem solving—while developing movement, coordination, and basic climbing skills. In PE, the fundamental movement skills developed in earlier years are applied as activity-specific motor skills in a wide variety of settings. A strong focus is given to fitness, and the curriculum also includes dance and aquatics.
The Middle School library is located down on the Lower School level, and is readily available to serve students, teachers, and parents. Although students do not have regularly scheduled times to come to the library, they are welcome to visi for resources or to do homework, as their time permits. The library has both fiction and nonficiton resources appropriate for the Middle School level.
Parents are also welcome to come to the library, while waiting for children to finish school or sports, to find resources for their children, or to have meetings. The library has information and resources that parents may borrow for their own use.