Middle School Curriculum

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Language Arts  |  Fine Arts  |  World Languages  |  Social Studies  |  Math  |  Science  |  P.E.



Language Arts

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A snapshot glimpse into our Middle School Language Arts classrooms reveals a steady hum of student-engaged reading, writing, and discussion work. This consistent reading and writing practice forms the basis of our daily push towards harnessing the power of the English language to fully communicate our ideas about, and understanding of, our place in the modern world.

On a given day, an observer could visit the 5th grade to see a discussion about how point of view is used by author Paul Fleischman in his Civil War novel, Bull Run. Students comment on the text, take notes, and ask questions, all in an effort to deepen their understanding of historical fiction.

Around the corner, the 6th grade students might be engaging in sentence modeling and using participles to energize descriptions and show the reader action, followed by a discussion of thematic questions around place, identity, community, and social justice that arise in Same Sun Here, a young adult novel by Silas House and Neela Vaswani.

The 7th grade students could be working on a detailed lesson about how to write a literary response essay to The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’s wildly popular novel about a post-apocalyptic America, after which they draft outlines to organize their thoughts and share their thesis ideas in small discussion groups.

In 8th grade classes, students might be reading the Emily Dickinson poem, “Hope is a thing with feathers” aloud, following this recitation with an annotation of the poem in preparation for writing an essay on it, and finishing with a discussion of how the author uses form and symbol to communicate an idea.

Library

Middle School students visit the library weekly with their Language Arts teachers. Students use their library time to browse and read independently. The librarian collaborates with teachers to present on research skills such as using databases, website evaluation and plagiarism. Middle School students have an opportunity to participate in reading challenges such as “Nerdbery,” a challenge to read all of the Newbery Award-winning novels going back 50 years!



Fine Arts

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In art classes, students work to develop their artistic skills while expanding on their imagination and individual voice. They learn about different world cultures through the study of their art, and also learn to appreciate unique artistic perspectives through the study of accomplished individual artists. Students have the opportunity to experience working in a variety of media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, clay, designing and photography.

In music classes, students are asked to sing increasingly complex musical phrases, harmonies, and song forms, as well as composing and improvising melodies and harmonies. In addition, students are encouraged to audition for All-State and All-Region Honor Choirs. As instrumentalists, students continue to learn melody, harmony, and rhythm by playing pitched and unpitched percussion; they also study the ukulele. Students are given the opportunity to learn a wind or percussion instrument and participate in a chamber ensemble and/or jazz band. The fruits of this work can be seen at Grandparents Day, Fine Arts Evenings, music theater productions, and assorted other concerts during the year.

The Humanities curriculum supplements what students are studying in their social studies classes, making history more tangible. Students are able to better understand cultures and time periods by looking at the related art, religion, philosophy, literature, performing arts, and music. Humanities classes are built around hands-on, interactive learning lessons. Students enjoy activities like learning the Charleston dance, rebuilding the Palace of Knossos, or learning about Hindu deities. These assignments allow students to have a deeper understanding of humanity, both past and present.



World Languages

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The World Language program allows students starting in 5th grade to study either Spanish or Chinese. Students follow a developmentally appropriate and dynamic sequence of study that promotes proficiency in listening, speaking, writing, reading, and culture.

Classes are taught using various methods of comprehensible input, including TPRS®, Comprehensible Input strategies. Students actively engage in the language, learn through storytelling and reading, and enjoy a multi-sensory approach to language acquisition.

We strive to provide students with the tools to communicate effectively both orally and in writing with people of diverse linguistic, ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. Travel opportunities giving the students immersion in the target language are offered beginning in the 7th grade, with trips in 2016-17 to Nicaragua and China.



Social Studies

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In Social Studies, students analyze aspects of both American and world history as they gain an increasingly sophisticated understanding of trends within and beyond the borders of the United States. Through the curriculum, they learn to recognize cause and effect, historical patterns, and the sequence of events. Students learn to gather and assess information, using it persuasively both verbally and in writing. They also learn to demonstrate through writing, either creative or expository, knowledge and understanding of many places, peoples, and eras.

Social Studies curriculum for 5th grade begins with the American Civil War, followed by Reconstruction. As students learn about how the country reunited, they also examine the new Americans arriving on these shores. The study of immigration leads students into the turn of the century, the Great War (World War I), the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and finally World War II and the Holocaust.

In the 6th grade, students concentrate on the history and cultures of the East, focusing primarily on Japan, China, India, and Africa. While the cultural forces that shaped these areas are introduced, major trends and events of the 20th century constitute the bulk of this Eastern Studies course.

7th grade curriculum concentrates on ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and Spanish Colonialism during the Age of Exploration.

8th graders return to American history with an in-depth study of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, the Progressive Era, the Jazz Age, The Great Depression, World War II, The Cold War, and the Vietnam War and the Sixties.



Math

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At the Middle School level, students arrive with myriad ability levels. Beginning in 6th grade, to accommodate student needs, we arrange our classes to teach different levels based on students’ mathematical ability and past performance.

Students will have completed either Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, or Geometry upon finishing 8th grade. For General Mathematics, Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Geometry, St. Francis uses the College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM) curriculum, which is driven by student-centered activities and a balanced emphasis on basic skills and conceptual understanding. Students learn how to approach open-ended math problems, how to pose their own questions, and how to find solutions using multiple methods.

Beyond the ordinary curricula, students are provided additional opportunities for learning through our participation in Math Olympiad and MathCounts, competitions which involve having students engage with challenging math problems, promoting higher order thinking.



Science

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Science is based on inquiry and curriculum guidelines, and it advances the work from primary grades into more sophisticated science knowledge and skills. Each grade engages students in using scientific methods and tiered laboratory skills.

5th grade students are introduced to a broad range of topics that prepare them for more advanced studies in subsequent grades. The 6th grade curriculum focuses on environmental science, presented as the four “spheres”: geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Life Science is emphasized in the 7th grade, while 8th grade students study chemistry, physics, and space.

Collaboration between teachers ensures that students learn appropriate content and skills at each grade level and that the curriculum flows well between grades. Science classes take advantage of the opportunities provided by the animals and outdoor environment of the Goshen Campus grounds.

Annual class trips to Mammoth Cave National Park, Pine Mountain Settlement School, and Big South Fork supplement the science curriculum with additional science experiences in nature. Formative and summative assessments are used to evaluate student progress, with much emphasis given to unit culminating projects that enable students to make choices about how they wish to demonstrate their learning.



Physical Education

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Physical Education classes provide each student the opportunity to acquire knowledge about the relationship between quality exercise and a healthy body. The primary goal is to develop students’ fundamental movement skills within a variety of developmentally appropriate games and locomotor and manipulative skills and activities.

Personal and social responsibility, self-directed learning, and problem solving skills are also reinforced throughout the curriculum. Daily, as students are challenged to push their physical limits and to take emotional risks, our focus is also on the development of positive character traits, an appreciation of one’s self, and taking pride in their personal fitness levels. Students are provided the opportunity to develop essential skills in physical activities suitable for lifelong participation in fitness or sports endeavors.

Students begin their classes with an agility warm-up, strength development, and endurance work. Skills and coordination work, such as throwing and catching, kicking, punting, juggling, or skills appropriate to specific games (basketball, volleyball, wiffleball, or track and field events) follow this stage. Finally, and to conclude classes, students put these skills to use in games. Sportsmanship, teamwork, and games strategies are emphasized.



Outdoor Education

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Our Middle School Outdoor Education Program provides safe and structured educational experiences designed to inspire self-esteem, self-reliance, concern for others, and care for the environment. It is intentionally designed to allow students the opportunity to meet challenges and move beyond self-imposed limitations through responsible risk-taking and hands-on involvement.

Our 5th grade begins their outdoor experience with a two-day trip to Mammoth Cave National Park. This trip gives the class an opportunity to learn about the underlying geography and specialized ecosystem during several tours of the caves and day hiking around the Green River Basin. Students also get the opportunity to spend the night in the Park campground where they experience setting up camp, practicing no-trace camping ethics, and participating in the cooking of their evening meal.

Nestled in the hills of Appalachia in Eastern Kentucky, the Pine Mountain Settlement School is the destination for our 6th grade trip. Although this is not a camping trip, the weeklong adventure does gives our 6th graders further introduction to the biological diversity, and the importance of environmental stewardship, in Kentucky.

The 7th grade travels to the Land Between the Lakes for their multi-day adventure. During this camping trip, the class hikes and canoes around this historically significant area of Kentucky. The final outdoor trip for a St. Francis Middle School student is the Big South Fork backpacking excursion. This is an experience that students often look forward to for years. During this weeklong adventure, the class backpacks through the hills and hollows that traverse the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. While a difficult trip, it is one that leaves our students with a life experience that many treasure.