Middle: Grades 6-8
Why Blue School Middle School?
Brainstorming Middle School, Allison Gaines Pell, Huffington Post, April 22, 2014
"Looking back, most of us recall a few key things about our middle school years: The often distressing emotional intensity, the urge to express our independent identities, the exciting, unfamiliar, sometimes uncomfortable desire to connect in new ways with peers. We may also recall that the school's and teacher's expectations required that we suppress (or worse, repress) these aspects of ourselves in service of our academic goals. So, we looked out the window, daydreamed and waited for three o'clock to come, when we could have engaging discussions and pursue our own passions and ideas, often through clubs, sports, arts or plain old hanging out with friends.
Today, the science of adolescence teaches us that being driven by those distractions is biologically useful and important, and that they should be respected and leveraged by educators. Daniel Siegel, in his new book, Brainstorm, shows us the possible ways in which these attributes -- what he refers to as E.S.S.E.N.C.E: Emotional Spark, Social Engagement, Novelty, Creative Explorations -- make up the driving forces behind the adolescent brain. Siegel argues that it is because of the courage and creativity of adolescence that our species has been so adaptive and successful. We need this time of incredible brain growth -- matching only the time between birth and age three -- in order for humanity to survive and thrive. To make the most of this orientation, school should be a mystery, a challenge, a conversation and a process of self and world discovery stemming from adolescents' social and intellectual curiosity."
Adolescents have enormous potential for courageous and creative work. In the middle school years, the human brain changes at a rate matched only by the first three years of life, and children's capacities are naturally strengthened. Blue School's middle school program is designed to harness the potential of adolescents to act on their ideas, pursue high levels of scholarship, and become more fully realized as people and learners.
Middle Schoolers participate in a variety of courses that combine the individualized, inquiry-based approach of our primary program with an intentional shift to greater depth of knowledge and research in the content areas. In grades 6-8, all courses are organized around "Ways of Thinking" and our dynamic balance between academic mastery, creative thinking, and self and social learning. Students in 6-8th grades take required courses in Mathematics, Integrated Studies (team taught Science & World History), Novels and Nonfiction, and a variety of arts disciplines. In 7th and 8th grade, in addition to these required courses, production workshop, and collective, students choose four intensive courses which range from an analysis of the election to a study of printmaking. A sample list of intensives is included in the program offerings linked above. All students will take module-based health and physical education courses throughout 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.
All curriculum is organized by Blue School’s 'Ways of Thinking', which include:
Integrated Studies: In-depth, integrated studies of science and world history oriented towards sustainability, change and innovation. In this writing and discussion intensive course, students will consult and analyze varied sources, discern individual viewpoints, wrestle with ambiguous or open-ended questions, and ask questions of their own. Projects, including an 8th grade capstone project, will allow students to identify and pursue original ideas, often with feedback from an authentic audience, and sometimes from experts in the field.
Novels & Nonfiction: In this course, students will deepen interpretation skills, build a love of reading, and discover what it means to be deeply engaged and lost in a good text. Through analyzing text and studying the craft, students will be exposed to rich models for their own writing. Throughout the course students will write and revise, and give and receive feedback. We will focus on informational writing, argumentative essays, opinion pieces, poetry, and narrative writing.
Mathematics: Successful mathematicians continuously expand their content knowledge and mathematical habits. Therefore, throughout the sequence of middle school mathematics courses, students will learn through a combination of inquiry projects, mathematical proofs, and skill practice. We will ask students to solve problems independently and collaboratively, share feedback, and revise their work in order to more effectively attend to precision and communicate their mathematical reasoning.
Production Workshop: In this course focusing on the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) disciplines, students will learn the essential ingredients for turning big ideas into tangible projects. This workshop will provide time to build skills, participate in design challenges, use high and low tech tools, and practice inventing, engineering and creating with the guidance of a mentor teacher. Students will learn production for production’s sake and also for applying the ideas generated through Integrated Studies.
Collective: Small groups of students will meet with a faculty advisor to focus on self understanding, making good choices, negotiating relationships, deepening personal interests, and orienting for a growth mindset and academic courage. In 6th grade, students will also undertake a collective leadership initiative i.e. service learning, student-created anthology, or a local sustainability project. In 7th and 8th grade, students will participate in activities and discussions around social justice that include bias, discrimination, and tolerance.
Intensives: In 7th and 8th grade, students choose courses called Intensives based on interest that are taught by members of our faculty based on their areas of interest and accomplishment. These courses are aimed at achieving mastery rather than achieving a superficial understanding of one area. For a list of potential Intensives, click here (coming soon!).