Integrated Studies is a team taught class that integrates science and world history oriented towards sustainability, change and innovation. In this writing and discussion intensive course, students consult and analyze varied sources, discern individual viewpoints, wrestle with ambiguous or open-ended questions, and ask questions of their own. Throughout middle school, in addition to writing assessments, debates, structured discussions, and labs, specific projects allow students to present their thinking and learning, often with feedback from an authentic audience, and sometimes from experts in the field.
In 6th grade, for example, students explore the essential question, “What does it mean to thrive?” and study content that ranges from cell form and function, human evolution, plant and soil science, the function of ecosystems, and the use of natural resources. Students also examine different forms of human organization and culture from early foraging peoples to first settlements and early civilizations with a particular focus on the relationship between humans and their environments. 7th graders pursue a study of the Industrial Revolution. The 8th grade year is focused on climate science and climate justice and ends with a capstone Climate Justice Symposium.
Throughout middle school, students develop their close reading and analysis skills by engaging deeply with primary sources. Collaborating with museums, institutions and experts to provide a rich variety of sources and perspectives, students synthesize a deep understanding of the main topics and questions of the three-year sequence.
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. Students write in a variety of genres, such as argumentative essays, critical analyses, poetry, and narrative writing. Each year builds on the work of the previous by increasing student independence as they navigate increasingly complex and sophisticated texts and forms of writing. For example, sixth grade opens with a personal narrative unit in which students focus on how to craft a story drawing from their own experiences. This work becomes more challenging in 7th grade when students explore Gothic short stories and examine how to write in a more imaginative and stylized genre. In 8th grade, they synthesize these two narrative experiences to write lightly fictionalized personal vignettes, inspired by the weighty themes in House on Mango Street. Throughout the course, students will grow adept at moving through the writing process: drafting, revising, and giving and receiving feedback.
Successful mathematicians continuously expand their content knowledge and mathematical habits. 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.
At Blue School, students begin with the introduction of algebra in 6th grade so they can build on their algebraic thinking skills throughout middle school. Students later learn to write, interpret, and use algebraic expressions and equations. They explore more complex equations and expressions in 7th grade and ultimately develop a deep understanding of linear and nonlinear functions by the end of 8th grade. The three year math sequence covers a wide range of mathematical concepts, including but not limited to partial numbers, proportional relationships, statistical thinking, geometric relationships, properties of three-dimensional shapes, coordinate geometry and the Pythagorean Theorem.
In our makerspace we integrate the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) disciplines, learning the essential ingredients for turning big ideas into viable designs. Building upon our hands-on work in the Primary grades, Middle Schoolers take their inspirations further, with more time in the lab in grades 6-8. We explore more deeply the applications and the opportunities for the tools and tech at our fingertips.
In 6th grade we immerse ourselves in the Design Process, considering every step in our thinking as an integral element of the outcome. From Empathy to Prototype, we ensure that our designs are meaningful, efficient, and awesome. Following a typical RFP-to-Prototype arc of development, sixth graders examine force and friction, simple machines, levers and gears, and torque, among other STEAM elements, as they design a product that meets or exceeds pre-determined performance standards. We further refine our woodworking skills in 6th grade and integrate newer technologies, like 3D printing and coding.
In 7th grade, students look at civil engineering, asking what a city of the future would look like and how it would be similar or different to the cities of today. Each student chooses an area of expertise in this field, be it housing or transportation or public space, and both researches and hypothesizes on how that area will evolve over the next 100 years. We expand our longitudinal exploration of electricity via this work by developing an interactive model of a city, one that responds to the viewer with light and sound through student-engineered circuitry. Our 3D printing foundations provide us the opportunity to further expand our expertise by designing buildings that meet the future head-on.
Our 8th graders explore an evolving field of engineering: Biomimicry. We investigate the power of looking towards nature to address our most pressing environmental challenges today. We also develop concepts and prototypes of interactive clothing, using microcontrollers to bring our coding chops to the physical realm.
Collective is our home base in the Middle School. In small, collaborative groups, students meet with an advisor, share diverse perspectives in order to serve and strengthen our community and stretch ourselves as reflective learners. Collective fosters academic growth and reflection, and supports social-emotional development and connection. During collective classes, small groups of students 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 build their organizational skills and reflect on themselves as learners and contributors to their community. In 7th grade students develop leadership and mentoring skills and forge meaningful connections in the broader Blue School community. In 8th grade students engage in civic action with the school’s local community and New York City more broadly.
COLLECTIVE AND ADVISORY
In 7th and 8th grade, students choose from a list of electives that are taught by members of our faculty. Recent elective offerings have included Literary Magazine, Moth storytelling, Pickling, Photography, Running club, Stand-up comedy, Book club, Story Pirates, Film-making, and Math Olympiad. Offerings are constantly changing based on student interest.