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middle-school-curriculum

Middle School Curriculum

As students move through our Middle School program they grow as communicators, thinkers, creators, and analysts. Throughout our curriculum, we push students to find ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings and deepen their intentional use of voice. This happens through direct academic instruction of writing, drafting, editing and citing sources, as well as through less formal conversations that take place in settings like Health courses and Advisory. We value and guide both the academic growth of voice as well as the deepening understanding of self that happens in these years.

In addition to the analysis, students do through their verbal and written expression of ideas and self, they use their years in Middle School to strengthen their ability to collect information or data and to discover patterns and interpret them in order to make predictions. Students also have ample opportunities to create.  Whether in an art class where students are painting or drawing, a theater class where they are bringing a character to life, the orchestra where together they are constructing a full piece of music, or the maker space, where they are exploring and creating a new object or project, students’ creative selves are ever-evolving on their journey through Middle School.


Featured Programs

The Advisory Program

To be a student at AFS is to be known well. Every year, to guide our students through all the changes, challenges, and opportunities of Middle School, we pair each student with an advisor who oversees the general academic and social well being of a small advisory group.

Advisors for each grade work together as a team to guide the entire class, and advising teams meet weekly to plan the grade’s academic work and advisory activities. As a result, each student and each grade has a dedicated, talented, and caring team of adults attending to their academic and social needs.

Each Middle School student generally meets with his or her advisor twice a week, in an advisory group of approximately 11 students. Advisory aims to provide students with a safe, friendly place to receive support, encouragement, and modeling for both academic and social involvement.

A child’s advisor is the primary liaison between the school and the family, and between the student and his or her teachers. The Middle School years are like no others, and our faculty’s affection for, understanding of, and experience with this age group all make an important difference in our students’ school experience.

Language and Literacy

In middle school, we provide many opportunities for students to recognize and examine multiple perspectives in literature, history, and current events. We encourage students to think and to write with a strong sense of voice, purpose, and audience.

Students gain skills necessary to articulate their evolving perspectives through active reading, creative and analytical writing, and in-depth interpretive discussion. These conversations and opportunities to deepen understanding of multiple perspective are further strengthened through students’ exploration of a second language, beginning with studies of Spanish in fifth and sixth grades and then Spanish or French in seventh and eighth grades.  These courses focus on speaking, writing, and exposure to new cultures and traditions.

Science and Math

We view our Science, Math, and other STEAM opportunities through the lens of discovery and application of skills. Our goal is for students to gain confidence in manipulating numbers and data, recognizing patterns, and making sense of why and how things work.  We offer students a variety of ways to engage with material, with the knowledge that every student understands ideas a little differently.

Through their own exploration of data, through modeling and multiple lenses into the same skill set, we work to build students’ sense of themselves as scientists, mathematicians, researchers, and designers and aim to empower them to continue to build on those identities throughout Middle School and beyond.  Whether in classrooms, lab spaces, or our Middle School Makerspace, ours is a program of learning through doing.

Middle School Athletics

Our Middle School athletic program serves a critical role in the health and wellness of our students’ present and future lives. Participation, teamwork, fair play, confidence building and skill development are all integral aspects of Middle School sports.

We encourage athletes to play for two or all three seasons, if they are interested, and we require students to participate in one of the three seasons in 6th-8th grade. Athletic participation is encouraged but not required for students in 5th grade.

Because AFS emphasizes engagement, skill development and team membership at the Middle School level, a wider percentage of students are able to reap the many benefits associated with athletic participation compared to more selective Middle School programs. Robust student involvement does not preclude the pursuit of competitive success, as AFS Middle School teams take pride in playing their games the right way and playing to win.

Learn more about athletics

Middle School Arts

All Middle School students participate in a full arts curriculum, which includes:

A visual arts program that emphasizes connections between artistic and academic disciplines and historical, cultural and real world contexts through observation, conversation, research and art making. Over their four years in Middle School, students receive a strong foundation in drawing, painting, printmaking, clay modeling, mixed media and construction.

An instrumental and choral music program that allows students to explore interests and begin deeper study into rhythm, pulse, melody, harmony, texture, timbre and dynamics and strengthen their growing “musical toolbox,” through the study of music theory and musicianship knowledge. There are ample opportunities for students to stretch themselves musically through participation in select choral and instrumental ensembles.

A theatre program beginning in 6th grade that focuses on development of a student’s ability for self-expression, both as an individual and as a member of a creative group experience. The skills learned in the pursuit of effective performance apply not only to improved self-confidence and public presentation, but to increasing the ability to observe, experience and appreciate self and environment as well. A lively musical production each winter calls upon skills learned in theatre class for many students; those not chosen for parts after auditions are encouraged to work behind the scenes.

Community Life in Middle School

Community, one of the primary tenets of Quakerism, lies at the center of Middle School school life. We work to provide students with regular opportunities to intentionally connect with their community in a variety of ways. This starts from the very beginning of the year, when each grade takes part in an off campus retreat during the first full week of school, allowing students to reconnect as well as strengthening the community identity of that grade. During the year, community building happens through small but daily community check ins, such as beginning the day as a full grade in Homebase in order to center ourselves, hear about upcoming events and perhaps celebrate a student’s recent achievement. Cross-graded clubs allow students to choose to connect with others around social, artistic or academic interests. Community partnerships with other schools, environmental organizations, animal rescues and other connections outside of AFS allow Middle School students to build community beyond the walls of AFS. And special days like Many Voices, One Community Day allow the Middle School to come together for cross-grade conversations around topics or ideas related to identity.

Technology & Digital Citizenship

Middle School students continue to build on the skills they were introduced to in Lower School, and in 7th grade receive a Chromebook to use in 7th and 8th grade.  Google Apps for Education is utilized throughout our middle school providing a platform for teachers and students to easily share information, collaborate, revise work and start creating digital portfolios.

Students start to work with large amounts of data in science and learn how to use spreadsheets to manipulate and make sense of information.  In 5th and 6th grade students use Minecraft in their history classes to recreate historical sites and interact in an online space to problem solve.

Our new Middle School Maker Space allows students to utilize design thinking skills in a collaborative environment.  In our 7th grade technology course students learn skills necessary to navigate increasingly complex social networks and how to be good digital citizens.  They are also introduced to programming and the basics of graphic design

The Eighth Grade Independent Study Program

The capstone of our Middle School program is the Eighth Grade Independent Study. EGIS projects challenge students – over the course of a year- to give voice to an area of emerging interest.  Whether they study Gaelic, self publish a book, build a rocking chair, choreograph a dance or learn blacksmithing, students reveal the passionate, thoughtful voice that results from supported exploration and academic risk-taking.

With mentoring from teachers and advisors, students learn to evaluate sources, take notes, cite and organize information, write rough drafts and revise them into final, polished presentations. All students complete a product to showcase on EGIS Night, where the only voices you will hear are those of students as they stand up in front of an audience of  classmates, parents and friends to explain what they have done for the year or perform a live presentation.

Faculty & Student Relationships Built on Trust

Students in our Middle School program have the opportunity to build deep and lasting relationships with the faculty who teach them. Because faculty not only teach the subject material but also advise run clubs and activities, coach and interact with students in other ways, students find that they are known deeply and fully.  In building those connections within and beyond subject-specific instruction, students gain the confidence needed to take the kind of risks that we know are critical to growth and success. It is often said that in order to succeed or grow, we often must fail – but in order to have the opportunity to fail, we must take the risk of trying something new.  Whether in our arts program, our athletics program or our academic program, we work to create a deeply supportive culture between faculty and students that allows our Middle Schoolers to challenge themselves and to redefine the limits of what they expect of each other and themselves.

Want to learn more?