English: English classes at MSSA are designed to strengthen our students’ reading, thinking, writing, and speaking skills so that they will be able to participate successfully in pre-AP and AP classes in high school. Students read essays, short stories, poetry, plays, and novels and discuss them in small daily classes. The students prepare response notes, write essays, and participate in seminars in which they explore setting, plot, characterization, narrative structure, point of view, symbolism, diction, tone, imagery, irony, and theme. The writing process is emphasized through a variety of written work, from major analytical essays to creative pieces. The study of grammar and vocabulary are both strongly stressed. Each year the MSSA Middle School studies a Shakespeare play in depth, and then the class prepares a fully-staged production of the selected play.
Mathematics: Middle School mathematics revolves around three main courses: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 Pre-AP, and Geometry Pre-AP. By beginning the Middle School years with an intense study on the foundations of mathematics – fractions, decimals, percents – and advanced operations with these concepts, students work above and beyond typical grade level standards. After Pre-Algebra, Middle School students can complete Algebra 1 Pre-AP for high school credit. Students who work at an advanced level in mathematics during Middle School are taught according to their individualized needs, with the option of completing Geometry Pre-AP by the end of their 8th grade year. The Middle School mathematics program focuses on mastery of concepts and preparation of students for success in high school AP classes.
Science: Middle School science is a broad-based course that deepens student understanding of previously introduced topics in physics, chemistry, and biology. Inquiry learning and guided labs allow students to investigate topics more fully by asking “why,” then analyzing the outcomes. Mathematics is integrated to quantify, analyze, and display findings. Topics are divided equally between the three disciplines. Chemistry expands the topics of elements, compounds and mixtures, chemical and physical changes, and bonding. Physics investigates motion, force, and energy. Biology concentrates on the classification of living things, human biology, ecology, evolution, and natural selection. Because science is an ever-changing field, students also read and discuss current topics and how new information is reshaping the knowledge base of these fields.
History: Seventh grade history at MSSA is devoted to a study of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Europe, looking at the forces that shaped the growth of society after the fall of the Roman Empire. The rebirth of literacy, and the rise of towns and trade brought about by the Crusades are some of the topics considered in the fall term. The beginning of the Renaissance in Italy is the focus of the spring term, with emphasis on developments in art, architecture, and technology. The year ends with a major research project, research paper, and a 20-minute oral presentation. Eighth grade history is devoted to the study of early U.S. history and government. Students learn about colonial life, the forces that gave rise to the Revolutionary War, and the ideals, principles, and governmental applications of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Concepts such as immigration, expansion, and trade are studied in depth as students trace the United States from its origins through the Civil War.
MSSA’s Middle School program is carefully designed to meet the emotional, social, and academic needs of young people between the ages of 12 and 14. At this crucial period of a child’s development, the Middle School provides students with a warm, caring, supportive environment.
Every effort is made to provide students with a curriculum that is not only rigorous but that supports the development of creative and critical thinking skills. The program also provides extensive opportunities to participate in small-group projects where leadership skills can be developed and practiced.
The Middle School program is ultimately devoted to preparing students for the high school of their choice – confident in their skills in reading, writing, math, and science, capable of thinking clearly and critically, and poised in their ability to speak strongly before a group. Above all, the Middle School strives to support and encourage the potential of the individual student.
Full-time teachers and a variety of skilled specialists interact with the Middle School students. In the classroom, the students are divided into advisory groups, or 7 to 10 students under the guidance of a classroom teacher. This advisor monitors all aspects of the child’s life and work in the classroom and meets individually with each student weekly. A daily journal encourages reflective communication between student and advisor. A detailed planner is used to help students keep track of assignments, due dates, and special events. Teachers are devoted to providing a warm, close, affirming relationship with each student and his/her parents.
The Middle School recognizes that meaningful social interaction between the students is an essential aspect of fostering healthy social development. In every academic area, students are provided with constant opportunities to work together. From science lab activities, history team projects, peer editing sessions in writing class, and team sports to our annual Shakespeare production, Middle School students work closely together. In weekly community meetings, students’ contributions to the classroom are highlighted, and issues and concerns are addressed. The over-riding theme of the Middle School is respect: respect for the environment, respect for work, and above all respect for each other.
A strong academic curriculum is at the core of the Middle School program. Daily small-group classes in math, science, and writing stress traditional skills. History classes provide students with opportunities to carry out extensive research and to participate in a wide variety of presentation options, including a major 20-minute individual oral presentation at the end of the year.
Literature is taught using materials that teach the students to interact with texts and to think critically; speaking skills are reinforced with weekly literature seminars. The month of January is devoted to a fully-staged Shakespeare play involving everyone in the class. Thinking and speaking skills are further strengthened by weekly Socratic discussions and current events seminars.