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 Honors and AP classes in high school. Students read essays, short stories, poetry, and novels and discuss them in small daily classes, honing their literary analysis and critical thinking skills. 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 expressive pieces, and written work is often complemented with creative projects and art. The study of grammar and vocabulary are both strongly stressed.
Mathematics: Middle School mathematics is comprised of three courses: Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Geometry. Pre-Algebra focuses on strengthening basic skills like fractions, decimals, and percent along with introducing the beginnings of algebra. Students learn to simplify expressions, solve equations, gather and interpret data, graph lines, and identify the components of a function. In Algebra I, students work at an advanced level in order to share their ideas through math. Students enter Geometry knowing how to represent algebraic thinking as an equation, graphically, through data, and as written word, and are introduced to logic and proof writing along with an intense study of parallel lines, polygons, circles, area, surface area, and volume. All classes focus on mastery of concepts and prepare students for success in high school Honors and AP courses.
Science: Middle School Science engages the student’s natural curiosity to develop their own understanding of the world around them. Students are given opportunities to create models, engage in laboratory activities, and hone their understanding of the Scientific Method as well as their technical writing skills. Guided labs allow students to investigate topics more fully by asking “why,” when analyzing outcomes. Mathematics is integrated to quantify, analyze, and display findings. Seventh Grade Science in an introductory biology class with a focus on how organisms are organized based on their cellular composition, and students gain an understanding of cellular processes and human body systems including homeostasis, reproduction, and heredity. Eighth Grade Science immerses students in physical sciences, with an introduction to chemistry and conceptual physics, as well as astronomy, weather and geology.
History: Students take a year of World History and a year of US History. They learn advanced reading and note-taking strategies, analyze and interpret primary source documents, evaluate historical arguments, role-play in simulations, engage in persuasive debates and essay writing, and work collaboratively in groups as social scientists to test historical hypotheses. World History spans the 4.2 billion years of human history, as students examine the chronology of eras, and analyze geography, religion, achievements, politics, economics, and social structures over time. American History covers every era from the first Americans prior to 1491 to the present, as students uncover the countless diverse experiences, adventures, failures and triumphs that collectively tell the American story. Eighth graders are invited to participate in Montessori Model United Nations, which allows students to act as ambassadors from assigned foreign countries, simulating positions in the UN, completing research that allows them to formulate position papers, prepare speeches and learn how to debate. Students travel to NYC in the Spring to participate in the MMUN conference with delegates from schools around the world.
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. Students are divided into advisory groups with seven to ten under the guidance of a classroom teacher. Advisories meet four times a week, and advisors monitor all aspects of the child’s life and work in the classroom. Advisory activities are designed to support middle school skills like organization and communication, as well as provide a place to develop and improve social and emotional skills, including emotion management, self-regulation, empathy, and listening. 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. Parents are invited for conferences that include students to discuss strategies and plans that will ultimately help students experience success.
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 group projects, peer editing sessions in writing class, and team sports to our annual musical production, Middle School students work closely together. In daily morning meetings, students’ contributions to the classroom and community 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; literature and history are taught using materials that enable students to interact with texts and teach them to think critically; speaking skills are reinforced with weekly literature circles and debates. Critical thinking and speaking skills are strengthened in math and science as students explore and make connections by weighing evidence, justifying their answers, and considering opposing perspectives. Students are provided with opportunities to carry out extensive research and participate in a wide variety of presentation options, including a major 20-minute individual oral presentation that is the culminating element of their semester-long Passion Project on a subject of their choice at the end of the year.