The Bridge

by Josh Duelm

What I love about our middle school is that we are The BridgeWe retain the unique Montessori instructional methods of UE, such as the extended 90 minute work time, hands-on activities, and student choice while helping students prepare for the rigors of high school. As a result, students graduate eighth grade with the tools needed to succeed in any high school, public or private.

The Middle School fosters a love of lifelong learning. For example, in History, students are not just asked to memorize dates but to become their own social scientists. Students formulate and test their own historical hypotheses by examining primary source artifacts and constructing sophisticated historical arguments involving the logical use of claims, data, and warrants. 

In English, students do not just read books and learn grammar, but engage in Socratic circles, write in-depth literary essays, and collaborate in End of Cycle Projects that challenge students to read, write, think, and create daily.

In Science, students do not just memorize facts but participate in hands-on lab experiments weekly that investigate biology, earth science, and laws of motion.  The Science Fair is uniquely conducted entirely at school under expert guidance, and students become authentically adept at using the scientific method.

In Math, students do not just memorize formulas; they apply their computational skills in concrete, real-world scenarios that challenge their algebraic and geometric thinking skills to understand their world in the universal language of mathematics.

Middle schoolers have an Advisory class where their advisor coaches them. In Advisory, students gain academic skills such as organizational methods, goal setting, social-emotional wellness, healthy personal habits, and tools to reflect on their learning and focus on their future. Every day is an open invitation to another adventure. Students role-play, research, debate, experiment, collaborate and challenge each other to become the best versions of themselves individually, academically, and socially.

One amazing capstone to the Middle School journey is that the MMUN program helps students become authentically engaged global citizens.

  • Students research global challenges ranging from climate change and poverty to gender equity and healthcare policy.
  • They roleplay as ambassadors from a myriad of countries and must faithfully represent that country’s view to the wider delegation.  This process helps them learn to question issues from multiple perspectives and gain empathy.
  • Then, as delegates, they collaborate just like real UN diplomats to find solutions to the most pressing global concerns.
  • In short, they become their own architects of tomorrow.
  • Excitingly, our Middle School then travels to NYC to participate in a Montessori Model United Nations conference with peers from around the world at the real UN.
  • At the end of the conference, we celebrate the passing of resolutions students craft by reading them at the actual UN general assembly hall, walking in the footsteps of world leaders.

Another truly fantastic aspect of the Middle School is the rich interdisciplinary learning that takes place in the Passion Project. Students research a topic of their choice that they are passionate about.  In the past, students have chosen topics that range from their hobbies like violin, their family traditions like baking bread to possible future career paths such as being an anesthesiologist or lawyer.  Some students even explore social justice topics like voting rights or gender pay equity.

Students write a historical paper that examines the topic’s roots and changes over time. In addition, they explore the local, national, and global issues that might affect their topic. They are even connected to local experts to interview, which helps them understand their passion more richly. This can even lead to them volunteering for a local organization that promotes their passion. 

Then, students are challenged to write an ode to their passion in English, explore the scientific concepts of their passion in Science, and visualize their topic with data evaluation in Math.  The year then culminates with them showcasing their experiences by presenting a polished 20-minute TED-talk style presentation of their learning to the community. 

 From the first day of seventh grade to the last day of eighth grade, it is simply breathtaking to see students evolve into confident scholars. The Middle School Bridge is a necessary component of the MSSA Montessori Journey. It strengthens students for their journey beyond our campus. For more information about our middle school, visit our website at www.montessorisa.org

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