Last Thursday, the Prep School English department held its annual Summer Reading Symposium for 11th and 12th grade students.
In sixth grade, students take on new levels of responsibility and independence.
They receive grades for the first time and begin to practice work habits that will ensure success in years to come. Across subjects, students collaborate with their peers and engage in projects that inspire creativity, curiosity and playfulness. In addition to the core academic and creative subjects, sixth graders are introduced to our world languages program by rotating through five different language courses, and they learn to write an in-depth research paper in our Current Issues Research Seminar (CIRS) program.
- English 6
- Mathematics 6
- Science 6
- History 6
- STEAM/Technology 6
- World Languages 6
- Arts Integration 6
- Studio Art 6
- Library 6
- Music 6
- Drama 6
- Physical Education 6
- Meeting 6
In sixth grade, students explore more sophisticated concepts and participate in intellectually challenging conversations. Teachers harness students’ unique energy and enthusiasm with a curriculum that spans a wide range of genres, including historical fiction, realistic fiction, memoir, poetry, mystery, drama and mythology. Students tackle writing skills that help them deepen their thinking and express ideas with greater clarity and style. Students work on techniques to conquer common challenges including: writer's block, disorganization, faulty reasoning, careless errors, weak vocabulary, improper tone and repetitiveness. Each assignment builds on previous ones, culminating in every student finding their unique voice and become a more self-aware writer.
Students in sixth grade learn math through an inquiry-based approach. Students investigate math by exploring problems in groups and then solidifying their understanding afterward through teacher-guided class discussions. Under the leadership and instruction of two teachers in the classroom, where they receive individualized attention, sixth grade students master operations of whole numbers, decimals and fractions. The year also includes extensive work with number theory, integer operations, rates and ratios, percents, plane and coordinate geometry, and introductory algebra. Students execute projects throughout the year that illustrate the practical applications of math.
In sixth grade, students delve deeply into life science. Students learn the particulars of science labs, what scientists do and how to think like a scientist. The course takes a micro to macro approach as students learn what cells are and how they function; this knowledge is then scaled up to show how cellular function contributes to the overall operations of living organisms. In studying ecology, students learn how environmental factors shape the organisms within them as well as how they change over time and cause biodiversity within a system. Additionally, students explore the basics of genetics. The integration of robotics and coding, using Blockly, is used during a project-based learning unit to teach students about evolution and genetics. Within each unit, students investigate the influence of science, engineering and technology on both society and the natural world. These ideas are investigated from historical, current and future perspectives.
A thorough study of early humans and the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Near East, India and China provide students with the opportunity to explore the similarities and differences of ancient societies. Topics in each unit include geography, political systems, culture, religion, economics, prominent figures and technology. The curriculum emphasizes the relationship between people and their natural environment. Students develop note-taking, research and mapping skills. A variety of media is utilized to accommodate different learning styles. Students expand their critical thinking, writing and public speaking skills by completing expository and creative works.
In the sixth grade,, students build and code robots that “evolve” while exploring an interdisciplinary unit on evolution. This project is a hands-on activity that directly engages students in the learning process and allows them to take ownership of their STEAM education. It brings code to life and allows each student to see how the concepts they are learning have a direct impact in the real world, and how individual math and engineering elements come together to form solutions to real-life problems. Students engage in various other project-based units in which they learn about bioengineering, 3D printing and modeling, creating and coding virtual reality spaces, and video editing.
The Middle School world languages program develops confident communicators with a critical understanding of language, and a deep appreciation for culture. In the sixth grade, the world language program fosters and develops citizens of the world with a breadth of knowledge of a variety of different languages and cultures. Students are introduced to all five languages offered at CGPS. Students rotate through Chinese, French, Japanese, Latin and Spanish. The one month course is designed to give students a brief introduction to the course of study of that language. Students will leave each rotation with a better understanding of the language and culture(s) so that they can make an informed decision when selecting one language to study exclusively for the following year. Students may select from Chinese, French, Japanese, Latin or Spanish. While students’ selections are binding for only one year, it is the expectation of the world language department that students select a language that they plan to study with the goal of achieving proficiency. A change may be made at the end of seventh grade in order to start with a new level 1 language in eighth grade. In ninth grade, students may take more than one language and select from the other four offerings while continuing with their original language.
Middle School students participate in an art integrated curriculum with other core content subject areas. It is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form to another subject area and achieves evolving objectives in both. The fall unit on abstract American art is inspired by the work of Frank Stella and Elizabeth Murray. Through the use of geometric and abstract forms, students learn about scale, 3-dimensionality, color, pattern and design. Throughout the process, more complex math skills and concepts are reinforced in the art room by math teachers as students create their own Stella/Murray-inspired 3-D work of art. An additional tie-in to Stella’s work is with music as the artist would often speak about how different styles and genres of music would inspire his work. In music class, students work in groups to create sequences in movement inspired by the individual 3D artwork they created. In a subsequent unit on Greek art and history, students work to find creative ways to make their argument as to why their assigned Greek State is the preferred destination of choice. Art and history join together to provide students with a well-rounded interdisciplinary learning experience. Sixth graders also collaborate with Current Issues Research Seminar (CIRS) for the annual CIRS Day in the spring.
The Middle School art program introduces students to a wide range of media and techniques while also encouraging individual expression and artistic growth. Over the course of three years, students participate in a variety of disciplines including drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, mixed media sculpture, digital art, digital photography and stop-motion animation. Students follow the benchmarks for scope and sequence curriculum in general art. By seventh grade, students are in smaller class sizes and semester-long art classes providing them with the opportunity to master specific art skills and techniques each semester.
In library, students learn research skills and to be critical users of information. The curriculum focuses on online information literacy, intellectual curiosity and responsible information use. Library is integrated into English, history, science, math, art and language classes to support a deeper understanding of how all subjects are connected as well as a love of reading across all genres and topics. The library collection is regularly updated based on the needs and interests of students to reflect current issues and information, and to best support learning in and out of the classroom. As part of the language rotation, sixth graders will spend six weeks reading a historical novel and learning about the research process. Issues related to media and digital literacy, such as bias and verifying our sources, are discussed. Students then compose a short work of historical fiction based on a family story, first researching the time period and event and then writing a narrative that tells an aspect of their personal history.
All CGPS Middle School students at every skill level take music three times per cycle, a class focusing on active music making and creation. In addition, students have the option to participate in band, chorus, or orchestra during the school day. All instrumental students receive a small group lesson on their chosen instrument once per cycle. Extracurricular opportunities for highly motivated instrumentalists include Big Band and Sunrise Orchestra. Students begin the program by using their personal instruments: their voices. Through singing games, folk dance, recorder, percussion instruments, and interactive technology, students learn skills to sing in tune both individually and as an ensemble. The curriculum develops an understanding of ensemble and musicianship through experiential learning with drums, xylophones, recorders, ukuleles, and technology. Building on prior music literacy skills, students learn how to perform and compose their own music. Students develop music technology skills including electronic notation, recording and editing so that their creative work can be mixed and produced to share with others. Music teachers work collaboratively with classroom teachers to create interdisciplinary and cross-curricular lessons, integrating text and concepts from English, history and STEAM classes.
For one semester during their sixth or seventh grade year, students take drama. Participating in drama helps students gain self-confidence, imagination, empathy, cooperation, memory and communication skills. The curriculum is divided into four units: developing the actor’s instrument through voice and movement; introduction to basic acting with exercises focused on concentration, listening and motivation; storytelling as a solo performer using freestyle rap and moth storytelling; and collaborating to write and perform a two-person scene using location as a foundation.
The Middle School physical education curriculum focuses on a variety of team sports activities with a strong emphasis on fitness concepts to improve students’ individual health and athletic skills. In addition to various fitness challenges, some of the sports units and games covered throughout the year are soccer, volleyball, football, basketball, diamond games and badminton. The program is designed to expose students to a level of functional fitness training and gameplay that encourages them to collaborate, increase sports knowledge, develop leadership skills and lead healthy lifestyles.
Our Middle Schoolers use their Meeting class time to discuss issues related to their social, emotional and physical development, as well as to share thoughts about various academic challenges and triumphs they experience day to day. Discussion activities are designed to build self-awareness, a sense of community and help students work on their listening, planning, communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills. In an open circle forum, our students are provided with consistent opportunities to contribute, reflect and take responsibility for how their group feels and operates.