21st Century Education

Students took a global perspective in learning about
food during Middle School LINK Day.

The Middle School faculty works to guarantee that our students acquire the knowledge and skill sets that will provide the necessary platform for succeeding in college and navigating an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

The pace of change accelerated rapidly in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Such rapid change requires us to carefully protect the proven paths to success—such as the three R's, fine arts and athletics participation — and to embrace those new methods and activities that provide our students with the strongest possible foundation of skills and knowledge. 

Our efforts in educating Middle School students for the 21st century center on four areas of focus:

  1. Interdisciplinary and real-life learning experiences 
  2. A global school 
  3. Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics (STEM)
  4. Character development and leadership

Interdisciplinary and real-life learning experiences

We have developed a series of interdisciplinary days named LINK Day—Learning Involves New Knowledge. On these days, the entire Middle School devotes itself to studying a common theme for the day, with each grade level examining the theme from a different perspective through mini-courses, guided exploration and research in the community, problem-solving challenges, and a presentation back to the other grade levels during Chapel. Themes have included Bridges, Food and Power.

A global school

Sixth-grade social studies undertake National Association of Independent Schools Challenge 20/20 projects in the second semester. “Challenge 20/20 is an Internet-based program that pairs classes at any grade level (K-12) from schools in the U.S. with their counterpart classes in schools in other countries; together the teams (of two or three schools) tackle real global problems to find solutions that can be implemented at the local level and in their own communities.”  You may also find more information about Challenge 20/20, including articles detailing the projects other schools have undertaken, on the NAIS Web site at www.nais.org by selecting “Global Education” from the drop down list under Resources & Statistics.

Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics (STEM)

We currently are exploring and implementing new uses for technology in the arts including Claymation video projects in the Art Projects class and web-based music composition in seventh-grade World Music. Eighth-grade computer classes program with ALICE, a platform that teaches computer programming through the creation of 3D stories. More information about this innovative multi-university initiative (pioneered by Wanda Dann, Stephen Cooper and Randy Pausch) and a free download of the software may be found at www.alice.org

We recently revised our mathematics curriculum to include Advanced Algebra II in the eighth grade, unveiled a renovated, highly functional 7/8 science lab this fall, and started a robotics club that will begin competition in the FIRST LEGO League in the coming year. All of this is in addition to the fine programs and excellent curriculum already in place. 

Character development and leadership

The eighth grade has helped forge the way in increasing leadership opportunities through the creation of an Eighth Grade Advisory Board. Each advisory has designated representatives to the board, and this group is charged with undertaking the “business” of the eighth-grade social activities, privileges, mini-projects, an eighth-grade newsletter, etc. All eighth graders are expected to serve on one of the committees during the course of the year. The seventh-grade advisory curriculum focuses on positive leadership, and students complete a strengths-based leadership unit in fifth-grade Character Matters.