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Middle School Curriculum

Visual and Performing Arts
Elective Classes and Activities in the Arts
Foreign Language
Language Arts and English
Mathematics
Physical Education and Health
Quakerism and Service Learning
Science
Social Studies
Technology

The Middle School curriculum consists of required courses that develop important skills through a progression of content. While providing academic building blocks for future study, the Middle School curriculum is equally concerned with meeting the social, emotional, and physiological needs of pre-adolescents. These needs are addressed by the Middle School advising system as well.The academic year is divided into trimesters of approximately 12 weeks.The school operates on a rotating system of blue and yellow weeks so that a given subject occurs at different times each week. Middle School classes meet for 40 or 60 minutes, providing opportunities for a range of teaching approaches. Students receive reports from teachers at various times during each trimester.

Middle School students are helped to become:
• Effective communicators
• Independent learners
• Creative problem solvers
• Critical thinkers
• Engaged readers
• Technologically skilled
• Aesthetically confident
• Spiritually aware

Visual and Performing Arts

By providing encouragement and the opportunity to succeed in a creative environment, the visual and performing arts curriculum draws each child forth musically, artistically, and theatrically. Sixth graders study studio art, music, band, and chorus in yearlong courses. In quarter courses, seventh and eighth graders rotate through studio art, music, drama, physical education, and Quakerism, art, design, and service (QUADS). Concepts in art, art history, music, and theater gain meaning   through focused projects and performances. Sixth graders each make a dulcimer and learn to play and compose on their handmade instruments. Seventh grade students produce and film short plays in drama. In eighth grade, students create 2D and 3D artwork while expanding visual vocabulary through artist studies. They also explore musical senses while learning about the music of the African diaspora. All may participate in Middle School-wide dramatic productions and in the Middle School drama club. Top

INTERDISCIPLINARY EXPERIENCES UNIQUE
TO MIDDLE SCHOOL

Sports Physics: Eighth grade science students research the physics of a favorite sport, then create a video demonstrating how gravity, friction, momentum and Newton’s three laws work in their chosen activity. Equipped with a video camera, each team finds a campus location (such as a gym, a field or even the pool) to film their scenes, then uses digital video software to edit, narrate and add a soundtrack. To date, swimming, football, wrestling, soccer, tchoukball, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, dodge ball, skateboarding, skiing and softball have made it to the “big screen.”
Philadelphia Neighborhoods Project: Incorporating English, social studies and visual arts, seventh grade students investigate the interconnected dynamics that create change and shape culture in Philadelphia communities. They explore city neighborhoods; research people, places, and resources; and report their findings in a “Guide to Philadelphia” that includes maps, op-ed and news stories, short stories and artwork.
QUADS (Quakerism, Art, Design and Service) is a seventh grade class connecting the study of Quakerism with the visual arts and service learning. During the course, students create a video production of an oral history with a faculty or staff member of the Quaker faith at Penn Charter. Students utilize media design and work with iMovie software to edit, add text and sound, and polish their interview for viewing.
Civilizations Project: In this extensive, research-oriented yet hands-on study of an ancient civilization, sixth grade students create documentary films that feature "expert" interviews, handmade artifacts and “historical” reenactments showcasing knowledge of the ancient world.

Elective Classes and Activities in the Arts

Grade 6: Chamber Singers, drama club (40-hour activities)
Grades 6–8: Middle School play, drama club and stage crew (40-hour activities); Jazz Band and String Ensemble
  (40-hour activities)
Grades 7–8: Penn Charter Singers (elective); Concert Band (elective); Sharped Flats (40-hour activity) Top

Foreign Language

The Middle School language program introduces students to the study of French, Latin, and Spanish with an interdisciplinary approach that weaves language instruction with history, literature, and geography. In sixth grade, students take one quarter of each language; the program develops students’ basic language skills and exposes them to the diversity of cultures that use or used these languages. For seventh grade, students make an informed choice between the languages, selecting one of the four to study in seventh and eighth grade. With increasing competence, seventh and eighth graders participate in short conversations and apply their knowledge to read, decipher, and discuss written works. The Middle School program prepares students for second-level language study in Upper School Chinese, French, Latin, or Spanish. Top

Language Arts and English

The goal of Middle School language arts and English is to produce competent lifelong readers, writers, and thinkers. Within a curriculum that encourages openness to new ideas and cultural perspectives, students begin to generate their own opinions based on their readings, discussions and written responses.

Sixth graders learn to experiment with voice and take risks throughout the writing process, which includes prewriting, drafting, editing, and revision. Language enrichment occurs through contextual vocabulary study and practice in various grammatical and mechanical skills. As they investigate diverse backgrounds and perspectives of literary characters, students gain greater understanding of themselves. They also gain an appreciation of different genres of writing, including historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. They end the year by performing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Seventh graders practice creative, formal, poetic, and personal prose –– enriched through intensive vocabulary study –– and expand their knowledge of literary terms and devices, skills in analytical reading, and ability to discuss and apply themes. Their study of immigration and change in Philadelphia's neighborhoods leads them to a culturally diverse reading list and enriches their study of geography for the year.

Eighth graders take their interactive reading abilities and the scope, depth, and variety of their writing to a new level, dramatically increasing their skills in formal and informal writing by the time they transition into Upper School. They create movie trailers based on their outside reading choices, produce their first term paper in conjunction with the social studies department, and end the year by writing and sharing their own personal memoirs. Top

Mathematics

Middle School math endeavors to accomplish two tasks: (1) to create a bridge between the concreteness of arithmetic and the abstractions that will follow in algebra and geometry, and (2) to provide opportunities to tap into the natural curiosity and enthusiasm for activities and learning that Middle School students bring to their classes. Embracing the idea that math involves reasoning and problem-solving skills to foster curiosity, persistence, and attention to detail, the sixth grade course strives to strengthen and extend work with integers, fractions, and decimals, then move into percentages and three-dimensional geometry while establishing a solid foundation for the abstract language and mechanics of Pre-Algebra. In either Pre-Algebra or Advanced Pre-Algebra, seventh graders continue to develop an appreciation for the aesthetics of mathematics with special emphasis placed on the process used to solve problems rather than on the answer itself. Eighth graders take either Algebra I or Advanced Algebra I. Both cover the same material, but the advanced course does so at an accelerated pace with higher expectations. Each course presents material to both interest and challenge students while using real-life applications to make the learning more valuable. Top

Physical Education and Health

Middle School physical education and health courses help students learn health-promoting behaviors and attitudes so they can make responsible decisions. Ultimately, we intend for our students to realize that physical and emotional health are cornerstones of a productive, balanced life. Physical education courses are part of the regular academic day and are taught by members of the physical education department. In a comfortable and supportive learning environment, the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade programs combine varied physical activity — sports, aerobics, aquatics, cooperative games, and fitness skills necessary for the National Physical Education Test — with health education that includes discussions and activities related to adolescent self-esteem, friendships, drug and alcohol education, healthful eating, puberty, and sexual education. Top

Quakerism and Service Learning

Seventh graders take QUADS, a quarter-long course integrating the study of Quakerism, art, design, and service learning. QUADS provides students with an understanding of and appreciation for the Quaker beliefs, values, and practices that form the religious and philosophical roots of Quaker education and William Penn Charter School. As a creative and service-learning project, students participate in “Arts Partners” with elderly residents of Stapeley Hall and work in Lower School classrooms. Other course activities include research and oral presentations on the lives of living and historical American and English Quakers and a written spiritual autobiography reflecting on questions posed during the quarter.

All Middle School students participate in weekly Meeting for Worship during which students and teachers gather for thirty minutes in the school’s Meeting Room. Meeting holds a pivotal and central place in school life. In the midst of busy schedules, many members of the community find meeting a very special time of the week, an oasis of quiet and peace sometimes punctuated by reflective comments. Throughout the school year, Middle School students participate in Meeting for Business, a worship session during which they discuss community concerns and make plans for Middle School life. Top

Science

Sixth graders learn the importance of becoming stewards of the environment. In Environmental Science, students learn about geology, populations and communities, ecosystems and biomes, and living resources. This transitional course engages students to make discoveries and draw conclusions using process skills such as record keeping, observing, measuring, hypothesizing, and experimenting. seventh grade students take a lab-oriented course called Living Environment. They study cells, genetics, heredity, evolution, human body systems, and plant and animal interactions. From their lab experiences, students are encouraged to think critically in order to develop local answers to a problem. Highlights of the course are a three-dimensional cell project and presentation, the development of a travel brochure for the human body system, and a plant growth “control vs. variable” project. In Physical Environment, eighth grade students strive to see the world through the eyes of a physicist while exploring the topics of motion, energy, forces, electricity, matter, and waves. Students work collaboratively to develop hypotheses, design experiments to test those hypotheses, interpret data, and then refine their initial thinking. The year ends with a culminating Physics 500 project, in which students build and race cardboard cars in partnership with Upper School and Lower School students. Highlights of the course include Bungee Jumping Barbie, video analysis of the physics of sports, and motion detector graphing. Top

Social Studies

In Civilizations, sixth graders begin the year by looking at ancient history, from hunting and gathering societies to the development of permanent civilization. The rest of the year students delve deeply into the history and cultures of India and China. In each case, students will explore ancient periods of these societies, identify themes and then “fast-forward” to the modern era. Hands-on and experiential learning are key ingredients of the course, along with establishing global partnerships. Research and writing are key components of the courseSeventh grade World Geography equips students with tools necessary to connect to the world and its many cultures. Students explore topics such as population growth, water and energy use, urbanization, disease and hunger, environmental hazards, rainforest depletion and wealth distribution. The seventh grade Philadelphia Neighborhoods Project incorporates social studies, English and visual arts as students explore and research ethnic neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Eighth grade Civics students study aspects of the American government, beginning with an understanding of rights and responsibilities of social groups and United States citizenry. Each year, students travel to Washington D.C. to get an up close and personal view on the three branches of our government. During election years, students’ focus shifts to our election process. Additional key areas of study include an in-depth overview of the three branches of government, the economy and major social issues such as the death penalty, abortion, race relations, First Amendment rights and the Constitution. Top

Technology

As much as possible, technology use and instruction are integrated into the Middle School curriculum. The curriculum provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate performance in the following categories: basic operations and concepts; social, ethical, and human issues; technology productivity; technology communication and problem-solving tools. Within the context of the curriculum, digital cameras, video cameras, scanners, and multimedia tools are available for student use. Middle School offers students the opportunity to participate in the creation of the Video Yearbook project as well as in an after-school computer club. Top


Academic Program

Sixth Grade

Language Arts
Ancient Civilizations
Mathematics
Environmental Science
Foreign Language (one
  language per quarter)
Visual Arts
General Music
Band
Chorus
Physical Education/Health

Seventh Grade

English
World Geography
Pre-Algebra
Science: The Living 
  Environment
Foreign Language: French,
  Latin, Chinese or Spanish
QUADS* (Quakerism, art,
  design, and service
  learning)
Physical Education*
Drama*
Health*
Band and/or Chorus
  (elective)

Eighth Grade

English
Civics
Algebra 1
Science: The Physical
  Environment
Foreign Language: French,
  Latin, Chinese or Spanish
Choices* (Health)
Physical Education*
Visual Arts*
Music*
Band and/or Chorus
  (elective)

* Indicates “special” classes that meet for one quarter.


© 2014 William Penn Charter School   |   3000 West School House Lane   |   Philadelphia, PA 19144   |   215.844.3460  
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