Middle School

Overall Philosophy

When students walk through the doors of our Middle School building, our priority is to ensure that they feel valued, included and connected within our learning community. Penn Charter's mission statement asserts that “within a school community that honors difference, we seek that of God in each person.” Seeking that of God, or the inner light, in each individual means that we believe in the inherent goodness in each person and we make ourselves available to listen deeply to better understand and empathize with one another. When we see and respect one another we help create an environment of physical, emotional, cognitive and psychological safety. This environment of safety is the foundation from which learning can thrive.

As a faculty team we welcome every Penn Charter student into our community of learners, and strive to make sure that they know our goal is to help them succeed. We know that students perform best when they know that the adults care deeply about them, when they see themselves represented in our curriculum, and when they feel safe making mistakes. In our written guidelines, we expect all members of our learning community to “be safe and inclusive with their words and actions.” In situations when community members are hurtful, we seek to help the individual or individuals understand their impact and then make it right with those involved. We also seek to lift up those who were harmed to ensure the situation was both addressed and resolved.


Middle School Advisory Curriculum

Diversity, equity and inclusion is an integral thread that runs through our advisory curriculum in all three grades. Students meet with their advisor once each week for a guided lesson, activity, discussion, current event or self-reflection on a variety of adolescent and global topics. Each year, students are challenged to think critically about themselves as well as their impact on the larger community. Lessons and discussions about gender and racial equity, privilege, LGBTQ rights, socio-economic class, and much more are included in our yearlong curricula. And, because we update the curriculum each year, we add lessons and experiences that match the students’ current needs or the events in our school, nation and/or world. 


Middle School English Curriculum

Students’ varied life experiences and emotional formation play an integral role in how they interpret novels, form analysis and express their thoughts. The core process of learning in the English curriculum follows the pattern of observation, understanding, interpretation and communication. Students are taught how to read with the intention of discovery. Identity, racism, classism, hope, friendship, family, environment and gender issues are themes that are explored in the course of each school year. Characters in texts such as American Born Chinese, Brown Girl Dreaming, Red Scarf Girl, Night, and The Outsiders reveal injustices, ultimately taking students down a path of self-discovery. The goal of writing instruction is to show understanding of the text and narrative elements along with connections students make based on their life experiences. Written work and discussions encourage independent thought by giving students practice articulating their ideas. In addition to formal writing, English classes expose students to poetry and personal narrative. This creative writing becomes a place for students to develop their literary voice. English teachers emphasize a social contract between students to cultivate the classroom as a safe place for all voices to express concerns, ideas and personal experience.  


Middle School Social Studies Curriculum

Students are challenged to learn about history through multiple lenses and they complete research with a careful eye toward the authors, the historical context and potential biases. In sixth grade, students complete a research project on major world religions and a unit on the Enlightenment, which focuses on the role of government/citizens and rights. This serves as a springboard for studying the American Revolution, French Revolution, India’s independence movement and China’s communist revolution. Much of the focus is on how groups of people in those places felt that the government was not representing them or protecting their rights and what change looked like in achieving a more equitable and just government and society. 

In seventh grade Geography, students complete regional studies of the world, focusing on cultural elements and current events like apartheid in South Africa and religion in Southeast Asia. Students are challenged to consider how resources impact settlement, conflict, economic growth and more. 

In eighth grade, students delve deeply into the U.S. Constitution, including writing research papers on the Bill of Rights. Students are challenged to apply parts of our Constitution to current events and recent court cases. Throughout the study of the Constitution, students and teachers examine the Civil Rights movement, Americans’ struggle for democracy for all, and how systems of government have sought to oppress people. 


Each year, we work closely with our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and our DEI coordinators in the Middle School to schedule speakers or trips with themes around diversity, equity and inclusion. Some recent examples include:

  • Curtis Zunigha, Delaware Tribe, American Indian Heritage and Land Rights

  • Mareena Robinson Snowden, first black woman to earn PhD in Nuclear Engineering

  • Michael Fallen, Diversity Practitioner and Performer

  • Scott Prendergrast from Minding Your Mind, normalizing mental health challenges


Clubs and Activities

Each year, our student-led clubs and activities include a Diversity Committee and SAGA (straight and gay alliance). Students often help plan advisory lessons, themed weeks in our Middle School, and other events that help build inclusion, acceptance, empathy and connection. 

Additionally, we have affinity groups in the Middle School grouped around race, gender and other social identifiers. 

Our students participate in the annual MCRC Student Diversity Conference.