MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAM
We believe that 12-14 year olds are at a pivotal stage in their academic and social development; they are neither “older elementary students” nor “younger high school students”. We value their growing ability to think more abstractly and conceptually about themselves and the world. Our Middle School program centers around an adolescent’s sense of wonderment and engages them in real life understanding that builds background knowledge and develops the skills needed for high school and life-long learning.
Our Middle School is a departmentalized program in which our 24 Seventh Grade and 24 Eighth Grade students rotate between different classrooms with different teachers for their academic classes and electives. Learn more about our curriculum philosophy, expeditionary learning, and course offerings below.
The Middle School curriculum at Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences is designed to support a cooperative learning environment that is sensitive to the individual strengths, interests, needs, and learning styles of students. The classroom is a community in which everyone works together to create a caring, safe environment where all of the students learn from one another, develop respect for each other, and foster an acceptance of individual differences. Our goal is to help each child develop a sense of responsibility toward each other, the environment, and for their local and global community.
At Arts & Sciences, we believe that our students bring a unique blend of interests, talents, and needs to the educational experience. The Middle School curriculum is robust and intellectually inspiring. Using a departmental structure, the curriculum includes courses in Mathematics, Humanities (History & English), Science, Languages (Spanish and ASL), Life Skills, STEM, and the Arts, as well as a Physical Education program.
The Middle School Math Program strives to provide all students with a dynamic mathematics education that supports and instills an excitement for math. Through a two-year Algebra program that incorporates both the Common Core State Standards for Algebra, the Common Core Mathematical Practices, and the NCTM Content and Process Standards, all students develop a solid foundation in basic skills, a sense of abstractness and pattern recognition, and problem solving skills. The program emphasizes the exploration of ideas from numerical, algebraic, graphical, and computational perspectives. In all of our math courses, algebraic concepts are viewed from varied perspectives to help students develop their abilities with abstraction and generalization; application of knowledge is fundamental to each topic.
Our goal is to have students leave the Middle School as curious and flexible thinkers who are confident in their individual mathematical abilities and prepared to meet the challenges of higher mathematics.
The Middle School Science curriculum has three principal components: students operate as citizen scientists and participate in a long-term, statewide study of watershed health by collecting data in the Santa Fe River Watershed; our science class integrates with the Middle School expedition; and students survey science topics to prepare for high school science classes.
Students gain a broad base in many scientific fields, but emphasis during middle school is placed on crosscutting concepts rather than specific disciplinary knowledge (i.e., this is Science class, not a Physics or a Biology course). Students engage in the scientific process: they observe natural phenomena, formulate questions, develop research skills, and test their hypotheses through experiments and data collection. At the Santa Fe River, students become geochemists, hydrologists, benthic entomologists, lotic ecologists, and more, investigating water quality.
In the classroom lab, students learn about chemistry, learn to use microscopes, and investigate the nature of science. Using a multiple strategy approach, textbooks, vocabulary lists, and other standard reference are utilized to support students’ learning in lab and lectures. They achieve information and technology literacy by researching and preparing presentations about their scientific findings in our computer lab.
History & English
Our Middle School Humanities program is comprised of the disciplines of English and History, allowing adolescents to connect literary and historical themes to self, other ideas, and world events. They form considered opinions when writing and analyzing persuasive and informative documents and texts. Careful reading is the standard, not the exception, and student discussion is lively, well informed, and enthusiastic. Through learning expeditions and project based learning, in which integrated units of study are deeply explored, students tackle topics that have real-world relevance while doing the work of researchers, historians, readers and writers.
In History, students acquire and organize information about places, people, and culture in New Mexico, the United States and in the world. A primary goal is to educate the student’s whole being for a life of active, responsible citizenship.
Our English program engages students in the careful reading, writing, analysis, and dialogue of a wide variety of textual and informational content.
Spanish and American Sign Language
7th & 8th Grade Spanish
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) identifies five aspects of language learning: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. In Spanish class, these standards inform the curriculum as students develop these skills while learning grammar and conversational Spanish. The daily middle school Spanish curriculum focuses on providing a context for language learning through music, games, role-playing, presentations, listening, reading, and writing activities.
7th & 8th Grade American Sign Language
In 7th and 8th grade American Sign Language (ASL) curriculum, students learn to understand that ASL is not a written nor an auditory language, but rather a visual language. Students are expected to turn their voices off. The purpose of that expectation is to provide students the opportunity to improve their receptive and express language skills. Educational games and hand-on activities are often played in the classroom. This is an excellent tool for receptive and expressive skills.
Our Middle School Life Skills program provides students with the information and skills necessary to take on the physical, emotional, and social changes that occur during the middle school years. Students develop strong advocacy skills and learn how to identify adult resources so they can take responsibility for their own learning inside and outside the classroom. This age and developmentally appropriate curriculum seeks to develop in students an understanding of how their choices impact themselves and others. Students learn about adolescent development and the types of challenges adolescents face during this time in their lives. They explore situations and decisions they may face in high school. There is a concentration on the skills required to negotiate these challenges, to obtain, interpret, and understand basic health information, products, and services, and make healthy decisions. Our program allows students to explore their own values and see how their personal choices allow them to live those values.
Middle school Physical Education promotes a culture based on the values of teamwork, effort, mutual support, and fitness. Individual and team sports are explicitly connected to fitness, wellness, and character development. Our program supports the physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development of students. In addition to learning games and sport techniques, an emphasis is placed on playing cooperatively and incorporating the school’s character traits when playing more competitive games. A broad range of activities are part of the PE curriculum to broaden every student’s appreciation of physical wellness and to give them a range of kinesthetic experiences.
Film is a powerful tool to convey one’s message. Learning how to create effective storytelling through digital media, and acquiring the technical skills to do so are the foci of this course. Students take on all the roles connected with modern film making through critiquing excerpts from films, “pitching ideas”, developing storyboards, casting, and filming and editing short films. All students in Moving Images courses learn how to use the professional editing program Final Cut Pro as part of their technical development as filmmakers. Our students enter their films in various film festivals and student competitions as a means of creating pieces that will be seen by larger audiences. This course supports the 21st Century Learning Skills of using technology in meaningful ways and collaboration.
SERVICE LEARNING AND LEADERSHIP
Service Learning (7th Grade)
All 7th graders participate in our service learning program. Service-learning is a teaching and learning method that connects meaningful community service experiences with academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility. Service learning connects the personal and intellectual as it helps students understand their world (Elyer & Giles, 1999). Service learning at Arts & sciences allows adolescents to participate more fully in their community and demonstrate the school’s character traits within the broader world. Students actively engage in community projects that give them opportunities to both serve and lead. Service groups have included: River Warriors who clean up the Santa Fe River; Working with the elders at the Kingston Residence; buddying with our early childhood students, and understanding the politics of food by working with farmers and the Food Depot.
Leadership/Mentorship (8th Grade)
During our 8th grade Leadership class we prepare for life beyond Middle School. Students begin the process of preparing for high school by learning to advocate for themselves as learners, figure out what it means to be a citizen scholar, and start the process of choosing a high school and going through an application process. In the Spring, 8th grade students prepare for and take part in our mentorship program with community leaders and professionals. Working directly with these community members gives students a chance to experience what a professional in the field actually does at their job, the types of training required, as well as the necessary mindsets in that particular occupation.
PERFORMING AND VISUAL ARTS
At Arts & Sciences, we seek to help students explore the arts through wide exposure, critical examination, and hands-on applications. Our courses are carefully designed to help students discover their talents and find their voice. Middle school students select either visual arts or performing arts as an all year study.
ARTS & SCIENCES ELECTIVES
Middle School students choose from a wide array of electives that span the liberal arts. Examples of past and current Arts Elective classes include Forensic Rhetoric, Philosophy, Creative Arts Studio, Dance, Music, and Creative Writing. STEM Elective classes include Coding, Robotics, Business, and Auto Mechanics.
Our Music Program takes place during our after school enrichment classes. We offer individual and group lessons in piano, guitar, cello, voice, ukulele, drumming, and other instruments. Music instructors come to our campus after school to work with students, and students often perform at our all-school Coffeehouses.
ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION
Assessment yields information that allows teachers to create curriculum that is challenging, age appropriate and responds to the particular students in each class. It is a vehicle for students to demonstrate understanding of skills, concepts and ideas. Learning is not static and assessment at Arts & Sciences is on-going and multiple means of developmentally appropriate assessments are used, such as formal and informal observations, dialogue with students, documentation of particular skills and concepts, projects, written work, tests and quizzes. As each grade moves students towards more autonomy and independence, students are encouraged and taught to lead their own learning and demonstrate knowledge to a variety of audiences.
Student-led portfolio presentations, Wintercomes presentations, Expedition Museums, Science Symposiums, and publishing work in journals and newspaper are hallmarks of the Arts & Sciences experience. Student-centered assessment also yields data that is used to evaluate student growth, grade level skills and concepts. This data is presented to families at parent/teacher conferences, and in written reports.
Portfolios are a central academic tradition at Arts & Sciences for all students, from age three all the way through to the 8th grade. Each portfolio includes student reflections on their learning, documentation of skills and concepts through products and projects, and culminates in a student-led portfolio presentation at the end of the academic year.