The Middle School at PNCS
The Middle School at PNCS provides students with an enriched opportunity to begin a rational exploration of the world around them. They expand their understanding of basic academic and spiritual principles and try to see their application in the world we live in.
The middle school curriculum is designed for a multi-grade classroom. Learn more about the multi-grade classroom model used by PNCS.
by Caroline David, Language Arts teacher for grades 6, 7, and 8
I was drawn to the school's atmosphere - the happy students, calm environment, and creative assignments decorating the bulletin boards. I was also impressed by what I learned about their curriculum, particularly the carefully crafted lessons that built students' skills in composition and mathematics.
My son enrolled for middle school. For him, PNCS was a place he felt welcome, safe, and engaged by the learning process - all things that can't be measured by standardized tests but are really important if a child is going to learn."
- Paola S.
If you visited the middle school at PNCS in the afternoon there are two things you might see. In the early afternoon you would see each student with a laptop, typing busily. If you looked closer, you might notice that while one student is working on a children's story, another might be arguing passionately against eating meat, and another writing a story of how they acquired super powers. This is writing workshop, based on the research of Nancie Atwell which emphasizes the need for writing to be genuine communication of something the student wants to say. Simply put, it means the students choose what they want to write.
This approach jives well with what Swedenborg calls the "as of self" which describes how important it is for each person to feel they are directing their lives while acknowledging that in reality the Lord is breathing our life into us at every moment. Swedenborg also writes about how each person has different loves given to them by the Lord, and that unless loves are involved, it is hard for people to learn.
Each lesson begins with a mini lesson which teaches some aspect of writing, from vocabulary explorations to how to structure a whole piece. The rest of the time is devoted to writing. We follow the writing process of topic search, first draft, revising, further drafts, editing and publishing. Sometimes we will all try a writing exercise together, but most days students can count on time to devote to self-selected writing.
This method of teaching writing has its challenges, but it is a joy to see students find out what they want to write and to get something out of their minds onto paper that expresses what they want to say. When this happens you can hear the excitement in a student's voice as they say, "You have to read what I just wrote!"
The second part of the afternoon can be really quiet. I have had teachers think we are not in the room when there are actually a bunch of social teenagers in there. What are they doing? Reading. It is easy to tell students that reading is really important but to give them no time to read. Again inspired by the work of Nancie Atwell, reading workshop gives students time to read. It tries to develop the habits of life long readers who read because they want to read. What do life long readers do? They choose their own reading material, and are absorbed and delighted by what they read. They recommend books to each other and learn to discuss what has entertained them, what has inspired them and what has moved them.
It's true that sometimes we are not in our room. The wonderful thing about books is how portable they are, and so some days our classroom is empty and all the students are outside with the sunshine and breezes, soaking in words and phrases and meaning.
by Cynthia Glenn, Math / Social Studies / Music teacher for grades 6-8
We use the University of Chicago Mathematics Project: Transition Math for 7th grade and Algebra for 8th grade.
Students are placed in the math program not just based upon age/grade level, but more on ability. We often have students from one grade working in another level. Our unique multi-grade classroom allows this mixing of grade/student abilities with little pressure of competition or comparison. We emphasize that everyone is unique and has unique abilities.
Each month, students are encouraged to apply what they have learned by completing extension projects: Examples include designing a picture using tessellations, researching population growth in underdeveloped countries and graphing the results of a ten year period.
Social studies is a class with two components:
- A study of pre-historical and historical events (3/4 of class time).
- A current events course where the students research, debate and discuss current world issues (1/4 of class time).
Component one curriculum rotates from year to year:
- A study of Ancient Civilizations of the world
- U.S history from early humans to the Civil War period.
- U.S history from Reconstruction to Modern times including the 1st Iraq war.
We encourage the students to learn facts from the past and to use them to make inferences and connections within current world events. Extension projects are required three times per year. One project is an independent research project, one is a paired or small group project that often requires off campus work. One year while studying homelessness and conditions of the Great Depression the students designed and completed a service learning project for a local homeless shelter and food pantry. The third project is integrated with the arts or music program. Students are required to design a visual presentation for the class on a particular subject that includes a hands-on art or music activity for the rest of the class.
Music class at the middle school level builds upon previously learned musical topics, including: melody construction, harmony singing, rhythm explorations with instruments, music history, theory and performance skills. A typical day in music class may include a listening activity, a sight singing session using solfege, a short music theory lesson and /or participation in a small group performance ensemble. We have watched musicals and critiqued the performances. We have taken field trips to the local symphony. We have created an African Drumming circle and explored the different musical genres associated with historical time periods that correspond to our social studies curriculum. For example, when studying World War II in social studies, we study swing/big band music.
Overall, provide our students with a positive, safe and encouraging atmosphere to grow and experiment with newly acquired knowledge. It is vitally important to have our students continue to enjoy learning even though the material is becoming more challenging. We accomplish this goal by adding extension projects for students. An example math extension project has students design bridges using toothpicks, applying principles of geometry, and learning through experiments. Another recent project had students working in pairs to create research posters on ancient slavery and modern slavery.