Middle School Program

Middle School Program

Middle School

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What We Offer

Our Middle School is sized just right: small enough to ensure that each student feels seen and known, and large enough to foster rich discussions, diverse points of view, and dynamic learning experiences. Our program promotes academic rigor, expands critical thinking skills, and supports the development of each student’s unique potential. Students develop a deep sense of community through a thoughtfully constructed advisory program, field trips, service projects, and an annual theater production. Upon graduation, TBS Middle School students attend a variety of public and private high schools and carry with them an education that focuses on authentic, deep learning.


[toggle_content type=”accordion” title=”Humanities, English & Cultural Studies” box=”closed” class=”beige”]The 6th grade curriculum combines writer’s workshop, cultural studies, and English to create a holistic learning experience. In writer’s workshop students write poems, book reviews, personal essays, and various forms of fiction to develop a confidence as writers. They learn about word choice, sentence clarity, fluidity, and paragraph unity. The 7th Grade Humanities curriculum focuses on strengthening executive function, time management, and building ownership for one’s own education. The vehicles by which students have opportunity to build these skills are through works that focus on furthering critical reading skills, creative and expository writing for different purposes and audiences, increasing word knowledge through explicit vocabulary work, understanding how culture is created, and the relationship between culture and perspective. Students in 7th grade continue to work on writing organized, detailed paragraphs and move on to multi-paragraph essays as the year progresses. The 7th grade cultural studies students focuses on four cities (Athens Beijing, Jerusalem, and Timbuktu) and delves into world religions, the connection between the ancient and modern world, and fosters an understanding of the forces that shape human behavior and culture over time. Students explore geography by working throughout the year to draw a map of the world from memory. The 8th grade humanities curriculum combines cultural studies and English to provide a well-rounded study of American history and literature. Students read primary and secondary sources to distinguish differences in purpose and audience among historians and to understand the value of historical documents. Students focus on key periods in U.S. history, including the Civil War and World War II, in order to understand how the present has emerged from the past. Eighth graders learn to reason with evidence and build that skill by reading for saliency, taking thorough notes, learning to cite textual evidence, and writing every day in class.[/toggle_content]

[toggle_content type=”accordion” title=”Math” box=”closed” class=”beige”]The 6th grade math program moves from concrete concepts and examples introduced in elementary school toward abstract concepts and applications. The curriculum challenges students to justify and explain their answers, describe their processes, and approach problems in a variety of ways. Students are encouraged to ask themselves: “What skills do I have to solve this problem?” Students learn that in order to truly master 6th grade math, they must take responsibility for their learning, use self-assessment to identify strengths and challenges, improve perseverance, and articulate their understanding. Students improve their curiosity, flexibility, and ability to take risks in problem solving. They learn the importance of being reflective about their thinking. In 7th grade, students focus on making their mathematical thinking and learning visible. The pre-algebra curriculum engages students in problem solving that tackles graphing, geometry, proportional reasoning, number theory, and pattern recognition. Students use mathematical ideas and concepts to describe, analyze, and find solutions in our world. They hone the characteristics of successful problem-solvers: persistence, curiosity, flexibility, risk-taking, and production reflection. Eighth grade students take a full course of first-year algebra, including writing, graphing, and solving linear and quadratic equations and inequalities. Students also get an introduction to more formal mathematical systems based on axioms and work to justify arithmetic steps as a lead-in to mathematical proofs.[/toggle_content]

[toggle_content type=”accordion” title=”Science” box=”closed” class=”orange”]The 6th grade science curriculum was designed with two goals in mind: to understand scientific concepts through the lens of current dilemmas (including nuclear waste disposal and climate change) and to understand what it means to work as scientists. Studying an interdisciplinary science and cultural studies curriculum that interlaces Earth science, ancient civilizations, and geography 6th graders seek to answer three main questions: “How does geography affect culture?”, “How are science and culture relevant to my life?”, and “How do we use science to understand the past?” Seventh graders complete a laboratory-based life science course that introduces them to themes such as the human body, genetics, evolution, and biotechnology. The 7th grade science curriculum also integrates contemporary biosocial issues. 8th graders study physical science with a focus on chemistry, sexuality education, and physics. Students are introduced to concepts (and underlying mathematical models) that will be integral to their high school science learning. Lab experiments, original research, and presentations are cornerstone elements in each grade– as are field trips and opportunities to meet and work with scientists specializing in various fields.[/toggle_content]

[toggle_content type=”accordion” title=”Spanish” box=”closed” class=”orange”]Seventh grade Spanish focuses on communication, strengthening students’ ability to speak, listen, read, and write in Spanish as they continue to gain proficiency in the language. Students ascertain why learning Spanish is important and study how culture impacts language all while discovering how they can use their strengths as a learner to master another language. Vocabulary is reinforced through conversational activities, games, skits, and verbal proficiency presentations. A unit on “lideres” like Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Cesar Chavez as well as a closer look at Dia de los Muertos enhances students’ cultural connection to the language. In 8th grade students expand their grammatical understanding and vocabulary by learning how to conjugate verbs in the preterit, the imperfect, and the present progressive tenses. In addition, students spend the year preparing for a one-week Spanish immersion trip to Costa Rica, which takes place in the spring.[/toggle_content]
[toggle_content type=”accordion” title=”Art” box=”closed” class=”beige”]The Middle School art program provides a process-based studio experience that allows students to explore the possibilities of their materials and concepts instead of focusing their efforts on only the final product. Middle School students investigate drawing, painting, printmaking self-portraits, collage, sculpture, two-dimensional applied design, and media technology. Employing studio tools such as sketchbooks, thinking routines, and self/peer reflection, students increase their ability to look at and discuss art, they develop visual arts vocabulary as well as the ability to read and write about art and to problem-solve projects. They gain an understanding of how the arts connect to other disciplines. Students develop curatorial skills by creating and overseeing art displays and installation sites on campus. Projects include animation shorts and working lamps at the 6th grade level, fused glass jewelry at the 7th grade level, and a repurposed fashion show in 8th grade.[/toggle_content]

[toggle_content type=”accordion” title=”Drama” box=”closed” class=”red”]The drama program allows Middle School students to indulge in and explore the natural art of make-believe. Beginning at the 6th grade level, students take part in improvisation games that help spur individual creativity and spontaneity. Students develop skills in movement, body awareness, observation, concentration, sensory awareness, and imitation. Seventh and 8th graders learn the presentational aspects of drama such as scene blocking, voice projection, and stage direction. In the spring, middle school students stage an annual performance with professional level production value. Performances are held at the Live Oak Theater in North Berkeley.[/toggle_content]

[toggle_content type=”accordion” title=”Physical Education & Health” box=”closed” class=”red”]The physical education curriculum is designed to develop six basic physical skills: overhead throwing, catching, running to kick a ball, sidestepping, striking a ball, and jumping. The program also develops two essential skills: working effectively on a team and balancing competitive effort with good sportsmanship. Students engage in a variety of fun and athletic team-building activities that allow for the development of agility, coordination, and confidence. They learn skills they will be able to use for enjoyable physical activity all their lives. On a daily basis students engage in stretching and calisthenics to promote flexibility and muscle development. Dance activities promote rhythm and timing while circus activities enhance balance, hand-eye coordination, and physical strength. The Middle School health program takes the approach that good health and academic success go hand in hand. Comprehensive health education that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of health teaches students how to maintain and improve their health; prevent disease; reduce health-related risk behaviors; and develop health knowledge, attitudes, and skills that foster academic achievement and improve behavior and decision making at school and out in the world. Students keep an online health journal through the use of Google Classroom to explore their beliefs and understandings around subject matter content. Students also have ample time for group and partner discussion. Learning is both about sharing different views and actively listening to those with different views; students are expected to do both. The 8th graders study relationships, human diversity, and mental health. The 7th graders study nutrition and physical activity, CPR and first aid, and social media. The 6th graders study drugs, bullying, harassment, and decision-making.[/toggle_content]

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Interested in Learning More?

For Admissions information, please contact Director of Admission Paula Farmer at pfarmer{at}theberkeleyschool.org or (510) 665-8800, ext. 103. You may also sign up for a tour online. For more information on our Middle School program, please contact Middle School Division Head MaryBeth Venura at mventura{at}theberkeleyschool.org or (510) 665-8800, ext 140.