Middle School Curriculum
The middle school, sixth through eighth grades, provides a dynamic environment for students to acquire substantial knowledge and develop problem-solving and study skills that are imperative as they progress to high school and college. Students are taught to think critically and take intellectual risks as they become more self-confident in their academic skills and as young teens. They also move from concrete to abstract thinking through interdisciplinary projects. One example, the “Refugee Project,” requires eighth-grade students to research the worldwide refugee crisis and do interdisciplinary work across their English, social studies, math and science classes resulting in presentations given to the entire community.
Our middle school is a three-year program. To earn a North Shore Country Day middle school certificate, students have to meet a number of academic and co-curricular expectations. Depending on grade level, they must be enrolled in at least four or five academic subjects each year. Advisors, the appropriate department head and the head of middle school (and in some cases, a learning specialist) need to approve any exceptions to these requirements.
To complete our program, students must successfully complete:
- Three years of a world language (French, Mandarin or Spanish)
- Three years of mathematics
- Three years of science
- Three years of performing arts (acting, ArtLab, chorus, dance, improvisation, instrumental ensemble, technical theater)
- Three years of physical education
- Two years of humanities
- One year of English (in eighth grade)
- One year of social studies (in eighth grade)
- One year of Learning Lab (in sixth grade)
- Six trimesters of health (two per year)
- Three trimesters of visual art (one each year)
- Three trimesters of music (one each year)
- Two trimesters of computer science (one in sixth grade and another in eighth grade)
- One trimester of robotics (in seventh grade)
- One trimester of creative writing (in sixth grade)
- One trimester of drama (in seventh grade)
- One trimester of public speaking (in eighth grade)
Each year, students must participate in one season (fall, winter or spring) of our athletic program.
NSCD does not rank students or have an honor roll system. Middle school grades are issued as numerical grades. Numerical grades are coupled with narrative feedback at the end of Trimesters 1 and 3 and coupled with skill checklists at the end of Trimester 2.
- 100-90 indicates excellent work
- 89-80 indicates above average work
- 79-70 indicates average or satisfactory work
- 69-60 indicates below average work
- 59-below indicates a failure
- INC indicates missing coursework is yet to be submitted
ACADEMIC REVIEW OR PROBATION
Students who are not meeting the academic expectations of the school will be reviewed by the faculty and may be placed on Academic Review or Academic Probation. (See the academic probation policy in the Middle School Handbook.)
When a student’s work is incomplete at the end of a trimester, the teacher may assign a failing grade at that time or grant the student an extension. An extension is normally granted only when a severe medical problem exists. In any event, the school will not grant credit for a course unless all major assignments have been completed. Incompletes at the end of a trimester must be made up before the mid-semester mark of the next trimester.
We have a number of courses in the middle school that are graded on a Pass/Fail basis. Students must receive a minimum grade of 60 to pass these courses.
The school year is divided into trimesters. Students receive grades and teacher comments for each course at the end of the first and third trimesters. Advisors and parents receive copies of these grades and comments. All issued grades, trimester grades and year-end averages, are entered on a student’s middle school transcript.
These programs meet up to three times a cycle for 45-minute sessions for either one trimester or the entire year. Depending on the day of the cycle and the trimester, students will participate in either health, a grade-level elective, physical education (PE), or Common Work Period (CWP—another study hall during which all grade level teachers are available for consultation).
By the end of the sixth grade year, students will have taken a year of PE, two trimesters of health, a trimester of creative writing and participated in CWP all year.
By the end of the seventh grade year, students will have taken another year of PE, two more trimesters of health, a trimester of drama and participated in CWP all year.
By the end of the eighth grade year, students will have taken their third and final year of PE, two final trimesters of health, a trimester of public speaking and participated in CWP all year.
The Advisory program strengthens the partnership of students, parents and faculty by increasing meaningful communication. In the pursuit of academic excellence, the advisory program supports the educational growth of each student by providing academic guidance. The advisory group experience also addresses the emotional and social needs of the students and the community.
Each advisory is a mixed-age, mixed-gender group of 12-15 students and one or two faculty members. Each student stays in his or her advisory group throughout the three years in middle school. The advisor serves as the main contact between the faculty and the parents of each advisee and also acts as a facilitator between teacher and student, helping to support the whole child’s growth through the middle school program.
Consultancy is an hour-long class period built into each student’s schedule to occur four times per cycle. It is a quiet study environment designed to allow students to complete homework, work ahead on assignments and perhaps see some of their teachers, if they are available. The primary goal is to allow for additional student prep time during the school day so that, when Consultancy is used correctly, their time after school can be dedicated to other important things. Consultancy is also a tool for learning time management; it is an excellent opportunity for simply getting a head-start on homework on busy days.
Athletics has been an integral part of the program since the school was started in 1919. Perry Dunlap Smith, the founding headmaster, believed a school should require its students to exercise both mind and body. Therefore, NSCD has always had a strong, diverse athletic program, and participation in a team sport is an important component of the North Shore experience. All middle school students are required to play at least one season each year. Practices are scheduled to run from 3:15-4:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Interscholastic games are held once a week, on average. Offerings in the fall are boys soccer or girls field hockey or volleyball. After the fall season, students may choose to participate in girls’ or boys’ basketball in the winter. Spring sports are girls soccer, and co-ed track and field or baseball. The program is fitness based, focusing on cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, agility and speed. Rules, game strategies, sportsmanship and cooperative learning are also taught.
COMMUNITY SERVICE & SERVICE WEEK
In the spirit of the school’s motto, “Live and Serve,” all NSCD students take part in community service in a variety of ways throughout the year. Community service encourages a sense of responsibility and compassion for others, respect for the richness of human differences, the dignity of all people and a lifelong commitment to service. Additionally, through our annual Service Week (a week in the fall is set aside from regularly scheduled classes so that students can participate in an in-depth experience of educational value outside the traditional classroom environment), students learn from and collaborate with community partners to address an authentic need through a service project, which is often integrated with their classroom learning experience across the curriculum.
Community service projects include: tutoring; preparing and serving meals at shelters and soup kitchens; conducting on-going clothing and food drives for various agencies; and reading to children at local community centers. Examples in the classroom include: writing letters of advocacy to government officials while studying persuasive writing in English; building intergenerational partnerships, which evolve around curriculum-related activities; learning about genetics in a science unit and partnering with children who have Downs Syndrome in a fun activity; learning about an important impact on a community in a social studies unit, then educating others about the topic and reading about important service leaders in class; participating in service projects; creating artwork to express the global impact of consumerism; and learning about living as a homeless teen and then making hats, gloves and meals for teens on the street.
North Shore weaves the use of technology into the middle school curriculum as a tool to enrich teaching and learning. This is more true than ever since the 1:1 iPad program has been implemented in the middle school. Students increase proficiency in a variety of areas including word processing, presenting, digital photo and film editing, and researching in a technology-rich environment that includes the latest equipment. Students apply the tools they master to inquire about the world around them, gather information to build knowledge, and communicate and collaborate with their peers, faculty and the outside
world. NSCD focuses on teaching students skills, rather than specific programs, developing a practical and philosophical technological foundation.
While formal assessment plays a role at North Shore, the best tool for assessing students is the teacher in the classroom. Through daily observations, portfolio reviews and informal assessments discussed amongst teachers of different disciplines, teachers consistently and closely monitor individual student progress. The Terra Nova test is a standardized test used nationally by independent schools for assessment and is administered to seventh grade students in the spring. This test includes assessments in the areas of reading, language, spelling, language mechanics and vocabulary. Conceptual math and math computation skills. Scores are nationally normed
Through our newly developed student-led club program, students have ample opportunities during the school day to hone leadership and communication skills, explore a new interest, and deepen their skills and commitments while forming connections with students of other grade levels. We invite students to continue submitting proposals for clubs and activities they feel will enrich the NSCD middle school community. As we work to build in more opportunities for feelings of belonging and fun in middle school, we have encouraged students to propose new clubs and activities. Students who are interested in creating a new club are asked to consider what the mission of their club will be, how their proposed club will benefit members of our school community and/or the greater community, which faculty member will serve as their faculty advisor and what the leadership structure of the club will look like.
NSCD offers both student- and faculty-led clubs. Current offerings are: Anti-Racist Club, Art Open Studio, Board Games Club, Chess Club, Climate Change Action Club, Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), Math Circles, Math Team and Service Club. Middle School students have the opportunity to propose additional clubs each year.
MODEL UNITED NATIONS
The Model United Nations program serves as a forum for dialogue on international peace and security, social and economic progress and the maintenance of fundamental human rights. Students research their assigned country, write position papers and learn how to speak in a public forum.
This national organization holds competitions for 23 science events at the regional, state and national levels, designed for students to demonstrate a wide variety of skills. Some events require knowledge of scientific facts and concepts, and others rely on science processes, skills or applications. There are also many engineering events. Some Science Olympiad events are based on individual achievement, but all events involve teamwork, group planning and cooperation. Emphasis is on advanced learning in science through active, hands-on, group participation with students and teachers bonding as a team working toward a goal.
The middle school student council is an opportunity for students to develop leadership skills and serve the school community. Student government in middle school consists of a group of elected students who work to represent the thoughts, ideas and concerns of the middle school student body.
The transition to middle school can present new challenges for all students. Besides the transition of moving from one school setting to the middle school at NSCD, for many, the expectations of our program are new and challenging, and the work becomes much more analytical over your three years with us. It is important, therefore, for new students to quickly recognize the expectations and demands which will be placed upon them, establish healthy and productive study habits to meet these expectations and demands, and create the time necessary to succeed and make responsible choices, all of which will contribute to a productive, enjoyable experience during middle school. Here are a few helpful hints:
- You should get to know your advisor, teachers, team leader, the counselor, the learning specialists, the assistant head and head of middle school as soon as possible. These adults will prove to be great advocates.
- Be sure to ask questions. If you don’t know or understand something or if you need help finding a solution to a problem, ask your advisor or a teacher. Only by asking can you come up with answers to suit your individual needs.
- Seek out your teachers for extra assistance during Common Work Period (CWP) or Consultancy and, if need be, establish a regular meeting time. Getting extra assistance is not a sign of a bad student, but it signals to the teacher your earnest desire to learn and improve.
- Homework and daily preparation for classes are key to success in middle school. If you just “do” the homework by completing writing and reading assignments, you may be disappointed. Doing homework means following up on materials covered in class, reviewing class notes, outlining and taking notes on reading, and mapping out strategies for longer term assignments. Remember to ask for help with any of the above, especially if you are trying something new.
- On average, in sixth and seventh grades, you should expect between one and two hours of homework each day across all of your classes. In eighth grade, you should expect between two and three hours of homework in an evening, although some days you might have more or less. Plan to use some time each weekend to study for upcoming tests, write papers and accomplish assignments for the coming week.
- While being with friends is an important part of the school day, it is also important early in the year to establish good habits about how to use your time. Lunch and recess are the times designated for you to take some time to be with friends and relax, but make sure to use your other scheduled times for school-related work.
- Do not let work pile up. If you find yourself falling behind, seek out your teacher, advisor, or one of our learning specialists to develop a strategy for correcting the problem. We are all here to help.