Middle School Curriculum
At Sun Valley Community School, our Middle School curriculum is skills-based, within an interdisciplinary, experiential program where students are taught and assessed on both subject content and on broader student skills.
Our goal is for students to acquire life skills and establish processes that will transfer to other academic arenas, and other areas of their lives.
- Team/Theme Teaching
- World Language
- Physical Education
- Life Skills Program
- Middle School Outdoor Program
We live in a world where creating solutions requires a complex set of skills, with many subjects and topic areas connected. The world outside of our classrooms is not divided into subject areas, nor are our classrooms. Middle school students learn best from experiences that are real and relevant to their lives. In our Middle School, grade-level teams of teachers provide student-directed, inquiry-based learning opportunities for students.
We believe teaching as a team allows students to experience different teaching and learning styles with an interdisciplinary perspective. Team teaching supports our mission statement by facilitating an authentic learning environment that is relevant to students’ lives. Teaching with a team, whose expertise spans disciplines, allows us to create units and lessons that ask students to engage confidently, think critically, and solve problems. The team/theme approach creates opportunities for students to shine in different ways, thanks to interdisciplinary connections. Students learn from the ways their teachers and peers model collaboration and problem-solving. Students are encouraged to push themselves beyond their known limits and comfort zones, where they must apply their existing knowledge in creative ways in order to understand more complex concepts
We believe every student is a “math person” and has the ability to understand the world through a mathematical lens. The Middle School math program combines content exposure with critical thinking of the underlying concepts. Units reinforce key mathematical concepts, in authentic ways that apply to students’ lives. Often the math is integrated with other subjects, built into a project designed to deepen concepts and demonstrate its relevancy. With intention, learning spirals through earlier concepts, applying more complex layers, and building students’ strategies for solving problems. Our Middle School program hosts students in heterogeneous classrooms, serving students with a range of mathematical backgrounds and abilities. The middle school math program develops students’ foundational understanding, upon which students can pursue high school math with confidence.
The humanities program in the Middle School uses literature, history, and writing to help students understand past, present, and future human interactions in the context of their relationships with one another, with the environment, and with other organisms. Students are asked to consider the human experience through multiple lenses, learning to critically examine their own perspective while striving to understand the perspectives of others. The humanities curriculum connects to thematic units in each grade, and students hone their writing and critical reading abilities through examination of historical texts, fictional novels, and contemporary non-fiction.
The Middle School science curriculum is an applied science program where students engage in biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, and environmental science. Each grade level is designed to reinforce the key concepts of scientific thinking, writing, and analysis. Students gather and analyze evidence, design and test hypothesis, perform experiments, and learn to write scientifically. Science is integrated into larger interdisciplinary projects including the study of Egypt, the life cycle of Salmon, and forensics. The science curriculum connects to regional environs and supplements the learning during outdoor trips. The goal of the Middle School science program is to deepen students’ ability to think scientifically and prepare them for success in discipline-specific courses in high school.
The Middle School World Languages program builds on the foundation of foreign language learning begun in Elementary School, and it also broadens offerings available by introducing French. With an ultimate goal of achieving competent self-expression, the program emphasizes regular communication in French and Spanish, an understanding of grammar, learning about language and culture, and building language-learning skills. Class time focuses on oral practice, self-expression activities, cooperative learning drills, writing, reading, and listening comprehension. Language instruction incorporates multimedia technology, the writing lab, videos, and practice outside of class. Homework serves to reinforce class content and to encourage skill development. The study of a language is cumulative. The World Languages Department at the Community School also recognizes that students have different abilities and strengths in languages. For this reason, our department has set a series of guidelines for placement to ensure that each student can experience success in a challenging and encouraging environment. Students moving to the Upper School would be placed in any of the first three levels according to their ability.
Middle School artists build on the foundation laid in Elementary School. They continue to explore a variety of media (paint, sculpture, watercolors, printmaking, and more), but on a more disciplined, in-depth level through the use of themed units. Class time promotes a deeper understanding of art from personal, cultural, and historical perspectives. Art history, artists, and techniques are studied through student-designed and -executed projects and installations. There is a greater emphasis placed on individual evaluation and progress, helping determine what kind of artist each student is becoming. All students are required to keep a sketchbook, which is periodically reviewed with both the teacher and peers.
Music is an integral part of every student’s life. We believe all students are capable of understanding and creating music, that every student has some musical talent to contribute to ensemble work, and that participating in music requires a degree of student vulnerability. With these ideals as a platform, the Middle School music program harnesses individual interests and talents through a series of units, each designed to deepen students’ understanding of music as a discipline and to build upon their musical interests. The units may include songwriting, vocals, instrumental, music technology, performance, and other concepts.
The result is a program where students develop an appreciation for a range of music styles, understand music as a language, form skills and appreciation for their own musical talents, and learn to perform.
The goal of the Middle School P.E. program is to instill a positive attitude toward leading an active and healthy lifestyle, one that will enrich the quality of each student's life.
To this end, P.E. includes an intramural program designed to bolster skills and introduce team sport concepts to the students, as well as a more-traditional fitness and lifetime activities program tailored to bolster the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development needs unique to early adolescence.
Activities and games are designed to demonstrate proper sportsmanship, build positive self-concepts, instill attitudes of self-responsibility, reinforce notions of safety and risk-management, and have fun. Cognitive goals include building an understanding of the rules and regulations of various games as well as their offensive and defensive strategies. Games taught include: basketball, flag football, floor hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball. Students have opportunities to demonstrate an improvement in personal fitness levels and to put into action the skills they've developed during class time.
Students undergo tremendous emotional, physical, and intellectual developmental changes during Middle School. Sun Valley Community School recognizes the importance of addressing social and emotional well-being during this time and the way it impacts learning. The school is committed to providing students with education and resources related to four overlapping topics to help guide decision-making as they enter their teenage years:
- Inclusivity and Interpersonal Relationships
- Digital Citizenship
- Substance Education
- Puberty Education
The goals of our Life Skills Program are:
- To instill social norms by identifying what students are already doing well and to encourage students to continue healthy practices;
- To educate students on the science and date connected to relationships, technology, substance abuse, and puberty;
- To help students understand the connection between these topics, their identity, and their role in a community;
- To proactively provide students with skills and strategies to navigate challenging situations that empower them to make sound and healthy decisions that align with their values;
- To provide ways for students to live healthy emotional and physical lives;
- To have a common language surrounding these topics and conversations.
The Middle School embraces the extent to which technology exists in the lives of early teenagers. We work to implement technology into the Middle School curriculum in ways that enhance the learning and create avenues for differentiating the way students learn or the way students demonstrate understanding. Teachers work to apply technology in ways that make the completion of work more efficient and the research and collection of information more manageable, especially on projects with multiple users rooted in collaboration.
The Outdoor Program is integrated with the Middle School academic curriculum. Please visit our Outdoor Program pages to learn more about these co-curricular opportunities.
Individual student laptops are a necessity for Middle School students. Sun Valley Community School requires that all students in grades six through twelve bring their own laptop to school each day. This allows us to ensure that all students and teachers can benefit from the many technological advancements that create new learning opportunities.
Macbooks, PCs, and Chromebooks are all currently used and supported at school with success. However, based on the cost, administrative management abilities, and programmatic needs, Sun Valley Community School recommends Chromebooks for all Middle School students.
For families who must purchase a laptop, we understand this may be a financial commitment. If you are in need of financial assistance in this area, the school is committed to supporting you by providing a Chromebook loaner for the year.
Wherever you find yourself on Sun Valley Community School's campus on a given day, chances are good that you will see and hear students developing skills to articulate their thoughts, share their passions, and advocate for their needs.
Opportunities for public speaking come early and often here. Beginning with circle time in the Early Childhood Center classroom and continuing through each division before culminating with the capstone Senior Project presentation in the Upper School, our students earn the confidence to share their story with an audience.
The poise and power of our students' presentations have become a hallmark of a Sun Valley Community School education.