Middle School Curriculum Update

October 2018


The middle school writers revised, and edited to produce final copies of their personal narrative stories. As a connection to their virology and bacterial infection study in Middle School Science, the students formed small reading groups and read The Great Death, Year of Wonders, Fever 1793, or Code Orange. These novels are about about yellow fever, smallpox, or bubonic plagues. The students held discussions and responded to written prompts about their reading. They will complete Plague project assignments in November. The students also read several short informational articles and responded to the given questions by locating specific information, identifying the main idea, and making inferences. For our vocabulary study, we completed lessons in the Wordly Wise and Word Trek programs. We also began a Latin/Greek roots study.

We began an ancient civilization unit this month. Our essential questions are Where and Why Did the First Cities and States Appear? What makes human societies similar and different? What is each group's greatest contribution to the world? Why? In small groups, students were assigned one of the following ancient civilizations to research. Uruk, Mesoamerica, Jericho, East Asia, Greco-Roman, Aksum and Ghana. Each group researched an ancient civilization to identify time span, main food sources, main domesticated animals, agricultural,geographical, and environmental challenges, type of government, religion, legacy and accomplishments in science, inventions and art. Their findings will be compiled into a written report and the groups will present the information to their peers in November.


In October, Math 6 students focused intently on ratios, the topic of Unit 2 in Open Up Resources. They looked at various visual representations of ratios such as double-number lines and data tables, and they conducted several hands-on investigations into applying ratios to paint mixing and food and beverage preparation. We then learned how to obtain and identify unit rates given a ratio and apply them to word problems. Unit 2 concluded with a look at Fermi-problems, named after renown Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. Fermi-problems are large-scale numerical problems that are difficult to precisely calculate but can be estimated through simpler calculations. Students are currently preparing presentations on the Fermi-problem of their choice and will explain their calculational methods to their peers in the near future. All of Unit 3 in OUR is based on unit rates and percentages, so the relevance to ratios is especially clear. Ratios also appear throughout Chapter 1 of Math Mammoth, which was implemented in October as well. This more conventional approach relies heavily on calculations and concepts from pre-algebra such as variables and the distributive and associative properties.

This month the algebra class has been working to understand linear functions, especially related to their starting value and rate of growth. We have focused on how to understand lines in terms of tables, graphs, equations, and real life situations, and how to smoothly interchange between these representations. The class spent some time working with a motion detector to develop an intuitive understanding of rate of change as it is displayed by a graph. At the end of this unit, students simulated the use of a “linear laser cannon” to break up asteroids before they reached the earth, using the least number of possible “shots.” Students are also developing their skill with graphing increasingly complex designs with the Desmos graphing calculator application.


Generally, students are learning what their bodies need at a cellular level. In October, they built on what they learned about the microbiome and focused extensively on metabolism. In the early stages of this unit, they were introduced to a basic animated simulation of human circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems that was central to their studies. They ran various simulations to gain understanding of how foods are broken down to molecules and how cells receive the molecules they need for proper functioning. To correlate the use of the simulation to their everyday life, students have been recording their food intake for several weeks and noticing changes in how they feel. Once familiar with basic metabolic processes, students were assigned the role of medical-school students who diagnose a patient with specific symptoms, and using their knowledge of various human systems and the simulation, they were able to accurately diagnose their patient. Students also modeled the processes that take place on a cellular level by building small models of alveoli (respiratory system) and villi (digestive system) and using these to model how food and oxygen are transported throughout the body. The unit concludes with studies of cellular respiration - the process of converting glucose and oxygen to energy - and the correlation to athletic performance. Supplemental material included studies of human anatomy and genetics, medical vocabulary, and independent readings in preparation for our field trip to the College of Physicians’ Mütter Museum in November.