Middle School Curriculum Update

September 2018

We welcomed the 2018-19 school year with several community building activities. The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders learned about the members who make up our community and became acquainted with new individuals. Each student created an “all about me” mandala identifying relationships with others, personal attributes and favorite things.

Humanities

In Humanities class, students learned geography terms and practiced map reading. Each student planned a US vacation within a given limited budget and presented a Google slide presentation. The "vacation project" required them to create a budgeting sheet for each day of the trip showing the cost of the airfare, hotel, daily activities, food and entertainment as well as information such as location coordinates and climate information. In Reading class, students selected independent reading novels and completed written reading responses. They read and analyzed narrative mentor texts. In Writing Workshop, students wrote several quick drafts of personal narrative stories before selecting one experience to take through the writing process of drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. We’ve learned about plot diagrams, effective beginnings, expanding events, pacing, and how to include dialogue in narrative writing. In order to learn how to navigate SeeSaw, a digital journal, the middle schoolers practiced by completing some assigned activities for parents to view.

Math

6th and 7th grade math students have completed the first unit of our math curriculum, Open Up Resources, which focused on finding area in two-dimensions and surface area in three-dimensions. Initially, they studied various two-dimensional shapes and derived formulas for the areas of parallelograms, triangles, and rectangles. They extrapolated those concepts to calculating surface area for various three-dimensional objects. Decomposition, the act of reorganizing a two-dimensional shape into components, was an essential element of the process of deriving formulas. We then applied what we learned about common two-dimensional shapes to polygons and three-dimensional polyhedrons. Hands-on projects included building models of polygons and folding two-dimensional nets into their matching three-dimensional polyhedron. The unit concluded with being able to differentiate between surface area and volume. Students will receive a full assessment of their understanding of this unit and will be studying ratios in unit 2.


The 8th grade math class has begun an exploration of algebra. Rather than working from the specific skills up to the big concepts, we are beginning with the big concepts and working our way back to learn the skills necessary to complete a variety of projects. This approach gives students the opportunity to immediately apply each skill, lending meaning and urgency to the learning.


Students have been working to understand a variety of patterns and solving puzzles using those patterns, including diamond problems and function machines. This work has led to beginning to define how the patterns are represented by various equations. We have made charts and graphs and students are beginning to explore the ways in which all kinds of graphs are related, from simple lines to cube root and absolute value functions. Students have also begun to use the graphing calculator application, Desmos, to play with equations in order to solve a series of challenges ranging from forming starburst patterns to forming rectangles with various parameters.

Science

Middle School Science students began an intensive unit on the concept of a microbiome, examining the innumerous types of microorganisms that impact our everyday world. We began by examining the concept of scale and familiarizing ourselves with the relationship between various lengths: meters, millimeters, micrometers, and nanometers. Students have frequently used digital and optical microscopes in examining microorganisms and insects found on the UFS campus. Using bacteriological agar, they have created bacteria cultures of common sources, including human sources, and observed them under the microscope. They learned the difference between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells, meiosis and mitosis, and what distinguishes a virus from bacteria. Students examined scientific arguments pertaining to the human microbiome as a way of developing critical reading skills. They have also studied antibiotics, their effect on the human microbiome, and what they do and do not target. The major project for this unit was a slideshow presentation on a virus that affects humans, and the information from these presentations will be included in the end of unit assessment along with a substantial amount of information on bacteria and microbiomes. The second unit will transition to metabolism and how microorganisms acquire the energy they need.