# Middle School Curriculum Update

### October 2016

The 5th to 8th graders worked together as a team to prepare a wonderful feast for our October Food For Friends service project. Blooming Glen CSA donated large quantities of fresh kale, butternut squash, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers for our meal and we had a bushel of fresh apples from a local orchard for the apple crisp. We had assembly lines of students cutting, peeling, and cooking our meal for 50 people. When the team of 7th and 8th graders served the meal, many people had never eaten fresh kale or butternut squash and were delighted to find out that they were as delicious as the apple crisp.

## Language Arts

The 5th and 6th graders wrote narratives using the writing process of drafting, revising, and editing, to produce final copies. They noted strengths and weakness in their pieces. We began a Greek Mythology unit. Students recorded and summarized myths they read in class. They listened to Riordan’s humorous version of a Greek creation myth. In November, the students will begin reading novels with elements of Greek mythology and write their own myths. The 5th and 6th graders continue their word study through Words Their Way or Wordly Wise programs. The students in the Wordly Wise program are able to review their words online through Quizlet.

## Math

Our 5th grade math class has most recently been analyzing census data from the 1790’s to the present. Not only is it interesting to think back to populations, education, and finances from over two hundred years ago and comparing it to today, it is also an engaging way to practice statistical comparisons and to work with large numbers. Skills work has emphasized making magnitude estimations before multiplying and dividing decimal amounts, describing chance events, and writing mathematical models to solve number stories.

Students in 6th grade math completed their Unit One test and completed unit two. Unit two explores issues of place value, multiplication, division, and scientific notation. Students extended their knowledge of multiplication and division of decimals, extended their knowledge of place value into the trillions and trillionths, scientific notation, and exponential notation.

## Science

Our October 5th and 6th grade science studies focused on collecting physical properties data such as determining the identity of certain metals and woods by measuring their density. After studying density and Archimedes’ Principle, students set out to design and construct Cartesian Divers. Students explored several variables until they were able to get their Cartesian Diver (pipette with weights) to float at the top of their calibrated soda bottle, then, to drift to the bottom of the bottle when the bottle was squeezed and back to the top when the squeeze is released. Ask any middle school student to explain why it works that way!

## Social Studies

Students in the 5th and 6th grade social studies program this month continued to explore this election cycle and human development. To continue our exploration of the election, students split into teams to analyze the first debate. Each team was given a third of the debate from which they had to extract policy stances and important quotes and make a decision on who was helped or hurt by the debate. We also discussed and learned about issues in American elections such as voter suppression, disenfranchisement, criticisms and purpose of the electoral college, as well as, gerrymandering.

To continue our exploration of human development, students studied and presented on various early hominid species.

As part of our ongoing exploration of current events, students discussed issues of the election cycle, the after effects of Hurricane Matthew, the Yellow Umbrella Movement, the conflict in Syria and its roots, and relations between the United States and Russia.

We welcomed our Guatemalan exchange student, Ana (Anita), into the middle school with a special meeting and an ice cream treat. Anita is a participant of the Faces & Our Cultures Program and will be with us until Winter Break. She is presenting information about Guatemala to our UFS students and is learning English while experiencing our American culture.

## Language Arts

The students completed a Greek mythology mini-unit as a precursor to the next writing assignment. They read and annotated their thinking of the first chapter, Snow, in Farley’s novel, The Snow Walker. The author discusses the vastness of snow and identifies it as a fifth element. The writers are drafting their persuasive essays about a new fifth element. The 7th and 8th graders continue their vocabulary studies in either the Wordly Wise or Word Trek programs.

## Math

Math homework is assigned on a weekly basis, with a recommended amount of time to be completed each week. This time is designed to include several types of work/play, including both specific assignments and more self-chosen, developmentally appropriate math initiatives such as puzzles and games. (Thus it is much like language arts assignments, in that some of the work is specific, but there is also time to be set aside for independent reading or writing in an area of interest.) In the case of math, that might be well-chosen puzzles, games, review of knotty material, exploration of new topics, or anything else that strikes the student’s fancy. That being said, the specifically assigned work from class needs to be completed in a timely fashion, as well, so there should be balance. In terms of time spent, it is fine for students to have nights when they do no homework and other nights when they do more.

Parents can follow their student’s progress on his/her homework by asking them to share their Math Log. This log is a shared Google document between student and teacher. A new log is started (roughly) each month. In the top left corner you will see a box that is shaded either red or green, indicating whether the student began the month ahead, behind, or even on time. Below that box you can see the amount of assigned time each week, based largely on the number of days of class we have that week. The next column is for students to record the amount of time spent on homework each day, followed by a column for the general topic(s) covered during homework time, then by one for adding more detail. There is also a column for recording a general idea of how the class period was used. Finally, there is a column for students to add messages to me and one for me to respond (although much of my response to content actually occurs during class.)

The puzzle of the month has many possible solutions – the goal is to continue the pattern and give an explanation. Then see how many different patterns you can find using the same set of letters.

What are the next three letters in the following pattern? T, F, S, , , ?

(One possible answer is Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.)

## Science

Our 7th and 8th grade students took Cartesian Divers to the next level by adapting large wide mouth jars, large water jugs, and different kinds of toys and weights as their Cartesian Divers with remote pumps. Check out the youtube video by Bruce Yeany for his great diver ideas.

Our big focus has been on understanding atomic structure, the Periodic Table of the Elements, and the role of valance electrons in chemical bonding. Each student researched one of the elements and presented their research as both a poster and a powerpoint presentation. The end result is that everyone learned cool facts and intriguing ideas about 14 of the elements. One of my favorite slides was using the element Bismuth: Hey, why don’t you mind your own bismuth!

## Social Studies

Students in the 7th and 8th grade social studies program continued to explore this election cycle, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction Era in the United States. To continue our exploration of the election, students split into teams to analyze the first debate. Each team was given a third of the debate from which they had to extract policy stances and important quotes, and make a decision on who was helped or hurt by the debate. We also discussed and learned about issues in American elections such as voter suppression, disenfranchisement, criticisms and purpose of the electoral college, as well as, gerrymandering.

To continue our study of the Civil War, students analyzed songs from the era and read articles on current interpretations of the Civil War and Confederate battle flag. Students then had to make a hypothesis about why there are so many varied opinions on what the Civil War was “really” about.

As part of our ongoing exploration of current events, students discussed issues of the election cycle, the after effects of Hurricane Matthew, the Yellow Umbrella Movement, the conflict in Syria and its roots, and relations between the United States and Russia.