Middle School Curriculum Update

January 2020


Our study of the Industrial Revolution in the US began by exploring the initial phases of the Westward expansion. The students learned about the 1830 Indian Removal Act. Our essential question, What does it mean to remove a people?, guided our investigation using maps, videos, primary documents and information from the Muscogee and Cherokee Nation websites. We listened to a podcast about the US vs the Dakota War in 1862. The students discovered how these Indigenous people were affected before, during, and after removal. We viewed A Time for Justice to kick off our study of the Civil Rights Movement. The sixth graders read Watson’s Go to Birmingham by Curtis, and the 7th-8th grade read Warriors Don’t Cry, Beal’s memoir about the battle to integrate Central High. To learn more about activists before the 1950s and 1960s, the students researched Black female activists in the 1800s. They created Google slide presentations to share their findings. The students discovered that these women were prominent journalists, educators, abolitionists, anti-slavery activists, and suffragists who had the courage to fight for equality. In preparation for Ally Week in February, we started a read-aloud novel, Piecing Me Together. The novel explores themes of race, class, gender and body image through the main character, Jade.


Pre-algebra : This month we have been continuing to study probability and proportional reasoning. This has involved numerous investigations, ranging from what makes a game fair or unfair to the effects of sample size on experimental probability outcomes. It has also included exploring proportions in tables, using 2-dimensional graphs, and in equations, in order to understand how these representations interact and display information in diverse ways. In addition, we have been spending time working to truly understand what it means to combine like terms as well as the use of the distributive property. This involves helping to ensure that the students develop their understanding on a “gut level”, so that the concepts are internalized, rather than just becoming a series of learned rules. In order to do this, we have been using algebra tiles, physical pieces that represent positive and negative variables and constants.

Physical Science

Middle school students covered a range of topics in Physical Science in January. We started the new semester by reviewing concepts from the first semester - potential energy, kinetic energy, momentum, force, and Newton’s Laws of Motion - and we began constructing trebuchets in the MakerSpace. During the colder days, we visited the ice rink at Quakertown Memorial Park to study friction and which surfaces present the least amount of friction on ice.

Students began a unit on Thermal Energy which incorporates Amplify Science and will carry into February. In the Thermal Energy unit, students leverage the molecular view of temperature to confront aspects of this content that are known to be conceptually challenging. The molecular view helps students to distinguish between temperature and thermal energy, which are related but distinct concepts, as the temperature of a sample is solely a function of its molecular movement (average kinetic energy), while the thermal energy of a sample is also determined by its amount of molecules (total kinetic energy). In other words, students will be redefining their understanding of heat and cold according to molecular phenomena. Learning more about thermal energy is also essential to understanding energy transfer, one of the major physical phenomena studied throughout the year.