# Middle School Curriculum Update

## Language Arts

After the 5th and 6th grade students completed reading their selected Coretta Scott King Award novels, they wrote book reviews. They applied their book review content to create short videos using the website mysimpleshow.com. Students began two literature groups in our study about the Middle Ages; Crispin by Avi and Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. The students collected background information about feudal structure, housing, education, religion, and festivals. As we progress through the novels, we will be learning about several types of character terms like dynamic, round, and static. Students reviewed sentence structure and learned how to repair fragmented and run-on sentence errors. The students continued their vocabulary studies and received word study lists related to the historical fiction novels.

## Math

During the month of February, students in 5th grade math completed Chapter 6 and began Chapter 7 of Everyday Math. Students focused on methods of displaying and analyzing data, including using stem and leaf plots. They worked on adding and subtracting fractions and converting between fractions, decimals, and percents. Students began their work on their “Million Dollar Project” and will complete it in March. The project challenge is to carefully plan, account for, and spend one million dollars on a service project of their imagination that will help others.

Students in 6th grade math have completed Unit 5 on geometry and the ability to use mathematical tools and have started Unit 6. Unit 6 of the Everyday Math curriculum focuses on concepts of number systems and algebra.

## Science

Our middle school program has two special traditions that take place, usually in February, each year. Science teacher, Kathy, teaches the chemistry of yeast-raised donuts and students help her make over 200 Fastnacht donuts for the whole school. More important is the tradition of middle school students joining Kathy on one of the first rainy nights of late winter or early spring to help her inventory and count the mass migration of amphibians from their winter homes in the hills to their breeding sites in vernal pools. On February 25th, the earliest date in Kathy’s seventeen years of monitoring the amphibian migration, twenty four students and parents had the wonderful experience of counting and watching spotted salamanders, four-toed salamanders, spring peepers, and wood frogs cross the road and head for their vernal pool. It is one of nature’s most amazing phenomenons.

During the month of February, 5th and 6th graders focused on energy, the characteristics of different forms of energy, and how energy can be transferred from one form to another. Students investigated thermal energy, sound energy, light energy, chemical energy, nuclear energy, and non-renewable vs renewable sources of energy through lab explorations and the science reader, Energy. During the entire month of February, teams of students designed, constructed, tested, and revised their K’Nex STEM Challenge amusement park rides and collectively built an entire eco-friendly amusement park. It was quite a production!

## Social Studies

Students in the 5/6 social studies class researched lesser known figures in the fight for Human Rights such as Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Octavius Catto, and others. When they concluded their research, students created children’s books about their individual to add to our classroom library. Upon concluding the books, we began a study of the eating habits of early humans, discussing food in hunter-gatherer societies. After learning about hunter-gatherer societies in a general sense, students were challenged to choose an area of the world and create a restaurant using only foods that would have been available to hunter-gatherer societies.

In current events, students have discussed issues including the travel ban on individuals from majority Muslim countries and the injunction placed against it, what a refugee has to go through to get to the United States, Presidential Cabinet appointments, North Korean missile tests, the President’s meetings and communications with foreign leaders, the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, and the resignation of General Flynn.

## Language Arts

The 7th and 8th grade students continued working to revise and edit their quotation essays. Through peer editing, they offered suggestions to their peers’ writing. It is interesting how the quotes the students selected are reflections of some aspects of their personalities. The students completed their classic novel selections and we reviewed how to identify topics in novels and how to apply the author’s message and topic to determine a novel’s theme. We discussed common themes, author’s messages, and the various definitions of a classic. Students wrote book reviews about their classic novels reading selections.

We compared two texts from the New York Times about empathy. After reading the columnists’ views, we discussed and debated whether empathy is innate, taught, or if it is nurtured. How are empathy, sympathy, and compassion alike and how are they different? The students are reading self-selected novels until we begin a new reading unit in March.

## Science

Our middle school program has two special traditions that take place, usually in February, each year. Science teacher, Kathy, teaches the chemistry of yeast-raised donuts and students help her make over 200 Fastnacht donuts for the whole school. More important is the tradition of middle school students joining Kathy on one of the first rainy nights of late winter or early spring to help her inventory and count the mass migration of amphibians from their winter homes in the hills to their breeding sites in vernal pools. On February 25th, the earliest date in Kathy’s seventeen years of monitoring the amphibian migration, twenty four students and parents had the wonderful experience of counting and watching spotted salamanders, four-toed salamanders, spring peepers, and wood frogs cross the road and head for their vernal pool. It is one of nature’s most amazing phenomenons.

During the month of February, 7th and 8th graders focused on foundational concepts of physics. Guided by their reading of Newton’s Toy Box and many lab explorations, students investigated gravity, momentum, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and simple machines. One of the most active labs involved students timing their partners running up the stairs and then using several formulas to calculate the amount of horsepower their efforts required. Other favorite investigations included building an Archimedes screw and observing ball collisions. The most challenging investigations were the Physics of Toys unit, which involved students playing with 25 different toys and analyzing how each of the toys work. For example, the spring and suction cup pop up ball models potential energy when the toy is pushed down so that the suction cup sticks to the table and the spring is tightly coiled. When the suction cup can no longer adhere to the table, the spring releases and the potential energy changes to kinetic energy! This investigation will continue into March.

## Social Studies

Students in the 7/8 class this month worked on creating graphic novels about figures from global movements for Human Rights. To create their graphic novels, students had the choice to hand draw them or use an online program, Pixton, which allows students to use comics to represent several different types of information, including graphic novels, comics, brain maps, and timelines. While students worked on this process, we had debates in class about human rights issues currently occurring in the United States including gender equality and immigration.

In current events, students have discussed issues including the travel ban on individuals from majority Muslim countries and the injunction placed against it, what a refugee has to go through to get to the United States, Presidential Cabinet appointments, North Korean missile tests, the President’s meetings and communications with foreign leaders, the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, and the resignation of General Flynn.