Middle School Curriculum Update

January/February 2019

Middle school students (6th, 7th, 8th Grades) prepared and served a meal for our service project, Food for Friends. We discussed the impact of the government shutdown on the SNAP program and families' lives. The students enjoyed cooking and helping others!

The 5th, 6th and 7th graders enjoyed an evening of food and friendship as they participated in our Mystery Party evening. The students were given character roles, clue cards for each round with developing information and clues/tasks for each player to perform, things to know, and questions to ask to solve a mystery.


In January, we studied the Civil Rights Movement through primary sources, reading materials, and videos. Students read historical fiction novels or memoirs involving issues of harsh discrimination, violence, and school integration during this time period. Some titles included Watsons Go To Birmingham, Lions of Little Rock, Thousand Never Evers, Forged by Fire, Warriors Don’t Cry. We examined some of Martin Luther King’s letters and speeches as well as policies and practices of nonviolence. The Rustin Class (kindergarten) students wanted to create a book about Bayard Rustin for themselves and future kindergarten classes so they came together with the Middle School students to share their knowledge about Bayard Rustin. The Rustin Class learned about Bayard Rustin's remarkable life from various resources and the middle schoolers read Bayard Rustin, The Invisible Activist by Jaqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle and Michael Long. We talked about his childhood in West Chester, his experiences during his college years, his activism in his adult life and created a document of notes. Older and younger students partnered to discuss one event of Bayard Rustin's life and the Rustin students illustrated the text.

The Helman-Osborn students completed a number of Ally Week activities that emphasized intersectionality and understanding their own identity. We looked at themes such as race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, age, education, religion, etc., and how they impact our interactions with others. Our exploration and understanding of these topics will continue the rest of the year. We held discussions, watched videos, listened to podcasts, analyzed cartoons, and read articles to broaden our understanding about our identities. We also learned about classism, homelessness, and poverty. We viewed a powerful TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie about the dangerous effects that labels can have on how we think about ourselves and others and viewed a documentary, Class Divide, which offered an insightful look at gentrification and growing inequality in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The middle schoolers also participated in a workshop with the music group, City Love.

The writers brainstormed topics and completed prewriting activities before composing compare/contrast drafts. They learned how to write thesis statements and applied questioning strategies to strengthen their thesis. Students will continue using the writing process to develop and refine their essays. For our vocabulary study, we completed lessons in the Wordly Wise and Word Trek programs. In late February, we began a unit study about the American Revolution period (1607 -1776) beginning with The Thirteen Colonies. The student historians will acquire knowledge about this time period through primary documents, reading material, activities, maps, and videos.


During January and February, the Algebra course focused our learning on understanding various forms of sequences and on developing an understanding of exponential functions. We looked at arithmetic and geometric series and learned to connect real life situations to graphs and equations representing those situations. Thus we explored the breeding of rabbits, bounciness of balls, and simple arithmetic growth, and learned to express those circumstances with both explicit and recursive equations. As we moved into exponential growth and decay, we expanded our understanding through learning about simple versus compound interest, as well as carbon dating of artifacts, which involves the half-life of carbon-14. Students worked hard not just to read and design graphs, but also to develop the equations that express that rate of change.


Students built on the Metabolism unit from November and December and explored the metabolic needs of various rescue workers in an aspect of Amplify called an Engineering Internship. Understanding basic cell structure and cellular respiration were central concepts to the unit as students needed to know what nutritional needs to meet for various groups. Basic digestive function and the breakdown of proteins into amino acids as well as carbohydrates into glucose were also essential phenomena. Students learned about the importance of oxygen as a necessary component for cellular respiration and the involvement of mitochondria in producing energy. In addition to looking at various biological mechanisms, the Engineering Internship unit looked at various design and engineering processes such as the design cycle and iterative testing. As engineers, students drafted proposals for their products that met specific criteria, considered trade-offs for the improvement of their products, and improved upon their design based on feedback from tests. Through frequent repeated tests, students were able to design a food-bar that satisfied predetermined criteria and then make a comparable product in the kitchen. With an extensive foundation of the role of cells in the function of an organism, students will begin studying Traits, Reproduction, and Evolution in subsequent units.