Middle School Curriculum Update

April 2017

Helman-Osborn - 5th and 6th Grades

During many of our April advisory classes, students worked together to make our Balancing Table Top Sculpture Game for our class's Spring Benefit contribution. It was made from a tree root sculpture base with thirty aluminum wires bent into balancing playing pieces. Students helped each other problem-solve and together constructed a great balancing game.

On Wednesdays, 5th and 6th grade students partnered with the Penn Class (1st and 2nd grades) to construct balloon cars. They made their car chassis from cracker boxes turned inside out, and they made their wheels from paper towel rolls and circle discs. Construction activities have involved lots of cm measuring, sawing, and team problem solving.

Language Arts

The 5th and 6th grade students finished their reading and projects to complete our Middle Ages unit. The students presented their wonderful projects to class members. We enjoyed viewing the creative and informative videos about types of armor, life in the middle ages, and a retelling of one novel with the use of puppets. We also learned how to play several student-created middle-ages strategic games and viewed beautiful student-created calligraphy journal pages. In preparation for learning how to write a persuasive essay, the students read at least four pro/con articles from Newsela and determined the key pro and con points from the articles. We discussed several advertising strategies such as logos, ethos, and pathos and identified them in student-found examples of everyday advertising. The students will begin selecting topics and forming informed opinions about their topics. They will be learning how to write thesis statements and support their opinions.

In our poetry unit, the students selected their favorite poems and shared them in class. They read and listened to several classic poems and we discussed common themes and devices like alliteration, rhyme scheme, imagery, similes and metaphors. The poetry unit will extend into May as they write their own poetry. The students continued their vocabulary studies and some students completed the Wordly Wise workbook and moved on to the Word Trek vocabulary program.


5th Grade

Students have been working with fractions, including adding, subtracting, and multiplying them. They are also using fractions for accurately measuring lengths to the nearest sixteenth of an inch. They are finishing up Chapter 8 of their Everyday Math Journal.


During the month of April, 5th and 6th grade students completed their unit on physics. They read the science reader, Newton’s Toy Box, and through many labs, explored concepts of gravity, friction, momentum, speed, horsepower, work, simple machines, and Newton’s Laws. Their final project involved describing how a variety of toys work and the scientific terms that applied to each toy.

When 5th and 6th graders collected water samples and macroinvertebrate samples of the stream in the park in preparation for our annual Earth Day stream study, they were alarmed to find a very high pH level. We took samples for three more days and became even more concerned, so we reported our concerns to the DEP. The DEP is now in the process of a full investigation of the water quality of the stream and searching for possible sources of pollution. This experience has helped students realize the importance of citizen monitoring.

Helman-Osborn 7th and 8th Grades

Language Arts

The 7th and 8th grade students continued their work in our Social Justice literature unit. The 8th grade students finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and are in the revision stage of their thematic essays. The 7th graders read from a variety of novels with social justice themes. After completing the novels, we held discussions about race and race identity and social injustice displayed in literature. The 7th grade students are in the revision process of their character analysis essays. They are working hard creating solid thesis statements and locating specific text to support their claims. In April, we began a poetry unit. Students read, analyzed and discussed poems by Bronte, Poe, Kipling, and Whitman, just to name a few. They learned the difference between connotation and denotation. The students collected ideas for poems and will continue to write their own poems, inspired from ones read in class. Everyone continued their word study lessons and quizzes.


Seventh and eighth graders began the month of April by building Delta Dart rubber-band powered airplanes and cars powered by snapping mousetraps. Through these constructions, students learned the importance of reading detailed directions and accurately measuring and constructing parts.

During our annual Earth Day activities, 7th and 8th grade students take a leadership role in teaching younger children about the ecology of the stream and the importance of good water quality. During the week before Earth Day, the 5th and 6th graders discovered an alarmingly high pH level and conductivity level. The 7th and 8th graders followed up by researching water quality topics such as non-point pollution, conductivity, and possible natural causes of elevated pH. We reported our daily pH data to the DEP and they began a full-blown investigation and sent us reports of their tests. On Earth Day, 7th and 8th graders led their small groups of younger students to the creek and presented information about the investigation and shared their hopes for the future health of the stream.