English focuses on: composition, literature, reading comprehension strategies and analysis, grammar and usage, spelling, and vocabulary development. Oral communication and listening skills are also emphasized, and time is provided for independent reading. Additional reading, writing, or research projects are integrated with other disciplines – for example, while students are studying the Civil War era in history, they read historical fiction on slavery in English class. Sessions via Skype with authors, graphic novels, literature circles, book clubs, and a focus on writing genres are also included.
Students move from basic arithmetic to the skills and applications needed in geometry and algebra. Mathematical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving are integral parts of mathematics study. In grades five, six, and seven, students utilize the renowned Singapore Math program, supplemented by many additional resources. In eighth grade, three tiers of math are offered: Introduction to Algebra, Algebra, and Algebra I Honors. Higher levels of math are available in the Upper School for qualified exceptional students.
The Middle School social studies curriculum focuses on teaching students to become more aware of themselves and the world around them. Students study a wide range of topics covering world and American history, cultural geography, and civics. Two outstanding features of our social studies curriculum are a full semester of economics in seventh grade and the National History Day project for all eighth-graders.
In today’s world, every child needs to be scientifically literate. Through reading, discussion, research, experimentation, and exploration, students learn the vocabulary, methods, topics, and resources that form the basics of the study of science. Dedicated science laboratories allow students to employ the scientific method through inquiry-based learning. This approach, coupled with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) emphasis, guides and engages students, preparing them for the next level. All eighth-graders participate in a science fair project.
Our world language classes are interactive and include reading, writing, conversation, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, as well as the study of the culture in French and Spanish-speaking countries. An Introduction to Spanish course is offered to incoming seventh- and eighth-grade students who may not have previously had the opportunity to pursue a world language.
Our Middle School library is a welcoming place for students and teachers to research, collaborate, study, and read. Research skills are taught by our librarian and classroom teachers, and information literacy skills are incorporated into the regular classroom instruction. Students learn how to evaluate information and have access to a variety of print and online resources. The library offers an outstanding current collection of juvenile and young adult fiction as well as a variety of databases. The USM libraries offer a program that makes e-books available 24/7.
Drama: It is unusual to find a drama program for students in this age group – let alone one that offers students the foundation to develop speaking skills, self-confidence, and expand their comfort zones by taking risks in a safe, supportive environment. Students move from ensemble work to individual performance and, by seventh grade, focus on how theatre can be used to express thoughts, feelings, and opinions of current events and social topics.
Music: Students continue to explore and develop their knowledge of music. They learn through performance and choose band, orchestra, or chorus to develop their singing or playing skills. World drumming is an additional choice for eighth-graders. All students learn about music history, literacy, and composition as they prepare for concerts, optional competitions, or complete music assignments. Students participating in band or orchestra are required to take additional individual lessons at School for an additional fee or with a teacher of their choice off-campus. All performance classes and most music lessons meet during the students’ regular school day.
Visual Arts: The curriculum covers instruction in art history, art criticism, aesthetics, and art production. Goals include understanding concepts and the content of art, valuing creative behavior, self exploration, and craftsmanship. Students create art through a variety of techniques and are expected to maintain a working art binder that includes assignments, notes, preliminary sketches, critiques, and reflections.
University School is committed to providing a program that engages students in individual and team activities that promote lifetime health and fitness, with a major emphasis placed on effort and personal responsibility. Students participate in physical education four out of eight days in each schedule cycle.
Every Middle School student has an adviser who is his or her social and academic advocate. Students meet with their advisers every morning as well as one period during the six day cycle. With oversight provided by our Middle School Counselor and faculty representatives from each grade level, the curriculum includes a variety of age-appropriate topics including: leadership, peer relationships, growth and change, decision making, citizenship, digital citizenship, community service, and character education, as well as academic counseling.
Close communication between student, adviser, and parent is an integral part of the advising program, which aims to develop students socially, academically, and emotionally with an emphasis on responsibility and growth.
Athletics and Intramurals
Athletics and intramurals play an important role in many students’ lives and participation is encouraged by our no-cut policy.