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Middle School

Welcome

Dear Parents and Students,

What is so unique about a Middle School education at Solebury School? Here, the 7th and 8th grades are years of excitement, of wonder, and of enormous growth potential. Solebury’s Middle School is a school within a school. It combines a small, safe environment with room to explore while providing a strong academic and social foundation for high school. It is a place where students and teachers work with each other, rather than against each other. It is a place where students are known and appreciated for who they are and the different talents they possess. There is no slipping through the cracks here. The challenging academics we provide, the guidance and support we offer, and the opportunities that exist here result in success for our students.

I encourage you to take some time and learn more about Solebury’s Middle School. Check out our Middle School FAQs (PDF) and browse this section of the website. Then come visit us; you’ll see and feel what is special about Solebury from the moment you step on campus. I look forward to meeting you.

If you have any questions, please contact me at cnelson@solebury.org.

Sincerely,

Cari Nelson
Middle School Director

Academics

Academics

We believe that the intellectual and analytical abilities of Middle School students have been under-appreciated for far too long. In an environment such as our Middle School program — where intellectualism, eagerness to learn, and empathy for the people and world around you are the cool things to do — what these students are capable of is limitless.

Our two-year curriculum features a multi-disciplinary and inquiry-based approach with integrated classes in English, Social Studies, and Science. This allows for greater depth and mastery, as well as enabling students to appreciate the way these subjects are connected and relevant to the world the students see. One year is focused on an examination of “Local and Global Voices,” delving into our region’s history and the environmental issues we face, then expanding to a global perspective. As culture, history, and science are best learned experientially, Middle School students will travel regionally, beginning with a trip to Overlook Farm run by Heifer International, and their global study will culminate with an international trip. The other year focuses on an in-depth study of “Identity, Connection, and Change.” Students will wrestle with questions such as: What makes us who we are as individuals and as a society? What connects us to others? What are the dynamics that create individual and societal change? This year is highlighted by overnight trips to an Environmental Education Center and to Washington DC. During both years, students will work in our educational garden to bring the science concepts they study to life and to experience the thrill and pride that comes from creating something.

Entering Solebury in Middle School also gives students a head start for high school. In math, each will have completed at least Algebra 1 with some having completed Geometry as well. This will enable them to reach the most challenging courses in these departments while also having the ability to fully explore the array of electives Solebury offers. In other subjects, students will have received instruction specifically tailored to prepare them for what they will encounter in our upper school.

After completing these two years, students will be equipped with the foundational knowledge and the cognitive and practical skills to enter our Upper School ready to lead, to handle any challenge, and to shine.


The Middle School Lounge

The Middle School Lounge — Where Kids Can Be Kids

While Middle School students enjoy the entire campus and all of our facilities, we believe it is important that they have their own space. The Middle School Lounge is where their lockers are located, where they hang out, and where they have access to computers to do their work. Here, they can also find the Middle School Director for a word of advice or encouragement, or help with their homework.



Be Safe

Be Safe, Be Guided and Be Cared For

Seventh and eighth grade are years of intellectual, emotional, and physical change for young people. In our Middle School program, these changes are positive as the students become young adults who are confident, conscientious, and caring, and who thrive in high school. They are this way because Solebury’s Middle School is an intimate, family-like environment. Under the watchful eyes of the Middle School Director, faculty and upper school mentors, students learn how to work together and respect one another’s individuality. Because we keep the classes small, we are able to take only terrific people whose values, whose character, and whose talents will contribute positively to the classes, to the social dynamic, and to the school in general. Our P.E. class includes a health and wellness component, which focuses on healthy relationships and decision making, arming the students to effectively deal with the issues that accompany these years. As a result of all these factors, students go through their days feeling safe and able to focus on learning.

So Much to Experience

So Much to Experience

At Solebury, there are a myriad of opportunities for Middle School students to experience new things, to have fun and to coalesce as a group. We will do many things on our own — team building activities, outings to local attractions, community service projects and a host of Solebury Middle School traditions — which bring the curriculum to life, create the positive social environment that exists here, and make the classroom dynamic a cohesive and productive one. Our connections with other independent Middle Schools in the region also allow us to give our students both the safe, family-like environment which serves them so well, as well as a broad social experience. Dances and other activities with these schools, as well as the regional trips students will go on, help make these years ones they'll always treasure!


Tip Sheets

These "tip sheets" from the Middle School Director help middle school students with homework and study habits and organization. The tip sheets may also help parents.

Abundant Opportunities

Abundant Opportunities

In addition to all the programming and activities that exist solely for the Middle School, our seventh and eighth graders also reap the benefits of being a part of the whole school and what it has to offer. Do you love theater? You can join the cast of a play. Do you love soccer? Go practice with the team. Are you curious about a club? Attend one of the club meetings. Students can participate in a number of after-school activities (clubs such as Rock Climbing, Fitness, Ultimate Frisbee, Yearbook and more) — or, during school hours, participate in activities such as Musical Theater Dance, Engineering Class, Chorus, Rock Band, Instrumental Ensemble and more. The ability to get involved with activities such as these so early in their school careers enables students to enter the upper school already having found a niche, or several of them, where they can contribute their talents to the community. Because of this, our Middle School students often wind up as the leaders of various programs by the time they are upperclassmen.

There are also a variety of weekend activities hosted by groups on campus that our Middle School students are welcome to attend. Among other things, they can perform in or attend the Coffee Houses, they can try new foods and learn about world cultures at an international holiday celebration, or they can attend one of the film festivals put on by the Spanish or French honor societies.

While these opportunities help broaden their horizons, they also allow our Middle School students to meet and get to know fellow Solebury students from all over the globe — Korea, China, Germany, and various other countries. This head start, becoming the global citizens the world will need in the future, cannot be overstated.

Homework

Homework

"How much homework will students have?" is one of the questions we are most often asked by Middle School applicants' families. We understand the root of the question. Like many of you, we struggle with two competing desires. We want our students to have enough work where they stretch themselves, where they are challenged, and where they learn how to manage their time. However, it is equally important that students this age have time to be children, to engage in outside activities and to have the family time that is so important at these ages. Balance in life is important, and we work to achieve a balance between these competing interests by doing several things:

  1. Our schedule is set up so that each student has at least an hour on any given day to do some of their work. Getting the students to recognize this and to use this time productively is one of the skills we seek to develop in them.
  2. Our main academic classes rotate, and each meets five out of every six days. One of the real advantages of this is that students don't have all of their classes every day; therefore, they don't have every class' homework to do every night.
  3. The Middle School faculty frequently meets to discuss what each has coming up and they try as much as possible to stagger their tests and assignments. Through these meetings as well as through her conversations with the students, the Middle School Director can intervene when necessary and try to keep the students from getting overloaded.
  4. Being aware that this is an issue enables the faculty to reflect on how much homework is necessary to achieve the desired outcome, whether it is mastery of a subject or concept or the development of the skill.

As a result, students generally have approximately one to two hours of homework each night, but the time they have during the day to do some of this work should allow them to keep the amount they need to do at home from being overwhelming.


The Curriculum

"The Middle School experience prepared me so well for high school. Being with the same classmates for most of the day really helped me develop socially, while the available high school courses challenged me academically. The Middle School faculty, in particular, was always supportive in helping us transition to high school. I had the opportunity to take high school classes and interact with high school students! By the end of eighth grade, I knew exactly what I was up against, and how to best handle it.”
—BRETT GLAUSER '11

Middle School Curriculum

Although seventh and eighth graders are encouraged, when deemed appropriate, to take courses that earn high school credit, the following courses have been designed for their own needs. These courses do not earn high school credit, but are intended to prepare the student for high school work in the disciplines.

Students are not required to sign up for an after-school activity. They may leave campus at 3:20pm each day after the academic day ends. If they are leaving at 3:20 each day, they can sign up for an after-school activity where attendance is taken and their day ends at 5pm. Buses come at 5:20pm.

(ICC = Identity, Connection and Change)

Year 1

ICC History

The goal of the ICC History class is to encourage students to think critically about increasingly complex material in a fun and creative environment. We will look at the key questions raised in the ICC program through historical and literary lenses (the English and History will dovetail and offer complementary content). ICC History will also focus on expository and research writing and there will also be an emphasis on critical reading to understand perspective and bias. The students will also begin learning the process of research in order to answer the questions of history and provide sufficient evidence when making claims. In conjunction with the work students will engage in English, students will learn to listen, think, question, and express their opinions confidently about a variety of issues. There is a mandatory summer reading assignment and skills work. 6 credits.

ICC English

The goal of this class is to expose students to the ways in which society is developed and explore how literature helps us both understand the world we live in, and imagine the world we wish we could inhabit. As part of the ICC program’s integrated curriculum, this course will encourage students to explore the connections between literature, history, their environment, and personal identity. Students will deepen skills of textual analysis and will be able to understand and interpret both fictional and non-fictional works. The year is divided by trimester into three thematic units, focusing on subjects that include mythology, utopia, dystopia, and social change. Throughout the year, students will work on writing and grammar with a variety of self-reflective, creative, and expository writing assignments as well as pointed vocabulary lessons to deepen students’ understanding of the course readings. The class is designed to help students learn to listen, think, question and express their ideas and opinions on paper with confidence and skill. 6 credits

Pre-Algebra (or Honors Algebra or Geometry)

This course studies the mathematical concepts that are essential prerequisites for Algebra I. Arithmetic operations using the rational number system are examined, with an emphasis placed on signed numbers. Students review and extend their knowledge of ratios, proportions, percentage, exponents, basic geometry, probability, mental math, and the metric system. They learn to solve multi-step equations and inequalities, graph linear equations, and use scientific notation. Independent work as well as group work is used as a teaching tool to foster student learning and throughout the course an emphasis is placed on critical thinking skills using word problems and problem solving situations. To prepare for the demands of a high school mathematics course, study strategies, organization, and note taking techniques are underlying skills that Pre-Algebra students develop and practice throughout the year. 6 credits

Some middle school students may be ready to take more advanced mathematics courses for high school credit.

World Cultures (or Spanish 1 or French 1)

The World Language and Culture class is designed to give our new middle school students an introductory experience of each of the three languages offered by Solebury: French, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. Students complete one trimester of each, exploring the languages and cultures through dynamic activities and practice. Through this course progression, students develop global competence and cultural sensitivity while learning the fundamental skills of language study. Students who have completed this course with strong results may then opt to enroll in French I or Spanish I, which would then put them on track to reach the Advanced Placement level by the time they reach 12th grade. 6 credits

Physical Science

This is a hands-on, inquiry-based course. The central theme will be an empirical study of matter beginning with measurement, scientific method, solutions and ending the year discussing atomic theory. Students will perform experiments, gather data and draw conclusions based on their evidence. Throughout the year we will touch on topics that are interwoven into their ICC History and ICC English class. We will test our scientific method skills by recreating some Myth busters experiments while they talk about Myths and Legends in English class and test document preservation methods when they are talking about the Declaration of Independence in History. Emphasis will be on learning through experimentation. 6 credits

Middle School Physical Education and Life Skills

Taken all three trimesters, our students will learn how to lead healthier lives, physically and emotionally. In Physical Education, the students learn the rules and skills to participate in soccer, track, field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and softball. During Life Skills, we cover stress management, study skills, fundamentals of a healthy relationships, hygiene, and nutrition.

Introduction to the Arts: Theater

This introductory theater class is designed to develop students’ abilities to take on a role, enhance their confidence in front of an audience, and work collaboratively to stage a performance. The course culminates with a play performance in the evening for parents. Prerequisite: None. 1 credit

Introduction to the Arts: Guitar

This class is a group performance class for beginners of guitar. Students will learn the basics on the guitar, including how to tune the instrument, theory, reading treble clef, basic rhythms, and simple chords. There will be a focus on learning to listen and play in groups, and we will learn some songs with common chord progressions, and experience singing while accompanying. Prerequisite: None. 1 credit

Introduction to the Arts: Swing Dancing or Robotics

Get out your zoot suit and get ready to be a hep cat! Learn to dance with a partner and kick up your heels like the “Swing Kids” in the popular movie. The term "swing dance" commonly refers to a group of dances that developed concurrently with the swing style of jazz music in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. The best known of these dances is the Lindy Hop, a popular partner dance that originated in Harlem and is still danced today. We will start with the basics and move up to partner lifts and tricks. We will also study some of the history of this era in American history. Bring your dancing shoes because we will be “cutting the rug!” 1 credit

Robotics is designed to be an educational and entertaining single trimester introduction to Robotics and applied STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts. We will utilize a variety of resources including Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics kits to design basic robotic and mechanical systems while we explore the concepts of logic and design that make our systems complete their expected tasks. This class does not require extensive computer skills as a prerequisite. Group and project based learning will be emphasized. Prerequisite: None. 1 credit

Year 2

ICC History: Local and Global Perspectives

This class is an investigation into the student‟s immediate world (Bucks County, PA) as well as a study of world geography. Students will discuss how human history (particularly in Bucks County, PA) evolved, how peoples and how their cultural traits spread through trade, conquest and religion. The modern countries are learned along with the physical geography; ICC History emphasizes the physical setting and the movements of peoples, cultures, cultural traits and religion. Historical texts, maps, literature, myth, and art are all used to study the various ethnic groups that have inhabited and continue to live in Philadelphia, PA. Various skills will be addressed throughout the year, the most important of which is the development of vocabulary in the field of history, politics, and social science. We will also stress more sophisticated writing, including very clear comparisons and explanations, as well as the use of apt examples and evidence. As part of their interdisciplinary culminating project within the first trimester, students will relate an oral history with a local farmer or agricultural worker and write a narrative transmitting that person‟s experiences using their iPads and iMovie as a tool for expression.

In the second trimester, students will examine the experiences and events that led immigrants from “the Americas” to move to the United States. During this trimester there will be more emphasis on social structure and politics: the use of power by those who wield it over other people within their own societies and over outside peoples. Students will examine the Cuban Revolution, political, social and economic issues related to Mexican immigration as well as various environmental challenges facing Latin America.

Students in the third trimester will expand their inquiry to encompass broader geographic areas such as Europe and Asia. Students will examine modern civilization and how it changes – that is, how and why civilizations flourished and then declined or disappeared. Thus the emphasis will be on modern empire builders and empire destroyers, gender relations, the creation of classes and class struggles. As part of the students‟ interdisciplinary culminating project, they will produce a narrative that expresses an aspect or multiple aspects of their own cultural identity, linked to a larger exploration of the historical and current identities of a particular country or region.

ICC English: Local and Global Voices

The goal of this class is to expose students to the ways in which expressions of identity can be transmitted through the written word, and to develop the skills necessary to both analyze and produce narrative. As part of the ICC program's integrated curriculum, this course will encourage students to explore the connections between literature and cultural identity. Students will learn how to engage in textual analysis in order to better understand and interpret both fictional and non-fictional works. The year is divided by trimester into three thematic units, focusing on the diversity of literature and experiences in our global community: Local Voices, Voices of the Americas, and Global Voices. Throughout the year, students will work on writing and grammar with a variety of self-reflective, creative, and expository writing assignments as well as pointed vocabulary lessons to deepen students' understanding of the course readings.

In the fall trimester, we will focus on the writings of local authors, particularly regarding the region's agricultural and industrial history. We will study the expression of collective and individual identities in literature, through the study of narrative voice and setting. As part of their interdisciplinary culminating project, students will conduct an interview with a local farmer or agricultural worker and write a narrative transmitting that person's experiences using the techniques of storytelling that we've studied.

In the winter trimester, we will focus on the personal experiences of natives of and immigrants to the Americas. Our goal will be to explore the complexity of immigration in light of the conception and expression of national and cultural identity, with a focus on the themes and narrative techniques employed by authors to convey plural identities.

In the spring trimester, we will focus on the personal experiences of natives of and immigrants from Europe and Asia. We will be particularly interested in the ways in which the written word can express metamorphoses of culture and identity engendered by shifting social currents and places. As part of their interdisciplinary culminating project, students will produce a narrative that expresses an aspect or multiple aspects of their own cultural identity, linked to a larger exploration of the historical and current identities of a particular country or region.

ICC Science: Local and Global Environmental Science

This is an inquiry-based Environmental Science class taught on an interdisciplinary level with English and History for Middle School students. We will look at our local landscape over the last 200 years and see how our past actions affect us today. Students will also be working in our school garden and learning where our own food comes from while visiting local farms. During the winter term we will be looking at ecosystems and sustainability within the Americas. Then, in the spring term we will be looking at environmental issues such as renewable resources and climate change and how they are being addressed in Europe and Asia. Several projects will be assigned throughout the year, along with weekend and day trips to enrich the curriculum.

Pre-Algebra (or Honors Algebra or Geometry)

This course studies the mathematical concepts that are essential prerequisites for Algebra I. Arithmetic operations using the rational number system are examined, with an emphasis placed on signed numbers. Students review and extend their knowledge of ratios, proportions, percentage, exponents, basic geometry, probability, mental math, and the metric system. They learn to solve multi-step equations and inequalities, graph linear equations, and use scientific notation. Independent work as well as group work is used as a teaching tool to foster student learning and throughout the course an emphasis is placed on critical thinking skills using word problems and problem solving situations. To prepare for the demands of a high school mathematics course, study strategies, organization, and note taking techniques are underlying skills that Pre-Algebra students develop and practice throughout the year. 6 credits

Some middle school students may be ready to take more advanced mathematics courses for high school credit.

World Cultures (or Spanish 1 or French 1)

The World Language and Culture class is designed to give our new middle school students an introductory experience of each of the three languages offered by Solebury: French, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. Students complete one trimester of each, exploring the languages and cultures through dynamic activities and practice. Through this course progression, students develop global competence and cultural sensitivity while learning the fundamental skills of language study. Students who have completed this course with strong results may then opt to enroll in French I or Spanish I, which would then put them on track to reach the Advanced Placement level by the time they reach 12th grade. 6 credits

Middle School Fitness

Taken all three trimesters, our students will learn how to lead healthier lives, physically and emotionally. In Physical Education the students learn the rules and skills to participate in soccer, track, field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and softball.

Introduction to the Arts: Studio Arts

Students work on 2- and 3-dimensional design, color theory and art appreciation. Students will use a variety of mediums so as to gain an understanding of the various approaches to art and self-expression.

Introduction to the Arts: Theater

This is an introductory theater class designed to develop students' abilities to take on a role, enhance their confidence in front of an audience, and work collaboratively to stage a performance. The course culminates with a play performance in the evening for parents.

Introduction to the Arts: Music

This class, an introduction to Gamelan music, gives students the opportunity to explore the ancient orchestral traditions of Indonesia. Students will not only investigate Indonesian culture and musical heritage, but they will learn side by side, in a hands-on way, how to play this beautiful and meditative music.

"The Middle School experience prepared me so well for high school. Being with the same classmates for most of the day really helped me develop socially, while the available high school courses challenged me academically. The Middle School faculty, in particular, was always supportive in helping us transition to high school. At Solebury, I had the opportunity to take high school classes, and interact with high school students! By the end of eighth grade, I knew exactly what I was up against, and how to best handle it.”
—BRETT GLAUSER '11

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