MIDDLE SCHOOL CURRICULAR PHILOSOPHY
The goal of the Museum Middle School curricular structure is to foster the natural curiosity of adolescents at an age where they are becoming increasingly aware of the larger world around them. Through project-based learning, the development of critical thinking skills as they are applied in the classroom is more than just an academic exercise—in an information age, it is essential for healthy civic engagement with the society that these students will inherit as adults.
Healthy civic engagement is actively pursued through the curricular methodologies of the various disciplines. At all times, students are encouraged to develop a relationship to society that is ethical, humane, and involved. Middle school students, in the process of developing an awareness of a larger world and searching for their own place within it, demonstrate a natural and burning curiosity about world events when they are provided with a forum in which to do so. Adolescents want to know about, discuss, and understand these events. An effective middle school classroom is one that celebrates this curiosity and facilitates the discussions that the students yearn for. The interpersonal skills naturally explored in adolescence are therefore harnessed by channeling student energy and curiosity into project-based work that enables them to recognize the benefits of civic engagement that is fostered by working with others.
A central component to successful project-based learning is the enabling of students to recognize their own methods of learning. Students are encouraged to identify their own strengths and, through reflection, target skills that they wish to develop and enhance. Individual reflective work is facilitated through such activities as peer critique, student-led conferences, and Presentations of Learning (POLs).
THE MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAM AT THE MUSEUM SCHOOL
- Facilitates the development of abstract and critical thinking skills, and the application of concrete skills to this process.
- Facilitates the discovery of the larger world, how it works, and the individual’s place within it.
- Facilitates the relationship of the individual to society by making the contingencies of citizenship an active, engaging, and exciting set of responsibilities.
The Common Core Standards for middle school (provide link) are directly addressed through a variety of rigorous and innovative curriculum structures that involves four major components:
- Standard curriculum comprised of instruction in History, Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and in developmental groupings that meets on most school days. Language Arts classes rotate by trimester with successive focuses upon narrative and persuasive writing, literature, and informational materials. Cross-curricular lessons are created wherever feasible.
- Departments comprised of innovative, interdisciplinary, long-term projects that involve multiple grade levels and that rotate throughout the school year (provide examples).
- Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) that involve individualized, inquiry-based, project-based learning. PLPs target research and writing skills, presentation skills, active involvement with community resources, and peer critique.
- Rotations comprised of instruction in art, music, dance, physical education, (including health and nutrition), technology, foreign language, and socio-emotional development.
COMMUNITY BUILDING AND TEAMWORK
Community building and teamwork is integrated into the student’s academic experience in a variety of ways.
- Advisory Program: The Museum School incorporates the Second Step (provide link) program with grade-level activities from kindergarten through 8th grade that provides all students with common problem-solving vocabulary and skills. A school psychologist provides active and consistent consultation. In addition, 6th grade students are provided with guidance in the transition to middle school (such as organizational skills and socio-emotional development), and 8th grade students are guided through an intensive process of reflection upon their academic and social growth through middle school in preparation for the transition to high school.
- Class Trips: 6th grade students attend a four-day program at Camp Marston in Julian where a variety of fun and adventurous activities develop teamwork that carries over back at school. 8th grade students participate in a four-day trip to San Francisco that mixes together fun teambuilding adventures with experiential learning tied directly into the Humanities and Science curricula.
- Student Committees: Middle school students have spearheaded several committees, such as a Dance Committee and a Yearbook team, that have considerably enhanced the school community and spirit. Such student innovation is central to the program philosophy, and proposals for new committees, such as student government, are always considered and encouraged.
- Collaborative Partnerships: The middle school program actively seeks collaboration with community organizations and institutions wherever possible to enhance the learning experience. Partnerships have included such organizations as Edudance, Young Audiences of San Diego, Toussaint Academy, Merrill Gardens Retirement Home, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The museums in Balboa Park are accessible by walking and are utilized frequently. In general, The Museum School’s location in Banker’s Hill facilitates the use of the larger community of San Diego and its many resources.
- Student Mentorship: As a K-8 school with one classroom per grade level, students are provided with ample opportunities to learn from one another. Middle school students are partnered with lower school students for such activities as campus beautification or classroom assistance.
- Presentation Skills: Middle school students have many opportunities through the curricular program to present their projects and learning to larger audiences. Repeated opportunities enable students to develop and refine their presentation skills in preparation for the world that awaits them as adults.
- Active Parent Involvement: Parent communication is highly valued and encouraged. Direct parent involvement through volunteering significantly enhances the middle school program. Teachers and parents are considered to be partners in the education of Museum Middle School children.
- After School Program and Partnerships: The Prime Time before-and-after school program, run by the YMCA, is considered to be an integral part of the school community rather than simply a service for working parents. Prime Time staff and teachers communicate regularly and actively seek to navigate a child’s experience throughout all portions of their day. In addition, after-school classes are offered through partnering organizations in such activities as chess, Ballet Folklorico and hip hop dance, Gamelan, and Spanish.