Middle School Curriculum
Middle School is a time in a student's education in which critical learning skills that often set the tone for the future are imparted. During the Middle School years, students cultivate independent thinking, grasp time management, hone writing skills, confront academic challenges, acclimate to abstract thinking, and form friendships that will last a lifetime.
Middle School students also attend specialized classes taught by expert instructors in mathematics, science, debate, and language. In addition to the core courses outlined below, there are also a host of specialty classes including physical education, music, creative and computational thinking, and art. Students are encouraged to explore interests through a variety of offered electives and lunch clubs, including robotics, social justice, rock band, film, literary magazine, and more. For more information on electives and lunch clubs, click here.
FIFTH GRADE: HUMAN ORIGINS, MIGRATION, AND EARLY SOCIETIES
Students explore human origins, early migration patterns, and the development of civilizations in the ancient world. They explore how early nomadic societies evolved into settled agricultural societies in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Students also explore the themes and elements of what makes a society a civilization. Fifth graders study geography, read mythology, analyze primary sources, and acquire a hands-on understanding of ancient cultures through projects and field trips. In the past few years, a culminating event has been the presentation of two Greek plays staged by the students.
SIXTH GRADE: EMPIRES
Students analyze the characteristics of vast political entities, paying particular attention to their influence on the spread of cultural, intellectual, and technological innovation. When exploring important empires, students engage with primary sources, interpret their significance, and employ them in composing analytical essays and presentations. Focusing on the written word, students also read Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Students learn the craft of communication by composing personal essays, expanding their vocabulary, and bolstering their skillful use of the mechanics of writing.
SEVENTH GRADE: REVOLUTIONS
How do new ideas shape culture? Where does creativity come from? Why does culture change? How does the idea of the individual affect society? What does it mean to be human? Considering these questions, students will delve into the Renaissance and Reformation, the Enlightenment, women’s role in revolutions throughout history, the history of Africa and the revolution in the Dominican Republic. Narrative texts focus on revolution and the concepts of breaking away from societal norms, taking personal responsibility for our actions or not taking responsibility for our actions, in addition to exploring whose history is told, whose is omitted, and why. Texts students may read include Julius Caesar, House on Mango Street, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Expository texts focuses on the ideas behind revolutions and a basic history/context of events, with coursework emphasizing expository writing and project-based learning.
EIGHTH GRADE: THE UNITED STATES IN THE MODERN WORLD
In eighth grade Humanities, students wrestle with the emergence of modern America as they seek to develop an authentic historical and narrative voice though an interdisciplinary course of study.
A key theme of the course is What is History? and, What do Historians do? Students explore the notion that history is a narrative and that they are historians. They confront difficult questions and to try and see different points of view (without necessarily endorsing or agreeing with them). They also consider what has to happen in a community to allow slavery, genocide, or a failure to honor human rights to happen, and, importantly, what can be learned from history so that such things will not and cannot happen on their watch.
Texts that students read may include: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, March by Geraldine Brooks, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. One of the highlights of this course includes a performance-based study of Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
The course of study also includes investigating the Holocaust, which incorporates a visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and a small group investigation of the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman. Students end the year with a detailed study of the Cold War and the Civil Rights era, tying their analysis to what they have learned and investigated over the course of the year.
All Middle School math courses at Speyer are accelerated above nominal grade levels by at least one year. Fifth and sixth grade courses incorporate elements of Singapore Math and include material and instructional techniques that transcend that approach. Seventh and eighth grade courses range from high school level algebra to geometry, including some college level topics.
Members of our Middle School Math Team participate in several prestigious competitions, including MathCounts, AMC 8 and 10, and the Math Olympiads for Middle School. In the spring, Speyer hosts the Girls’ Adventures in Math, a contest originated in 2016 by Speyer in cooperation with Math-M-Addicts.
Speyer’s Middle School math program focuses at all times on the particular needs of accelerated learners. We are guided by three simple principles:
Technical proficiency is indispensable, but active reasoning is supreme.
A math course must challenge the intellect, inspire imaginative thinking, and nurture self-confidence.
Mathematics confers huge pragmatic benefits, but the best reason to do math is for pleasure.
Middle School Science at Speyer is all about exploring scientific phenomena through a hands-on, project-based lens. We do not focus on breaking apart the discipline into rigid archetypal categories such as biology, chemistry, and physics, but rather, we explore the areas where they connect using creative projects, theater, lab based experiments, building explorations, discussions, and debates. Past collaborative projects have included joint efforts between Humanities, Physical Education, Music, Art, and Math. The goal of Science at Speyer is to nurture inquisitive and critical students who look at all aspects of a scientific problem and to work together as a team to create solutions.
Science at Speyer also uses the world as its lab. Students conduct field work in Manhattan as well as trips outside of the city. Students explore the variety of museums and cultural institutions in the area.
WORLD Language STUDY
In Middle School, Students learn Spanish by continuing an immersion program that begins in Kindergarten.
Our curriculum emphasizes mastery of practical grammar and an understanding and appreciation of the diverse cultures and traditions of the Spanish speaking world. Skills such as listening, comprehension, conversation, reading, writing, and cultural literacy are presented in a dynamic and integrated way.
Using a variety of authentic multimedia materials as well as textbooks and workbooks, students communicate effectively with teachers. As part of their annual learning outcomes, students are expected to generate their own content in final projects combining other subjects such as art, literature, history, and current events.