Middle School (6th through 8th Grades)
In middle school, teachers build upon the students’ prior school experiences, using a variety of classroom activities to develop important reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. In sixth grade, students will read a range of challenging books, articles, and texts, and will be expected to show their understanding of the material by responding to questions and contributing to class discussions. In writing, students will continue to work on their use of language, sentence structure, and organization of ideas. They will also be expected to combine information from more than one source and respond to content through written interpretation and analysis. In seventh grade, students will continue to develop the ability to cite relevant evidence when analyzing a text or supporting their points in speaking and writing. Students will also build academic vocabulary as they read more complex texts, including stories, plays, historical novels, poems, and informational books and articles. In eighth grade, students will read a variety of fiction and nonfiction from around the world and from different time periods. They will continue to build comprehension of what they read and evaluate an author’s assumptions and claims. Students will also conduct research that will require the analysis of text and online resources and accurate interpretation of literary and informational texts. Students in all grades will write regularly and continue to develop their ability to gather, organize, interpret, and present information using the rules of spoken and written English.
Students in the middle school are developing more abstract understandings of many mathematical principles. Middle school math is taught in two levels – a standard grade level course and an accelerated curriculum. Students in the accelerated path will complete Algebra I by the end of their 8th grade year. Students on the standard path will complete pre-algebra. Each grade level has its own major area of focus; students working on the accelerated curriculum will compact these concepts in order to add the additional year for Algebra I. In sixth grade, students will learn the concepts of rates and ratios and use these tools to solve word problems. Students will calculate using all four operations on multi-digit decimals and whole numbers. Students will extend their previous work with fractions and decimals to understand the concept of rational numbers. Students will also learn how to write and solve equations and apply these skills in solving multi-step word problems. In seventh grade, students will further develop their understanding of rates and ratios, using visuals and equations to solve real-world problems involving proportional relationships. Students will also work on solving multi-step problems involving positive and negative rational numbers. Students will also expand their knowledge of geometry and apply the properties of operations to solve real world problems involving the measurement of multi-dimensional objects. In eighth grade, students will expand their understanding of unit rates and proportional relationships in order to connect these concepts to points on a line and to use them to solve linear equations requiring algebraic reasoning and knowledge of the properties of operations. Students will also expand their understanding of numbers beyond rational numbers to include numbers that are irrational.
Students are encouraged to find ways to apply their mathematical understandings to science, history, and the world outside of their classroom to develop a real-world context grounded in practical application. Teachers also support students in developing the perseverance and problem solving skills necessary for success with future math concepts.
Science instruction in middle school prepares students for more advanced study at the high school level. It includes a combination of direct classroom instruction with hands-on experiments in the middle school science lab. Students develop their understanding of scientific inquiry through observation, prediction, experimentation, and drawing conclusions. By the end of their 8th grade year, St. Mary’s students have a broad range of experiences using many tools of “real” science such as graphing calculators, Vernier probes, and “probeware” on laptops for use in data collection and analysis. Students in sixth grade focus their studies primarily on Earth and Space Science, including the universe and the atmosphere; and Physical Science, including energy and forces of nature. Seventh grade explores in depth areas of Life Science, including cells, the flow of matter and energy, and heredity; as well as characteristics of the Earth, its resources, and the effects of human interaction; and motion in the physical sciences. Eighth grade explores biodiversity and change, matter, and forces in nature such as electricity and magnetism. In addition to their regular course of study, middle school students participate in a six-month guided science project that culminates in school and regional science fairs. St. Mary’s School has had the Grand or Reserve Champion at the regional Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair for 11 out of the last 15 years.
In middle school, students focus on specific areas of geography and history, studying in greater depth areas previously touched upon in the intermediate grades. In sixth grade students will analyze the shift from nomadic to agricultural societies. Students will study the development of civilizations, including the areas of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome. This study will include the impact of geography, early history, cultural development, and economic change. Sixth grade history will conclude with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. In seventh grade students will study world geography with an emphasis on the cultures and geography of the modern world. This course will explore the impact of culture, economics, geography, and governance on the development of modern society. Students will explore the patterns of human settlement and how human factors influence a place. They will also develop an understanding of the impact of individual and group decisions on citizens and communities. In eighth grade students will study the European exploration of North America, along with the geographic features that influenced early settlements. The major events, outcomes and individuals of the Revolutionary War will be analyzed. Students will follow the development of the United States and its government through the early 19th century, including policies that affected the American Indians. The events leading up to the Civil War will be examined, along with the individuals and events that were significant during the war. The history, people, government, and geography of Tennessee will be emphasized in order to illustrate the role our state has played in American history. Eighth grade will conclude with Reconstruction and the development of the American West.
In middle school, beyond the content specified by the course, students will also develop research, analytic, and critical thinking skills through the evaluation of evidence, interpretation of primary sources, and writing in response to their historical study.
At St. Mary’s School teachers recognize that all children develop at different rates and have differing abilities and interests. Our approach to education looks at the whole child, not the sum of discrete academic areas. In addition to direct academic instruction in the content areas and religion, students attend weekly classes in art, music, physical education, and Spanish. They also attend a Project-based Learning class twice weekly. Students explore areas of personal interest that tap into hands-on learning, like bridge building or roller coaster design, and/or technology-based projects, such as 3D modeling, video game design and coding. These experiences enrich the academic program and offer cross-curricular connections to the classroom when possible.