Middle School Overview
As a middle school community, our primary philosophy is to foster an environment based in Christian faith and build a community that encourages Catholic values. We provide opportunities to foster skills needed for independent learning. This includes personal responsibility and accountability for behavior and personal conduct as well as in academics. We promote student collaboration to facilitate a safe atmosphere for students to listen and articulate their understanding to each other respectfully. We provide examples so students of all levels can learn to challenge themselves to higher personal standards while instilling a sense of confidence and humility.
The sixth grade students take what they’ve learned about fractions, multiplication, and division and extend it to the concepts of ratios, rates, percents, and converting measures. They learn clues to help translate word problems and develop organized processes to simplify expressions and solve equations. They use graphics to summarize and compare data – especially data about themselves. The students break apart geometric shapes and space figures to find area and volume and understand the formulas.
In the seventh grade, the students use what they know about ratios and rates to understand proportions and their many uses. These are explored through words, equations, graphs, tables, and diagrams with real world situations such as finding the scale of a satellite view of our school. The students draw, describe relationships of, and measure angles and scaled figures. Circles, operations with negative numbers, methods of sampling populations, and probability are all explored.
The patterns spoken of in grades six and seven take on more variety in eighth grade. The eighth graders learn practical uses of exponents (scientific notation), roots, and the Pythagorean Theorem. They expand their translations of real world situations to include inequalities and equations with two variables. More formal algebra concepts are introduced and manipulated by the students through diagrams, graphs, tables.
Roman Catholic Theology
The Archdiocese of Boston Catholic Schools Office has just released a new set of Faith Formation Standards that will be implemented over the course of the 2016/2017 school year. Each standard sets clear expectations for what students should know, understand and be able to do based on the pillars of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The six tasks of catechesis are embedded in all of the standards.
Traditionally, middle school students at St. Patrick School learn about God’s Covenant, Jesus and the Church. Students in grade 6 learn about God’s Covenant from the Old Testament in preparation for the Kingdom of God. Students in grade 7 learn about Jesus’ teachings, the Kingdom, the Paschal Mystery, and how we need to continue to be Christians. Students in grade 8 learn about the Church from early history to modern day.
The Created for Love foundational moral theology program designed by the Respect Life Education Office is integrated into the existing religion curricula focusing on God’s plan for life, love, relationships, & marriage. Reflection, research and writing assignments augment students’ understanding of content. Prayer celebrations, prayer services and community service projects are experienced by all students throughout middle school.
The language arts curriculum is comprised of three components: grammar, creative writing / Writer’s Workshop, and vocabulary and is aligned with the Common Core curriculum. Students receive instruction in the proper grammar of the English language as it relates to written and oral communication. A supplemental vocabulary program entitled Wordly Wise is used in conjunction with the grammar component to expand the student’s vocabulary and allow the students the opportunity to apply their newly acquired vocabulary in daily reading, writing, and speaking.
The Writer’s Workshop element of the course provides opportunities for the practice of grammar concepts and to reinforce lessons on vocabulary, spelling, sentence structure, parts of speech, capitalization and punctuation. Students experience mini-lessons focused on particular strategies, have independent writing time, conference with the teacher, and have an opportunity to share their work.
Students in the middle school language arts program become proficient in formal writing such as persuasive, narrative, and expository essay writing. Students in seventh and eighth grade complete a research paper and learn the basic skills of gathering research, analyzing it, and writing a research paper using primary and secondary sources in preparation for high school.
Literature for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students is mainly studied through lively class discussions, as well as in-depth written reflections. Students in these grades will work to understand the plot, characters, setting, themes, and literary devices of the literature being read. In addition, they will also be asked to analyze works of literature by reading in-between the lines. These works include fiction, short stories, non-fiction, drama, and poetry. A sample of literature spanning the 6th to 8th grade curriculum include:
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Holes by Louis Sachar
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Grayson by Lynne Cox
Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
In addition to these works, students will also be reading selections from their literature anthologies and the Junior Great Books series. These collections will introduce students to the works of authors including O. Henry, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, and Anne Frank. Students will also study historical issues, as well as make modern day connections to the literature they are reading.
A sample of a 7th grade unit is one that focuses on early colonial life in New England. The novel that accompanies this unit is The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. This work of historical fiction introduces students to the period of time leading up The Salem Witch Trials. In addition to discovering ways to relate to the book’s themes, students will also examine the daily life in this region during the 1600s. Students will strive to make modern day connections to the hysteria of 1692, as well as study why events of the past are still so significant in our world today.
The students in sixth grade will explore the world outside the US using the five themes of geography. They will travel to each continent and learn about how its geography influences their history, culture, government, and economic system. Using a project-based curriculum, students will become entrepreneurs, cartographers, and advertising experts to assess their understanding of economics and geography.
Students in seventh grade learn about the wondrous world of Ancient Civilizations. They put on their archaeology hats and explore artifacts and primary sources from Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome. They step back in time to learn about why and where people settled and how a “civilization” was formed and ultimately how many ended.
The eighth grade students follow the MA History Framework pathway of Early US History, beginning with the Declaration of Independence to the Civil War. Students expand upon their writing and critical thinking skills to assess questions around policies of early presidents, preparing them for high school. This rigorous curriculum includes debating current events, learning local and national civics, and what it means to be a good citizen.
The curriculum for Science at St. Patrick’s School Stoneham is a spiral curriculum which encompasses all the sciences (Life, Physical and Earth/Systems) each year. Each unit begins with a review of the previous year’s content, and move to be more in depth each year. This allows students to have exposure to all the fields of science each year.
With the release of the Next Generation Science Standards, a new standard and expectation has been set and will be challenged here at St. Patrick’s. As the new standards state:
“Science is also at the heart of the United States’ ability to continue to innovate, lead, and create the jobs of the future. All students—whether they become technicians in a hospital, workers in a high tech manufacturing facility, or Ph.D. researchers—must have a solid K–12 science education.”
Throughout the year, there is also a heavy focus on scientific skills, specifically experimental design and scientific argumentation; designing experiments and using evidence from experiments to prove their claims. The focus of the curriculum is mastery of these skills and applying them to all of the different content areas in science.