Middle School Program
Our middle school curriculum (grades 5-8) is designed to deliver excellent academics that will fully prepare students for high school; however, our hallmark is delivering those academics in a way that recognizes each student's unique approach to learning. Our teachers challenge students and also give them the opportunity to create, to imagine, and to enjoy the fun of learning.
Three times per week, our middle school students spend 30 minutes in an advisory meeting where students meet in small groups with grade-specific advisors to discuss social issues or classroom ideas and concerns. All of these meetings are designed to foster mutual responsibility and caring. As a consequence, visitors to our middle school classrooms are impressed to see students who actively participate in class, who are excited to share their ideas, and who respect their fellow students. They also are impressed by the middle school's atmosphere, which works against the one-upsmanship and bullying that often is notoriously present in this age group.
The Middle School Day
The core of the middle school day revolves around four core curricular areas: math, science, humanities, and Spanish. Learning in these classes is typically project-based, hands-on, student-centered, and intellectually challenging. In practice, what this has looked like in recent years includes:
- Sixth grade humanities students used GarageBand loops to mix and perform original rap lyrics exploring the controversial presidency of Andrew Jackson from different viewpoints.
- Seventh graders studied migration and immigration in their humanities classes, visited an exhibit on refugee camps by Doctors without Borders, and then created their own museum about the refugee experience.
- Sixth graders worked together in their science classes to build a Rube Goldberg machine in the middle school’s rooftop garden.
- Fifth grade Spanish students read stories and novels in Spanish and then composed their own stories, skits, and comic strips using vocabulary they had learned from these texts.
- Eighth grade math students worked in pairs to create maps of the solar system, drawing upon their study of scale, density, volume, and radius to develop their maps.
In addition to the core curriculum, middle school students also study art and music throughout the school year. The art program exposes students to drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, and fabric arts. Grounded in the principles of Orff Schulwerk, our middle school music program offers students the opportunity to engage with music through improvisation, composition, and performance on a variety of instruments.
CDS middle schoolers also rotate through three specialist classes each year, spending one trimester in each. This rotation consists of iLab, drama, and Food and Agricultural Sciences (FAS). In the Innovation Lab, or iLab, students tackle design and engineering challenges using a variety of equipment, including a laser cutter, 3D printer, circuit-building materials, and numerous carpentry and metal-working tools. Drama students move through a social justice and performance-based curriculum. They explore topics including acting, playwriting, scenic and costume design, dramaturgy, and direction. In Food and Agricultural Science, students investigate the science behind where our food comes from as well as social justice issues related to food and nutrition.
A weekly “Navigating” class period dedicated to study skills, social-emotional development, and media literacy supplements the advisory program. In 8th grade, students also use “Navigating MS” class time to prepare their high school applications.
Scheduled periodically through the school year, "Project Days" enable students to further focus on a particular area of the curriculum or to explore topics that are not covered in other parts of the middle school curriculum. Recent project day experiences have included:
- Going on an art walk through galleries, studios, and alleyways in the Mission
- Trail running in Glen Canyon Park
- Taking a hike to Corona Heights to learn about geology and visit the Randall Museum
- Shooting bottle rockets designed in math and science classes
- Engaging in a Get Out the Vote campaign in the Mission, using student-created voter pamphlets in English and Spanish