Middle School Curriculum
Friends’ Central’s Middle School curriculum motivates students to think abstractly, question critically, and problem-solve creatively. Students experience exceptional teachers in small classes where learning is both challenging and joyful. Through hands-on learning, we engage students’ natural curiosity while developing essential skills within and across the disciplines.
The Middle School English curriculum inspires students to love literature and to appreciate the power of words to help us understand ourselves and the world. Our texts are selected to include a variety of voices and perspectives and to help students confront moral and ethical questions. Assignments are designed to foster analytical thinking and creativity, with students writing essays, personal narratives, speeches, fiction, poetry and more. Students learn grammatical skills and increase their vocabulary in the service of becoming more precise, effective communicators. In class, students develop collaborative and discussion skills that help them to be good listeners and to articulate their ideas. Teachers give students ample feedback and support to develop their voices as writers and to encourage their creative expression.
English 6: The Distance Between Us (Grande), The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora (Cartaya), One Last Word (Grimes), and Fever 1793 (Anderson)
English 7: The House of the Scorpion (Farmer), A Raisin in the Sun (Hansberry), Brown Girl Dreaming (Woodson), The Outsiders (Hinton), and New Kid (Craft).
English 8: Animal Farm (Orwell), Night (Wiesel), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare), Dear Martin (Stone), and Everything Everything (Yoon). Along with the required reading, students read short stories, folk tales, myths, and poetry.
Students also read short stories, poetry, non-fiction and fulfill independent reading requirements.
The Middle School math curriculum provides a strong foundation in mathematics with challenging classes that emphasize fundamental operations and an understanding of how math works in the real world. Students learn to demonstrate their math thinking, model situations mathematically, interpret data and identify patterns. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving, clearly communicating mathematical concepts and collaborating during class to determine strategies and solutions. Middle School math includes: Math 6, Advanced Pre-Algebra, Pre-Algebra, Advanced Algebra I, Algebra I and Advanced Geometry. All Middle School students complete Algebra by the end of eighth grade, with some students accelerating when and if they are ready, as well as the possibility of taking math courses in the Upper School.
The Middle School history curriculum prepares students to understand the past and its relationship today while preparing them to live in a complex, interconnected world. Grade 6 History focuses on human geography, exploring human communities and cultures across locations and as they interact with the environment. Grade 7 delves into American history, beginning with the indigenous peoples of North America and ending around the Civil War. Grade 8 picks up around Reconstruction and progresses to the Civil Rights era. Through writing, reflecting, and role play, students are able to connect historical events to issues of social justice that we see in current events and that impact our daily lives. Students learn skills to effectively research, decode primary sources and write about history.
Middle School students hone their observation, prediction, and interpretational skills as they proceed through their emergent studies of life, physical, and earth sciences. Our teachers cultivate student curiosity about the world around them through a hands-on approach to science – from conducting experiments to using our campus and nearby parks as outdoor labs.
In grade 6, students focus on developing a deep understanding of the scientific method, cell division, plant science, the human impact on the environment, and more.
In grade 7, the year starts with students asking and answering the question, "What makes Earth special?" Through a class trip to an outdoor education center, a population dynamics lab involving duckweed growth, and walks to explore the temperate forest ecosystem of our own campus, we gain a greater appreciation for how planet Earth supports an interconnected web of life. Our focus then drastically expands as we begin an astronomy unit with the question, "Where is Earth located in the context of the entire universe?" We explore how the universe started, how galaxies and stars are formed, and ultimately, how our solar system was sculpted by gravity. We bring moon phases, tides, seasons, and eclipses to life in the lab through hands-on modeling activities such as oreo moon phases and a variation of "Simon Says" that involves Earth/moon/sun positioning. Our year finishes with a chemistry unit centered around how scientists explore and collect samples from celestial bodies in our solar system. We learn about the parts of an atom and how the elements of the periodic table are different from one another by just a handful of protons, neutrons, and electrons. The unique structure of an atom leads us to an understanding of why atoms (and molecules) interact with each other through bonding and chemical reactions. Students then build and code a robotic rover that partakes in a simulated Mars landing. Student teams send programs from the mission control room to their rover as they navigate missions on the Martian surface to collect samples that can be analyzed using our newfound chemistry knowledge.
In grade 8, students dive into water chemistry, environmental science, electricity and magnetism, and human development in both the physical and psychological realms. Through readings, demonstrations, field study, laboratory experiments, and analytical writing, students gain scientific knowledge and begin to draw connections between various disciplines. Students become better able to make connections regarding human needs, actions, and environmental systems.
Throughout their Middle School years, students are introduced to and participate in many forms of artistic expression. Through their exposure to the performing and visual arts, students are encouraged to tap into their creativity, learning to express themselves through the disciplines of art, drama, and music. In grades 6 and 7, students rotate through a series of arts courses including: drawing, painting, ceramics, acting, improv, music theory, and music appreciation. In addition to these curricular offerings, students are also encouraged to participate in after-school arts activities. The Middle School puts on two plays every year. Students have the opportunity to sing in chorus or play an instrument in our jazz ensemble. All after-school activities do not conflict with athletics, so students are able to participate in both.
For more information about the arts in Middle School, visit The Arts at FCS pages.
The World Language curriculum aims to prepare students to be global citizens and to understand how language and culture are intertwined. Language study in grade 6 is centered on the evolution of language and an introduction to linguistics through the nationally recognized Prima Lingua program, created by Friends’ Central faculty member and alumna Margaret Somerville ’83. In grades 7 and 8, language offerings include French, Latin, and Spanish, with each option providing a multimedia approach to language acquisition. Students gain confidence in their ability to express themselves and to speak, read, write and comprehend their chosen language.
Middle School students are provided with experiences in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics both in and outside of the classroom. Students in grade 7 participate in our Design course, a class that introduces students to the elements of 2 Dimensional and 3 Dimensional design. Students are also introduced to coding using Arduino microcontrollers with actuators and sensors. Our science curriculum features an in-depth study of robotics, as students plan and program a simulated exploration of Mars. In addition, Middle School students have regular access to our City Avenue Center for Innovation and Design, which includes circuitry and Arduino technology, wood-working tools, sewing machines, 3-D printers, virtual reality headsets, and everything in between. As part of the curriculum, students use the CID for various class projects and assignments, learning not only to use the many tools available but also to utilize design thinking and iteration to explore and create.
As students progress through the Middle School, they are provided with greater flexibility and curricular choice. In 6th grade, all students explore the tenets of the Quaker religion, which helps them to understand and appreciate the mission of the School, in addition to better defining their own personal values and beliefs. In 7th grade, students participate in health, a course designed to inform them about healthy choices, to develop mindfulness and to practice with good decision-making for one’s mind, body and spirit. In 8th grade, students are free to choose semester long electives, allowing them to take a deeper dive into a particular area of interest. Electives include: Computer Science, Music Theory, Stage Acting, Financial Literacy, Visual Art.
Each Middle School student receives a School-issued and owned Chromebook to be used in classes and for schoolwork. These devices come fully equipped with the most popular tablet features, such as annotating on the touchscreen, various educational apps, and filmmaking capability. In addition, Chromebooks have a keyboard and fully functional Chrome browser, enabling students to best leverage Google’s cloud-based educational applications. There are no devices used during homeroom, recess, or lunch; we consider these times important for social interaction and essential for a break in students’ screen time. Our goal for the technology program can be divided into the following broad categories: enhancing the curriculum, supporting student learning, preparing students with essential skills, and cultivating curious and caring citizens.
Blackburn Library, located on the City Avenue campus, provides collaborative space and resources that allow Middle and Upper School students to learn, discover and create. Blackburn Library is open from 8 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday, and provides flexible spaces for group and individual study, including a small group study room with whiteboard walls and a flat screen TV for group presentation. Blackburn librarians provide instruction on digital and information literacy skills and offer expert guidance to match each reader to their next favorite book.
Blackburn Library’s print collection includes 16,000 books, videos, DVDs, e-books, and periodicals for students pursuing research assignments or topics of personal interest. In addition, the Blackburn online library provides students with 24/7 access to databases and research tools including ProQuest, JSTOR, Questia, Noodletools and AccessPA Power Library. These resources are a gateway to thousands of full-text articles, e-books, maps, images, audio clips and videos. Historical periodicals and other primary sources are an area of special focus in Blackburn Library’s online collections. Students may also borrow materials from the Pennsylvania inter-library loan program that includes more than 2,600 school, public, academic and special libraries and millions of holdings. See the Blackburn Library website for more.