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.
Our middle school students start each day at 8:15 a.m. Once a week our middle school students spend 45 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 what they do not see: the one-upmanship and bullying that often is notoriously present in this age group, which is essentially nonexistent at CDS.
The core of the middle school day revolves around two curricular areas: math/science in an integrated curriculum and humanities (language arts and social sciences). Every day, students in middle school spend a minimum of one and one-half hours on each of these core areas. In addition, extended “project time” is scheduled every Thursday to enable students to further focus on one or both of the core areas. Often the learning in these core areas is integrated and project-based; for example, middle schoolers studying watersheds might construct models replicating watershed areas (geography and art), hypothesize on the speed and direction of water flow and test those hypotheses in experiments (math and science), study the impact of human demand on water supplies (social sciences) and make illustrated presentations to their classmates on their findings (language arts, art and public speaking).
In addition to math/science and humanities, all middle school students study Spanish four times each week and have physical education four times a week. All middle school students also participate in two Selectives each quarter, each of which meets for 75 minutes twice a week. These Selectives include offerings in art, music and drama that change each quarter or semester. For example, art Selectives might include drawing, ceramics, fiber art, photography or a multi-media class focusing on imaginary creatures like mermaids and dragons. Music Selectives include instrumental and choral classes. Drama Selectives might include a class on monologues or Shakespeare performance. The goals of the Selectives programs are to allow students to explore interests in depth, to encourage students to explore new interests and to reach for new experiences and to have fun!
Middle school students who stay after school first spend an hour in study hall where they have time to work on homework and class projects, or to work on their own independent academic interests and studies. Many also participate in the extended day program and the sports program.