Through the Middle School Arts curriculum, students develop the physical, aesthetic, and critical thinking skills that enable them to see and respond to the world with empathy and discernment. Young adolescents are self-reflective, and our curriculum helps them to cultivate artistic practices with which they can express their ideas.  

All sixth and seventh graders take drama, music, and visual art in a trimester rotation. In eighth grade, students choose from semester-long electives.

Sixth Grade

Drama

In this introductory course, students increase their confidence, discipline, and observational skills through group warm-ups in movement, mime, speech, and focus at the beginning of every class. Class improvisations and scene assignments provide opportunities for skill development in character, plot, and conflict resolution. Through the process of “learning how to rehearse” in their small scene work, students are encouraged to explore a variety of interpersonal relationships and real and imaginary environments and emotions. These scenes are then evaluated by other members of the class as a means of developing good critical analysis skills.

MUSIC

The goal of this trimester class is to deepen musical understanding for performers and listeners. Regular practice with musical literacy skills such as reading music, playing various instruments, sight singing, notating known music, dictation, and composition helps students become more adept with the language of music. The question and answer phrase so common in Western music from Mozart to modern rock, is a particular focus. 

3-DIMENSIONAL STUDIES

In sixth grade art, the class focuses on 3-dimensional work. Students engage with a variety of sculptural materials and methods while exploring their own imaginative and self-expressive directions. The theme for the sixth grade is “Art inspired by Art.” Each class visits the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), drawing and studying the wide variety of sculptural forms in their collection. Students are given time to focus on several specific works in the Museum as they search for inspiration. After returning to the classroom, they design and create works of their own inspired by new ideas, methods, and materials, which they learn about at the Museum. The goal of the trip is to help students learn about the sculpture collection at the BMA, to experience sculpture as it is meant to be experienced, and to discover sculptural works that they find personally meaningful. Some of the sculptures students will see are: Endless Ribbon by Max Bill, Seventh Decade Forest by Louise Nevelson, Three Piece Reclining Figure No. 1 by Henry Moore, Head by Joan Miró, Tower of Mothers by Käthe Kollwitz, Eight-Part Circle by Michael Heizer, Noh Musicians by Isamu Noguchi, and 100 Yard Dash by Alexander Calder.

Seventh Grade

Drama

Seventh grade drama builds on the skills acquired in the sixth grade course, with an added emphasis on character development through original student dramatic writing, professionally written scenes, and “scene starters.” Students are expected to take greater responsibility for all aspects of dramatic improvisation than in the sixth grade year, and every student is assigned a day in which to lead the class through a warm-up game of their choice. Group projects include a “Composition Assignment,” in which teams are given a list of props, sounds, actions, and texts to include in their original improvisation pieces, and a four-week character development and writing assignment.

MUSIC

Building on the skills and understandings in sixth grade, seventh grade music classes spend significant class time creating their own music with iPads and computers. Keyboards, guitars, and basses, as well as other instruments, are also used in the ongoing study of scales, intervals, and chords. The students are exposed to the rudiments of Finale, a computer notation program. Students learn to hear the musical elements of structure, harmonic progression, and rhythm, and take on the challenge of expressing artistic taste. The 32-measure AABA song form favored by so many great American songwriters replaces the question and answer phrase in our study of musical form.

2-DIMENSIONAL STUDIES

In the seventh grade, the focus is on 2-dimensional work. Four major media areas are covered: drawing, painting, printmaking, and collage. Students gain skills in each medium while working both realistically and abstractly. An emphasis is placed on the role of drawing: students work both observationally and conceptually. The class looks at the work of artists who have contributed to our understanding of abstraction in art, such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Picasso, Matisse, and Rothko, among others. We explore collage through looking at surrealist concepts as well as the work of Romare Bearden. During the term, students look at a variety of sources of inspiration that artists utilize, and allow them to serve as points of departure for class work. The role of personal interpretation and individual point of view in art is continuously emphasized during this seventh grade course of study.

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade Production

This course introduces students to the basics of stagecraft, including set design, scene painting, scene construction, properties, lighting, sound, costuming, and stage makeup. The class will be team-taught and all of our work will go towards designing, building, and supporting this year’s eighth grade production—a delightful romp through Nottingham forest, complete with a talking tree, fun moments of stage combat, and a classic hero(ine): Robin Hood – The Truth Behind the Green Tights.

Students will continue in the second quarter and serve as the show’s running crew, construction and paint crew, or stage managers, or they may choose to audition for the acting class. All students will receive more information about auditions for the show as we approach audition times in late October, but all actors MUST be in the Production class to audition.

graphic design

The computer is a powerful tool for illustrators and graphic designers. In this class, we will explore letterforms, type, color theory, the use of imagery, and design. We will do a number of illustration projects for real clients, including business cards and posters for teachers’ classrooms. Each exercise will reflect our growing understanding of graphic design tools (Adobe Creative Suite—the industry standard for digital design), and the power of good visual communication. A major term project will be the production of a family book that will be completed in time for holiday giving! Past books include calendars, cookbooks, family trees, and memory albums.

music

The purpose of the eighth grade music class is to expose students to the fundamentals of music performance through the study of music in American culture. As a community, the class will experience new music together and complete activities that focus on performance by singing and playing guitar, bass, piano, drums, and other wind, string, and brass instruments.

Students will form their own ensembles with three or more people. This is also an opportunity for interested students to enhance their music theory knowledge and practice arranging and composing by creating pieces for the class to learn. We will begin with early blues and jazz and will trace the evolution of entertainment music through New Orleans to other big cities. We will cover the birth of the record label and its development from rhythm and blues to punk rock. Students will have the opportunity to find interesting music and bring it in to share with the class. A culminating performance is planned for the end of semester to showcase student performers and arrangers.

PAINT LAB

How many ways can you make a painting? We will approach painting using observation, abstraction, and the imagination. The first part of the class will be devoted to learning techniques and working observationally, which may include painting the Park landscape or working in class with still life subjects. We will work in traditional ways at first, yet students will also find themselves painting on glass, rocks, leaves, photographs, and other unusual surfaces in an effort to define “What is Painting?” A sketchbook will be maintained during the whole semester in which students will develop their own painting ideas. Based on these ideas, students will develop independent compositions and work on a mural or installation. This course is intended for students who enjoy spending time drawing and painting, as well as working with themes and ideas.

clay

In this course students will learn the basics of hand building with clay, and will discover just how much can be done with these simple methods as they create both functional objects (like cups, bowls, and boxes) and decorative sculptural pieces. The class will also experiment with a variety of surface treatments, including glazing, printing, and scraffito.