In the Middle School arts curriculum, students create, imagine, and explore new ways of engaging with the world. Through a wide range of experiences in drama, music, and visual art, students develop the physical, aesthetic, and critical thinking skills that enable them to see and respond to the world with empathy and discernment.

We recognize that in Middle School students are self-reflective, and we cultivate artistic behaviors with which they can express their ideas. We value performance and exhibition and provide opportunities to present student work to a wider audience. 

All sixth and seventh graders take drama and visual art in a semester rotation. Music meets twice a week throughout the year in performance ensembles. In eighth grade, students choose from two semester-long electives. They may also choose to stay in their music performance ensemble. 

Drama—Sixth and Seventh Grades

The primary goal of the drama program in Middle School is to help students understand themselves and the world they live in, and to develop self-expression, self-discipline, and self-confidence through an active physical, emotional, and intellectual identification with a fictitious situation. An equally important aim is for students to understand the theater as a serious intellectual pursuit that requires rigorous work and attention and is, at its core, communal in nature. The most developmentally appropriate form of drama class for young adolescents is one that teaches through the aesthetic experience, not for it. To that end, all sixth and seventh grade classes are training rather than performance based. 

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.

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 devised scenes, and a four-week character development and original soliloquy project. 

Visual Arts—Sixth and Seventh Grades

During the Middle School years, when identity formation is evolving, the visual arts provide an arena for imaginative exploration, risk-taking, and self-awareness. We nurture technical and conceptual understandings that allow students to better visually communicate emerging insights about themselves and their relationship to the world. The Middle School program balances skill development and intellectual challenge, while honoring the students’ points of view and interests. 

Sixth Grade—3-Dimensional Studies

In sixth grade art the focus is on 3-dimensional work. Students engage in making personally meaningful artwork and practicing the following Art Studio Habits of Mind: develop craft, engage and persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, and stretch and explore. Students explore and develop their craft with a variety of sculptural materials and methods while exploring their own imaginative and self-expressive directions. Throughout the semester, students engage in projects including shoe design, wearable sculpture, and ceramics. In addition to learning concepts and skills for visual art making, students learn how to brainstorm, create ideas, make plans, make adjustments, and see a project through to the end. Towards the end of the semester, students envision their own final project, which can be completed in any medium. 

Seventh Grade—2-Dimensional Studies

In the seventh grade, the focus is on 2-dimensional work. Students engage in making personally meaningful artwork and practicing the following Art Studio Habits of Mind: develop craft, engage and persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, and stretch and explore. A variety of media areas are covered including drawing, painting, printmaking, and collage. In addition, students work with found material, altered books, painting on non-traditional surfaces, and engage in design work. 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. 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 classwork. The role of personal interpretation and individual point of view in art is continuously emphasized during this seventh grade course of study. Towards the end of the semester, students envision their own final project, which can be completed in any medium. 

Music—Sixth and Seventh Grades

The overall goals of the Middle School music program are to help students become more knowledgeable about the world of music and to become more skilled performers and listeners. Students are given opportunities to experience the challenge and joy of making music with others. Playing music and singing together helps students build a repertoire, which in turn provides a context for specific musical concepts. Playing music from diverse genres, incorporating student interests, and providing opportunities to improvise and create are a priority. Through their ensembles, Middle Schoolers develop skill with their instruments and with music theory and notation. All groups have the opportunity to perform during the school year. 

In addition, sixth and seventh graders may elect to audition for the Advanced Ensembles (also Chorus, Chamber Band, and Strings) that meet once a week before or after school. 

CURRICULAR ENSEMBLES

In sixth and seventh grade, students are required to participate in one music ensemble during the year. In eighth grade, students can elect to continue in ensembles, although they are not required to do so. Students choose between chorus, band, and strings. Ensembles meet twice a week for 50 minutes. Course descriptions are below: 

Middle school chorus (middle C's)

The Middle School non-auditioned chorus sings music from around the world, arrangements of show tunes and popular tunes, and composed art music. The choral curriculum includes study of music theory, sight singing, vocal technique, rehearsal and performance practice, and the international phonetic alphabet. The Middle School chorus has opportunities to perform at concerts and events throughout the year. 

Concert Band

Concert Band is comprised of beginning to intermediate woodwind, brass, and percussion players with 1-4 years of experience playing their chosen instrument. The group develops instrumental ensemble skills through practice and performance of folk music, traditional band repertoire, jazz, and contemporary pieces. Concert Band performs at assemblies and seasonal concerts. 

String Ensemble

String Ensemble explores a variety of classic and contemporary string orchestra and chamber music repertoire. Students expand their interpretive and technical skills, learn alternative styles, and develop ensemble skills through coaching and rehearsals. String Ensemble performs at assemblies and seasonal concerts. In order to participate in String Ensemble, students must have at least a year of experience on violin, viola, cello, or double bass. 

Eighth Grade Arts—First Semester Elective Courses

Students have two semester-long arts electives in eighth grade. Many arts electives are based on student interest and surveys. Past electives for the second semester have included Playwriting, Radio Drama, Clown, Performance Ensemble, Nature and Art, Paint Lab, Sketchbook, and Animation. 

art in nature

In this class we will explore the natural world as a theme, subject, and muse for artmaking. We will spend some time drawing in the studio, but frequently we will be outside. We will begin by reviewing how to make observational drawings of natural objects. Students will draw animals, plants, and other natural forms. We will explore a variety of drawing styles from scientific to illustrative, and from natural to abstract. Later in the course, projects will be more open ended. Students may respond to nature in ways other than drawing such as painting, sculpting, or printmaking. We will likely use three dimensional materials including clay on a frequent basis. We will also look into ways to make our own art supplies from natural materials we collect, for example making our own charcoal. Overall, we will really delve into artmaking while being inspired by nature. 

Make it, Paint it, Light it! – The Art of Theater Design and Production

This co-taught class will introduce students to hands-on workshops in set construction, lighting, scenic painting, make-up (and, perhaps props and sound, too). You will work together in all of our theater spaces (the scene shop, blackbox, and drama studios) on theater projects and to build some of the visual elements for this year’s 8th Grade production during class time and may even decide to become a stage manager, assistant director, actor, or member of the costume and makeup crew for our production in the spring! No previous experience necessary — come experience something new! 

Move It– inside and out!

Working in the dance studio and outdoors, students will explore different approaches to movement, from dance-based combinations, conditioning, and exercises, to yoga, dance/ theater, and choreography. Moving individually, in pairs, and as an ensemble, students will broaden their conception of movement as they expand their skills and vocabulary. Over the course of the term students will create and refine original movement phrases and pieces. All levels of experience are welcome! 

Strings ’n’ Things

Work on your strumming and plucking skills and learn more about “pop notation” and reading chord charts. Create arrangements of classic and modern tunes, and form a small group or learn songs solo. Open to all levels of experience. Be ready to develop your chops and get time to practice your craft. We will be doing a lot of playing and hands-on learning. Instruments used in this class: Guitar, Ukulele, Bass, and possibly mandolin or violin.