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 quarter-long and one semester-long elective. They may also choose to stay in their performance ensemble.
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.
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 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.
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.
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: developing 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, each student envisions their own final project, which can be completed in any medium.
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: developing 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, each student envisions their own final project, which can be completed in any medium.
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. Each group will have opportunities to perform at assemblies, the Winter and Spring Concerts, and at various events throughout the year.
In addition, sixth and seventh graders may elect to audition for the Advanced Ensembles (also Chorus, Concert Band, and Strings) that meet once a week before school, or for the Jazz Ensemble that meets once a week after school.
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 (Middle Cs), band (Concert Band), and strings (String Ensemble). Ensembles meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 1:30 and 2:20 p.m. Course descriptions are below:
The Middle School non-auditioned chorus sings folk 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. Middle Cs perform at assemblies and seasonal concerts.
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 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.
Students have two quarter-long and one semester-long arts electives in eighth grade. Many arts electives are based on student interest and surveys. Past electives for the second quarter and semester have included Playwriting, Radio Drama, Clown, Performance Ensemble, Nature and Art, Paint Lab, Sketchbook, and Animation.
In this class, students will learn to make cups, mugs, and other useful objects. In addition, students will make sculptures of animals, people, buildings, or figures. Students will learn how to bring their ideas to life through ceramic building techniques such as pinching, soft and hard slap construction, as well as coil building. Ultimately, students will be able to develop their own unique final project. No previous experience necessary.
Are you an Instagram lover? Have you ever wondered how those filters work? Have you ever wanted to make people appear or disappear from a photo? In this class, students will learn all of the above and more — it is all possible in Photoshop. Photoshop is a graphics program most often used to edit existing photographs, but it can also be used as a “painting program” to create images from scratch. Students will take various approaches to projects from simple cropping and color correction to creating complex collages and works from scratch with the paint tools. Along the way, students will take pictures and learn about cool artists that are working with the methods they will be exploring.
This co-taught class will introduce students to all of the elements of theater design and production. Students will have mini-workshops in set construction scenic painting, make-up, and lighting. During class time, students will work together to design, build, and light all of the visual elements for this year’s 8th Grade Production. No previous experience necessary. You may even decide at the end of the class that you’d like to stay on as part of the lighting/sound/props and running crew for the show during the second quarter!
Working primarily in the dance studio, 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.
During this studio-based class, students will work on strumming and plucking skills for guitar, ukulele, bass, and other string instruments while learning about “pop notation” and reading chord charts. Using a hands-on approach, students will create arrangements of classic and modern tunes and then learn and perform them in small groups or solo. Students should arrive ready to practice their craft and develop their chops. Open to all levels of experience.