Throughout our classrooms, students work in groups, interacting with their teachers and each other, and actively engage with their lessons.
Once a week, the entire school steps out of the block schedule for a daylong interdisciplinary learning adventure known as a Focus Day. Class trips, another key part of our middle school experience, bring students to different parts of California and the U.S. Through these adventures and challenges, our students show themselves to be kind and natural community builders. For all these reasons and more, our middle school is a wonderful place to learn and grow.
Athenian’s Middle School arts program encourages students to feel confident and successful in their creative efforts and to take risks, make mistakes, and try again.
All sixth grade students take visual art. The activities in the visual arts curriculum explore the fundamentals that shape artistic expression: line, color, texture, shape, and volume. Students employ a wide variety of media and techniques. Projects involve drawing, painting, sculpture, clay, and conceptual creations.
Sixth grade music is a trimester-long course that introduces students to a variety of musical skills and concepts including keyboard playing, drumming, stringed instruments, and music theory. Students work on a number of musical selections with an emphasis on creative strategy and problem-solving. In small ensembles, students collaborate with their peers to select, prepare, and perform a piece of their choosing for a school recital.
Seventh and eighth grade students can choose between music and visual arts classes. Students have the opportunity to learn new instruments in band, develop their voice in choir, or cultivate their artistic talents in visual art.
In requiredcomputational thinking classes at each grade level, studentslearn the foundations of logical processing and computational problem solving.
In sixth grade, students participate in a First Lego League (FLL)Robotics class once a week for half the year. This class culminates in a Sumo Bot Focus Day.
Seventh graders participate in a required CodeCombat elective for two trimesters of the year. Through CodeCombat, students learn how to code in Python, one of the most popular programming languages. With a comprehensive curriculum that includes computer science units and reinforces learning through project-based game development and web development units, students will progress on a journey from basic syntax to recursion.
In eighth grade, students combine the skills developed in sixth and seventh grade into a project-based experience. Through the use of small circuit boards, sensors, motors, and coding, students will design and program their own robot. Project challenges include coding appropriate responses to different environmental stimuli. The final project is to build a line-following car.
In addition to the required electives in computational thinking, students have the opportunity to participate in our competitive FLL robotics team in the fall as well as various robotics and computational thinking electives throughout the year.
Students explore a diverse range of literature while discovering their voices in English classes that are designed to complement the Social Studies curriculum.
Sixth grade reading selections focus on identity and community. Seventh grade literature includes Western Civilization-themed texts, such as the Trojan War and the plays of Aeschylus. In eighth grade English, you will explore American literature, with texts such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Joy Luck Club. English classes also include public speaking and performance.
In addition to exploring literature, you will learn to clearly and concisely communicate your ideas by engaging in the writing and editing process. Students read, write and edit at every grade level, focusing on literary analysis, English grammar and writing conventions, language and vocabulary development, and various genres of writing, including creative, analytical, and autobiographical forms. Over the course of middle school, the depth and sophistication of students' writing develops and improves.
Every student is part of an advisory group of 9-10 students across grade levels that is led by a middle school teacher. Advisory groups meet weekly with their advisor. This is a time to check in with a caring adult who knows them well, get advice from peers, discuss social-emotional topics relevant to middle school students, play games, and have fun. Students typically stay with the same advisor through their middle school experience. After three years, these adults may become a student’s strongest advocate and closest mentor.
Students participate in Life Skills class in sixth grade, study sex education as part of seventh grade science class, and take Human Development class in eighth grade. In sixth grade, Life Skills includes study skills, lessons on how to navigate middle school, peer pressure and digital citizenship. Seventh grade sex education is grounded in anatomy and biology, and includes frank conversations about the physical and emotional changes that occur during adolescence. Eighth grade human development focuses on making good choices, and tackles topics such as peer pressure and drug and alcohol education.
Math classes in the Middle School are designed for students to build and demonstrate mastery, develop critical thinking skills, and increase confidence. Students are placed in math classes by readiness rather than grade level, and most math classes have a mix of students across grades, providing for a rich learning atmosphere.
Students will apply the skills learned in textbooks to real-life situations. Middle School math classes include Math 6, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Advanced Algebra, and Geometry. Some eighth grade students have the opportunity to take advanced math classes in the Upper School.
“Health and fitness for life” is our physical education motto. Students acquire the knowledge and skills to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing by learning different kinds of exercise, practicing proper form, engaging in collaborative teamwork, and preparing and planning fitness activities. Students participate in cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility through team sports, individual activities, and conditioning.
Physical education includes a variety of team sports including water polo, soccer, flag football, ultimate Frisbee, basketball, badminton, and more. Students will also swim, dance, practice yoga, and do circuit training. We believe it is necessary for students to develop cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills to be successful learners. Sportsmanship and confidence building are important components of our physical education curriculum.
In middle school science, students develop curiosity about the natural world and a working knowledge of scientific problem-solving methods. Overall, the curriculum creates perspective on how we as humans fit into the natural world.
Sixth grade students begin the year by studying the human brain, and learning about who they are as thinkers and learners as they begin their middle school journey. After that, the focus is earth science. This includes the study of weather, mineralogy, the rock cycle, plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Sixth grade also includes units on planetary and environmental science.
Life science is the focus in seventh grade. Students come to understand the environment as a dynamic living system and how they have the potential to affect change. Students also learn about evolution, the human body, adolescent growth and development, sexuality, and how to make responsible choices.
Eighth grade science prepares students for upper school science courses by developing their quantitative and analytical approaches to solving problems in physics and chemistry. Students learn about scientific measurement, atomic structures, the periodic table, chemical reactions, chemical pollution, and Newtonian physics concepts of force, motion, work, and energy.
By studying groups and peoples from around the world, students come to understand societies through the framework of culture, economy, and politics. They will journey through a series of historical and geographic regions, starting far away and long ago and moving closer in time and space—the Pacific Rim in sixth grade, Western Civilization in seventh grade, and American Studies in eighth grade. They will learn how and why civilizations change over time. By integrating social studies with English and art, they will gain an understanding of the interconnectedness of our world.
Sixth graders study the lands and peoples of South Asia, East Asia, and Oceania after introduction to the main analytical skills used to evaluate the features of a society. Topics include prehistory and the appearance, expansion, and increasing complexity of human societies; technology and innovation; religions and philosophies; beliefs and government; social structures and systems of rule; aesthetics and arts.
Seventh graders explore mythology, cultures of ancient and classical Greece, medieval life and monotheistic traditions, the enlightenment, and explorations of the origins of modern democracies.
Eighth grade social studies focus on conflict and change in American society and political structures. This course examines American history through a cultural and social justice lens, examining the Constitution and human rights, migration, immigration, Native American cultures, slavery, and civil rights. Students learn how to investigate controversial issues with reason and objectivity with respect for their peers at the forefront of class discussions.
Like math classes, language classes in the Middle School are organized by skill level rather than grade level. Students may be placed into Spanish, French, or Mandarin 1A, 1B, or 1C depending on their prior experience. Students begin to acquire language through games and conversation, building a basic vocabulary. Grammar and syntax are introduced through stories and thematic units that incorporate world cultures.
Acquiring verbal fluency and a working vocabulary receive high priority. An emphasis on grammar clarifies communicative intent. Activities engage students’ interest and encourage lively discussion. Accelerated students may be placed in advanced Middle School or Upper School world language classes.
By practicing reading, writing, speaking, and listening, students gain comfort and ease in communicating a new language. Cultural studies help them to understand languages in context. Playing games and telling stories are mainstays in our language classes, and the speed of language acquisition reflects the fun kids have in these courses.
The Athenian Middle School competes with other schools in interscholastic athletics in a number of sports, including: Ultimate Frisbee, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and flag football. Practices take place during the school day’s elective period. Games occur after school with transportation to and from events provided by Athenian buses or vans. Athenian’s transportation department is very busy taking care of needs of the whole school, and there are times when we may need to ask for parent help as chaperones or drivers.