In fourth grade students can be sighted on our nature trail with binoculars and clipboards. They are looking, listening and recording our local bird populations. They also take a deep dive into Ancient Chinese and Greek history. Where students become experts on the subject, put their collaboration skills to the test on relevant projects and continue to develop their public speaking skills.
Emphasis is given to helping students push themselves to read deeply and closely with increased stamina, fluency and volume. Through the workshop model, students become strong, independent readers and writers. Students engage with increasingly complex texts, independently and through guided reading groups. In the latter part of the year, students become experts on an artist whom they research by reading a variety of sources and taking notes. The climax of the unit is when students dress as their artists and present compelling scrapbook entries from their artist’s perspective. We end the year with a whole class novel study of Number the Stars through literature circle discussions. Writing instruction focuses on living the life of a writer and incorporating writing strategies to create personal narratives and personal essays. Throughout the year, students study weekly spelling principles.
Students are encouraged to become strategic problem solvers and thinkers who persevere in solving challenging problems. We emphasize reasoning about mathematical ideas, concept mastery, computational fluency with whole numbers and connections between important areas of mathematics. Students develop and maintain strong number sense. Beyond memorizing facts, we encourage deep conceptual understanding. Students practice proving their thinking and articulating their understanding of concepts in writing. Our instructional approach begins by building a strong foundation first using concrete manipulatives and then visuals before introducing more abstract representations such as numbers, symbols, and equations. Bar modeling is taught as an essential tool to help students understand and solve word problems. Daily lessons include mental math strategies, problem solving and both guided and independent practice. Units covered include place value, estimation and number theory, multiplication and division, tables and graphs, data and probability, fractions, decimals, and geometry.
The science curriculum provides students with a variety of opportunities for inquiry and hands-on exploration and collaborative learning. With this philosophy in mind, students explore three science disciplines: earth science in the fall, physical science in the winter, and biology in the spring. Through the study of landforms, students continue their learning about earth science and the powerful force of water. They use stream tables to create models of erosion and deposition, using the scientific process to ask and answer their own questions about landforms. Students are introduced to the engineering design process and physical science through the study of electricity and magnetism and simple machines. In the spring, the focus turns to biology. The students collect data on local birds for a citizen science program through Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. They also study the structures of plants, comparing them to the structures of vertebrates. The year culminates with student-driven plant germination experiments and planting The Pike School garden.
Students extend their understanding of culture, geographical significance, mythology, and daily life by studying the ancient civilizations of China and Greece. Students role-play archeologists, discuss the teachings of Confucius, research daily life, and develop debate skills while debating whether Emperor Qin is a hero or tyrant. Emphasis is placed on extending research skills by doing more sophisticated outlining, note-taking, and categorizing of information. A field trip to the Peabody Essex Museum provides an opportunity to explore the richness of Chinese art and culture. In the study of ancient Greece, major projects include researching gods and goddesses while writing from their perspectives, and reading and performing The Odyssey.
In Middle School art, students continue to build their visual communication skills, with an emphasis on creative problem solving through student-centered and open-ended investigations. While working with a wide variety of two- and three-dimensional materials, they also learn the intellectual, physical, and technical skills of art making. Students will learn about significant contemporary and historical artists from all over the world while exploring increasingly complex processes and projects.
The physical education program for Middle School students uses a wide variety of large- and small-group games, cooperative activities, and games using sport-specific skills in preparation for team sports. The goals of the program are to encourage children to be versatile movers, to provide them with an improved movement vocabulary, and to help them understand the importance of developing a healthy, active lifestyle. Some of the activities include soccer in the fall, jump rope and tumbling in the winter, and track and field in the spring. In any activity, we expect all students to strive for personal improvement, to cooperate with their classmates, and to respect the spirit and rules of fair play. Students participate in an outdoor education unit that includes fire-building techniques.
Middle School students have the opportunity to learn how to play recorders, ukuleles, bucket drums, Orff xylophones, and West African drums. They learn to improvise, both vocally and on instruments, and they compose original music for solo instruments and/or small group student ensembles. Students continue to learn about the expressive dimensions of music by learning music from other cultures, in addition to the blues, jazz, and pop/rock styles. In fourth grade, students learn how to bucket drum and build their skill level with other classroom instruments, including the recorder and ukulele. Students learn to sing (in two parts) and play melodies and rhythmics. They also experiment with writing an original composition for two contrasting instruments. Students are introduced to blues and jazz, learning songs and the history of this rich art form.