As the oldest students in the Middle School, fifth graders take on great responsibility. In their forensics unit they work hard to develop the skills necessary to solve a mystery. They take a deep dive into reading and writing across the curriculum. Researching, note taking, independence, collaboration and effectively communicating are skills that come together to round out the Middle School academic experience.
There are five essential components to our Language Arts program: reading, writing, spelling, word study and self-selected reading. All of these components are intertwined in a variety of ways throughout the year. Using the workshop model and one-to-one conferencing, students become independent readers and writers with a strong understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Throughout the year, students develop a deeper understanding of the elements of literature. Genre studies allow students to explore and apply their understanding in a variety of formats. Self-selected reading gives students an opportunity to apply the skills they have learned in their literacy sessions and exposes students to a broad range of books. Our writing program includes instruction in narrative, argument, information and poetry writing. This instruction enables students to work in each of these fundamental modes with increasing skill.
The math program is based on children exploring and applying problem-solving skills through investigative units from the Math in Focus curriculum. Through the use of real-life problems, students learn mathematical operations with decimals and fractions, metric measurement, geometry, percent, probability and data analysis. Students spend time each day working on problem-solving activities where they are challenged to work through problems using a variety of strategies, moving toward the most efficient ones. Class projects, math explorations, and manipulatives are integral parts of the curriculum. Among the topics covered this year will be multiplying and dividing with 2-digit divisors; understanding fractions, mixed numbers and decimals; solving equations and evaluating inequalities; finding the probability of an event and applying properties of angles, triangles, and quadrilaterals. Lure of the Labyrinth, an online problem-solving and critical thinking activity, is used for enrichment and extension.
Hands-on and heads-on exploration is at the core of fifth grade science. Through experiential and inquiry-based science, students begin the year by studying infectious diseases. They organize data, compare results, communicate their questions and understandings, and observe phenomena. The forensics unit continues to develop students’ understanding of the scientific process. Using a variety of materials, students learn how scientists use observations to make inferences. Students conduct numerous experiments to help them solve the mystery. A visit by a forensic scientist from the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab provides a real-life connection to their learning. The robotics unit focuses on exploration, collaboration, investigation and problem solving. Students apply the engineering design process through the use of Lego’s EV3 robotics materials. They work cooperatively and learn about basic physics as they design, construct, program and modify robots to meet specific challenges. As a final project, students select a real-world problem and try to solve it with a robot of their own creation.
Students explore the elements of culture. The cultures of ancient Mesopotamia and the ancient Maya will be the vehicles we use to define what determining factors allowed humans to leave an individualistic, nomadic lifestyle and settle and flourish in larger, permanent communities. Students make relevant connections among the environmental, economic, and war-time practices that lead to both the rise and eventual decline of a civilization. In conjunction, students focus on writing informative text to examine a subset of a civilization and convey ideas and information clearly. Students engage in research, including keeping track and citing relevant sources. Their hard work is celebrated at the Mayan Fair at the end of the year.
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. A notable project includes responding to a physical environment through art.
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. 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. Fifth grade is a significant time in Middle School, marking the inevitable transition to the Upper School at the end of the year. Students continue to build upon their musical skill and experience by singing and playing more complex repertoire. Students are encouraged to share new songs to learn in class and compose for each other using any instrument available to them. Students take a deeper look at blues, jazz, and world music traditions in order to have a dialogue about how other cultures and people express their values and identity through music. The year culminates in the performance of a “class song,” selected by the students with choreography, presented at the final Middle School concert of the year.
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. Children participate in orienteering in fifth grade.