The Green Acres Middle School program challenges students in ways appropriate to their increasing cognitive sophistication, their growing emphasis on friendships, their soaring interest in questions of morality, and even their rapid physical development. High academic expectations form the core of the Middle School program. Students grapple with broader responsibilities, greater self-reliance, and increased independence. They are engaged in the process of becoming self-directed learners with a passion for knowledge, a growing awareness of our diverse and complex world, and a sense of responsibility for the larger community.
Students participate in more demanding outdoor education opportunities, join interscholastic athletic teams, and design their own community service projects. They also take part in more varied programs, such as film photography, the annual Grade 7 and Grade 8 musical, and the Green Acres Olympics.
Our curriculum includes an emphasis on Community Service. This program is based on the principle that an ethical life includes service to others. Students are encouraged to broaden their perspectives and improve themselves and the world around them in increasingly sophisticated ways.
By the time our students graduate, they have encountered rich and challenging experiences, many of their own making. Green Acres students develop a strong sense of who they are, both as learners and as members of our society.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies & World Studies
- Visual & Performing Arts
- Spanish & Peruvian Exchange Program
- Physical Education
In Middle School, as abstract thinking skills mature, math classes comprise algebra, statistical analysis, independent analytical projects, and geometric activities, among many other age-appropriate investigations. Fifth graders solidify conceptual understanding of fractions, decimals, and percentages in addition to the algorithms to manipulate numbers. Sixth graders build bridges and load-test them; they bring geometric shapes to life in computer simulations; they encounter the equations that produce interactive spirals and fractals; they invent games to test probability theories; and they play innovative math games to build logical thinking.
Research on mathematics teaching reveals compelling ideas about student learning:
- Students are capable of learning algebraic and geometric reasoning far earlier than previously thought.
- Students must master algebra to find success with any higher levels of math.
- Students who learn mathematical concepts when they are ready are more successful throughout their schooling than those who rush into advanced math courses. It is much better to teach a math course without finishing all of the topics, than to complete the course in a rush.
Many students in Grade 7 and Grade 8 complete a thorough two-year course in Algebra I. We offer different levels of algebra, but instead of mere acceleration, the curriculum allows time for teachers to ensure that students gain a deep understanding of fundamental concepts before moving to the next level. Differentiation is employed across the entire grade, as students work individual programs in IXL and other tech activites and there is much one-on-one guidance. This is possible due to the small classes of 8 to 12 students.
In the 7th and 8th grades, students have an opportunity to participate in the Maryland Math Olympiad and Mathcounts, programs designed to foster creative and challenging mathematical thinking in competitive forums.
Green Acres science curricula for Grades 5 and 6 gives students the opportunity to observe natural phenomena in various settings, speculate about why things are the way they are, learn to test their hypotheses and draw logical conclusions. They develop an excitement for further research and learn to think scientifically about their world.
With their increased appetite for specific science topics, students in Grades 7 and 8 focus on more sophisticated concepts in biology, chemistry, and physics. In chemistry, for example, students speculate on how the periodic chart originated, before conducting their own experiments on individual elements.
Because students learn best when directly engaged, Middle School science students use the woodlands, stream, gardens, and fields of our campus to observe a wide range of scientific principles, discover patterns and cycles, chart growth and change, and determine cause and effect. Four-day outdoor education trips to places such as Echo Hill Outdoor School, and Chincoteague, Virginia, supplement on-campus learning. Through the study of physical, chemical, and biological sciences, Middle School students begin to see the interdependence of plants, animals (including humans), and environments.
In early adolescence, the parts of the brain that control emotion and judgment develop more quickly than at any other time. Students between the ages of 10 and 14 easily find connections between the literature they read and their own lives.
The Middle School curriculum responds to these developments with increasingly challenging reading and writing projects that push students to interpret text from multiple perspectives. For example, in Grade 5, students read Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lei to explore themes of immigration, belonging, and identity. They read Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons and are guided discuss the main character’s physical and emotional journey as it relates to grief, self-identity, and hope.
Grade 6 students spend part of the year reading the novel The Giver, by Lois Lowry, which challenges them to consider the values dictated in a fictitious utopian society. Students reflect on both simple and more complex questions of morality. Another selection sixth graders read is Frances Temple’s Taste of Salt, a story of two Haitian teenagers striving to inspire hope in a nation that has suffered from government corruption and limited opportunities.
In Grade 7, students read a variety of genres as they begin to read adult-level literature. Students read The Outsiders to explore identity and socio-economic status and privilege. Seventh graders learn to write thesis essays using formal outlines. They also read the memoir, I Will Always Write Back, and begin to explore their own role in the world as they reflect on themselves.
Eighth grade literature delves into a variety of genres. Students read Long Way Down, a novel in verse, to explore the perpetuation of a cycle of violence and the theme of revenge. Students also read American classics, such as Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird. Students read a commercially published memoir of their choice and follow that by writing their own memoir chapters, a creative way for students to reflect on their experiences and accomplishments as they prepare for high school.
In addition, Middle School students increase their competence and independence in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. They expand their capacity for deep thinking about all aspects of language, including grammar, vocabulary and spelling concepts. They develop the willingness and ability to consider ideas different from their own. As a result, Green Acres graduates earn consistent accolades from high school teachers and are prepared to tackle the most demanding literature and ideas as they progress in school.
Students benefit from understanding their own culture as well as other cultures throughout the world. The social studies program at Green Acres enhances each student’s sense of individuality and self-awareness while emphasizing meaningful connections to other people, events, and environments.
Students in Grade 5 study the Revolutionary War, the Constitution, the first presidents and the beginnings of American westward expansion. The year culminates with the highly anticipated Oregon Trail unit, which challenges teams of students, who have taken on the roles of pioneer men and women, by problem solving and negotiating how to reach the West.
In Grade 6, students concentrate on ancient civilizations, including Egypt, Greece, China, India, and Rome. Hands-on activities deepen learning; for example, students not only read about mummies, but actually mummify barbie dolls!
Our students synthesize more complex information in Grade 7. The social studies curriculum comprises both a comprehensive course in world geography and a survey of American history of the 19th century. Students study in-depth the critical historical event of the time, the Civil War, and they examine topics relevant to our world today, such as immigration and discrimination.
In Grade 8, the curriculum expands to cover more abstract concepts, such as social justice and global responsibilities. Students take World Studies, a history of the world since 1900 with an emphasis on the US role in the world. Through in-depth discussion, debates, and simulations, World Studies challenges students to analyze world events in sophisticated ways that they have not yet encountered and teaches them to question interpretations of history. The program culminates in the Green Acres Model United Nations at the end of their 8th grade year.
Every child is an artist, a musician and an actor. The Middle School performing and fine arts program encourages a student’s self-confidence, creative spirit, and self-expression. We believe that by engaging in the act of creating students awaken to their true natures and uncover something of the mystery and beauty of being alive. The Arts program is committed to providing activities that highlight diverse cultures and a sweep of history. The music program celebrates diversity by exploring instruments, songs, compositions and dances from all over the world. Art and drama draw regularly from other cultures in the form of folktales and multicultural symbols, which are highlighted in assemblies, performances and art displays.
From Matisse-inspired collages that “paint” with scissors to multi-media portraits of fellow classmates our students embark on a journey of learning that stretches the imagination. As art skills are introduced or revisited, students use workbooks to record artistic processes and write personal reflections along with relevant information about art history and theory.
The photography program for Grades 7 and 8 focuses on both the creative and technical aspects of both the film and digital worlds. Students seek to find their unique vision in our state-of-the-art darkroom, and they also experience digital photography through Photoshop manipulations and experiments. Students create displays of artwork and exhibits, and participate in professional critiques of their work.
Working with clay is a unique and specialized art form that has spanned many centuries and cultures. Using a hands-on approach, students in Grades 7 and 8 explore the nature of ceramics and the role it has played around the world. Using a variety of hand-building techniques, students create a body of work that includes functional and purely aesthetic work. Technical skills and imagination are the key ingredients, and both have an important place in the fun-filled ceramics room.
The music program enhances students’ enjoyment and understanding of music, often complementing studies in other areas. Through listening, singing, playing instruments, and performing, fifth and sixth graders learn about music as varied as classical repertoire, American folk music, Zimbabwean marimba music and the Blues. Sixth graders receive basic guitar instruction. Seventh and eighth graders may choose guitar, vocal ensemble, or handbells as music electives. Each spring all seventh and eighth graders become the cast and crew of a full-length Broadway musical.
Middle school drama offers many ways for students to be involved in theater. They work on projection, stage presence and teamwork. In Grade 5 students work on a class production. Students in Grades 6, 7, and 8 may write their own plays or use published plays. Once a play has been chosen, students have voluntary in-class auditions, create scenery, costumes and props, and manage sound and lighting. Students have the choice in how they wish to participate in productions—either onstage or backstage. The drama program allows students to shine in new ways.
The Spanish program in Middle School follows the introduction to language in earlier grades. Beginning in Grades 5 and 6, students delve into basic vocabulary and grammar in a curriculum that emphasizes conversation, games, and group interactions. A hallmark of the Green Acres language program is learning about the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. Students study geography, differentiating various countries and societies, from Spain itself to European-influenced Latin America to native peoples of Central and South America.
In Grades 7 and 8, most classes are held in Spanish, as students are able communicate in Spanish much more readily. As in earlier grades, the program comprises both language and culture studies, as students create their own cities, develop travel brochures, and delve much further into geography of Spanish-speaking countries.
Language study at Green Acres presents opportunities for students to broaden their view of the world and expand their knowledge of humanity’s similarities and differences.
Each winter, Green Acres seventh graders participate in a three-week exchange with students from the Leonardo da Vinci School in Lima, Peru. Begun in 1998, the program matches visitors and hosts in an enjoyable and educational cultural exchange that involves class events, field trips, and if the weather cooperates, the first snowfall some Peruanos have experienced. In the summer, several Green Acres students complete the exchange by spending three weeks in Peru, exploring Peruvian history and culture through various excursions. They practice their Spanish in an authentic context, and experience daily life as a student in Lima, participating in regular classes and school activities. The trip enables participants to develop greater self-awareness, openness to new lifestyles and viewpoints, and lasting friendships.
Just as children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development all affect their overall growth, their physical development also plays a key role. Middle School students participate in physical education classes three hours per week. Team-building skills are honed for a variety of games, such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, and hockey, enabling students to understand basic strategies like passing, getting open to create scoring opportunities, defending a team’s goal, and developing “court sense.”
Physical education classes also emphasize personal physical activity and commitment to lifelong exercise as a component of health. Each student competes against himself or herself to improve scores in running, aerobic exercise, and agility. Because scores are kept from year to year, students see their improvement and develop confidence they need to sustain commitment to physical activity throughout their lives.
At Green Acres, the importance of physical education is not eclipsed by other subjects. Rather, because physical development is an essential component of a student’s overall health and growth, we challenge students on the fields and courts as well as in their classrooms.
The overarching goals of the advisory program are to ensure that each student is known well, feels a part of the overall community, and finds ways to be academically and socially successful. The advisory program engages students in discussion and activities of important life issues generated by both students and advisors. Topics include health and wellness, digital citizenship, social justice, diversity, problem-solving, independent thinking, study skills, time management, communication skills, stress management, goal setting, and self-reflection, among others.