Touchstone Experiences, Grades 5-8
In addition to being recognized as role models and leaders of the school, Middle Schoolers at Green Acres benefit from the following distinctive experiences that speak to authentic and applied learning, self-advocacy, engaged and global citizenship, and our school's longest-standing traditions:
Outdoor Educational Trips
As the name suggests, Green Acres is a school that wants to get kids active and learning out in the world. In this spirit, all of our Middle School students go on 3-5 day excursions where they experience the world, learn about themselves, and cultivate friendships. These trips are truly “outdoor education” trips, with adventures to everywhere from the mountains of West Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay to Chincoteague Island to as far afield as New Orleans. These trips are part of the way that we help our students to cultivate their natural curiosity to become inspired learners, and we often hear back from alumni that they are truly unforgettable, life-changing experiences.
"Techxplorations" (Grades 5 & 6)
As a supplement to their science, math, and art curricula, 5th and 6th graders benefit from "Techxplorations." In this hands-on course, students hone their computational thinking skills (decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, algorithm design), engage in the design process, and get an introduction to computer programming. Essential questions include:
- Are robots useful in helping populations affected by natural disasters?
- How can we help young students learn coding?
- How do toy companies use technology to enhance their products?
"Bridges" Math Project (Grade 6)
This ten-day math lab makes math meaningful and real by allowing students to apply learned algorithms and geometry to design, build, and test model bridges constructed from toothpicks. Working in small groups as “architectural firms,” students collaborate to create strong, economical bridges and to account for construction costs. Building bridges offers a “hands-on” approach for students to learn and apply foundational concepts of architecture like stress, fulcrums, the law of gravity, and the strength of different geometric shapes. Students learn to write checks, balance accounts, maintain a task schedule, and work with others to accomplish a common goal. Completed bridges will be judged for economy of design, neatness, the accuracy of their plans, and strength. The lab culminates with our adding weight incrementally to each bridge to see how much it can handle before collapsing (to cheers) in between the tables that it was bridging.
Peruvian Exchange Program (Grade 7)
Each winter, Green Acres 7th 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.
We want our students to know themselves, to cultivate a practice of sharing, and to have the poise and courage of self-advocacy. These lie as the foundation for our Middle School Student-Led Conferences, which are a learning feature for all of our students in grades 5 though 8. Each student completes a self-reflection for each class and conferences with that teacher—who often challenges them to look more deeply into themselves and the work that they have done. Over time, they cultivate the skills of looking deeply within themselves—of understanding their growth and challenges, and in sharing those insights with their teachers and parents, they learn to share and self-advocate. By the time they are 8th graders, they spend the bulk of an hour, structuring and sharing their thoughts and work with their parents and advisors.
Fantasy-Genre Narratives (Grade 5)
At Green Acres, students learn by doing. When it comes to literature, that means they don’t just read stories, they write them, too. One major writing accomplishment is the 5th grade fantasy story. Using the novel Tuck Everlasting and the picture book Jumanji as references. students make decisions about plot, character development, and use of dialogue for their own fantasy story. In doing so, they develop a deep understanding of the fantasy genre and its elements. By the end of 5th grade, students hold a final Author’s Chair to read their narratives, and they receive constructive feedback from peers. It is a project that not only teaches them about literature, it inspires them to be truly literary.
Green Acres is where my interest in engineering began. I left Green Acres having absorbed the principle that education isn't about finding or assessing your limits, but about expanding your horizons. Kat A. '12, MIT '20
Engineering Arts (Grades 7 & 8)
In this class, students are introduced to a challenge that exists in today’s urban environments and engineer two research-based innovative solutions. This year’s challenge is based on water supply systems.
This cross-curricular program gives students an opportunity to do what engineers do: identify problems, brainstorm ideas, design solutions, test, retest, build, and share their results. Students complete: a virtual city design (using SimCity 5) meeting given criteria; a 1500- word city research essay; a project plan; a scale model of the city that includes at least two innovative solutions; and a presentation to engineer judges at Mid-Atlantic Regional Competition in January.
The Olympics (est. 1966)
At Green Acres, we value play and fun as elements that every child’s schooling should have—especially when that play can be interweaved with what they’ve learned to reinforce their understanding. The Green Acres Olympics are a tradition that go back decades as a way to end the year on a high note. All of our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders join teams that engage in friendly competition that often reinforces what they’ve learned throughout the year in P.E. and their academic subjects, and sometimes just gives them the chance to be silly and have fun. Out students work hard throughout the year, and we greatly value giving them the opportunity to celebrate their learning through our year-end Olympics.
Black Americans in History Project (Grade 6)
At Green Acres, we want our kids to learn to change their worlds. We do this, in part, by helping them learn about others who have made a difference, as inspiration for their own bright futures. In an integrated social studies/language arts project in 6th grade, each student researches an important black American in history using primary and secondary sources. They learn notetaking skills, including the Cornell format, which encourages students to jot down key words and questions, then respond to them and summarize their learning. They construct a biographical essay and presentation display, telling about the lives of these great Americans and the changes that they brought to our society. They share these with the public during a culminating Black Americans in History museum event. Students in this project learn about change learn about great Americans as they reflect on their own capacities to bravely face the problems in their communities and the wider world around them.
See if you can challenge yourself with our class’ Significant Black Americans in History quiz!
Black-and-White Darkroom Photography (Grades 7 & 8)
Black-and-white fine art photography is still alive and well at Green Acres! We always say that we are involved in a process that is perhaps the highest level of human expression: that of creating art. Working with film is truly a hands-on experience, as students shoot the film, put it in tanks in total darkness, develop it, print contact sheets for editing, print larger images up to 11x14 with enlargers, and then dry-mount the finished piece while also naming their final work. One can see 7th and 8th graders developing their own "style" in creating images that interest them, while they are making something unique to the world.
7th & 8th Grade Musical
At Green Acres, we want kids to learn by doing and to demonstrate their learning in meaningful ways. Our 7/8 musical gives them the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned in their arts classes by participating in the spring musical production. Of course, some kids are stars on stage. Others participate in the chorus. Students paint the sets, design marketing posters, and serve on tech crew. But one way or another, all of our students demonstrate how they’ve grown as artists by pitching into the musical. It is just another way that we encourage kids to engage meaningfully in their learning.