Middle School Program Overview
Woodstock Day School promotes a sense of social justice, equity, and anti-bias, not only in our own community and outlook, but also in our curriculum.
Our curriculum is both malleable and organic.
Curriculum, teaching and learning from Nursery School through 12th grade is hands-on, rooted in inquiry and problem solving, incorporates student interests as well as global and local events.
Rather than being a place where most of the curriculum is ready-made and imposed from the top down, WDS takes a more holistic approach, as many ideas and objects come together to influence the process of creating, implementing and evaluating curriculum.
We emphasize integrated, curricular work, where teachers of different disciplines work collectively with students to create rich, authentic learning experiences in project-based learning settings.
The theme for our 5th Grade year is Frontiers, which is woven through all subject areas. 5th Graders learn about pioneers of all kinds, and investigate questions like: Why do people move? What makes people explore the unknown? What is courage? How are limits evolving? What do problem solvers do when they get stuck?
In 5th grade, literature circles, journal writing, blog posts, letters, short stories, essays, and reviews hone students’ writing skills, while investigating tales, songs, art, and photographs, sharpen their interpretive skills. Field trips to places of local interest, practice reading and interpreting maps, distinguishing between fact and opinion, using primary documents, reading and understanding nonfiction articles give students the opportunity to be historians and critical thinkers.
Throughout the year, the 6th Grade engages in authentic, hands-on, student centered learning experiences. The theme is around creating a mini-society. Because reading and writing are personal endeavors, students have the space to create written pieces that are meaningful to them, and to read books that peak their interest and suit their purposes.
With the help of the school librarian, 6th Graders meet in literary circles, allowing for personal choice, and structured discussion.
The theme for 7th Grade is a Sense of Place. Students investigate the answers to questions like, what are ways of communicating? What are mechanisms for communication? How do we communicate with/understand/respect people from other cultures? How are borders determined, and how are lines drawn between people and places?
7th Graders focus on critical reading and writing skills in order to analyze, question, and reconstruct the world around us. They read and write poetry, short stories, memoirs, book reviews, essays, and research papers. Novels include The Outsiders, Of Mice and Men, and The Graveyard Book.
In keeping with their role as leaders of the division, the 8th Graders’ theme is Identity. 8th Graders focus on ancient history, world religions and related literature. They investigate how beliefs are formed, how those beliefs unite or divide peoples and communities, how civilizations come into being and how “isms” arise and impact groups.
8th Graders dive into literature that reflects the realities of people from other cultures, who have been impacted by sexism, colonialism, racism, religion, and war. Some of these works include The Book Thief, Persepolis, and Things Fall Apart. Students have the opportunity to write poetry, short stories, prose, film reviews, music reviews, and book reviews, as well as essays and research papers.
Students in Fifth Grade continue with research-based Math. Major topics for the year include number and operations with Algebraic thinking, Base 10, and fractions, plus measurement and data, and geometry.
In 6th Grade, students are introduced to Connected Math, a problem-based mathematics curriculum developed at Michigan State University. 6th Graders will investigate how math connects to everyday life, and how we can use math to solve all kinds of problems.
7th Grade mathematics follows the Connected Mathematics Project curriculum. Through units filled with engaging and hands-on projects, we explore ratios and proportional relationships, the number system, expressions and equations, geometry and statistics and probability.
In mathematics, 8th Graders are in year three of the Connected Math curriculum. Equivalent to Algebra 1, students investigate mathematical models, the Pythagorean Theorem, exponential functions, quadratic functions, properties of triangles, symbolic expressions and equations, and functions.
5th Grade explore the crossing of frontiers by the early colonial pioneers, the Founding Fathers and their vision for the republic that became the United States, and conclude the year with the space race.
In 6th Grade, students continue to evolve as independent thinkers, by working together to form their own mini-society. Students all have roles to play to create this happy and productive scaled down version of society as a whole. As in all societies, there are setbacks, and the class learns how restorative justice practices can be used during these times by running their own judicial system.
Students will discuss justice and our place in the timeline of history, asking messy questions like “What is fair?” and “What is just?”
7th Graders use problem-solving and decision-making skills to ask and answer geographic questions, and explore physical and cultural perspectives to examine people, places, and environments at local, regional, national, and international levels. Students describe the influence of geography on the events of the past and present. They study the physical processes that shape patterns in the physical environment; the characteristics of major landforms, climates, and ecosystems and interrelationships; the political, economic, and social processes that shape cultural patterns of regions; types and patterns of settlement; the distribution of movement of world population; relationships among people, places, and environments; and the concept of religion.
In the spring, 7th graders explore folktales and what they communicate about the culture, geography, history, customs, and beliefs of earlier civilizations. Students then write their own folktales, presenting them in an evening of dance, music, food and storytelling.
For 8th graders, topics include Ancient China (Buddhism), Ancient India (Hinduism), African Civilizations, Mesoamerican Civilization, Muslim Empires (Islam), Ancient Rome/Byzantium (Christianity & Judaism), and the European Middle Ages.
We recently renovated our two science buildings in order to offer new science labs. Half of the Science and Nature Building was redesigned to be a chemistry lab, which now has cabinetry for proper storage with chemical resistant counters, lab tables, and emergency equipment.
While our spaces are flexible, we have a lab for elementary science, one for physics, engineering, and middle school science, and one for biology, chemistry, and earth science.
Much of our science instruction is done through an environmental lens. Topics such as air and water pollution, alternative energy, global climate change and ocean acidification feature prominently in the curriculum. Engineering units that focus on problems such as cleaning up oil spills are also introduced in the upper elementary grades, and continue through high school. An emphasis on cause and effect and the complex nature of systems are pervasive themes of science instruction.
We use curricula that is created by math and science educators and NSF-funded, rather than textbooks. This curricula is student-centered, inquiry-based, truly aligned with the CCSS or the NGSS, and come with kits that contain all of the supplies necessary to do investigations.
In Science, 5th Graders connect to the theme of Frontiers with studies of the structures and properties of matter, matter and energy in organisms and ecosystems, Earth systems, and space systems. Hands-on projects and experiments build students’ skills as budding scientists. In the Spring, students design their own group experiments for presentation at our annual spring Science Expo.
The 6th Grade Science curriculum focuses on the Catskill Watershed Trout in the Classroom (TIC) education program. TIC is an environmental education program in which students raise trout from eggs to “fry” (young trout), monitor tank water quality, and engage in a stream habitat study. This hands-on program allows the students to not only practice higher-level lab procedure, but begin to connect these activities with the bigger concepts of conservation, water resource appreciation, and ecosystem analysis. As a component of this study — and a highly anticipated event — 6th Graders go on a two-night overnight trip to the Frost Valley YMCA in the Fall.
7th Grade uses an active, experiential curriculum called the Full Option Science System (FOSS). Each unit focuses on a Big Question and a Big Challenge. The Fall is dedicated to physical sciences, and the Spring to physics, where students explore principles of motion and force, including relative motion, velocity, acceleration, Newton’s laws, friction, gravity, balanced and unbalanced forces, and net force. Students use these principles to improve their design of two cars; one with, and one without a propulsion system.
8th Graders study Earth Science, exploring the geologic sciences that are concerned with the origin, structure, and physical phenomena of the earth. Projects focus on patterns and cycles that affect living organisms, as well as larger astronomical concepts that lend to our understanding of our place in the universe.
For our 5th Graders, the focus is on speaking and learning from and listening to songs and children’s books. They also start to identify parts of a sentence (subject, verb, noun, and adjective).
In 6th Grade, the focus is on conversations, writing, and culture through reading and memorizing poems, reading children’s books out loud in Spanish, watching videos, listening to music, and discussing cultural topics.
In the 7th Grade, students begin a more formal study of the language, with a focus on common vocabulary, and elementary grammar, including verb conjugations in the present tense. Culture and history will focus on Spain and its influence around the world.
In the 8th Grade, students take French, preparing them to make a choice of which language to study in high school. Listening to, as well as reading, writing, and speaking the language is the focus, with connections to the 8th Grade humanities study and as many field trips as possible.
Teachers of all grades use these assessments to plan, reteach, confer with students and create appropriate student groups and purposeful tasks.
Informally, there is a wide variety of tools used among our faculty to assess student learning and progress.
Teachers use informal assessments such as checklists, conferences, anecdotal observations, running records, and work samples to assess student progress. In language arts, writing samples and spelling assessments are used.
As students move to middle and upper school, the formal assessments tend toward the summative, though some teachers do use formative assessment as well.
There are projects, graded homework assignments, quizzes and tests, and in some cases, students have agency in what assessment type may be used for a particular project. Teachers of all grades use these assessments to plan, reteach, confer with students and create appropriate student groups and purposeful tasks. Projects and authentic assessment are our best guide to how well our students are doing. Observation and documentation are often employed in addition to some student self-assessment and even peer evaluation.
Learning Lab, a fee-based support service, was developed to address the individual learning needs of students who come from diverse academic backgrounds and ability levels.
The important support service is tailored to meet the needs of each of its students (K-12), and can range from individualized, one-on-one sessions with a certified special education teacher, to a modified remedial curriculum taught in a small group, or push-in services that take place in the student’s general education classroom.
Learning Lab also provides an added layer of communication with parents in the form of weekly or monthly academic and behavioral updates.