If our Preschool and Elementary school divisions have been described by some as “magical”, then I can only imagine our middle school can be described as transformational.
Anyone who has reared a pre-teen through middle school can attest that their bodies and minds are in a constant state of change and that providing the right balance of nurture, structure, and latitude requires special talents of both parents and teachers. Ultimately, our work to create balanced, kind, and thoughtful middle schoolers will be judged by who it is we send out into this world, not what. To that end, we have diligently created a Middle School program at BCD that we believe offers a unique balance of academics, electives, character development, and community service forming an innovative overall curriculum designed to challenge and guide students through these sometimes tumultuous years.
Our academic culture is influenced by our status as an authorized International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (MYP). Targeting interdisciplinary teaching and learning, the IB philosophy favors a focus on concepts rather than merely on content, and provides a rich, inquiry-based model of introducing and exploring concepts within and across the disciplines. The MYP’s focus extends beyond the notion of knowledge as an accumulation of content to include connectedness in learning and the big ideas that bind people and civilizations together. These concepts create an intellectual challenge that encourages students to make connections between their studies in traditional subjects and the real world. The IB program cultivates “international mindedness,” a mindset that fosters the development of skills for communication, intercultural understanding, and global engagement – qualities that are essential for life in the 21st century. Research shows that students participating in the MYP build confidence in managing their own learning, learn by doing, seek to connect classroom learning to the larger world, thrive in positive school cultures where they are engaged and motivated to excel, and develop an understanding of global challenges and a commitment to act as responsible citizens. While this list is long, it keeps us focused and steadfast in remembering that it is the character of the individuals we have been charged with guiding that is more important to us than their qualifications.
We balance the core academic subjects of Science, Math, English, STEM, and world languages with opportunities for in-depth pursuit of interests in the Arts, Health and Physical Education, and Design/Technology through our robust elective program which is capped off by an introspective 8th grade Capstone project. As well, students are encouraged to explore in the areas of school athletics, student government, and after-school programs.
Character development is also woven into life at BCD on a daily basis at all school levels, but more formally in middle school through the advisory program. Students work through an identity development program that is designed to progress from a “Who am I as an individual?” perspective to “What is my role in the world?”
Starting in sixth grade, students explore self-awareness and thinking about their goals for the future. Students are guided through exercises and discussions that build a strong sense of self-respect and self-esteem.
As students move into seventh grade, the focus shifts more in the direction of how we function in relationships with others. The goal of the seventh grade curriculum is to provide each student a solid foundation of their self-identity and enable him/her to effectively and respectfully work with others.
The eighth grade curriculum builds on the two previous years of self-exploration and working with others and brings these concepts to a deeper and more global level. Students explore their own global position through activities and discussions covering various topics, and examine the impact that they as individuals have (and hope to have) on the world.
Finally giving back in the form of community service is a critical part of world citizenship and as such it plays a large role our middle school curriculum. Students are required to complete 20 hours of community service. But again, it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the outcome. Thus, each grade level provides service to a non-profit organization for a three-year period adding depth and breadth to the students’ involvement. Students to contribute philanthropically, with in-kind donations and with time spent on service learning field trips putting practice into action. The focus of the program is on forming long-term relationships that cultivate awareness and understanding of the cause being served.
I believe our families and our students would tell you that our middle school program presents students with age-appropriate challenges in a nurturing environment that cultivates independence of thought, habit, and mind. This combination of foundation coupled with exploration enables pre-teen adolescents to do the work of developing a superior academic foundation and good study habits that will lead them to success in high school and beyond, while providing opportunities that enable them to explore who they are as individuals with unique interests and goals ready to serve as responsible citizen of the world.