Middle School Philosophy and Programs
At Cambridge School, we understand that the middle school years are a critical period in a student’s intellectual and social development. Our Middle School philosophy and programs is carefully designed to not only focus on language remediation, but also on academic strengths and interests.
During their middle school years, students are encouraged to progress toward more abstract, critical thinking and problem solving. In tandem with this goal, we focus on the work production skills needed for higher levels of academia including the executive skills required to accomplish daily tasks and long term projects. Through the middle school years we promote self-awareness, positive self-image, respect for differences, and an appreciation of the larger community.
While Cambridge School has multi-age classrooms, we follow the core curriculum found in traditional middle schools — with topics ranging from math and science to physical education and the arts. Information regarding the programs and approaches we use can be found below.
The Middle School Math program provides students with a broad, concept-driven curriculum that attempts to give students the mathematical knowledge and tools necessary for daily life and future education. Students develop their ability to solve problems, reason logically and communicate in the language of mathematics. Included in the curriculum are topics in computation, number theory, estimation, measurement, geometry, graphing and the fundamental concepts of algebra. Since calculators expand the student’s capability of computing, focus on concept development and the problem solving process is steadily maintained. The TINS method continues to be utilized to effectively sequence and solve word problems.
- Dimensions Math® from Singapore Math is a highly effective, multi-sensory, structured approach to teaching mathematics. This method focuses on concept mastery through the intentional sequencing of skills and a concrete, pictorial, abstract approach that introduces concepts in a tangible way and becomes progressively more abstract. Students’ metacognition skills are strengthened as they are taught to “think about their thinking,” and their communication skills grow as they learn how to effectively share this thinking. Students use prior knowledge to anchor new learning and to make connections between various mathematical concepts. Dimensions Math® teaches techniques and skills to develop students’ number sense, mental math abilities, and flexibility in thinking about numbers. Problem solving is also highly emphasized, and students learn how to transform word problems into visual representations in order to successfully solve them. The ultimate goal is to help students become successful, confident, resourceful mathematical thinkers.
- Making Math Real™ is a multi-sensory, hands-on and structured program designed for students of all learning styles. The approach integrates key cognitive developments necessary to success in math. Essential brain tools for math, such as symbol imaging, detail analysis and sequential processing, are developed through fun and engaging lessons that guide students from kindergarten through algebra.
- TINS (Thought, Information, Number sentence, Solution) Method was designed to help students break down word problems and solve them with accuracy. Students are taught to identify keywords and nonessential words, visualize the problem and understand the “language of math” so they are able to choose the appropriate operations when solving a problem.
In the Middle School history and social studies curriculum, students expand their knowledge of geography, history, economics, civics, world cultures, and current events. Comprehension skills including note-taking and outlining are taught. Hands-on projects and simulations allow students to “experience” history in the classroom. In addition, each student in the Middle School receives Time for Kids, and class time is devoted to current events on a regular basis.
Middle School students continue to engage in multi-sensory activities to extend their knowledge in the life, physical, and earth sciences as well as to develop skills in the use of laboratory equipment. Students participate in experiential learning by completing several lab experiments, including dissection activities, to facilitate discovery-based learning. Students also use their surroundings as an outdoor classroom and utilize many local resources, such as the Watershed Outdoor Center, Trenton State Museum and Planetarium, and the Clean Ocean Action Summit for the study of many life science and environmental concepts. Computer applications integrated into the science curriculum include research on the internet, web-quests, and demonstrations on the SMART Board™.
Greek and Latin Word Roots
Middle School students learn Greek and Latin word roots to help them increase vocabulary and reading comprehension. Each week, students are presented with strategic vocabulary instruction through Greek and Latin word parts from the book series, Vocabulary from Classical Roots. Students are empowered with a useful, transferable technique for making sense of unfamiliar vocabulary across content areas and on standardized tests. Exercises have students think about word relationships, determine correct usage of words in context, complete analogies, and use words in writing and discussion. The teacher provides the student with many multi-sensory activities that include the Greek and Latin word roots learned, so that these word parts become internalized.
Music is an essential component of every child’s education and all Cambridge School students participate in musical learning through the Fine Arts Program. Cambridge School’s music program is performance based. The program is directly linked to school celebrations through vocal and instrumental music as well as drama. A winter concert, an annual all-school musical and an end of year performance are just a few of the ways we share our students’ musical accomplishments. Songs are oriented toward the seasons, holidays, and school projects. It is our goal to develop students’ musical skills including vocal production, rhythm, pitch, dynamics, tempo, note reading, and harmony through the medium of rehearsal. Many different musical styles, genres, and cultures are represented in teacher led listening activities. The music program is integrated with classroom curriculum. Opportunities to enhance team work, cooperation, community, and self-esteem are provided through these large-group collaborations where students practice the art of working together to achieve a common musical goal.
Drama has many beneficial applications in the classroom. Research shows that drama increases creativity, originality, sensitivity, fluency, flexibility, emotional stability, cooperation, and examination of moral attitudes, while developing communication skills and an appreciation of literature. Drama accommodates students with different learning styles by providing visual, auditory, and kinesthetic methods of teaching critical thinking skills and engaging in aesthetic experiences with literature. In addition, research on drama in the classroom has found it to improve reading comprehension, persuasive writing skills, self-esteem, and positive attitudes towards others. Drama also provides a platform for safe expression and the utilization of the imagination.
The goal of the art program at Cambridge School is to stimulate creative thinking and to encourage students to feel comfortable using art as an effective and meaningful form of communication. Students with different learning styles often display a strong aptitude for the visual arts. Therefore, we strive to challenge students through creative problem solving and experimentation with art, and to inspire them with a lifelong curiosity and urge to create. Students develop confidence in their creative expression by building skills in a variety of media. The students work with tools appropriate to their abilities and skill level in order to develop manipulative skills needed to satisfy individual artistic expression. Elements of design are introduced: line, shape, color, texture, space, and light, as well as the principles of design: pattern, rhythm, balance, contrast, emphasis, and unity. The students create bridges between art and the world around them through a theme-based integrated curriculum. For example, students design and create set backdrops and stage props that are used in their all-school musical production. Often projects connect art concepts to language, math, and social studies. Projects are designed to offer structure for students to feel creatively safe yet provide enough freedom for self discovery. The students expand their horizons and are visually inspired by experiencing a variety of artwork from contemporary and past cultures. Also, students create a connection with the art community through museum/gallery visits, field trips, visiting artists, and the annual Student Art Show.
This leveled course provides direct instruction in both computer skills and the underlying science that drives technology. Students build their digital literacy as they engage in dynamic experiences that develop their knowledge of the workings of technology, while acquiring critical 21st century skills—including collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. Components of the series include: computer coding, digital design, concepts of architecture and engineering, app development, and graphic design.
The Middle School Physical Education Curriculum capitalizes on the skill development taught in Lower School. As students grow steadily, their muscular coordination increases. The qualities of accuracy and speed in object manipulation are emphasized. The students are exposed to team, group, and sports-related activities where they can be competitive, active, and inquisitive. They practice valuable concepts and skills such as sportsmanship, positive social interactions, peer acceptance, self-discipline, independence, and leadership. In addition, students participate in an annual fundraiser called Hoops for Heart, which ties into our community service program.
During the fitness component, the students are evaluated and tested to measure their fitness level and skills compared to other students their age.
In the winter semester all students have health classes integrated into their physical education program. Health classes are designed to address health issues related to students’ social environments, equipping them with skills necessary to make appropriate choices.
Instrumental Music – Recorder
Instrumental Music introduces students to the two main elements of music: rhythm and pitch through instruction in the recorder. Instruction is provided by our Instrumental Music Instructor, Mr. Ray Nugent. Mr. Nugent is a member of the Westminster Conservatory of Music and has a Masters of the Art in Piano Pedagogy and Performance. Proper finger position, embouchure (position of the instrument relative to the mouth), and blowing techniques are demonstrated and reinforced through direct instruction, modeling, and practice. Students are taught notation and different note values using Orff and Kodaly methodologies. A variety of exercises, echoing, reading, and improvising are used to reinforce concepts. Students perform twice annually at the Holiday Concert and End of Year Ceremonies.
Handbell Choir – Middle School I & II
Students in Middle School I & II participate in a weekly, 45 minute, handbell choir directed by Mr. Ray Nugent. Handbells involve a highly organized and complex system of counting and reading where each individual student is responsible for one or two notes within a whole piece. Students must count the entire piece and listen to the piece as a whole in order to know exactly when they need to play their individual bell or bells. Teamwork is at the core of the class. Every person has to know the parts of everyone else in order for the score to work. It is very exciting when individual elements unite to form a melodic and harmonic composition. The class includes score analysis, (reading the music and talking about it), repertoire, and performance.