In addition to Rhode Island’s Common Core Standards, we use the framework of Developmental Designs, the middle school version of the Responsive Classroom, as the basis for our work. Students in grades 6-8 take three core courses, each involving some integration across academic disciplines. In sixth grade, students take math, literacy, and integrated sciences exploration (ISE), which includes social studies. In the seventh and eighth grades, students take math, humanities, and science. Students also take various special subjects, described below.
The curriculum for each grade level is, to the extent possible, organized around one essential question:
Sixth grade: How do living things adapt to changes in their environments?
Seventh grade: What is a sustainable community?
Eighth grade: How do individuals’ decisions affect their lives, their communities, and the world?
Literacy (Grade 6)
Literacy instruction continues to draw on the balanced literacy philosophy that guides instruction for kindergarten through grade 5. Beginning in grade 6, students begin to focus more on analytical reading and writing.
Sample Literacy Unit: After studying the European colonization of New England and the cultural shifts that came with contact between Europeans and Native Americans, students write character analysis essays on a historical novel set in that time period.
Integrated Sciences Exploration (Grade 6)
In integrated sciences exploration (ISE), students focus on learning to think like scientists. Through activities that teach critical science and social studies content, students learn the skills of developing questions and hypotheses as well as researching, evaluating, and communicating their findings.
Sample ISE Unit: Sixth grade students begin by dissecting codfish and learning about the biology, life cycle, and adaptations of the cod. They also learn the basics of genetics in determining adaptive traits. Students then study currents in the Atlantic Ocean and the ways in which the currents and cod fishing influenced the development of triangular trade.
Humanities (Grades 7-8)
In the seventh and eighth grades, we combine social studies and English into humanities. Students focus on critical thinking and writing through the study of literature in historical context.
Sample Humanities Unit: Eighth grade students read primary and secondary historical documents as well as fictional accounts of the Holocaust (sample texts: Night by Elie Weisel, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli). They then write analytical essays about these texts.
Science (Grades 7-8)
Seventh and eighth grade science courses focus on teaching students inquiry methods, scientific thinking and writing, and the scientific process.
Sample Science Unit: Eighth graders study the effects of global warming and then design and conduct experiments to investigate the effects of global warming on areas such as soil erosion, sea salinity, and melting of the polar ice caps. The project culminates in a science fair.
Math (Grades 6-8)
At PCS we believe that students should be exposed to multiple methods of math instruction and should learn number sense, problem-solving, and mathematical thinking as well as specific math skills. To this end, we begin with a base curriculum focused on problem-solving, direct instruction, and skill practice.
We work hard to meet the needs of different learners within each math class by using pretests to form flexible groups working at different levels and by including simpler and more complex alternatives within each lesson. Most students complete Algebra 1 by the end of eighth grade.
Specials (Grades 6-8)
Students in grades 6-8 take three specials classes over the course of the year: Spanish, art, and physical education. They also have health and wellness instruction during their advisories.