MIDDLE SCHOOL 6/7/8
The middle school is an amazing and unique part of Honey Creek, providing students with a challenging yet creative approach to learning and being in community with one another. The middle school is divided into four main subject areas (Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, and Science) and multiple specials/electives classes (Technology, Art, Gym, Band II, Chorus, Swim). Students are in multi-age classrooms (6th/7th/8th mixed together), and they experience each subject through a project-based and thematic approach. The curriculum, which is developed by our teachers, is integrated over all three years.
As at a traditional public school, students begin each day with their base class. At Honey Creek, Core Classes are scheduled in morning blocks, with students rotating among subject areas. During the afternoons, time is set aside for specials, electives, project work, life skills, team-building, and study hall.
Project work is an integral part of the HCCS middle school experience. The Independent Project is a skills-based personal project on a topic of choice. The project is outlined in a step-by-step process, from creating a proposal, building notecards from research, arranging a visual aid, and finishing with a presentation in front of a crowd.
WHO WE ARE
Math is a skill based subject: we build our understanding on prior knowledge. There are three levels of middle school math and Algebra I. Common Core State Standards are the foundation for our math program with modifications to meet the needs of multi-age classrooms. We are currently using the Match Fishtank curriculum that not only follows CCSS, but also supports the implementation of Mathematical Practices: make sense of the problems and persevere in solving them; reason abstractly and quantitatively; construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others; model with mathematics; use appropriate tools strategically; attend to precision; look for and make use of structure; look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
Honey Creek’s overarching philosophy is to educate the whole child. When it comes to mathematics, learning new skills and practicing them is important. However, even more important is the development of problem-solving skills and working toward conceptual understanding for problem solving techniques to apply these skills to new challenges.
Two types of assessments are used: Formative and Summative. Formative assessment happens quite frequently and regularly. They are more informal and are used to “inform” a student's knowledge, growth, and level of understanding, as well as, current and future lessons, and differentiation. We use classroom/group activities, discussions, “do nows,” and homework, to name a few. Summative assessments are more formal and less frequent, and are used to report on standard acquisition. Examples of summative assessments are End of unit test, mid-unit quiz, and unit projects.
The Honey Creek approach to Language Arts is to give students relevant and engaging experiences with texts – their own writing and texts written by others. Given the opportunity to choose engaging topics, students find the processes of reading and writing to be interesting, personal, meaningful, and powerful.
Students participate in regular weekly writing on topics of their choice, in genres chosen by faculty and informed by the Michigan Common Core Standards. Class time is a balance between skill-based and craft-based mini-lessons, combined with the use of mentor texts to inform the students of what “good writing” looks like. Students also have time to pursue their own topics through reading and writing.
Students are assessed regularly on their reading comprehension by keeping reading journals throughout the school year, and by participating in small group book discussions and whole class novel studies. Their writing is assessed not only through weekly correspondences, but also through the writing they do in genre studies. Students are assessed on their progress and improvement at regular intervals over the course of the three year period. The students complete reflective portfolios twice during the school year.
The Social Studies curriculum is based on the Michigan K-12 Standards and is broken into five strands: history, geography, civics, economics and inquiry. The State’s middle school curriculum is broken down into three areas: World Geography, World History and Geography, and Integrated U.S. History from Revolution to Reconstruction.
The Honey Creek approach is based on the belief that students learn best when topics are covered in depth. This increases the level of engagement and opens the door for a lively classroom experience. The deep engagement forces students to think conceptually and better prepares them to draw parallels from one historical era or geographic location to other places and times.
A variety of assessment vehicles are used in Social Studies, which is important for several reasons: it aligns with Honey Creek's project-based approach, it taps into the diverse skill sets of our students, and it increases the students' level of engagement. Some of the assessments in recent years included creating simulations, writing historical fiction, participating in debates, taking tests or quizzes, writing persuasive essays, putting on mock trials, making infomercials, marketing and selling products, and putting on performances. Giving students choices is essential for most of these assessments. In many cases they can choose the area of focus and the way in which they demonstrate their understanding. This gives them ownership and allows for natural differentiation. Each major assessment is accompanied with a rubric and all rubrics are tied to the content standards. Expectations for each student, however, can and should vary. With sixth, seventh and eighth graders in each class, general expectations are outlined but every student is at a slightly different level. The true value of a multi-age, project-based middle school is that over the three years, teachers develop an understanding of each student’s capabilities and can gently push them to create projects that are fun and creative but also show the depth of their knowledge.
The curriculum for middle school students spans over three years and covers a wide variety of topics based upon themes. In those three years, students experience the themes of “How Things Work,” “Journeys,” and “Homes and Habitats.” Within each theme, curriculum is designed with the Michigan Science Standards/NGSS in mind, but tailored towards projects that the students use to display their scientific thinking. At the middle school level, students continue to increase/display their understanding of knowledge through 4 strands, scientific processes, physical sciences, life sciences, and earth sciences.
Through a combination of scientific inquiry and project/problem-based learning, students are highly encouraged to share their thoughts and theories on how they use science as a tool to understand the natural world around them. Through in-class discussions, homework, and hands-on learning activities, the lessons challenge the students to get beyond simple responses to be able to explain how something works, why it reacts that way, and/or use the scientific method to investigate it further.
Assessments happen through both formative and summative examples throughout a unit. In each unit, the Michigan Science Standards/NGSS are the intended objectives students will focus towards, while extending themselves sometimes in areas of personal interest and also creative outputs. They also move towards displaying mastery in these areas through these projects and coursework. Students use lab time, homework, projects, and in-class participation to experience introductions to new material, practice demonstrating what they learned, and display mastery.