The goal of the English program is to develop a lifelong love of reading and writing in our students. Starting in sixth grade and continuing throughout middle school, students focus on seeing connections between books and their lives. During this year, each English class begins with independent reading time. In writing, students are asked to draw connections between the books they’ve chosen and literature in the curriculum. In seventh grade, students learn to use writing as a way to deepen thinking, experiment with new genres, and learn strategies for meaningful revision. They read books in groups, as an entire class and independently.
Eighth grade students practice annotating while they read to make their thinking visible. They learn to use relevant textual evidence when writing, and to use their point of view as a mode of analysis. Reading a variety of challenging texts in a wide range of genres, students respond by writing persuasive essays, journals, poetry and articles. Sharing written work with peers, students gain an understanding of the multiple perspectives in the classroom.
Felix Adler referred often to the idea of
“diversity in the creed – unanimity in the deed.” This idea, that there are a
variety of approaches directed toward a common commitment to active engagement,
is a living foundation that informs the Ethics and Community Service Learning
program. Our program is based on the personal, social, and intellectual development
of students and responds to the moral issues that our students experience and
witness in the world. In that context,
we offer a course of study that identifies moral and social intersections,
draws on Fieldston’s ethical humanist traditions and expands student
understanding of the larger field of ethics. What school wouldn’t want to
address moral development? At Fieldston our unique approach consists of a formalized
program and pedagogy that builds skills of critical inquiry and self-examination
at each stage of development so that a student's social, emotional, academic development is
addressed hand in hand with moral development.
As students navigate the transition from childhood to adolescence they have opportunities to explore their social identities and identity contingencies, and examine issues of integrity in decision-making. Our process and content are student-based and consist of peer-to-peer learning through coordinated teaching between teachers, high school student leaders, and the middle school students’ practice and theory come together in the action arm of the Ethics curriculum where students explore issues of sustainability and community service learning. As students develop these myriad skills and a deeper critical awareness, it increases their sensitivity to the moral dimension of the issues they encounter. Our curriculum fuels a very foundational public purpose that is at the core of the school. As Adler would say, "the mind guides the hand."
In the sixth grade, Ethics classes focus on the theme of eco-literacy: building from sustainability of self to sustainability of relationships with others, to sustainability of the environment.
In the seventh grade, Ethics classes focus on developing their multi-faceted identities with respect for self and others through our Student-to-Student collaborative teaching program, where high school students lead small group discussion and support the curriculum.
In the eighth grade, Ethics classes focus on issues pertinent to managing conflict and difficult adolescent decisions with integrity. Here our Student-to-Student collaborative teaching program is responsible for the bulk of the classroom teaching and assessment.
Each year, the middle school history curriculum has been designed around a central thematic question. With an emphasis on the use of primary materials, a multi-disciplined approach and cooperative learning, sixth graders examine the issues, people, events, and movements that helped create what it is to be an American and study topics such as the United States constitution, industrialization, urbanization, and the labor movement. In seventh grade, students study how different societies and cultures change over time and are introduced to the concepts of cultural anthropology - human nature, social hierarchy, and societal change. Throughout the year, students will focus on several skills essential to their studies, such as improving critical thinking and reading, making observations and inferences, and writing persuasive essays.
Beginning with the study of early human history, their study includes the Kalahari San, and the rise of civilization in Mesopotamia. The eighth grade history course examines ancient and medieval civilization through the lens of the essential question: “Whose story is it?” Students will analyze primary material for its point-of-view, and pay particular attention to finding the voices from the past that are usually silent. During our ancient world units on Egypt, Greece, and Rome students employ research skills that are demonstrated through both essay and debate form. The medieval civilization unit centers on the development of European culture and the spread of Islam. Throughout the year, students analyze and debate issues of class, gender, race and religious freedom through a historical lens while making connections to current events.
When students enter Fieldston Middle, they can choose Mandarin, French, Spanish, or Latin. Students learn languages within the framework of a communicative thematic approach and strive to develop proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing through a curriculum anchored around essential questions that allow students to learn about New York City’s diverse language communities and real world issues they face. In Latin, we employ a spoken Latin approach in sixth grade, and reading proficiency and exposure to classical Roman civilization is also part of the focus of the course. Students who study a modern language also may add Latin in the seventh grade for a two-year sequence.
Students arrive in the middle school mostly as concrete thinkers and develop their abstract thinking skills over time. The math program is designed to work in harmony with this developmental change. As our students achieve content goals, middle school mathematicians will also develop essential habits of mind as well as problem-solving and collaboration skills. Because the start of middle school involves an intake of students from several schools, we aim to teach all students a common set of skills by the end of the first year and support students in reaching this expectation as appropriate. Students are placed in one of three math levels so they may approach topics at the pace and depth at which they are most likely to master concepts successfully.
The sixth grade mathematics program builds a strong foundation in the three-year middle school sequence. Units of study include fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and proportions, and positive and negative integers. Students will develop a sense of numbers and number relationships, and increased mastery of order of operations. Seventh grade students will study the core concepts of algebra. Equation solving, problem solving, and precision in the use of mathematical terminology and concepts are emphasized. Students will complete an in-depth study of algebra by the end of eighth grade, preparing for further study of higher-level algebra and geometry concepts. Their study includes number systems, variables, linear equations, functions, graphing, systems of equations, coordinate geometry, and quadratics. Special consideration is given to problem solving and applications to real world problems.
Music is a requirement for all three years at Fieldston Middle and provides every student with a hands-on learning experience. Our sixth grade students choose an instrument or voice and learn basic skills needed to perform in a large ensemble. Students are placed in one of three groups: chorus, string orchestra or middle school band. All groups meet in small sections twice a week and as a full ensemble once a week. An advanced music class is offered for sixth grade band students who perform at a consistently high level. In eighth grade students may choose to join a non-performing music appreciation class called “World of Music.” In all three grades students may take chorus in addition to an instrument. In eighth grade electronic music is also available as a second music course. Students acquire important performance skills at concerts given in the winter and spring.
All sixth grade students have regular physical education with an emphasis on skill building in a variety of team sports, fitness, and recreational activities. Sports activities include basketball, cross country, flag football, Frisbee, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, track, volleyball, and weight training. Recreational activities may include floor hockey, pickle ball, badminton, speedball, and team-building games.
All sixth grade students must pass the swim unit. In addition to our regular PE program, our seventh and eighth grade students are eligible to participate in a team sport. Teams are formed seasonally with tryouts and practices being held during normal PE classes. Middle school sports include football, soccer, field hockey, cross country, basketball, lacrosse, swimming, baseball, softball and track and field. All seventh and eighth grade students must pass the swim unit.
The Fieldston Middle science program is designed to provide students with a comprehensive background in science. Students develop a deeper understanding of the world around them through hands-on learning and interdisciplinary studies. Throughout the middle school years, concepts are taught through project-based learning, lab experiments, writing, group activities, research, and discussions, while refining their skills in making observations and recording data. Students are expected to draw their own conclusions and share their findings with classmates as if they were professional scientists. By the end of the eighth grade year, our students are critical thinkers who are better prepared to identify problems, test possible solutions, analyze and synthesize data, and propose recommendations to modern day issues.
The three-year course of study begins with the study of environmental science in the sixth grade. The main themes of the course include experimental design, plant communities and ecosystems, the changing earth, water resources and ecology, and environmental stewardship. The concept of sustainability is explored through collaborative work with the ethics department. The seventh grade year focuses on life science including cell structure, diversity of life, genetics, and evolution. Students also participate in an interdisciplinary unit, “The Science and Ethics of Sexuality”. The eighth grade year builds on the sixth and seventh grade experiences and focuses on the physical sciences. Students study physical interactions, including Newtonian mechanics and rotational motion. They also investigate the invisible world of atoms and molecules, exploring interactions between the seen world and the unseen.
The arts are an essential part of a well-rounded education; therefore, theatre and dance are introduced to middle school students with the aim of educating the whole child. Students study the techniques and building blocks of dance, drama, and stagecraft. Throughout the department, students are encouraged to see the world through their own artistic vision. Students work imaginatively and collaboratively in process-oriented studies. Theatre and dance experiences provide an artistic dimension to academic studies, making “thought into action” and creative risk-taking the centerpiece. Fieldston's Theatre and Dance department is a safe and collaborative environment that allows and encourages creative exploration and self-expression.
The visual arts program is rooted in Felix Adler’s vision of progressive education: hands-on learning, student-centered inquiry, and the development of a sensitive eye, a discerning mind, and skillful hand. Our sixth grade students attend a year-long visual arts class that meets twice a week in one studio with a single teacher. In seventh grade, our students rotate through a series of classes taught by experts in their disciplines; the visual arts offerings include a 2‐D studio class and model building. Seventh grade classes meet three times a week and run for four or eight weeks. In eighth grade, our students elect three courses, each of which meets three times a week for a quarter of the year. New media and disciplines including architecture, print‐making, ceramics, photography, and film production are added at this stage to round out students’ artistic experiences in middle school and prepare them for the visual arts classes offered in Upper School.