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Course Descriptions

Sixth Grade

Academic achievement, of course, is a prime goal during sixth grade. During the first semester, teachers work to ease the transition from Lower School to Middle School by helping students with organization and time management skills.  Sixth grade is not a breeding ground for competitiveness. At MPH, childhood is still celebrated in sixth grade and learning is the prize everyone wins for effort. Children are guided toward academic success with encouragement and care so that their confidence as learners and new members of Middle School is strengthened. Leaving behind the homeroom environment of Lower School, sixth graders follow a schedule that allows them to have a “home” in the team leader’s classroom, as well as their individual advisor’s room, while introducing them to departmentalized courses throughout campus.  Students study a World Language, participate in daily physical education or dance classes, and rotate through classes with different students.

Seventh Grade

Seventh Grade is a unique year for students. The middle of the middle school years, it is a time full of dramatic personal change, as well as neurological growth. Seventh graders are constantly watching, striving, bouncing and needing! We know this about our students and design the academic program around seventh graders’ developmental needs. Seventh graders further develop academic and research skills in challenging classes in the core disciplines. While they are provided continuity by traveling in academic clusters throughout the day, the additional enrichment courses they participate in allow them to feel some independence, too. Students take abbreviated courses like Life Skills, fitness, and technology.  This independence and the fully departmentalized structure of classes contribute to students’ growing sense of being responsible for their own learning – a key understanding for future success in Middle and Upper School.  Students continue to participate in daily physical education or dance classes and further their study of a World Language.

Eighth Grade

During this culminating year of Middle School, students are looking ahead to Upper School with wide eyes, though their teachers realize they are not ready for the next division quite yet. There is still important work to be done in Middle School. The eighth grade curriculum hones in on study and research skills, exploration and thought, advanced problem-solving and all that is demanded of a successful scholar. The Eighth Grade academic menu offers students greater choice. Enriched science and art are offered, health is a part of the curriculum, and there are options among math courses. All students take an introduction to Eastern Cultures called “Chinese Kaleidoscope” to continue broadening their horizons as they become members of the global community.  Independent learning in each classroom expands, and opportunities for personalized experiences are introduced. Experiential trips are essential to Middle School, and eighth grade is no exception. A trip to Washington, D.C., taken in the spring, is an urban adventure that challenges students to respond to a major city and all that it has to offer. Navigating city streets, Metro lines, and crowds are part of this dynamic experience in the nation’s capital.


Strong independent schools have challenging and engaging English curriculum. This holds true at MPH. In the Middle School, the basics of English grammar, composition and literature are stressed, yet students deepen and polish their approach to the written word with great intention and care. Annotation, critical thinking, discussion, and editing skills are highlighted in middle school as students participate in shared, purposeful inquiry using academic language, some for the very first time. When writing, which students do often, middle schoolers work through the mechanics – sentence structure, mode, word choice, and paragraphing – developing a position or argument, identifying an audience, and organizing their ideas along the way.  Essential questions drive this academic push by putting emphasis upon communication and vocabulary development at all levels. Middle school also prepares students well for the Upper School. Students in grades 6 – 8 are exposed not only to plays and middle grade literature, but also graphic novels, epics, short stories, and poetry.  


English 6 

In English 6, students work toward becoming critical readers and proficient writers. Texts of varied genres including novels, short stories and poetry are used to engage students in reading. An introduction to literary elements and opportunities to write in a variety of ways allow students to connect more deeply with literature. Grammar instruction focuses on building creative and complex sentences in addition to reviewing the mechanics of writing. 

Readings may include: D’Aulaires Book of Greek Mythology, The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, and Schooled. Additionally, students will self-select books for independent reading projects throughout the year. 

English 7 

In English 7, students are exposed to a wide array of books, stories, poems, and media so that they can find connections within and between these works. They are asked to look critically at how these works are constructed and at how these writers use language to make meaning. Literary analysis is a primary focus of the course. Their reading serves to inform the students’ own emerging writing skills. From reinforcing their understanding of the fundamentals, such as elements of fiction, students develop a good working knowledge of different modes of writing such as exposition, persuasion, and argumentation. Varied creative assignments, frequent in-class writing, and exposure to a variety of genres and modes of literacy provide students with a wealth of opportunities to grow. 

Readings may include New Kid, The Giver, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and numerous short stories and poems. 

English 8 

In English 8, a variety of both contemporary and classic texts are used to engage students who are developing into more sophisticated thinkers and writers. These texts address a number of serious issues and themes which generate strong reactions from adolescents and allow them a variety of ways to interact with literature. In addition to discussing and writing about what they read, students have opportunities for recitation, dramatic interpretation, and multi-media presentations. Continued review of mechanics and grammar, and regular attention to vocabulary development are used to strengthen and streamline student writing. 

Readings may include Animal Farm, Julius Caesar, Raisin in the Sun, and numerous short stories and poems. 


The effort to help students answer their own questions, such as, “How does this relate to the world I know? How can mathematics help me understand my world and what people do?” has been the foundation to the implementation of a math curriculum for over 20 years at MPH. Curriculum is designed so that students personally construct their mathematical understanding as they make sense within situations requiring the real application of mathematical thinking and computation. In doing so, mathematics, another necessary literacy for our children, becomes a tool for life. Comprehension of “when,” as well as the skill of “how,” are integrated within lessons. 

We strive to balance students constructing their own meaning from mathematical situations with teaching students the necessary algorithms for future success in math.  Algebraic thinking is stressed beginning in the Lower School and accelerated students have the opportunity to take Algebra beginning in seventh grade. Beyond that, students develop problem solving, reasoning and communication skills with excellent results. Our students thrive on taking “calculated” and thoughtful risks in mathematics; witnessing the many “aha!” moments in a class is exhilarating for the students and teachers. 


Mathematics 6
Math 6 topics include number theory, operations on decimals, fractions, and integers, measurement, geometry, ratios and proportions, and introductory probability and statistics.  Cooperative learning and problem-solving skills, as well as writing to communicate mathematical ideas, are emphasized throughout the year.  Students explore material through a series of small group activities and projects, as well as through whole class discussions. 

This course is offered to seventh graders and provides a rigorous presentation to the study of algebra. An introduction to the use of variables in equations is fundamental to the course. Numerical concepts encompass order of operations, number theory, integers, rational numbers (positive and negative fractions), percent, ratios, volume and surface area and provide a sound foundation for the future study of algebra. Problem solving is also emphasized. The graphing calculator is used to evaluate expressions, graph linear equations, check answers, and explore mathematical ideas to help students become familiar with its operation. 

Foundations of Algebra
Foundations of Algebra is offered to students who have completed the seventh grade Pre-Algebra class. Students pursue traditional topics of algebra including solving and graphing linear equations and inequalities, algebraic manipulation skills, exponents, polynomial expressions, as well as computation with rational numbers and statistics. Special attention is devoted to developing the relationship between algebraic models, graphs, the geometry of measurement, communication of ideas, connecting math to real life situations and the use of the TI-84 calculator. 

Algebra IC
This accelerated course is offered to students with faculty recommendation. This course is for students who embrace challenges, function independently and enjoy delving into how and why mathematical concepts work. Students pursue traditional topics of algebra: solving equations and inequalities, linear functions and graphing, systems of linear functions and inequalities, operations with polynomials, quadratic equations, rational and irrational numbers and logic. The course devotes special attention to problem solving skills, written communication of ideas, developing the relationship between algebraic models and graphs, and the use of the graphing calculator. 


Grades six through eight are a natural crossroads already existing between lower school and upper school education, between childhood and adolescence, and between an understanding of the concrete and an ability to tackle the abstract. Therefore, Middle School History lessons and activities are written to develop upper-level thinking skills and also inspire a love of history. Students in middle school are called upon to analyze events and defend their analyses. Several lessons focus on what life was like during a certain period of time or how historical events affect them as individuals. The curriculum provides activities that students of various levels of ability and interest can find both challenging and rewarding. While many of the activities culminate in some form of written work, other assignments include working on multimedia presentations, maps, and debates. Students are called upon to gather information from many resources and write clearly about what they have learned.  No skill is taught in a vacuum. Perhaps most importantly, students are given the opportunity to act as historians. Throughout the curriculum many primary sources are presented, such as speeches, personal accounts of events, and political cartoons. Teachers may have to help students figure out the more difficult passages, but it is important that every student participates in viewing the past through primary source materials as well as his or her own eyes. 


History 6 | Digging the Past: Foundations of History
How do we know what we know about history? The past is often difficult to read and understand, so a good historian must interpret the events of the past to help accurately retell what happened. Historians often need to look at multiple perspectives, analyze primary sources, create a claim supported by evidence, and piece together the historical context of a situation in order to understand the past. What better place to start than understanding the human foundations of our world? In History 6, we begin by honing our analytical talents through historical skill-building, enhance our understanding of world geography and how it intersects with human development, and explore the development of civilization and governments over time, focusing on both Mediterranean and Mesoamerican civilizations in the ancient world. The course will finish with an examination of European contact and early American colonization. At the end of this year, students will become increasingly comfortable with the critical skills and conceptual foundations necessary to study history successfully at MPH. 

History 7 | Pivotal Points in United States History
Why did American colonists fight a revolution against the British Empire? How did the new American citizens decide that their government was failing and write, in one summer, a Constitution that is still in use over 220 years later? How did that government almost fall apart during the Civil War? By forgoing the usual “survey” approach to history and examining just a few periods – the “pivotal points” – we find out what makes history both exciting and crucial. Primary sources are stressed throughout the year, and students write, edit and revise analytical, narrative and creative assignments. Give me liberty or give me death! 

History 8 | Current Events Literacy
Too often, reading a news article or watching the news on TV is like arriving late to a movie that happens to be in another language. You may catch a few good action scenes, but will probably leave the theater unsure of what just happened. To effectively comprehend world events today, it is necessary to critically examine their historical roots and grapple with a variety of viewpoints. In this course, we will focus on themes of identity, conflict, and social responsibility. The course spans the 20th century to present, from politics to social reform, allowing students to identify similar events and issues throughout history. This course will be grounded in the concrete experiences and situations of people of color in the United States, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. We will cover events such as the Civil Rights movement, the Cuban Revolution, the Iranian Revolution and South African apartheid. The major purpose of this course is to educate students to be politically, socially, and economically conscious about their connections to local, national, and global history. By the end of the year, students will have analyzed an assortment of primary and secondary source documents, become curators of creative projects, and completed a variety of written works. 


Imagine a middle school chorus of ‘what if’ and ‘how come’ serving to shape the nature of science education. Students’ natural curiosity serves as a springboard, catapulting learning into an intensely personal experience. This constructivist approach dovetails with the questioning, rapidly developing intellects. Our faculty celebrates this and builds experiences to monopolize student curiosity. Whether comparing rocket fly rates, modeling lake effect snow, or generating narratives for dinosaurs students are offered rich, hands-on opportunities to question. Attention is also given to moving students’ thinking to allow an experience to teach them all it can. That is, there may be significant learning occurring throughout and as a result of an experience that was not anticipated. However, opening one’s mind to allow all this information to be considered is a skilled thought pattern one finds within all great scientific thinkers. This style of learning is exemplified not only by our daily approach to teaching the unique middle school student but is also extended to our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Fair. Students graduating from our middle school have a refined sense of the scientific method as well as corollary writing skills.


Science 6 
This introductory course in scientific inquiry covers a variety of scientific fields. Content is taught through experimentation, acquainting students with science methodology. Scientific inquiry is made less mysterious by allowing students to understand the world through supervised experimentation. Students are involved with ecosystem comparisons, microscopic investigations, and basic experiments in chemistry and physics. As the year progresses students are given greater independence in determining both control and variable trials of each experiment and learn to make objective statements about their observations while writing increasingly complex lab reports. Independent work is also achieved through the design, development, and execution of individual STEM Fair projects.  

Life Science
The focus of 7th-grade Life Science is on lab skills and human body systems. Lab skills include light microscopy, measurement, experimental design, and lab safety.  Human body systems include: circulatory, immune, muscular, skeletal, reproductive, nervous, respiratory, digestive, integumentary, and endocrine. Laboratory work is designed to give students hands-on experience, reinforce course content, and develop an understanding of the scientific method. In addition, students carry out a thorough preparation for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fair, which is designed to give them experience in selecting a question for research, designing and carrying out an appropriate experiment, analyzing results, and communicating with both adults and their peers.  

Science 8:  Earth Science
Earth Science serves as an introduction to a number of the physical sciences. Through a mix of student and teacher-generated activities, students are exposed to topics in chemistry, geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy.  The common themes of density, cycles, energy, and matter show the connections between these topics.  Labs are used to practice skills such as measurement, identification of unknowns using physical and chemical properties, and the development of scientific reasoning and scientific literacy. Students create a variety of products including maps, dichotomous keys, and presentations of their learning.  Students will design, carry out, and report on their own original research, reinforcing the concepts of the scientific method and experimental design through genuine experiences.   

World Language

At MPH, we believe that proficiency, and ideally, fluency, in a world language is the gateway to global citizenship. We value the study of languages not only for the immediate practical benefits, but also for the way in which learning a new language enables the student to learn a new culture, and thereby see their own more clearly. MPH offers instruction in French, Latin, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Students often pursue their language of choice through the most advanced courses, and many also take advantage of our international travel and immersion programs. 

Small classes are essential to MPH’s excellence in language instruction. Students are immersed in the cultural products of the countries whose language they are studying. They may do as the Romans did, prepare a Spanish meal, read a French magazine, or watch a Chinese film. Because the study of a world language entails a progressive acquisition of linguistic skills, our program is intentional in its vertical articulation.  


Foundations in Spanish (6th Grade) 
This course is an exploration of language and culture, using the language as the vehicle for developing communication skills.  Each day, students will develop their competence in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, with interactive lessons, conversations, and practical topics centered around daily life. The language is presented within the context of exchanging personal information and storytelling in historical contexts as well as the present day. Emphasis is placed on the students’ ability to develop a passion for lifelong learning of a second language with increasing independence using the three skills of communication in a real-world context.  

Foundations in French (6th Grade)  
This course is designed to introduce students to the French language and culture through exposure to and repetition of the spoken and written language. Students will be able to identify basic daily exchanges in French and communicate in spoken and written French on a variety of practiced topics with memorized phrases and expressions. They will also present basic information on these learned topics. Emphasis will be placed on listening, speaking, reading, and writing in French at an introductory level.  Students will be able to read signs, labels, and simple texts with repeated expressions and phrases in the target language. They will be exposed to many cultural aspects throughout the francophone world through readings, movies, songs, and projects. 

Spanish 1A (7th Grade)
Spanish 1a is an immersion course designed with acquisition-driven instruction principles and a proficiency-oriented approach. Students develop their communication skills by understanding and participating in conversations, storytelling, reading, and writing about daily life topics in present, past, and future tenses. It provides a path to novice mid proficiency based on high-frequency words, grammar, and cultural themes of the Spanish-speaking world. Students begin to develop knowledge and understanding of Spanish-speaking cultures as well as geography, art, music, and history.  

French 1A (7th Grade) 
This course is designed to support students’ communication skills by daily practice in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Students will learn to describe and discuss familiar everyday situations and begin to write independently with familiar sentences structures. Students will also be able to understand a series of connected sentences in readings and writing. Culturally, students will be able to make comparisons and connections between their own culture and other practices.  

Latin 1A (7th Grade)
Students may begin their study of Latin in the 7th grade. The primary objectives of this Latin class are to comprehend the language for reading purposes as well as to enhance the knowledge of classical civilization. Students also enrich their vocabulary daily through the role of Latin roots in English derivatives. Finally, students will become more familiar with the vast world of ancient Rome and its influence on our own world. 

Spanish 1B (8th Grade) 
Spanish 1B is an immersion course is designed with acquisition-driven instruction principles and a proficiency-oriented approach.  Students will develop communicative competence through interactive lessons, leveled readings, class discussions, and daily shared writing.  Through a series of genre-based units, students will develop their ability to interpret and express meaning in the language, in various language functions: describing, narrating, narrating for significance, informing, stating opinions, and constructing text-based arguments. These functions will be incorporated in a variety of communicative contexts, for example, at home, in school, at work, when traveling, while shopping, and playing. Students will perform these tasks with an appropriate level of accuracy in interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication, and maintain a portfolio of work samples demonstrating their growth.  Through contextualized, daily work with language features that apply to the various functions and topics, students will improve their accuracy in writing and speaking. 

French 1B (8th Grade) 
French 1B is an immersion course is designed with acquisition-driven instruction principles and a proficiency-oriented approach.  Students will develop communicative competence through interactive lessons, leveled readings, class discussions, and daily shared writing.  Through a series of genre-based units, students will develop their ability to interpret and express meaning in the language, in various language functions: describing, narrating, narrating for significance, informing, stating opinions, and constructing text-based arguments. These functions will be incorporated in a variety of communicative contexts, for example, at home, in school, at work, when traveling, while shopping, and playing. Students will perform these tasks with an appropriate level of accuracy in interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication, and maintain a portfolio of work samples demonstrating their growth.  Through contextualized, daily work with language features that apply to the various functions and topics, students will improve their accuracy in writing and speaking. 

Latin 1B (8th grade)
The Latin 1B course develops awareness and mastery of Latin grammar. The course stresses proficiency in a language based on endings rather than word order. Vocabulary building is fundamental. Latin forms and endings are practiced and drilled daily. While the ultimate goal is translating sentences from Latin to English, there is also the practice of translating from English to Latin. Classical pronunciation is used. The class emphasizes the impact of Greek and Roman civilizations on literature, culture, and art. 

Visual Arts

The Middle school art program provides an integrated sequence of art instruction and experiences intended to instill in each student the skills and information needed to ensure a lasting appreciation of the importance of art in our lives. 

All students learn a variety of practical skills such as drawing, the use of design principles, and color theory. Many types of media are used to create 2-D projects. Materials include pastels, colored pencil, printmaking, and watercolor. 


6th Grade
Throughout the year students learn basic observational skills, attention to detail and introduction to color theory through a series of drawing and painting exercises. Students’ primary learning is centered in fun, observation, quality of craftsmanship, learning what makes a good collaborator and basic reflection. 

7th Grade
In seventh grade art students learn a variety of skills and are given the time to experiment with a range of media. Students create projects using perspective, have continued focus on observation and work in mix media.  Students’ primary learning is based in fun, brainstorming, experimentation, patience, and developing confidence in their creativity. 

8th Grade
Eighth grade students see a major shift in their class work and are pushed to question art and give greater attention to design. They begin the school year learning about Street Art including the controversy surrounding it. In addition to continuously building technical skills students are given the opportunity to do independent projects where they generate the ideas, problem solve through the process and are challenged to continuously edit, improve and reflect upon their work. The primary instruction in eighth grade is focused on helping students see art and design at more than face value, building creative confidence, an introduction to independence, fun and preparing students for the transition into the Upper School curriculum. 

Performing Arts

The Performing Arts program at MPH strives to cultivate both a fundamental understanding and lifelong love of the arts. Performing together singing, dancing, acting, or playing an instrument positively impacts students’ overall development, including areas of self-confidence, academic discipline, and creative thinking. Additionally, playing in an ensemble builds stronger communities and provides a place for building lasting friendships – and it’s fun! The varied and flexible program welcomes beginners and experienced players in all grades. When the opportunity is available, we send performers into the community as members of All-County and All-State ensembles.  


Music Ensembles: Band, Orchestra, and Chorus
Music ensembles present an opportunity to study and perform music literature while experiencing the joy and love of music. Students will explore a variety of musical styles and genres, develop overall musicianship, and build teamwork amongst one another. Each semester will conclude with a performance. In addition to rehearsals during class time, band and orchestra students will have one group lesson each week to continue building individual skills. 


Back Stage: An Introduction to Stagecraft
Middle School Stagecraft is a hands-on introduction to stagecraft. Students will help plan, design, and build scenery, lighting, costume, and sound for the Middle School Showcase. This course may be taken more than once so that students can continue developing advanced skills both in Middle and Upper School. 

Middle School Dance provides an introduction to dance as an art form and form of expression. This course focuses on gaining movement skills and finding confidence and enjoyment through movement. Students develop strength. Flexibility, coordination, and confidence while learning the fundamentals of dance technique. 

Computer and Information Technology

Technology education in the Middle School directly correlates with adolescent development. With an emphasis on social responsibility and problem solving, students use technology with the purpose to be productive, creative and to design.  In each grade, direct instruction in computer science education takes place as students investigate different computer hardware, subject specific software, and Internet applications with the goal of gaining an understanding of each tool as in pertains to their learning. At the crux of this exploration is the intersection of technology and how it applies to research and communication – two essential skills for students to know for school success. 


Computer Literacy | Grade 6
Grade 6 Tech skills is a yearlong course designed to help students with the technological transition from lower school to middle school. Students will learn the computer skills they need to have a successful middle school experience. Throughout the year, students receive training on different cloud computing resources, methods to improve their typing skills, and programs used in the middle school curriculum. Students also start thinking about programming logic and media arts development through the use of tools such as the Scratch programming language, Pivot animation software, and TinkerCAD 3D modeling program.  

Computer Technology | Grades 7 & 8
Students continue to strengthen technical skills for use in the classroom and future endeavors. In addition to examining responsible use of social media, students further explore the Google Suite, utilize software to write, shoot, and edit videos, and use Photoshop to explore image editing and graphic design. Additional curricular offerings explore programming and 3-D modeling and printing. 

Core Health

Middle School Overview
Our Middle School Core Health program aims to promote a healthy lifestyle by focusing on the six categories of the Health Wheel: physical health, mental health, social health, character health, environment health, and intellectual health. During our Core Health Fitness classes, students actively work on their physical health, practicing a variety of fundamental skills like throwing, catching, kicking, and jumping. We also place a priority on team dynamics, cooperative problem solving, and an understanding of game play rules and tactics. We also physical challenges to foster a growth mindset. Sixth grade students have Core Health Fitness each day. Seventh and Eighth grade students take Core Health Fitness six days out of our eight-day cycle and participate in a Core Health Wellness class during the additional two days. The wellness class works in conjunction with fitness, as students spend time reflecting and understanding the interrelationship of all aspects of their personal health to see how nutrition, healthy choices, and emotional well-being contribute to a healthy lifestyle. 

Modified Sports
We encourage all seventh and eighth grade students to participate in modified sports, which include: soccer, cross country, tennis, basketball, volleyball, skiing, track and field, golf, baseball, and softball. Our program strikes a balance between healthy competition and participatory athletics, and we hold to a no-cut policy for students who are willing to commit to a team. Our modified teams compete against other local schools with relative success, and our young athletes develop their skills while learn the importance team dynamics.