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Middle Level Grades

Our middle level program extends the project- and play-based approach of the younger elementary grades into a problem-based approach for middle level curriculum.  Consistent with our K-5 grade approach, our 6-8 grade curriculum integrates subject matter and weaves in grade level skills and concepts, rather than separating out disciplines of knowledge and teaching skills in isolation.  We use a variety of teaching methods--direct instruction, skills practice, demonstration, discussion, collaborative learning, role-playing and games, multimedia, and others--to meet the unique needs of each learner.


Click to download our Middle Level Grades at The Children's School booklet.

Click to download our The Middle Level Approach at TCS brochure insert.


What Do We Offer?

  • Small class sizes and thoughtfully planned spaces where students and teachers are engaged in active, collaborative learning activities.
  • Problems-based, content-rich learning that encourages studets to ask questions about themselves and about the world and to think critically about how to respond.
  • Classrooms that extend beyond the four walls of the schoolhouse to include field work and field trips to promote deep, experiential understanding of academic topics.
  • Justice-oriented curriculum that celebrates the diversity of human experience both in academic topics and in democratic processes used to make decisions within the school and broader community.
  • Emergent curriculum created by teachers and students on an ongoing basis, along with opportunities for seminar-style guided exploration in music, langauge, physical education, technology, and arts.
  • Assessments that are varied, ongoing, and artifact-based, used to document growth and as tools for further learning.


Developmental Needs of Early Adolescence

The middle level grades are organized around the distinct developmental needs of early adolescence.  Our middle schoolers define questions or problems that they deem important, and teachers help them craft a skill-based, content-rich response.  The response may include gathering and analyzing information (everything from a quick Internet search to interviewing an expert to doing original field work) and taking action (everything from sharing results informally with classmates to writing a poem to spearheading a community-wide public awareness campaign).  In this way children's learning unfolds as they engage in purposeful activity around topics and issues that have meaning for them.



The following exemplar days in and out of the classroom illustrate how concept and skill development is woven into emergent curriculum through project/problem work.

A Day in the Classroom

8:45 Morning Work

Students arrive and immediately begin morning work. Morning work could be a writing prompt, a few math problems, or a quick sketch of a science experiment. In this instance students simplify algebraic expressions with one variable.

9:15 Group Gathering

Whole school gathers to greet each other and hear announcements.

9:30 Mathematics

Teacher introduces the concept of a second variable in algebraic equations. Students work in small groups to apply this concept to the real world. “Correct” answers are not expected; indeed, wildly variant answers are encouraged so that students can explore the underlying concept in depth. In this case: 5x – 2y = -1

10:15 Independent Investigations

Each student has a personal research project going on at all times. Students may be conducting a science experiment, reading the novels of Graham Greene, or exploring calculus.

11:15 Class Meeting

A class meeting happens each at least three times per week. These meetings can be as long or as short as needed. This particular meeting is a quick check-in session. In this case, the students revisit how the solution to a problem discussed the previous week (using nicknames that some students don’t like) is working out.

11:30 Recess

All school, indoor or outdoor opportunity for mixed-age social interactions and group play.

12:00 All-School Lunch

Students have the opportunity to eat lunch in any TCS classroom they choose. All-school lunch occurs approximately twice per week.

12:30 Writer's Workshop

Students work on individual writing-stories, poems, or essays on topics of their own choosing. Focus is on the writing process: drafting, revising, editing, publishing. Students confer with peers and with teacher to get feedback and instruction to improve their work.

1:15 Choice

Unstructured play and inquiry time, particularly within middle level grades, is essential to honor the interests and needs of students.

1:45 Project Work: Gardening and Chemicals

Students are working on research around the topic of chemicals and pollutants in our food sources. They may be reading, writing, discussing, planning on their own, in small groups, or as a whole class. During Project Work, students are instructed in reading, writing, and other subject areas as needed. In this case, students are taught about reading nonfiction texts, expository writing skills and techniques, and how to identify chemical compounds in plant and animal tissues.

2:45 End-of-Day Reflection Writing

Students are expected to write two- or three-paragraph reflections on their day. Time is available to also talk about how the day went and plan for the following day.

3:15 Dismissal

A Day Away from Campus


Students gather at school for a day trip to a Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery.

In order to be able to measure the amount of chemicals that a typical fish absorbs during its lifetime in the lake, students are collecting samples to determine the baseline amount of those chemicals in fish not yet released into the lake. Taking random samples from the fish tanks and randomly sampling fish in the tank, students will take these samples back to a lab to analyze them.

Students have been working in a lab environment learning/practicing how to use different processes to identify different chemicals first in the context of studying fertilizers and now studying chemicals in the tissues of fish. They have also been studying from texts about basic chemical structures of both organic and inorganic compounds.

Students apply their knowledge to determine fish age and species, as well as to identify chemicals in the fish tissue. Students compare the chemical tissue analysis of hatchery fish to that of fish caught from lake waters.

After conducting their research, students will be able to make inferences and draw conclusions about the data they collected. These analyses can be applied to descriptive and statistical analysis. Some students may eventually share their information with local media.

Through these pursuits, students will learn how industrial agricultural processes affect the environment. They will understand how the disciplines of chemistry and applied mathematics are integrated into daily living.

Students might be asked to come back a little later than 3:15pm in order to be ‘in the field’ for an ample amount of time to complete sample collection at the hatchery.

"True education… is at once a fulfillment and a spur; always at the goal and never stopping to rest, it is a journey in the infinite, a participation in the movement of the universe, a living in timelessness. Its purpose is not to enhance particular abilities; rather, it helps us to give meaning to our lives, to interpret the past, to be fearless and open toward the future."
Hermann Hesse

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