You will notice distinct differences in the world of middle school at Christa McAuliffe compared to the traditional middle school model. Here we strive to foster student ownership for their learning. Some techniques we employ include choices of modality—how students use their senses in the learning process—visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile. We know using multiple senses activates broader learning. Within the three years of middle school, students will remain with the same teacher for two years (loop). Looping provides time to develop deep partnerships in learning by using the time to understand interests, personalities and how students learn best.
Our multi-age classes and curriculum take advantage of the natural differences in experiences, talents, and development. Teachers employ techniques and activities found in the Responsive Classroom Philosophy. Comradery is achieved through small group work, mixed classroom activities and group projects. Physical education is conducted both on and off campus to explore and enhance a variety of physical activities. Students engage in helping others through community service and are buddy helpers for special needs students as well as for the primary grades. Extracurricular activities include drama club performances, variety show participation, before and after school sports and more.
Cultivating student ownership of their learning process takes time. The staff guides students in understanding that it is the student’s responsibility for completion of projects and classwork. Students also learn to self-assess: “When do I need more practice? What additional information do I need to understand…? What if I don’t do…?” Examples of some self-assessment tools students use include rubrics, checklists, and reflections. Student-led conferences provide the students with experience explaining and illustrating to their parents where they are in their learning, what they have accomplished, and what are the next learning or behavioral goals.
We believe field trips provide experiential learning for expanding student understanding of classroom subjects and of themselves. Previous field trips have included participating in Save the Bay restoration projects, Camp SEA Lab, Channel Islands, Astro Camp, Discovery Voyage with the Marine Science Institute, the Academy of Sciences, Rosicrucian Museum, and the Planetarium. Other trips have explored Shakespeare, Presidential Inaugurations, City Hall, the symphony, glass blowing, Yosemite, orienteering the urban landscape, and city safaris.
Parent volunteer participation is important for our electives curricula. Electives facilitate exploration of many interests and rely on the skills and passions of our middle school parents, so each year the offerings will vary. In the past, students have enjoyed learning: how to unicycle, computer programming, cooking, sciences, robotics with Lego Mindstorms, board game strategy, jewelry making, sketching/drawing, computer-based image editing and design, 3D drawing, underwater robotics, creating mosaics and more.
The middle school staff is a creative, experienced, collaborative team who invite students to join us as we explore and learn!