The GFS Middle School offers a lively, engaging, hands-on curriculum that promotes intellectual curiosity and the development of powerful academic skills. Rich course offerings, a robust advisory program, the introduction of interscholastic sports, a wide array of clubs and activities, and additional learning opportunities during seventh- and eighth-grade Project Time combine to make our Middle School a wonderful place to be during these crucial years of personal discovery.
- Interdisciplinary Studies
- Modern Languages
- Physical Education
- Project Time
The goal of studio art in Middle School is to teach the formal skills of image making as well as nurture the uniqueness and diversity of our students’ growing aesthetics. Our program is set up sequentially: Students are introduced to concepts and skills in gradually increasing complexity. Materials and technology are explored and integrated into various projects. Students learn appropriate art vocabulary, and group critiques afford them the opportunity to hone critical skills and embrace individual means of expression. Students also explore the history of different artists from various periods and cultures.
The Middle School art curriculum is well grounded in traditional instruction, with a wide range of opportunities for students to express themselves. The program explores the formal issues of art through the investigation of color theory, composition and design, symmetry and balance, and perspective; it develops students’ skills through a sequence of varied projects. These projects encourage experimentation with various media and address these concepts:
- Pictorial organization
- Positive-negative space
- Two-dimensional design
- One- and two-point perspective and atmospheric perspective
- Color Theory
- Symmetry and asymmetry
- Observational drawing
- Three-dimensional design and construction
- Introduction to digital media
In addition, students learn art history by exploring how different artists have solved problems. This required course meets once a week in grade 6, and four times a week for half of the year in grades 7 and 8. See a wonderful sampling of student art in the Middle School Studio Gallery.
In Athletics, which run for three seasons in Middle School, students learn sportsmanship and teamwork while having fun with peers in a non-academic setting. Each season, there is a non-competitive movement option available, such as yoga, and during the winter, students may elect to take Theater Movement Arts (which counts as a season of sports). In sixth grade, joining a sports team is optional. In both seventh and eighth grades, two seasons of athletics are required.
Latin I, an elective course, introduces students to the world of classical language and history. It focuses on developing student fluency in translation while grounding students in basic grammar, forms and syntax. Students may opt for Latin as their primary language in seventh grade, which allows for more exposure to history, culture and English vocabulary development in a two-year Latin I program, or choose a one-year intensive course in Latin or Greek in eighth grade as a second language option.
Drama Elective: Project Time offers students an ever-changing menu of dramatic electives on a trimester basis. These opportunities vary, including study in musical theater, tragedy and comedy, playwriting, and improvisation.
Middle School Talent Show: Each year students have a myriad of opportunities for dramatic performance during our annual talent show, anticipated and enjoyed by students, parents and faculty alike.
Theater Movement Arts: Students may elect Theater Movements Arts to fulfill one season of their athletics requirement in seventh and eighth grades. In this program, students study stage combat, dancing and improv.
Classroom Productions: During their sixth-grade year, students have the opportunity to perform in a dramatic production—often musically-based. In both their seventh- and eighth-grade years, students perform various scenes from a play they are reading in their English classes. Seventh-grade drama offerings have most recently included Pygmalion and The Crucible; eighth graders perform a scene from a Shakespearean play, typically Romeo and Juliet, and attend a professional performance to celebrate their study of Shakespeare.
In English, students undertake increasingly challenging literature study, reading an array of genres—short stories, novels, plays, epic poetry and other poetic styles. Students also work on becoming practitioners of language and literature themselves, completing both expository and creative writing assignments that develop not just their sense of structure, but also their voices as writers. Grammar moves from usage and parts of speech to phrases, clauses and complex sentences.
The English program in sixth grade is geared towards deepening students’ writing and reading experiences and beginning to establish the skills they will require to analyze literature during their Middle School years.
Students read novels, short stories and poems. Topics include, but are not limited to, survival, exploration, injustice and intolerance. In some cases, the texts are integrated with the social studies curriculum.
Additionally, students begin to learn how to annotate as a means of collecting information for discussion and written analysis. Writing is a central component of the sixth-grade program, and students develop their skills in various areas of the writing process, such as prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and proofreading. They also learn the basic elements of poetry, which they apply when reading and writing poems.
The seventh-grade English curriculum is designed to expose students to a variety of writing styles, themes and characters. The students read plays, novels, essays and poems in which characters are discovering, developing or challenging their sense of identity. Seventh graders are asked to consider the use of symbolism during discussions and follow-up activities. Throughout the year, they are expected to produce a variety of written work—short stories, poetry, essays and journals. While the seventh-grade curriculum works to foster creative writing through short story writing and journaling, students continue to work on their critical writing as well. Emphasis is placed on improving paragraph and essay structures, as well as developing an argument in writing.
Eighth-grade English is a writing- and literature-based course designed to introduce students to a variety of genres (plays, epic poems, historical novels, vignettes). There is a focus on creative and critical written responses to the readings, and students are required to consider a literary work in its historical context. As critical readers and writers, students make connections to their reading through various lenses: personal, historical, cultural and psychological. Vocabulary is culled from each of the texts to build fluency and comprehension. In addition to advancing reading comprehension, students are asked to practice different forms of creative and analytical writing to build their skills and critical thinking. They are always encouraged to revise pieces and frequently do multiple drafts of both creative and critical writing. To support their writing, students also study grammar structures, reviewing parts of speech and introducing phrases and clauses.
In sixth grade, the course focuses on the meeting of cultures. Seventh and eighth graders continue with a two-year American history course. Students develop research skills for oral reports and papers, work with primary sources and develop their critical-thinking skills. All courses coordinate with the English curriculum.
In sixth grade, the year begins with the European Renaissance, turns to pre-Columbian America and ends with a study of world geography and the European explorers. The Renaissance study occurs in a self-contained classroom. The subsequent studies occur in mixed-classroom groups.
Seventh and eighth graders embark on a two-year study of U.S. history. The seventh-grade year begins with British colonial settlement and culminates with the Civil War. The eighth-grade year examines the period from after the Civil War to the present in thematic units on topics such as civil rights, economics, immigration and U.S. foreign policy. In both courses, students develop research skills for oral reports and a variety of written assignments, work with primary sources and develop their critical thinking.
All three years coordinate with the English curriculum and all three grades take multiple field trips to museums and historical venues, including the Philadelphia Art Museum, the Constitution Center, Independence Hall and Ellis Island.
The history and English curricula intersect in each of the three Middle School years. Students in sixth grade read The Second Mrs. Giaconda in English, for example, while they study the Italian Renaissance. Other trips and projects cross several disciplines. The seventh grade takes a boat trip on the Delaware River, for example, on which they engage in a math project, visit Fort Mifflin and create a map for art, and a Germantown research project serves as a springboard for Quakerism, English and history. The eighth-grade year concludes with a media studies project, which also crosses disciplines.
In sixth and seventh grades, students consolidate their skills with fractions, decimals and percents, and work with exponents, probability and ratios. Sixth grade concludes with a departmentalized unit in geometry. Seventh graders begin to learn some introductory algebra concepts, since the entire eighth grade takes Algebra I. The seventh- and eighth-grade algebra courses are taught at two levels.
The sixth-grade math curriculum focuses on number sense, facility with calculation, determining and using a reasonable approach to problem solving and communication of mathematical thinking. We strive to develop capable and confident mathematicians.
Students move through an exploration of concepts, algorithms, interpretations and applications of operations with whole numbers, fractions, decimals and percents. They explore patterns and number relationships and examine and describe constant and variable expressions and equations. Students also explore a magnitude of large and small numbers and measurements. Students focus on exploring statistical measures by collecting, organizing, interpreting and analyzing data. They investigate the meaning and application of mean, median and mode, and use manipulatives and models to explore geometric and spatial relationships and properties of two- and three-dimensional polygons and properties of circles.
Students develop vocabulary to effectively communicate their thinking and work, and develop their understanding of and facility with calculating and comparing perimeter, area and volume.
By the end of the year, seventh graders have extended their understanding of the number system to include operations with integers and rational numbers, and have learned to simplify numerical and algebraic expressions (including simple exponent and rational expressions). Students have developed fluency in solving linear equations with one variable using the properties of equality, and they are able to represent situations with one unknown algebraically in order to efficiently find a solution. Through exploration of proportionality, including scaling, similarity, percent change, unit rates and work rates, students develop their ability to set up and solve for unknowns in proportional relationships. They learn to model proportionality graphically, thereby developing their understanding of slope as a constant rate of change. Prior to their study of Algebra I, students are already comfortable using the slope-intercept form of a linear function to model linear functions and use those models to analyze systems of linear functions.
The goal of Algebra I is to help students develop their abstract reasoning skills to model and solve problems. In this course, students develop their skills in representing numbers as algebraic expressions, and we guide them in exploring how this structure can be manipulated or simplified. We also extensively explore an introduction to functions, beginning with linear functions, emphasizing multiple representations of patterns by constructing tables, graphs and equations. Students are encouraged to develop their understanding of algebraic concepts and applications as well as a proficiency in problem solving, mathematical reasoning and higher order thinking skills.
The program is facilitated by:
- Investigative work
- Communication skills in mathematics
- Appropriate computational and estimation skills
- Mental calculations
- Problem Solving
Students may opt to take French or Spanish beginning in seventh grade. The Spanish and French courses develop student proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing. Teachers conduct classes in the target language so that the students’
experience simulates an immersion experience. The classes focus on the varied cultures of the Hispanic and Francophone worlds.
Music emphasizes both performance and classroom learning; at all levels, students sing and perform for the rest of the school. In sixth and seventh grades, students have mixed-grade classes where they gain hands-on experience with music and can choose from three options: Folk Instruments, Keyboard Skills and Music FUNdamentals. The eighth-grade curriculum focuses more on music history and its context in various cultures. Student instrumentalists can choose to participate in the orchestra or jazz bands. All Middle School students may also elect to sing in a choir.
Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students participate in a wide variety of sports-related and movement activities, with an emphasis on the refinement of individual skills and an understanding of basic sport strategies. In seventh grade, students also take part in various group-building, risk-taking and problem-solving activities. Eighth-grade physical education has three separate components: a sports and activities class; sexuality education; and adventure education, which includes belaying, high ropes and/or rock climbing. The Physical Education program complements the school's athletics program.
have physical education class three times a week for the entire year. The eighth-grade course also includes a quarter of Sexuality Education.
The sixth-grade science program focuses on environmental science and human biology and physiology. In seventh grade, students study physical science and earth science. The eighth-grade program is dedicated to environmental science. All courses are lab-based and focus on the methods of scientific inquiry and experimentation.
The sixth-grade science program begins with environmental science in correlation with a four-day camping trip. Studies then turn to human biology and physiology, and students continue the theme of exploration as they learn how to create a scientist’s sketchbook and journal, tools that were used by scientists during the Renaissance. This practice is a launch pad for students as they learn how to record observations and create data tables in their science courses.
After learning about the many “systems” in the human body, seventh grade students focus on physical science, exploring concepts of physical properties, chemical and physical changes and atomic and molecular theory. They also learn to integrate units of measurement through their study of physical matter and earth science.The eighth-grade program centers on environmental science. All courses are lab-based and focus on the methods of scientific inquiry and experimentation. Eighth-grade students put their research skills to the test as they conduct experiments on an independent project for our annual Science Night. In addition to writing a research paper, they learn how to create scientific posters and how to present their findings to peers and parents through a grade-level poster presentation.
Students in seventh and eighth grade have Project Time once a week.
Seventh graders take Quakerism for one trimester, and for the other two trimesters they choose one community-involvement project, such as working with nursery school-aged children at the Boys and Girls Club or learning about deaf culture at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, and one activity like drama, woodshop or photography.
The eighth grade prepares and performs a musical review each winter; students may choose an activity for fall and spring.
Students use computers as a tool to enhance their learning in other subjects.
Sixth graders have computer class once a week, which is coordinated with their English and history curricula; they learn the basics of databases, work with spreadsheets and word processing, design webpages, use presentation software and learn to create and manipulate images.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students continue to master applications through their work in all of the various disciplines. For example, Internet research skills are taught through their history research projects; spreadsheets and graphs during a math project; and digital imagery through art and English classes.
In the first year of Middle School, students have class in the computer lab once a week. The sixth-grade teachers and the technology coordinators work as a team to develop projects and activities that relate directly to the core of the sixth-grade curriculum.
Overall goals include developing technological literacy and skills, developing an understanding of the moral and ethical responsibilities that arise when using technology, and cultivating independent problem-solving and troubleshooting skills so that students may adapt and grow as technologies change.
During the first part of the year, students complete smaller projects that focus on word processing, digital images, internet research and drawing and graphic-design skills. The second part of the year focuses on major projects that incorporate spreadsheet, presentation and web-design skills and software, as well as more complex topics, such as evaluating online information and ethical concerns when using technology. Where possible, projects are integrated thematically with the sixth-grade core curriculum to encourage students to engage more meaningfully with their work in this class, and to support the work they are doing in their other classes as well.
In seventh and eighth grades, students use the computer room primarily in the context of their individual classes. The technology coordinator and the members of the faculty work together to develop and introduce a set of continually-evolving projects and digital skills appropriate to the age group and the specific curricular content being taught.
Underlying the use of all technology in the curriculum is an appreciation for the rapidly-changing nature of the skills and capacities needed for success as a citizen of the 21st century; students develop skills to help them think creatively, solve problems, communicate effectively, acquire a global perspective, research independently and create useful digital content. Projects encompass a range of computer skills, including word processing, spreadsheet creation, graphing and analysis, multimedia presentations, web research, layout and publishing, graphic design, musical composition, website design, and effective social-networking skills. Online collaborative tools, such as wikis and blogs, are also being used by many of our faculty as part of their collaborative classroom experience.
In addition to the regular curriculum, for the last several years eighth graders have participated in day-long seminars dealing with issues relating to acting ethically and responsibly in a digital world.
In addition to their classroom experiences, seventh- and eighth-grade students have the option to receive further instruction and complete hands-on, technology-related activities during Project Time, a double period of elective time meeting once a week for a trimester’s length.
During the Project Time technology course, students are given an opportunity to extend their skills in topics such as graphic design and page layout, animation and movie making and HTML and web design. While the focus is on developing specific skills and techniques related to the chosen technology, students are also encouraged to express their creativity and artistic skills through the applied technology.
Students may also elect to work on our student-produced Middle School publications, including our newspaper, literary magazine and yearbook.