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 in service and community engagement make Middle School a wonderful place to be during these crucial years of personal discovery.
- Sixth-Grade Signature Skills Program
- Seventh-Grade Service and Community Engagement Model
- Eighth-Grade Capstone Project
- Middle School Mini Courses
- Theatre Play / Musical
A full year exploration of service learning that includes students navigating curricula modulars that focus on food insecurity, homelessness, and environmental stewardship.
- Ignite the natural and necessary extension of our Quaker ethos
- Harness the energy and curiosity of seventh graders
- Capitalize on students’ desires to be active citizens capable of changing their world
- Inculcate in our students the importance of mutual learning and abandoning the notion of service learning as operating from a deficit model
Guided by a question, students explore passion projects that allow them to position learning in ways which are authentic to themselves.
- Offer a new element of student choice
- Give students a positive and self-directed way to embrace learning through doing
- Create a place where all students can share something that matters to them
- Open students’ hearts and minds to myriad opportunities for curiosity and avenues to success
- Computer Science and Technology
- Language Study
- Physical Education
- Theatre Arts
In Middle School, students begin their study of art with a course that emphasizes developing visual skills and experiencing various media, including painting, collage, 3D design, photography, and digital media. They learn how to critique and deepen their understanding through the study of artists and periods in art history. Finally, students take on increasingly challenging projects that build on their vocabulary, their skills with various media, and their visual literacy. It is critical that each student, regardless of his or her skill level, feels successful and supported in art. Students participate in a sequential program, where they are introduced to appropriate skills and concepts at each grade level. New materials and technologies are explored and integrated with previous learning as students progress from simple exercises to complex assignments requiring increased independence. Using a problem-solving format, concepts are first presented and examined, then students develop individual solutions to creatively answer assigned problems. Frequent use of critiques helps students recognize quality and appreciate the uniqueness and diversity of effective responses. Each spring, there is an All-School Art Show, where every student’s work is on display for the community to celebrate. Student work in color theory, symmetry, asymmetry, still life, portraiture, conceptual art, 3D design, and digital media is exhibited.
The Middle School athletics program is an integral part of our school curriculum. We believe in providing students with the opportunity to learn about a variety of sports, to experience the lessons of teamwork and sportsmanship, and to develop fundamental skills and game strategies in an engaging and challenging environment. Students are placed on teams that reflect their grade and/or ability level. All programs have full practice schedules, and competition levels vary by team and program.
There is a non-competitive movement option available during the winter. Students may elect to substitute one season of after-school sports with Theater Movement Arts, which combines collaborative, ensemble-based theater-making with skills-based classes in various movement-centered disciplines.
See more information about Middle School Athletics.
Technology is integral to much of the work done in the 21st-century. The GFS Middle School prepares students to use technological tools to learn, collaborate, create, invent, and make meaningful contributions to their classrooms, communities, and world.
In Computer Science and Digital Media Studies have the opportunity for rich exposure in three major content areas—computer programming, digital citizenship, and digital media creation tools. Through it all, they are given a deep understanding of the moral and ethical responsibilities that accompany the use of technology. From tinkering with circuits and microprocessors to learning the basics of coding, the computer science and digital media curriculum broadens students’ knowledge and access to creative technologies.
All sixth graders have a year-long course that focuses on computer programming, digital citizenship, and digital media creation tools. The seventh and eighth graders can choose between elective offerings in coding, web design, and 3D printing. Additionally, across the Middle School curriculum, students use software to make digital music, analyze and visualize mathematical and scientific data, create digital art, explore design and desktop publishing, conduct research, and make presentations to share their learning.
In the GFS middle school, English classrooms are buzzing with the joy of student voices engaging with literature and with each other. As they progress from sixth to eighth grade, they encounter increasingly complex texts across genres. In small and large group discussions, as a community of readers, they are invited to unpack a diverse group of texts and authors, seeing themselves and others reflected in the literature they study. Vocabulary and grammar lessons, often gleaned directly from texts, help students gain expressive flexibility and strength. Through these and other practices, our teachers hope to guide students toward a lifetime love of writing and reading. As students undertake this journey of literary discovery, they themselves become poets, journalists, playwrights, storytellers, griots, and essayists. A variety of writing projects helps us to place student voice at the center of the classrooms, including journaling, freewriting, short story workshops, and thoughtful work around the structure of more formal, analytical pieces. Through these rich experiences as readers and writers, we foster intellectual independence and courage, which serves them well when they transition to Upper School. Specific works of literature studied vary from year to year. The following represents a typical array of texts, grades six through eight:
- Flying Lessons and Other Stories
- Fish in a Tree
- The Outsiders
- Poetry: One Last Word by Nicki Grimes
- The Only Road
- Animal Farm
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Number One Ladies Detective Agency
- Poetry: Voices in the Air
- Haunting of Hill House
- A Chistmas Carol
- The Odyssey
- Three Poet Author Studies: Citizen Kane, If They Come For Us, Bright Dead Things
In our history classrooms, students work toward a common goal: creating an ever deeper and wider understanding of how diverse human societies have lived and changed over time; while building skills in critical reading, listening, interpretation, and communication. Students encounter several questions: What has it meant to be human? Why and how have those meanings varied across time and place? How has human experience been shaped by social factors such as gender, religion, race, and class?
Across the curriculum, students explore to discover—making meaning out of a variety of historical sources through thoughtful questioning, close reading, analysis, and research. In writing assignments, oral presentations, and other projects, they practice organizing and communicating their own ideas about the subject matter clearly and directly, supported by evidence. We explore and challenge ideas, including difficult ideas, together. Developing historical consciousness—the understanding that people in the past had different values, assumptions, and worldviews from people in the present—is central to our work together.
Our sixth grade program concentrates on the earliest human civilization and culture. Students encounter and learn to use archeology and storytelling as techniques for understanding the past. They read from a range of sources. They try their hand at a research paper, and engage in simulations and collaborative projects. Topics include early agriculture, bog bodies, origin stories and traditions, and early city planning. The geographical footprint for the course lies mostly in eastern Africa and southwest Asia (Fertile Crescent).
In seventh grade our program expands, geographically as well methodologically, our study of the ancient world. Case studies change year to year, but include civilizations in south and east Asia (India, China), Africa (Egypt, Kush), and the northern Mediterranean (Greece and Rome). Students build on their research and writing skills as historians while emphasizing sourcing, corroboration, contextualization, and developing evidence-based arguments. Students engage in a variety of experiential learning activities such as mock trials and role-playing.
In our eighth grade Civics course students turn to US society, past and present, to explore the following questions: What is government? In which ways do governments rule? What defines a citizen? Who has been included in that definition and who hasn’t? What does it mean to be an “engaged citizen”? What does it mean to create a just society? Students learn about the structure of the US government; write a significant research paper on the case law history of a single constitutional amendment; practice oral advocacy in debates and presentations; and explore current events in the news while considering the role of media in a democratic society.
Sixth Grade: Anatomy of Language
All sixth grade students take our year-long Anatomy of Language course, an in-depth study of language. Exploring the language families, writing systems, and the spread of literacy and knowledge, students build linguistic vocabulary and understanding. They also learn English grammar, learning the parts of speech and analyzing sentence structure, thus equipping them as writers and students of foreign language. Concurrent with this study of the history of the word, readings about language thread through the course, which builds awareness of our multicultural world, to be sure, but it also fosters empathy.
Seventh and Eighth Grade Language Study
Students entering the seventh grade begin formal language study, choosing Latin, French, Mandarin, or Spanish. French and Spanish are both taught in the target language in immersion classrooms. Students leave Middle School prepared to take Level II courses in their chosen language(s). In 8th grade, students can add a second language, either Latin or Ancient Greek.
MODERN LANGUAGE STUDY
Modern Language courses are designed to produce fluency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Text, film, music, video, computer-based activities, and creative projects are integrated into instruction as students are exposed to the cultures of the many countries where these languages are spoken.
CLASSICAL LANGUAGE STUDY
The study of Latin or Ancient Greek provides students with basic grammatical concepts, a rich vocabulary, and exposure to the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean—a world fascinatingly similar to our own and yet different in interesting and instructive ways. Our Latin and Greek courses encourage students to build their knowledge gradually and surely, while providing extra time for the study of vocabulary and Classical culture.
Our mathematics instruction is designed to equip all students with the skill set to reason and communicate proficiently in mathematics. They dive into the language of math and become successful problem solvers. They explore number operations, probability, and algebra. Our approach blends problem-centered instruction with basic skills work as students learn to use vocabulary, forms of representation, materials, tools and techniques, and intellectual methods of the discipline. The program draws upon material from Connected Mathematics Project, Dimensions Math, and Illustrative Math, as well as other sources.
In sixth grade, students continue to develop enthusiasm for math and confidence in their ability to approach a variety of problems. Overarching goals include developing comfort with handling mathematical concepts and approaching a variety of problems, determining which tools and strategies can be used to solve them; developing and solidifying arithmetic skills and understanding of math processes and procedures; confidently approaching problem-solving by combining solid skills with number sense; and developing the ability to communicate mathematical thinking.
The main objective of seventh grade mathematics is to provide students with the tools and conceptual building blocks to make sense and meaning of the content of a formal Algebra I course. Throughout the year, students learn to shift their perspectives between concrete and abstract representations of numbers, patterns, and relationships. Through projects and activities, they identify, represent, and extend patterns in tables, graphs, and equations, and develop their proportional reasoning skills using problem-solving and exploration as they develop a strong conceptual understanding of the role of constant rate of change to describe a linear function. Students work with algebraic fractions in application of exponent rules, solve and model linear equations, and derive square and cube roots of algebraic expressions, among other topics.
In eighth grade, we emphasize better understanding of previously introduced algebraic concepts and applications, as well as proficiency in problem-solving, mathematical reasoning, and higher-order thinking skills. Our goal is to prepare students for the study of higher level and increasingly abstract mathematics, with an emphasis on using the language of algebra to model real-world problems and situations. We strive to instill in our students an appreciation for the intrinsic beauty of math, confidence in their algebraic ability and understanding, and a strong engagement in mathematical thought and work.
The music program provides students from all backgrounds and experiences the space to explore musical growth and artistic inspiration. Students have numerous opportunities to develop their musical literacy and understanding, artistic expression, and love for music, while tapping into our deepest roots of community and personal connection.
Our curriculum has three main components: the study of music fundamentals; musical exploration through listening, historical study, and analysis; and musical creation through singing and playing a variety of instruments.
Students in sixth grade participate in classes in recorder, handbells, xylophone ensemble, and world percussion. In seventh grade, students choose between courses in ukulele, keyboard skills, music composition with NoteFlight, and instrument making. Students in eighth grade consider how and why music is such a powerful force in the human experience by exploring various genres, including opera, film scores, protest music, American folk music, and 20th-century classical music. During the eighth-grade year, all students participate in the annual musical, which showcases the vocal, acting, and theatre tech skills students develop through months of collaborative work.
All Middle School students also have the opportunity to participate in any of three performing ensembles: orchestra, chorus, and jazz. These groups rehearse two to three periods per cycle, in addition to the regularly scheduled, required music classes, and perform throughout the year at community assemblies and evening concerts.
In Middle School, the goal of the Physical Education program is to help students develop their individual movement skills and discover their interests through participation in coeducational classes at each grade level. By providing opportunities to develop competence in movement and an appreciation for the diversity of fitness and skill levels, we hope that our students will participate actively in class activities and beyond. Students learn team and individual sports while developing sport-specific skills and techniques, and through the use of heart-rate monitors, their ability to monitor their own progress and set their own challenges grows. As they move through the Middle School program, they review fundamental motor skills through non-traditional activities—including adventure education—and strengthen social skills through participation in group and partner work, especially problem-solving activities.
Germantown Friends School’s Quaker identity fundamentally influences the Middle School program. The study of Quaker values—Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship (the SPICES)—is woven into the curriculum in a variety of ways, including classwork and community projects. In seventh grade, students take a required Quakerism elective with a special focus on equality and racial justice, environmental stewardship, or peace and community.
The Germantown Monthly Meeting is central to the life of the school. The Middle School has its own weekly Meeting for Worship, when students and faculty come together in the Meetinghouse for shared, silent reflection. In addition to gathering as a full division, we foster a deeper connection to Meeting through mixed-grade worship sharings, “informal” Meeting for Worship, and Meeting for Worship by grade.
The goal of our middle school science program is to ignite a passion for science. Students begin their sixth grade year studying the characteristics of life, moving from cells to organ system to organisms. Along the way, they create a scientist’s sketchbook, learn to use a microscope, and hone their observation skills.They are also introduced to data collection through experimentation and writing lab reports using CER (claim, evidence, and reasoning). All of this builds the tool kit necessary to scientific inquiry and fuels a love of exploration.
In seventh grade, students continue to build on their lab and report writing skills while engaging with a comprehensive study of matter and its properties, including an in-depth unit on chemistry, and an investigation of important principles of Earth Science. In addition, they spend six weeks on a robotics unit, tackling physical challenges with their robots using introductory programming skills.
The eighth grade year is devoted to guiding students to become more independent in the lab as they study the many cycles of the Earth and its interconnected systems in an environmental science course. In addition to many other hands-on activities, students build mini-ecospheres which are used for long term studies about the cycles of matter and the ecosystem.
By the end of middle school, our students have had exposure to a broad range of foundational science study and acquired durable science skills; they are proficient in basic laboratory techniques and lab report writing, which will allow them to be prepared for the Upper School science curriculum. And above all, they are curious.
The focus of the Theatre Arts program is to balance introductory skill development with community and character building. Engaging students in new forms of creative expression helps them develop and reinforce positive relationships among their peer group. It’s physical, it’s communal—and it’s fun! Theatre also gets integrated into classroom teaching throughout the Middle School years. Partnerships between theatre faculty and other subject teachers (often English) help to bring the delight and power of theatre into the teaching of curricular texts. It is not uncommon to see the staging of scenes, the recitation of poems, or the dramatic reading of prose in a Middle School classroom, bringing the great texts to life in body and voice.
Sixth graders have the opportunity to explore storytelling through the art of puppetry - including shadow, hand, found object, and large-scale puppets. In seventh grade, students can take classes in improv, dance, or both - with a focus on process, play, and introductory skills. Elective options increase in eighth grade to include: theatre, dance, or theatre design. These quarter-long sessions focus on the preparation and production of a short one-act play and/or the presentation of student choreography. The nature of the works produced vary based on student participation and interest.
The Eighth Grade Production is a special collaboration between the music and theatre departments, and provides an opportunity for the entire grade to come together and celebrate one another in music, dance, and scene. All eighth-grade students participate in at least one aspect of the production, including set design and construction, stage management, lighting and sound, costume design, and, of course, performance. And all Middle School students have the opportunity to participate in the production of a full book musical during the winter season. In addition to performance, students work closely with theatre faculty on every aspect of the production, including props, lighting, and costumes.
We also offer two seasons of our signature prgram, Theatre Movemment Arts, which can be taken in the fall and spring afterschool; this can act as an alternative means of fulfilling our Athletics requirement. In Theatre Movement Arts students rotate through an exciting set of disciplines taught by both in-house and guest artist teachers. Recent workshops include: African Dance, Stage Combat, Jazz Dance, Clowing, and Circus Arts.