The 3Ds of Middle School: Demonstrations, Deep Dives, and Discussion

Dear Middle School Families,

I would like to share in this monthly post a glimpse into some of the things going on in our middle school classrooms- lots of wonderful demonstrations of skills in the classroom, deep dives into curriculum and thoughtful discussions among students and their teachers. In the Middle School this year we will focus on how we can be our best selves- not just academically, but in how we treat one another and infuse our values of honor, courage, kindness and community in every aspect of who we are. With that focus in mind, we will support and guide our students with consistency and care while challenging them to think critically, persist through difficulty and build valuable skills that allow them to delve deeply into their studies and into real world problems, coming to an understanding of who they are as learners and members of our community.

Demonstrations:

  • Our Middle School Majors program offers students an opportunity to explore a variety of topics and areas of interest and then share with classmates or students beyond the Barrack community via field trips and competitions- including participation  Model Congress and Writers Matter.

  • Geometry Explorations will be taught using the Geometer’s Sketchpad program to provide students with a dynamic means to experience Geometry. This is the first time we are incorporating this computer program for our students as the primary way to explore Geometry.

  • When Tanakh 8 students prepare their own commentary, they experience it as a true capstone experience in which they demonstrate a mastery of their assigned text and of several approaches to biblical interpretation that matches the findings of some adult scholars already in the field.

  • Every day in Core classes, students are analyzing literature, considering historical events through different lenses, studying contemporary problems, their historical roots, and trying to devise solutions to complex, real world problems and challenges. 

  • In The Visual Arts department ,students are excited to work on creating public art installations as well as their independent work. New this year, to be introduced in the Mosaics and Clay classes, is "kiln cast glass", a process Laura Stern learned this summer with summer study support from Barrack. We are looking forward to having an "artful" year through a variety of installations around the middle school.

Deep Dives:

  • In 8th grade Core class, there are many interdisciplinary efforts that incorporate the examination and analysis of various works of art looking at how artists present themes visually and how history shapes art and art shapes history.

  • Students in the Robert Saligman Middle School are being held accountable to the Derech Eretz values in a more sustained way.  Classrooms have posters with the four values of Honor, Moral Courage, Kindness and Community and students are reminded of the values on class syllabi and in daily interactions with their teachers and advisors.

  • Jewish studies units on charitable giving, honoring parents, lost and found objects, speech ethics, dilemmas in early Jewish statehood and comparative religion all foster critical thinking skills and students weigh different opinions through primary sources, classroom debates and projects using both Hebrew and English. Tanakh classes introduce different approaches to text study and students weigh the differences between interpretations based on rabbinic traditions, literary techniques, different sources for the material and the comparative study of other Near Eastern texts.

  • Music classes at Barrack are based on the philosophy that musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability that can be developed and nurtured in any student. Music classes give new students the opportunity to get an introduction and foundation in a skill set in a number of different instruments and digital music programs. They can then bring these skills with them in daily life and continue to pursue musical studies if they wish. For the more experienced student, these classes also provide time for them to hone their skills and try out any new instruments or digital music programs. Students have the opportunity to work independently on solo material and also to work collaboratively on duets, trios and ensemble pieces. New studies in cognitive science are continuing to show that music education reduces stress in students and helps them in many areas of their life. In particular it helps the areas of the brain related to language, reasoning and concentration.

Discussions:

  • Jewish studies classes will use a workshop model so that students have choices and so that teachers can take different approaches to teaching some of the same material within a given grade.

  • Our first One Book One Barrack in the Middle School - Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper- affords our students the opportunity to focus on characters, themes and conflicts through the lens of our Derech Eretz values of honor, courage, kindness and community. This novel will not just be discussed in Core classes but in advisory too. Each teacher and student read this novel over the summer and will bring their ideas to lively discussions in class and advisory. 

  • In middle school, we are teaching students how to listen and learn from each other through class discussion and group projects that focus on a variety of topics, some that are more controversial than others. But before those discussions and projects begin, we teach them about different learning styles and how that plays into how our students learning to  work cooperatively and collaboratively, respecting differences and recognizing what each student brings to the classroom. 

Good things are happening at Barrack!

Warmly,

Chris Farrell