Middle School Academic Programs

Language Arts

The English / Language Arts program is literature based, with classes reading eight classic children’s books each year in addition to instruction in reading comprehension, grammar, usage, vocabulary, and spelling.  (Students in 3rd and 4th grades also are instructed in cursive penmanship.)  Each level of the language arts program expands on and further refines the concepts and skills introduced in prior grades.  A wide variety of literary forms and high quality novels help foster a love for the written word and inspiration for writing development.  Through reading, comprehension exercises, class discussion, and writing, this accelerated program spurs interest and insight into humanity, stimulates imagination, sharpens analytical skills, and develops reading and writing fluency.  In addition to expository writing, students enjoy many opportunities for creative writing, including poetry.  Writing is emphasized across the curriculum, with English standards upheld in all classes.


Mathematics

Westminster’s mathematics program at all levels emphasizes logical thinking and problem solving as well as computation. Teachers employ a variety of hands-on activities to help clarify abstract concepts, while computation practice strengthens accuracy and speed. The frequent use of stories and word problems encourages analytical thinking and underscores the importance and enjoyment of math in everyday life.  

The 3rd grade mathematics program continues to build on foundations established in prior grades.  Earlier concepts and skills are reinforced and expanded to include numbers through 1,000,000; fractions; decimals; multiplication through 10 x 10; simple division; multi-digit algorithms; measurement; graphing; basic geometry; and adding and subtracting decimals.  

In 4th grade, the curriculum reinforces and expands the student’s mastery of the four basic operations. Facility with decimals and fractions is developed, and percentages are introduced.  Considerable attention is given to simple geometry. 

The 5th grade mathematics program aims to ensure the student’s mastery of arithmetic skills.  Students review many topics, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, approximation, measurement, fractions, percentages, and decimals.  The program builds upon the basic skills covered by these topics to increase the range of mathematical knowledge and solidify the foundation for more abstract studies.

In 6th grade, the curriculum is designed to strengthen arithmetic skills, strategically introduce elementary algebraic algorithms, and provide the maximum practice utilizing both.  This pre-algebra program readies the student for a transition into algebra (in 7th grade) with little or no difficulty.


Social Studies/History

The history/classical studies program in grades 3 - 6 introduces and develops the story of Western civilization, which is a keystone of the Westminster program.  In an engaging, discovery-based approach, each grade explores the achievements in daily life, government, science and engineering, literature, art/architecture, mythology, and philosphy of the great civilizations of the West. Students develop an informed appreciation for the variety of cultures and hard-won advances which have contributed so greatly to the modern world.  While the Westminster history program is decidedly western in emphasis, a greater world perspective is provided by the geography program, arts experiences, and teacher enrichment, as well as Westminster’s very diverse community.

In 3rd grade, an eye-opening study of the earliest Western civilizations begins with the challenges and accomplishments of prehistoric man and continues through the exalted achievements of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.  Along the way, the children take fascinating looks at the cultures and contributions of the Hebrews, Hittites, Persians, Phoenicians, and others. 

After an introduction to the Minoans and Mycenaeans, the better part of 4th grade history is devoted to ancient Greece.  Along with the history and astonishing cultural achievements of the Greeks, students discover the myriad connections between ancient Greece and the art, ideas, and government of modern America.  Classical studies include the philosophers of The Golden Age, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and the fascinating stories and symbols of Greek mythology.

In 5th grade, the story of Western development picks up with ancient Rome.  Students follow the Romans’ hardscrabble fight from tribe to kingdom, through the high culture of republican ideals and a seemingly indomitable empire, to its fall in 476 CE.   Classical studies center on Roman mythology and the exalted tale of the birth of Rome, The Aeneid.

Sixth graders delve into the Middle Ages, the era of about 1,000 years between the Fall of Rome and the Renaissance, which they will study in 7th grade.  The main focus is on the great cultural rise of England, with forays into the exciting lives of the Saxons, Vikings, and Normans.  Studies of the epic of Beowulf and of Norse mythology fire the students’ imagination and deepen their understanding of the era.


Science

The science curriculum in all grades excites wonder and curiosity about the natural world and trains students in the processes of careful observation and systematic analysis.  Through reading, discussion, research, creative projects, and frequent hands-on, lab activities, students are guided to discover, explore, question, and reflect on different aspects of the world around us.  Each year of the program in grades 3 – 5 includes life science, earth science, physical science, and space science (as well as geography).  In 6th grade, students begin the upper-school science program, devoting a year of in-depth study to earth science. (The 7th grade program focuses on biology; 8th grade covers chemistry and physics.)

Third-graders are guided through an exploration of the four basic science content areas.  They learn in greater detail about biological structures and survival processes of plants and animals, the changes that occur to our earth, matter and how it can be measured, different forms of energy, and are introduced to the forces that govern the physical world.  

In 4th grade, students look further into the classification of plants and animals and explore more advanced organic processes. Physical science includes an introduction to the periodic table and chemical formulas.  Earth science orients students to understanding and respectful use of natural resources, and space science focuses on celestial objects outside of the solar system. There is greater emphasis on scientific processes and investigatory skills.

The 5th grade science program provides a deeper understanding of basic scientific principles and advanced concepts in life, earth, space, and physical science.  Laboratory demonstrations and hands-on explorations by individuals or small groups of students are conducted frequently.   Students use the scientific method to conduct and design independent experiments.  

The 6th grade science program provides a thorough overview of basic concepts in earth science with an emphasis on geology and meteorology.  The material comes alive through frequent lab demonstrations and student hands-on activities.  Emphasis on the methods of scientific inquiry including completion of an independent science fair project, lays a strong foundation for the rigorous, laboratory-centered 7th grade study of life science.


French

As the second-greatest contributor to the English language, after Latin, knowledge of French is one of the strongest tools a student can have for vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension, writing, and cultural breadth.  

Graduating from the introductory K-2nd grade program, 3rd-graders begin in earnest to develop and strengthen French listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills, as well as continuing to explore the culture of France and French-speaking countries.  Through progressively sophisticated, theme-related units of study and a variety of fun, engaging activities and projects, students in grades 3 – 6 improve French comprehension, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and usage, progressing in oral and written fluency and conversational ability. Students in grades 3 – 5 have French class three times a week; 6th graders have French four times a week. Students complete high school French 1 by the end of 6th grade.