Middle School is a wonderful period of transition as students grow into themselves and explore the world beyond themselves. The Austin Preparatory Middle School program seeks to engage each student’s heart and mind as they begin their Journey at Austin Prep.
Here is a glimpse of one of our more recent projects that personifies the Middle School experience.
Fantastic Pharaohs and Where to Find Them
Students in Mrs. Sam DiVito’s sixth grade social studies class acted as curators and docents of Austin Prep Middle School’s inaugural Ancient Egyptian Museum. The interdisciplinary project between Social Studies, English, and Theology culminated in an evening celebration in the Murphy Art Gallery in Saint Augustine Hall. Students welcomed parents, siblings, faculty, and friends to their museum and guided them through a number of exhibits.
Mrs. DiVito spent last summer in London with Austin’s delegation to the Independent School Cultural Alliance, a program for select independent Middle Schools from across the globe that convenes at the Charterhouse School each summer for programming in British culture and history. While abroad, Mrs. DiVito had the opportunity to visit the British Museum and spend time with her students examining artifacts from the Egyptian civilization, including the famed Rosetta Stone.
This fall, Mrs. DiVito worked with students and colleagues to design a learning experience where students could explore Egypt in a hands-on way. Students built their own model pyramids out of recycled cardboard and modeled some of them after the existing ones at Giza. “I didn’t provide detailed instructions,” Mrs. DiVito explained. “They had all the supplies and tools necessary, but they had to really think like architects and engineers to figure out how to build the pyramids.”
Students selected artifact cards depicting real pieces of jewelry and pottery discovered inside of King Tut’s Tomb and created intricate clay replicas of the objects with colored clay that they baked in their ovens at home. Students also created hieroglyphic artwork in the style of the Egyptian tomb walls which depicted their own accomplishments and interests at Austin.
Theology teacher Mrs. Maureen DiPerna and English teacher Mrs. Leeann Blais also contributed to the Museum. Because sixth grade students travel to their humanities classes in cohorts, teachers are able to facilitate project-based, interdisciplinary learning.
Students have been exploring the beginnings of our faith family tree. As part of their study, they’ve learned about the difference between monotheism and polytheism. The students collaborated on an exhibit that applied this knowledge to the Egyptian pantheon of deities and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “Hopefully students will better understand the depth of the Israelite commitment to the God of their ancestors while they were living in Egypt, and will realize that the many gods of Egypt were no match for ‘“Yahwaeh!”’ said Mrs. DiPerna.
The story of the Israelites from the exile to Exodus is explored in depth in the third quarter grade six. Mrs. DiPerna used the preparation for the Egyptian Museum to preview the stories of Joseph and Moses with the students.
Mrs. Blais has curated an extensive student library of young adult literature - 371 new titles at last count. Her YA collection rivals and receives more visits than some libraries! While students were learning about Egyptian history and culture with Mrs. DiVito, they selected fiction and nonfiction books set in Egypt to read independently with Mrs. Blais. Throughout their reading, students thought about setting and plot and were encouraged to make connections to their work in Social Studies. “I am thrilled with how the 6th grade has embraced reading this year!” Blais said. “It makes me so proud that they are choosing their own books, recommending books to friends, and sharing interesting stories with family.”
At the conclusion of their reading, students used their emergent skills in Digital Media to create video book talks. On the night of the Museum, students and parents were able to scan QR codes with their phones to pull up these inventive talks (please be sure to check out a sample by clicking on one of these links: Horrible Histories, The Egyptian Box, Anubis Speaks, The Egypt Game.
The opening of the sixth graders’ museum was a fun evening! Students were eager to show family and faculty members their collection of work and to celebrate the work of their classmates. Each student was also an “expert” on a particular topic like the Book of the Dead, Mummification, King Tut, or Queen Hatshepsut, to name a few.
The sixth grade Social Studies class is titled “Becoming Historians.” The January evening was truly a testament to the historians they have become and bodes well for the scholars they are developing into. The sixth graders will next explore Ancient India and then the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome.
Middle School sets the context and climate for learning. The primary purpose of the middle school experience is to discover and enliven the special talents within each student.
Austin’s program develops study and thinking skills appropriate to diverse intellectual disciplines and to students’ developmental abilities. Classes stimulate curiosity, encourage innovation, and sustain a passion for learning. Over time, students develop greater independence by becoming self-directed and responsible, having a choice and a voice in their program of study.
The classroom experience is intentionally designed to help students create knowledge, acquiring skills and dispositions to become resourceful problem solvers. Moreover, this educational commitment assists students to develop the essential scholastic foundation to flourish in high school, achieve personal success, and contribute to our diverse and ever-changing world. In this process, our program anchors, challenges, and nurtures students in their development as scholars, athletes, artists, leaders, servants, and seekers.
Middle school students learn much about themselves in their activities outside of the classroom. Athletic offerings provide students with opportunities to develop skills and participate in healthy competition. Student participation in dance, theater, music, and the visual arts tap into imaginative, creative spirits. During our daily activity period, students select from dozens of clubs and organizations that nurture leadership, community, and diverse interests. Students put faith into action through service experiences that broaden their perspective on the world and their ability to be agents of change.
Austin celebrates persistence, determination, originality, individuality, and excellence. Our school community recognizes the significance of ongoing self-improvement and self-actualization and facilitates this awareness and development in and out of the classroom. On their Journey at Austin Prep, middle school students progress toward the ideal that scholarship, spirituality, and character are inseparable attributes of who they are.
I invite you to explore these pages to learn more about the Austin Preparatory Middle School Program and, of course, to visit us on campus to experience it in action.
Please note: This is the curriculum sequence for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Grade 6 English
Grade 7 English
Grade 8 English
Latin - Classics
Latin - Classics (continued)
Latin, French, Mandarin, Spanish
Early Modern History
Grade 6 Mathematics
Accelerated Grade 6
Grade 7 Mathematics
Grade 8 Pre-Algebra
Introduction to Science
Life & Space Science
We are God's People
We Live our Faith as Disciples of Jesus
We Live our Faith as Members of the Church
Art & Design
* All sixth grade students take our developmental Classics (Latin) or Mandarin course. Students must remain with that language through the end of their seventh grade year. Students new to Austin in Grade 7 will study Classics (Latin) or Mandarin. Students new to Mandarin will be in a blended 6-7 Middle School Mandarin 1 class. Students new to Classics will be placed in Classics 276 or, based on enrollment, may be placed in a blended 6-7 Classics 1 course. All eighth grade students participate in our Upper School Foreign Languages program and will select from French, Latin, Mandarin, or Spanish. Students will study a minimum of one language through the third level or three years, whichever is longer. Eighth grade language classes may include Upper School students as classmates.
** Middle school students take electives in the Department of Art and Design each semester.
All students are required to perform community service in order to matriculate.
Community Service Requirement
4 hours, plus service paper