Middle School Academics
The Middle School at Austin Preparatory School is an inviting, intentional environment rooted in the best practices of Middle School education.
During this pivotal period, students are supported by faculty and advisors as they navigate campus, accelerate their growth, and flourish as independent learners and self-advocates. Choice and voice in the academic program promote student ownership and create opportunities for students to take risks and grow. In their classes and co-curricular activities, students are challenged to be curious.
"I can always tell the kids who have been at the middle school. They are capable and confident in unexpected ways. They are ready for anything."
-Nicole Putney, English Department Chair and P'26
From the Roman ruins, to medieval cathedrals’ soaring spires, to how the tranquil village of Lexington catapulted onto the world stage on that fateful April morning in 1775, Austin Prep’s Middle School History program inspires students with stories of the past. History is explored in a hands-on, immersive way. The program builds on young students’ desire to make a difference and empowers them to do so by expanding their perspective and equipping them with skills to interpret and present information.
Grade 6: Becoming Historians
Students assume the roles of cartographers, museum docents, and archeologists as they examine stories of past civilizations through the lens of careers in history. Students gather information from diverse sources and learn to read with an eye towards understanding. The annual Egyptian Museum emphasizes the value of cross-curricular learning by synthesizing information from their Humanities classes through the creation of a series of exhibits.
Grade 7: Comparative Cultures
The three skills of comparison, communication, and critical thought frame students’ inquiry into cultures from around the world. Students investigate ancient and medieval China and contrast that civilization with medieval Europe. The second semester increases in complexity as students compare the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan cultures as well as the French, English, and Spanish colonies.
Grade 8: Citizen-Scholars
Recognizing their role as citizens, students examine the heritage of their local community and the role of Massachusetts in the American Revolution. A semester of Civics education explores the Constitution in theory and practice through exercises like mock government and a mock trial. Students develop an understanding of why an informed and engaged citizenry is critical to the operation of democratic society. The year concludes with a survey of major world religions.
The study of Mathematics is more than computing answers to questions. Mathematics is the universal language. Our Mathematics courses are a stimulating, positive learning environment where students learn how and when to use strategies for problem solving, while simultaneously sharpening their organizational, computational, and communication skills.
Although each course covers different concepts, the approach is consistent with Middle School pedagogy. Student understanding of mathematical concepts is attained through individual and small group work, cross curricular projects, board work, and videos and daily drills for competency. All courses use current technology for instructional purposes and for preparing the students to be able to adapt to future technology use.
Placement of students into a course is a highly individualized process with many pathways to success for each student.
Topics in Math
This course aims to give students an understanding and confidence in mathematical practices. Special emphasis is placed on ratios, rates, operations with decimals, fractions, and integers, including an introduction to negative numbers. Algebraic topics are introduced with the study of expressions and equations. Students participate in a coding program to give them an introduction to Computer Science principles.
This course gives students an introduction to the basic concepts of Pre-Algebra. Students are introduced to signed numbers and to the concept of a variable. Skills such as rates, ratios, proportions and percent are solidified. Emphasis is placed on writing and evaluating algebraic expressions, solving equations and working with rational numbers. Exploration of the concepts of Geometry, Probability and Data Analysis are also continued. Multiple projects are included in this course that include topics such as budgeting, analyzing nutritional data, sports data, and profit/loss sheets.
Students in this course begin their formal study of algebraic expressions and linear equations. They will write and use linear equations, linear functions, and system of equations to represent, analyze, and solve problems. Students begin their formal study of functions as well. They will explain the concept and uses of functions and describe functions in different representations (graphical, tabular, algebraic). Geometric concepts of congruence and similarity through exploration and transformation are investigated.
Students in this course will complete their journey of mastering basic algebra skills. Students solve systems of equations, use linear equations, and are introduced to functions and exponents. Intermediate algebra skills such as factoring and exploring quadratic equations are learned through drill and exploration.Additional technological skills are added in the course with the use of a graphing calculator which is required for this course.
Middle school students with significant aptitude in Mathematics can access the Upper School curriculum. The course starts after quadratics with studies of more challenging functions and polynomials.
Middle School Math Team
The middle school math team is open to any middle-schooler who has a love of problem-solving and thinking creatively. Students are able to enjoy an introduction to higher level topics not seen in a middle school classroom. They earn classroom credit for their participation. Their hard work culminates in a variety of competitions including interscholastic math meets, American Mathematics Competitions, and the MathCounts competition.
The MS science program introduces students to the foundational basics of science as a body of knowledge and process of discovery. At the dawn of the Big Bang, matter and forces evolved, leading to the organization of Space and the interaction of particles that ultimately led to the formation of planets, atmospheres, and the richness of life. Through interactive labs and investigations as well as opportunities to research and present on applications of their growing scientific knowledge, students are immersed in an environment that promotes curiosity, collaboration, and critical thought.
Earth and Space Science
Students will begin their formal studies in science with a focus on the important life skills of organization and collaboration. Central topics include the exploration of space, the formation, and composition of the atmosphere, and the importance of water.
Building particularly on the properties of water, students deepen their skills by incorporating inquiry and embark on a journey of self-discovery, investigating life on earth from its origins to the current classification systems and an extensive exploration of the human body.
Students investigate and identify the forces of nature, early atomic theories, and the evolution of the Periodic Table. Experimentation leads students to determine the forces that link matter and energy.
Middle School students are curious and inquisitive learners with active imaginations and keen senses of wonder; to that end, the offerings in the Department of Art and Design tap into these inclinations and provide students with the opportunity to think critically and creatively. Most importantly, these offerings give students more than a vocabulary for speaking about technology and the arts; they provide a project- or production-based curriculum and opportunities for students to share their work with the community and interact with the faces and spaces of those fields. Middle School students have the opportunity to be cast in prominent roles in all theatrical productions.
Students have the opportunity to pursue their passions by having a choice and voice in their electives each semester. Selections may include:
Dance: Several themed dance courses provide students with a review of dance fundamentals, including positions and terminology of jazz, tap, ballet and contemporary as they prepare for their roles in productions like Austin’s annual performance of The Nutcracker.
Explorations in Art: The process of art-making in an open and collaborative atmosphere encourages critical thinking and develops creative problem-solving skills as students learn the basic concepts, terminology, and techniques of visual art.
Digital Art: Using the iPad as both canvas and palette, students explore the basics of graphic design, digital drawing, and animation through the use of various apps, leading them on a path of creativity and innovation in our ever-changing digital world.
Band & Instrumental Music: Students learn proper playing techniques, correct posture/breathing and the care/maintenance of their instrument as they play and perform as part of an ensemble that embraces and showcases musicians of all experience levels. Additional courses are also offered focusing on Keyboarding and Guitar.
Coding & Robotics: Full STEAM ahead! Designed to foster critical thinking and teamwork, these Computer Science courses place a strong emphasis on developing problem-solving skills through project-based learning.
Performing Arts: Students take on the roles of designers, artists, and producers by bringing a show from the page to the stage. Students read scripts and have class discussions and projects envisioning sets, costumes, and props in concert with mainstage productions on campus.
Topics in Technology: Each year, faculty develop topical electives with a focus on project-based learning. Recent Topics have included Art History, Business and Finance, Exploration, the Olympics, and Sports Management.
Endeavoring to enlighten the mind and ennoble the heart, the Theology program aims to inspire students to grow in their appreciation of the Augustinian values of veritas, unitas, and caritas. Through interactive classroom lessons, students deepen their understanding of Catholic tradition, culture, and belief and are supported in their own faith journey.
Grade 6 - Introduction to the Sacred Scriptures
The stories of students’ ancestors in faith come alive as students encounter Sacred Scripture. Art, prayer services, songs, and visits to the Chapel of Saint Augustine engage students as they explore the Augustinian underpinnings of the School’s mission and the rich heritage of the Church.
Grade 7 - Living as Disciples of Christ
How do students live a life of faith? Students deepen awareness and clarify their understanding of their individual spiritual journey. Students mature in their awareness of the moral life as they study the 10 Commandments and the Teachings of the Magisterium. Exploring vocation, students engage with priests, religious, and lay ministers to consider the work God calls them to do.
Grade 8 - Living as Members of the Church
With an exploration of the heroic lives of the saints set against the sweeping backdrop of Church history, as well as discussions on conscience and morality commensurate with students’ growing maturity and independence, students put prayer into practice as they reflect on the universal call to holiness.
In an increasingly globalized world, the skill of studying world languages is becoming an even greater asset than ever before. Students in sixth and seventh grade at Austin Prep may choose to study Latin or Mandarin. Eighth grade students have the additional selections of French and Spanish. Opportunities for school trips to places like Rome and Paris allow Middle School students to practice their language in context and experience life-changing journeys alongside passionate and qualified teachers.
In the Middle School, Latin is studied as both a language and a means to learn more about Roman culture, history, technology, and politics. Students learn about the daily lives of Romans- what they ate, did for fun, studied in school, and family life. Through this, Classics students learn how much of our own language and culture comes from ancient Rome. Intermixed with this is the study of Greek and Roman myths. Students will explore how Zeus escaped his father’s voracious appetite and defeated the Titans, how Hermes tricked his brother Apollo, and much more.
Middle School Mandarin exposes students to language education through the lens of the Eastern world. Learning to read and write in Chinese characters and the pinyin system, students build a foundation for fluency while also practicing speaking and listening. Students learn how to navigate situations, explain their family and interests, and interact with others about the same. Peer work and activities with Austin’s international students from China deepen students’ appreciation for the vibrancy of Chinese culture.
Middle School French is an introduction to one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. Using interactive audio, video and paired work, students learn to communicate with the 300 million French speakers across the world. In class and in the French Club, students experience the culture of France and the three dozen other Francophone nations from cuisine and art to music and monuments.
Students in the Spanish program explore the varied history and traditions found in the Spanish-speaking countries of the world. This study helps students acquire an appreciation for the richness of the cultures of those countries. The program develops students’ language competency using a communicative approach that includes reading, writing, speaking and listening that starts at a beginner's level. Students gain experience with the language through a variety of activities that expose them to practical use of the language.
Middle School English instruction is student-centered, thematic, and authentic. Student readers select literature from a variety of award-winning titles as they deepen their appreciation for the multitude of genres available while exploring their interests. Middle School students learn the traits of excellent writing as they practice the steps of the process from drafting to publishing.
Choice and voice are integral to nurturing a genuine love of reading. Sixth graders build fluency and stamina as readers with a goal of learning how to infer, predict, evaluate, and connect literature to themselves, their community, and their world.
From study of works from the oral tradition through the latest in young adult literature, seventh graders develop an appreciation of written work from around the globe. Student writers emulate their favorite authors and produce work for an authentic audience whenever possible, including writing their own novel in the fall semester.
Reading and writing activities connect with and support the civics curriculum as students learn through the lens of literature what it means to be a citizen scholar. Student writers use challenging vocabulary and new grammar concepts to enrich their sentence structure and to build effective arguments. Students appreciate writing as a process, not an end, and build these essential communication skills in order to be active participants in our democracy.
Austin Prep’s Mission Statement emphasizes the importance of “hands to serve,” or the cultivation of habits of service to others in the spirit of Jesus Christ. At Austin, we are dedicated to the formation of the whole child: enlightening the mind, but never at the expense of engaging the heart. Through the Service Program, students experience and share God’s love in concrete ways through their time, talents, words, and actions in ministry to others. Throughout the Austin Journey, in pursuit of Christ and in the service of those who are less fortunate, students come to realize that they receive far more than they could ever give. Service is an excellent opportunity to encounter people in love and charity, and as a result, learn more about oneself and God along the way.
6th Grade Egyptian Museum
A synthesis of student work in History, Theology, and English, this annual event is the culmination of students’ cross-curricular study of the Egyptian Civilization. Students create exhibits on artifacts, pyramid construction, and hieroglyphic painting, become docents on a niche topic of interest, produce a book-talk video, and explore the Israelite enslavement and Exodus in Egypt as they curate their museum. This hands-on approach to learning helps students apply content in context and develop into critical storytellers.
8th Grade DC Trip
The culmination of the Civics program is a weekend tour of Washington, D.C. The itinerary includes stops at key federal buildings, where students engage with guides, historians, and legislators who help bring class content to life. Students grow in their appreciation for the democratic process and deepen their connection to America’s cultural heritage in exploring a number of the Smithsonian Museums and visiting memorials around the National Mall.
Study Abroad in the United Kingdom
Students have the opportunity to participate in a three-week summer study abroad program housed at a boarding school outside of London. The Independent Schools Cultural Alliance allows students to experience the culture and history of the United Kingdom in a fun and interactive way. Visits to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, a workshop at the Globe Theatre, and a tour of the HMS Victory, expand students’ cultural horizons and support their development as global citizens.
Middle School Blog
Our middle school blog is the place to learn about the perspectives and programs that make the Austin Prep Middle School Journey unique. Periodic blog posts will come from members of our middle school community, including faculty, students, and staff.