The middle school English curriculum builds on character analysis work that students practiced in both primary and elementary school. With each text, students focus on character motivation, the impact of actions on self and others, and analyzing their personal beliefs in the context of the story. Throughout the program, texts have been carefully selected to include authors and protagonists of color. Students are encouraged to reflect on who they are, what they value, and how their identity is shaped by ethnicity, gender, race, class, ability, and other identifiers. They share their personal stories through discussion and writing poetry, personal narratives, short stories, and more. Each grade level has at least one unit focused on poetry and another studying the works of Shakespeare.
The Math in Focus Singapore math program focuses on teaching fewer concepts with greater depth and more complex problem solving than typical programs in the United States. Middle school students develop confidence, master techniques, and employ reasoning skills to solve real-world mathematical problems. To differentiate instruction, students who demonstrate strong mathematical foundations cover advanced topics in pullout math lab sessions and will complete a full algebra 1 curriculum.
Harlem Academy’s middle school science program was designed to build the skills students need as they progress in the sciences, offer rigorous and engaging academic content for adolescents, and make connections between scientific concepts and future career paths. Students hone the skills of scientists through scientific inquiry, analysis, and validation of experimental information and data. Each year, students focus on eight core scientific practices aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards developed by the National Academy of Science. In addition to science-specific skills, the curriculum strongly emphasizes non-fiction reading and writing.
- Sixth grade - Earth Science: Students study units on Geology, Water and Weather, and Astronomy.
- Seventh grade - Human Biology: Our human biology course begins at the cellular level and then expands to a study of human body systems. The program includes wet lab dissections and guest lectures with neuroscientists and cancer biologists from leading research universities.
- Eighth-grade - Applied Science: This course begins with a unit on Emergency Medicine, where students are challenged to connect knowledge of the body's systems learned in seventh grade to the appropriate response to emergency situations. During the Scientific Research unit, students develop a thesis statement, conduct research, and write a research paper, honing critical skills in non-fiction reading and writing. In the third unit, Architecture, students work with professional architects to design a concept for a building, create perspective drawings, build a 3-D model, and students present their design to a panel of architects.
The history curriculum emphasizes the following skills: (1) Using evidence to construct and evaluate historical arguments; (2) Using primary and secondary sources to analyze point of view and context, and to understand and interpret information; (3) Assessing continuity and change over time and over different cultures and geographic regions; and (4) Understanding diversity of interpretations through analysis of context, point of view, and frame of reference. Sixth graders study world history, exploring the complex factors that shape the rise and fall of civilizations. Seventh and eighth graders engage in a two-year study of U.S. history, allowing enough time to learn about early American civilizations as well as recent events, such as 9/11. The pacing of the curriculum offers students the chance to delve into key turning points with enough depth to develop the skills of a historian.
In middle school, each student has a laptop for which they take responsibility. Students often use their laptops as a primary tool for writing, homework, and research, and they regularly incorporate slideshows, spreadsheets, and other applications into their work. Students also have opportunities to explore technology-related interests during elective periods.
Growth block is a special, flexible time that has been built into the middle school schedule. Students have guidance and support but also increasing agency to take initiative in a variety of ways that support excellence in learning, wellness, and contribution to community.
- Time is taken to set and monitor their individual goals through self-reflection and in collaboration with advisors during weekly individual check-in meetings.
- Class meetings are called whenever events within or beyond our school walls present a need or whenever the class has a goal they want to work on as a group.
- We also use these blocks to prepare for special events in the calendar, including our three-day outdoor adventure trip and a special day where each advisory group plans their own field trip to explore our city!
As emerging leaders in our school, our middle schoolers take increasing ownership of the ways they contribute to our community. The sixth grade maintains the school’s digital poetry display, making weekly selections from schoolmates and outside authors to be displayed in our entrance commons. In seventh and eighth grade, students have more choice in designing how they want to contribute, often taking on roles as mentors to younger students or assisting with admissions or school events.
In eighth grade, the transition to secondary school is supported by several innovative initiatives. High School Week offers an introduction to life in high school, including a changed schedule, increased workload, new privileges, and higher expectations. Harlem Academy alumni and secondary school leaders also work with our eighth graders to understand and prepare for the challenges and opportunities related to the transition to ninth grade.
Our physical education program (held twice weekly) gives students a sound understanding of the foundational skills that apply to organized sports, so they are prepared to participate in competitive athletic environments as they grow older. We value teamwork, sportsmanship, responsibility, and the opportunity for all participants to grow from their experiences.
Free play is an important component of the daily program, even in middle school, so students continue to have a 40-minute daily recess block to play games or just relax with friends in the school yard. Some students will also use this period for informal clubs or to work in small groups with our school counselor or mindfulness teacher.
BREAKFAST, LUNCH, & SNACK
Our meals and snacks focus on lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Our lunch period begins with a pause for silent reflection and ends with a brief, informal meeting for daily announcements.
ELECTIVES, ARTS, ATHLETICS
We incorporate choice and flexibility so middle schoolers can take initiative and pursue their individualized interests and goals.Advisors support students in making choices that facilitate growth, excellence, and wellness. Electives include arts (e.g., pottery, drawing and painting, photography, Shakespeare, musical theater), athletics (e.g., soccer, basketball, running, general fitness), clubs (e.g., logic games, newspaper, literary magazine, service), and a study hall block.
During this time, some students work with a mentor on a weekly basis on academic extension activities and additional engagement around writing or independent reading.