Portland Jewish Academy is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and is proud of our partnership with them in strengthening our local Jewish community as well as the global community.

Middle School

"I must say that I've never interviewed so many consistently bright, smart, engaged children in one place at one time. They were all exceptional. I've shot video for many years. To have so many intelligent answers with the brightness of their personality was truly a wonderful experience for me."

Dave Morgan, Lincoln County News (after having interviewed our 6th graders during Field School at the Hatfield Marine Science Center)

Grades 6 through 8

The middle school years are when critical thinking really takes root. In every discipline, including math, science, the humanities, and the arts, students learn by doing, asking, and thinking for themselves. They develop the critical analytical skills that most students don’t learn until college.

Our middle school students apply these critical thinking skills to discussions of ethics and values, developing solid, grounded views about morals, community and culture. In addition, the Jewish Studies program supports and develops critical thinking skills and provides opportunities for in-depth discussion and analysis. Our rich and robust curriculum perfectly rounds out the middle school learning years and provides students with clear vision for future action.

All middle school students participate in our Taglit (discovery) program, a special week-long session between semesters. Taglit is focused, performance-based, and hands-on. Students delve deeply into these intensive seminar-style courses, learning quite a bit in a short amount of time. Upcoming plans for courses include oceanography, a full-stage drama production, and creative writing.

Our 8th grade students participate each year in a culminating Capstone Project. Combining assignments, activities and skills from Humanities, Jewish Studies and Service Learning, this Capstone experience, integrates academic writing skills and the research process with Jewish Studies themes and a Service Learning project. Students have the opportunity to showcase their work during the Capstone Expo at the end of the year.

Specialists in music, art, physical education, dance, technology, library and an artist-in-residence program round out the PJA middle school experience.

Middle School Field Trips

Students take a variety of day field trips. Overnight field trips include a four-day trip to Outdoor School for 6th grade students, a three-day trip to Ashland for 7th grade students studying Shakespeare and a culminating 8th grade trip to Israel.

Click here to read the updates from last year's trip to Israel.

Middle School Exploratories

Exploratories are trimester-long elective classes that focus on the arts, technology, and service learning, and give students an opportunity to pursue areas of interest in mixed grade groups.

Exploratory classes include the following:

COFFEEHOUSE: In this exploratory, students have any opportunity to share and give shape to their creative energy and spirit. Students write poetry and songs and develop other pieces to be shared in the venue of the Coffeehouse.

COOKING: In this exploratory, students have the opportunity to explore foods and cooking techniques. Students practice kitchen safety and knife skills while learning a variety of standard cuts and gaining hands-on experience making many different meals from scratch. They use a variety of ingredients, including vegetables and herbs from our school garden, and cook and bake a range of dishes including pasta, salsa, soup, brownies, and more. Students will begin to define their own style and flavor as budding chefs, and we will have plenty of opportunity to eat.

EXPLORE VIDEO PRODUCTION: Going beyond cell phone videos, selfies, and iMovie, students in this exploratory learn how to create a professional polished video that tells a story. Using Final Cut Pro and the Adobe Creative Cloud software suite, students explore the core concepts of what makes a good video and develop skill both behind the camera and in post-production.

FIBER ARTS: In this exploratory, students investigate practices such as weaving on a loom, using a sewing machine, needle and wet felting, knitting, crocheting, fabric dyeing, embroidery, kumihimo, and basket coiling.

GUITAR: In this beginning guitar class, students explore American folk, pop, and contemporary Jewish music. They study the history of the guitar as an instrument for storytelling and learn many strum patterns along with different chord combinations and progressions. This class ends with a performance!

HELP THE HUNGRY: While hunger in Oregon often feels like an overwhelming problem with 1 in 5 people in our state facing food insecurity, our community is rich in resources with a multitude of committed individuals and agencies making a difference. The "Help the Hungry" exploratory includes both on-campus and off-campus volunteer opportunities such as preparing food and snack bags for delivery; serving meals; and helping to organize one of Portland’s largest food pantries located less than a mile from PJA.

MAINSTAGE DRAMA: There is a place for EVERYONE to participate in bringing a play to life! That's what this exploratory is all about. Students have the opportunity to participate both on- and off-stage and will participate in the theater process from audition to performance. After being cast, actors will be required to memorize lines and blocking. Class members will also have opportunities to work behind the scenes by designing and building sets, and helping develop audio-visual effects. Participation in this exploratory will require after- school and/or weekend rehearsals.

MAKER WORKSHOP -- In this class students will use the maker space as an open studio. They will learn about a variety of tools, techniques, and materials through small, skill-building projects. After demonstrating their skills in small projects, students will create at least one long- term project of their own design. Each maker will have an opportunity to go deeply into their work with the teachers as facilitators and guides. Areas for makers to explore include paper engineering, cardboard construction, sewing, robotics and programming, and more. The course will end with a mini maker-faire.

MANHIGUT: In Hebrew, manhigut means leadership, and in this exploratory, students become part of a student leadership team. The team will be given the opportunity to serve as leaders and ambassadors both at PJA and in our community as they work with teachers and staff to plan and host school events and lead school spirit activities.

MIDDLE SCHOOL CHOIR: In this exploratory students realize everyone has a song to sing as they explore current pop favorites, folk songs, and contemporary Jewish music. Choir members engage in various vocal techniques along with range, pitch and harmony singing as they learn all about our voice, the instrument we carry wherever we go! This exploratory includes performance opportunities.

MIDDLE SCHOOL LITERARY JOURNAL: In this writing and publishing workshop, students write, illustrate, design, edit, and publish a middle school literary journal. With opportunities for poets, short-story writers, graphic novelists, and illustrators, this exploratory gives students time and space to create and share their voice. Students examine and evaluate a variety of literary journals and decide together what form their journal will take. Students learn also about different aspects of producing a journal, including creating guidelines for submissions, selecting, proofreading, designing, and editing.

PRESCHOOL ASSISTANT: In this exploratory students assist teachers in both the Headstart pre-school program at the Neighborhood House across the street from our school and at our own PJA Pre-school and Kindergarten classes. In addition to helping children on the playground and in classrooms, middle school students are encouraged to help teachers with planning and implementing lessons and activities.

VISUAL ARTS: In this class students work in an open studio and learn about a variety of techniques and materials. After having time to explore the many studio areas of the classroom, students will create at least one long term work of art in their chosen media. Each artist will have an opportunity to go deeply into their work with the teacher as the facilitator. Throughout the class there will be mini-lessons on artists, along with new materials and ideas to incorporate into students’ work. Areas for artists to explore include clay, drawing, painting, sculpture, print-making, collage, and fiber arts.

YEARBOOK: In this exploratory, students work collaboratively to produce a high-quality yearbook, starting from the ground up. Students select a yearbook theme, photograph the year, sharpen their digital photography and editing skills, learn to write copy and design layouts as they create a publication for the entire school community.


If you would like additional information about The Middle School at PJA, please contact our Admission Director, Sarah Kahn Glass or call 503.535.3599.