Middle School Curriculum
Middle school is a time of tremendous intellectual and social growth, as students develop their critical thinking skills and ability to learn independently and work collaboratively. In middle school, PJA students learn by doing, asking, and thinking for themselves, and are supported as they become intellectual risk takers and agents of change who have the ability to turn their beliefs into action.
The middle school curriculum includes classes in humanities, math, science, Hebrew, Jewish studies. The weekly schedule also includes PE, tefillah (prayer), health and wellness, and elective exploratories in the arts, service learning, cooking, technology and much more.
PJA’s middle school humanities program integrates the themes and content of social studies within a strong language arts curriculum. The block period allows for the meaningful exploration of topics and supports the goals of developing active learners and informed citizens who think critically, read analytically, engage effectively in classroom discussion, and write with clarity and understanding of purpose. Students read a wide variety of literature across genres and, through book club discussions and individual writing assignments, develop their identity as engaged and independent readers.
The 6th Grade Humanities course focuses on the central theme, Discovering Our Own Voice. Using literature, poetry, geography, current events, and history, students will analyze and discuss this essential question: How do others see and come to know us, and how do we see and come to know ourselves?
- Personal Geographies: Who are we in the present?
- The Things We Carry: Learning from Our Past
- Imagining a Sustainable Future: What will we carry?
The 7th Grade Humanities course focuses on the central theme, Listening to the Voices of Others. Using literature, poetry, geography, current events, and history, students will analyze and discuss this essential question: How do the stories we hear, read, and tell shape us and shape the culture in which we live?
- Stories Told and Retold; Stories Told and Untold
- The Cornerstones of Culture
- The role of story in culture
The 8th Grade Humanities course focuses on the central theme, A Commitment to Justice. Using literature, poetry, geography, current events, and history, students will analyze and discuss this essential question: How can I become an advocate for social justice, using both my voice and my actions to bring about positive change in the world?
- Civics and government
- Intellectual freedom and censorship
- Living history
PJA’s middle school math program seeks to develop students who are problem solvers, able to effectively communicate their mathematical thinking both orally and through written work and apply their math knowledge and skills in other areas of learning as well as in their everyday lives. The math curriculum is designed to support students with varied learning styles and to offer challenges to students who are ready to move beyond the scope of the middle school curriculum.
Most students in this grade take the 6th grade math course.
Concepts covered include:
- Math Fact Fluency
- Numerical Expressions & Exponents
- Fractions and Decimals
- Ratios & Rates
- Algebraic Expressions & Properties
- Area, Surface Area and Volume
- Integers, Number lines, & the Coordinate Plane
Seventh grade students will either take the Pre-Algebra Prep Course or the Pre-Algebra Course. Pre-Algebra incorporates all strands of mathematics and serves as a critical link in the transition from arithmetic to algebra and lays the groundwork for advanced study in geometry, probability, and data analysis.
Students experience Hebrew as a living language. Students develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, and knowledge of and appreciation for Israeli culture and literature. In daily Hebrew classes, students engage in conversation, read from a variety of sources, write about their experiences, and attend closely to grammatical structures and patterns as they consider the best ways to communicate increasingly complex ideas and information.
In sixth grade, students focus on mastering the present tense. They practice and demonstrate these skills by answering questions about their life experiences and interests both in written and oral form. Units of study include family history, an Israel restaurant adventure, and Israel’s national parks.
The seventh grade curriculum focuses on mastering the past tense. Students develop language skills by writing short stories and giving oral presentations. Students do short research projects and read from a variety of literary genres. In an interdisciplinary project that combines research, geography, written expression, the arts and technology, students create an Israeli tour company.
In 8th grade, students focus on mastering the future tense and develop greater fluency speaking, reading, and writing in Hebrew. Students write stories, participate in conversations, give oral presentations and translate English texts into Hebrew.
Students view and discuss Israeli films and TV broadcasts while having the opportunity to practice their Hebrew with Israelis via Zoom conversations!
PJA’s Jewish Studies program integrates study of the rich textual tradition and long history of the Jewish people. In middle school, that study focuses on the question raised by Hillel: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? Each grade examines one aspect of this question, as students explore their own identity and consider how they express the middot (Jewish values) in their own lives. Class work emphasizes inquiry and skill development; students identify and cite Jewish texts, read critically, compare and contrast commentaries, and draw connections between text and personal experience. Interdisciplinary learning is emphasized as students draw connections to their work in humanities and use the skills they are developing in technology and the arts.
In 6th grade, students consider Hillel’s teaching, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” and explore the theme of finding one’s own voice. The class examines and reflects on the concepts of personal responsibility, confidence, and identity through the lens of Biblical text. Sixth grade students also begin to take on a leadership role in the school by planning and leading the school-wide Purim carnival.
The 7th grade curriculum focuses on Hillel’s teaching, “And if I am only for myself, what am I?” Students continue to explore their identity while learning to balance the needs of others with their own and learning the value and skills of expressing respectful disagreement. Students study the history and texts of the Talmudic era and the middle ages. Seventh grade students take the leadership role of planning and leading the school-wide Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) event.
In 8th grade, students focus on the final part of Hillel’s teaching, “And if not now, when?” Beginning with an examination of the need for change within Biblical society, students learn how individual Jews throughout history have worked to transform their world. Students draw on this study as they each design a service learning project and prepare a drash (oral presentation) as part of the interdisciplinary Capstone program. Other units of study explore the Jewish contribution to American culture, the dark period of the Holocaust, and the factors that led up to the establishment of the State of Israel. Eighth grade students plan and lead a school program in commemoration of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). Their Middle School education culminates in a class trip to Israel for two weeks of exploration and learning.
PJA’s Middle School Science program focuses on student-centered learning, with an emphasis on hands-on lab and field work. Over the three years, students develop scientific skills and a greater understanding of scientific concepts.
- Scientific practices: Asking questions; conducting investigations; analyzing data; constructing explanations; arguing from evidence; using mathematics; using models; & communicating information
- Concepts: Scale, proportion, & quantity; cause & effect relationships; systems & systems models; energy & matter; structure & function; & patterns
The 6th grade science curriculum focuses on the overarching themes of Earth’s place in the universe, Earth’s systems, Earth and human activity.
Units of study:
- Being Scientists
- Using Measurement
- Density & Buoyancy
- Our Place in the Universe
- Exploring our Universe
- Newton’s Laws of Motion
Throughout the year, students take on engineering challenges such as building water rockets, hot air balloons, and mousetrap vehicles.
The 7th and 8th grade science curriculum follows a two-year cycle. In alternating years, all students in these grades have one year of physical science (chemistry and physics) and one year of life science (biology).
Physical science units of study:
- The periodic table
- Climate Change
Life science units of study:
- Genetics, evolution, biodiversity
Exploratories are elective classes where students explore their interests and follow their curiosity. Students choose a new exploratory each trimester. These classes are mixed ages for students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. These are just a few of our recent exploratory class offerings: cooking and nutrition, digital animation, drama, fiber arts, gardening, guitar, manhigut (leadership), literary journal, PJA Press, photography, work for the world, and yearbook.
Wellness classes are additional weekly electives that focus on movement, mental growth, and mindfulness. Like exploratory classes, these classes are mixed ages for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. Students choose a new wellness class each trimester. These are a few of our recent wellness class offerings: art with heart, bullet journaling, racquetball, relax and read, outdoor adventure, speedball, stretch and breathe, and ultimate frisbee.
The middle school curriculum culminates in Capstone, a multifaceted, interdisciplinary project. Through their work on Capstone, PJA eighth grade students deepen their understanding of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the world) and further develop the fundamental research skills and academic writing they’ve worked on in humanities classes while integrating key aspects of the Jewish Studies program. Each student designs and engages in a service learning project, selects a related topic to research and present in a formal, thesis-driven research essay, and writes a drash in which they explore the connections between their service project and some key aspect of Jewish life and teachings. Throughout the Capstone process, students record their progress and reflect on their experiences through regular blog entries. For more information about Capstone, click here.
Click to view an infographic of our Middle School Capstone Projects