The “in between” years. This is what middle school is often regarded as before students enter the more serious, college-focused portion of their academic path. However, in today’s global education landscape, this mindset needs to change. The years in middle school and the transition into high school have become increasingly important in readying students with the knowledge, confidence, and grit needed to excel in high school and beyond.
At BASIS Independent Schools, we have crafted an internationally benchmarked middle school experience to reflect these growing expectations. Our nationally recognized BASIS Curriculum, shared between all schools within our network and topping the 2018 rankings of best high schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, and our Subject Expert Teachers unite to ensure our students are the best prepared to get the most out of middle school.
Using Knowledge as a Tool
In middle school, students begin to contextualize their learning. In the BASIS Independent Middle School Program, students not only continue to build strong foundational knowledge in many different disciplines, but also learn how to apply that knowledge to fuel their critical inquiry and problem-solving skills. Knowledge becomes a tool they can use to make connections between different subjects: our middle school curriculum encourages interdisciplinary learning with courses such as logic, economics, English, History, fine arts, taking each of the three sciences (biology, chemistry, physics) at once, and more.
The results of our Middle School Program are in, and our students are excelling in unprecedented ways. Our students in grades 6-8 top the charts for the Comprehensive Exams administered at BASIS Curriculum Schools. Biology Subject Expert Teacher Mr. Barnes, who teaches grade 6 had this to say "We have an extraordinary middle school curriculum here at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley. To me, it seems that our curriculum, at its core, is designed around the principle of freedom. What BASIS Independent Silicon Valley provides is a foundation with the expectation that this foundational knowledge is a requisite, not a goal. Our job as Subject Expert Teachers is not to teach down to whatever foundational knowledge we are required to teach, but rather to teach up to what we know every student in the classroom to be capable of. Our curriculum is incredible because we are free to not be hamstrung by the standards, but instead use those standards as stepping stones towards a reverence for our respective subjects."
Learning from the Experts
In middle school, our students have access to Subject Expert Teachers who have deep content knowledge and real-life expertise in their chosen topic. Our teachers are not only extremely passionate about what they teach, but they are invested in helping students excel: they want our students to become writers, historians, scientists, and mathematicians. Inspiring students actually comes easy when the teachers are truly excited about their material.
"One of our goals at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is to spark students’ interest. There is no better way to do that than to bring in Subject Expert Teachers who are enthusiastic about their area of expertise. Students gain from these experts their love for learning and their subject," Math and Psychology Subject Expert Teacher Ms. Wendel reiterates. "Subject Expert Teachers create motivating environments, where students are actively involved in the learning process and they learn to become inquirers."
Growing Lifelong Skills
Our Middle School Program aims to prepare students for high school and higher-level learning by helping them hone specific skills that they will carry with them throughout their lives. This means building effective study and organizational skills, learning how to plan, managing their workload and extracurriculars, and maintaining a great work ethic. In some cases, one of the most important things we can offer is access to a topic that might not typically be incorporated into their schedule until the high school years. Band and Orchestra Subject Expert Teacher Mr. Wolf explained, "The diverse music curriculum, performance schedule and daily access to students is unique in the middle school years. We are able to support students as they establish talents and interests that they take to college and beyond. Often times once a student reaches high school, it seems overwhelming to pick up an instrument, and many feels as though they have waited too long, or missed their chance to commit to mastery. BASIS Independent Silicon Valley sees that potential, and wants to ensure that our students may develop any skill they wish."
When students feel confident in what and how they are learning, they can better make decisions, self-assess what their needs are, and make improvements accordingly.
Building Student Autonomy
The formative middle school years are where students really begin to construct and refine self-advocacy and independence. Instead of acting on impulse, middle school students start to observe the situations around them and how to take appropriate measures to deal with challenges. In these years, students begin to understand that they can take control of their education as they discover what interests them and what they are passionate about, and we give them every opportunity to do so.
We also ensure students have access to a number of levels of support and give them the chance to ask for help. Putting the control in their hands is key to reinforcing this idea of autonomy. Dean of Lower School Programs Ms. Titus states "One of my favorite things about BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is how we empower students to take ownership of their education. It is their responsibility to get to class with the right materials, manage their time successfully, communicate with their parents about their grades, and follow-up with their teachers when they need extra help. In giving them this autonomy, we tell them that we believe they are capable and they really rise to the challenge offered in a rigorous curriculum. As we instill this sense of responsibility in them from such a young age, they transition to high school and college with ease. They are already trained to be independently motivated, and have so much less to learn than many of their peers."
If you’re curious to learn more about our Middle School Program (grades 5-8), join us at our next Information Session on Saturday, January 12th, at 10:30 AM. Learn more and register >>