The goal of Lowell’s Middle School Humanities program is to nurture students’ innate curiosity, encourage them formulate questions and guide their quest for answers. Through instruction and practice students will hone their analytical thinking, organizational, research, writing, oral communication and technology skills so they are equipped to extract, evaluate and synthesize information from a wide range of sources. By exploring a rich array of literature from different cultures and genres, as well as studying selected historical topics, students gain an understanding and appreciation of the people who populate our world and of past and present events. This knowledge will help them embrace their own identities as well as assume leadership roles in their communities.
The Humanities block meets seven times per week; English and History are integrated so that students read literature and engage in writing that compliments and extends their understanding of the topics introduced in the History class.
Students are introduced to the elements of culture and discuss cultures with which they are familiar. Students also explore the definition of, their understanding of, and their encounters with diversity, a topic they will return to throughout the year.
• China— Students study the geography, history, art, religion, with an emphasis on Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, and current events in China. Students enjoy learning how to use chopsticks, count in Mandarin, do brush painting and calligraphy, and calculate using an abacus.
• India—Students study the geography, history, art, religion, with an emphasis on Hinduism, and current events in India. Students enjoy a trip to a local Hindu temple and eating lunch at an Indian restaurant.
• Sudan—Students study the geography, history, art, religion, with an emphasis on Islam, and current events in Sudan and South Sudan. Students enjoy learning about ways to filter water and then constructing their own water filters and testing their effectiveness.
Resources: Visual Geography Series: China, India, Sudan; Nystrom Atlas of World History; Wordly Wise Book 6. Novels include Ties That Bind, Ties That Break, Red Scarf Girl, The Giver, The Conch Bearer, Long Walk to Water and The Giver. Report writing, the study of an eminent person, and preparation for a panel discussion are part of the integrated program.
History—The American Identity: Topics in American History from 1860 to the present. Students examine how Americans attempted to forge a national identity from the diverse individuals and cultures of its Native and immigrant populations with an emphasis on the fight to extend civil rights to all Americans. Text: The History of Us, vols. 4-8, a variety of primary source documents, and videos.
• Civil War and Reconstruction. Students enjoy a field trip to a Civil War battlefield to help bring the people, places, and issues of the war into focus.
• Immigration, Industrialization, and Women’s Rights. Students enjoy playing a simulation game with the goal of becoming monopolists or successful investors.
• Jim Crow and the long Civil Rights Movement. Students look forward to the culminating field trip to Alabama and Memphis where aspects of the entire year’s curriculum come to life in museums, simulations, oral histories, and a walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
English—Students continue their Wordly Wise vocabulary study and begin Grammar for Middle School, a sentence construction oriented grammar study that will conclude in 8th grade. During the first semester, students write a number of short identity pieces. Study books include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Raisin in the Sun. In addition, students read a variety of speeches, letters, and poems from the period, including Ain’t I a Woman? The Gettysburg Address, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and selections by Langston Hughes, the WWI poets, and Robert Frost.
History—The study of Ancient Civilizations. Students learn about the development of civilizations
throughout the world, looking most closely at the cultures of Ancient Egypt and
Nubia; the Middle East area, from the Fertile Crescent through the Byzantine
Empire and spread of Islamic civilization; Ancient Rome; and Ancient Greece. Text: Pearson's My World History: Early Ages (digital version for iPad), a variety of print and digital resources.
• Community. Students consider the consequences of technology as well as geography, how religion and culture are connected, what is power and who should have it, and how conflict should be handled.
• Current Events. Students apply their essential questions to modern cultures and communities.
• Research Project. Students use their understandings of ancient cultures to research a pre-modern culture of their choice.
English—Students complement their study of ancient civilizations with focus on Greek and Roman myths, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Beowulf, One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Legends of King Arthur, as well as novels and essays about communities. Their study of dystopian literature includes Fahrenheit 451 and related short stories. Students also use an interactive performance-based approach to study one of Shakespeare's comedies. Writing is frequent and genres include persuasive, expository, and descriptive writing, as well as the summary and personal narrative. Students continue their work on writing mechanics with Grammar for Middle School.