Curriculum

Overview

While at Lowell, students gain a strong foundation of academic skills and content-area knowledge. In addition, they learn how to communicate, collaborate, and lead with respect and empathy for others. We prepare students to succeed, not only in competitive high school programs, but also in our rapidly changing world.

Core Classes by Grade Level

List of 6 items.

  • Humanities—English + History

    The goal of the humanities program is to nurture students’ innate curiosity, encourage them to formulate questions, and guide their quest for answers. Through instruction and practice students hone their analytical thinking, organizational, research, writing, oral communication, and technology skills so they are equipped to evaluate 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 helps them embrace their own identities as well as assume leadership roles in their communities.
    6th Grade
    Students investigate the complex social effects of climate change and analyze current solutions to global problems. Core disciplines of the humanities—geography, economics, civics, history, and literature—help students gain a thorough understanding of the issues. Students also learn how to take positive action to lessen the negative effects of climate change in partnership with iMatter.

    Reading and comprehending non-fiction texts and conducting inquiry-based research are key skills developed in History. In English, students have regular grammar and vocabulary lessons, write essays, and read Same Sun Here, Life as We Knew It, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Exodus, The Giver, A Long Walk to Water, and other literature. 

    7th Grade

    The American experience from 1860 to the present is tackled as students examine the Civil War, Reconstruction, industrialization, immigration, and the Civil Rights Movement, to name a few. Emphasis is placed on constructing evidence-based arguments and developing organization skills needed for long-term research projects. 

    In English, students continue vocabulary and grammar study, using the Wordly Wise and NoRedInk.com programs. They consider the themes of rights, responsibilities, and power as they read The Killer Angels, Crossing the Wire, To Kill a Mockingbird, Warriors Don’t Cry, “The Gettysburg Address,” “Ain’t I a Woman?” “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and poetry from Langston Hughes and Robert Frost.

    8th Grade
    A deep and evolving knowledge of African and South American history and culture are important aspects of global citizenship. Through this class, students will gain an awareness of the geography, religion, accomplishments, civics, economics, social structures, and literature of influential civilizations in these regions. The course covers three major regions: North African Civilizations, West African Empires, and Latin American Civilizations. In addition to learning about the history of the people from a variety of articles and documentaries, students will engage with four pieces of literature: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, Popol Vuh: A Sacred Book of the Maya, and Caminar. As a part of the integrated study, they will grapple with the deep questions of how societies change and spread, how roles are defined, how truth is perceived, and how authors’ words are filtered through the lens of background and perspective.
     
    The lessons have been carefully planned to balance instruction in reading, writing and social studies skills, and to support students’ transition to high school. Through reading assignments, annotation, and discussion, students partner with the teacher in shaping their learning. Students select questions for class investigation and critically evaluate each source of information. Through regular writing workshops and information-literacy lessons, students develop the writing and research skills to complete two inter-disciplinary projects and two research papers. The projects and papers provide students the opportunity to further tailor their humanities experience to best fit their learning style and interests.
  • Mathematics

    The math program provides appropriate and challenging math classes for all students. Courses promote strong foundations in both conceptual understandings and skills, critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and written and oral communication. Teachers use various instructional models to maximize student learning and interest in the subject. Projects emphasize STEM integration.

    All 6th graders take 6th Grade Math. During the first week of 7th grade math, students review important concepts. During the the second week of school, all 7th grade students take the Iowa Algebra Aptitude Test (IAAT). This test is considered the best indicator for identifying students whose abstract reasoning skills are sufficiently developed to begin formal algebra studies. Based on the results of this test, 6th grade performance, other testing available, and teacher feedback, students are placed into one of three tracks for 7th and 8th grade math.
     
    6th Grade Math
    Students are introduced to various topics needed to successfully move on to Pre-Algebra and Algebra I. Teachers focus on strengthening basic math understandings and computational skills necessary for further study of mathematics and relevant real-life situations. Topics include operations with whole numbers, decimals and fractions, measurement, ratios and proportions, percents, elementary geometry, statistics, and probability. Designing a furniture floor plan within a given space and budget is one of the projects that helps students apply their growing skills to real world problems.

    Flexible groupings in the first two trimesters of the year ensure students receive appropriate challenges and supports. If necessary, students are placed in ability-based groups in the third trimester. The course is based on the Connected Math Program and enrichment materials are drawn from the Art of Problem Solving.

    7th Grade Math
    Students in 7th grade math solidify foundations such as place value, number theory, computation of whole numbers, fractions and decimals, study ratio, proportion, and percent , 2 and 3 dimensional geometry. Students are also are eased into pre-algebra work using variables, expressions and basic algebraic equations, working with integers, explore coordinate planes and graphing in relation to functions, and work with data and statistics.

    Students who need more support in math will be placed in this class, moving onto to Pre-Algebra in 8th grade. The goal is to prepare students to begin high school level Algebra I upon matriculating to high school.

    Pre-Algebra
    Building their conceptual understanding and skills towards Algebra I, students use variables and expressions to solve equations and inequalities; apply factors, fractions, and exponents to various problems; use ratios, proportions, and percents; analyze data; begin to analyze geometry with algebra; study right triangles and angle relationships; and explore linear functions and their graphs. Projects include programming a screen saver using linear functions and making comparisons about real-world phenomena using statistical techniques.

    Students who have demonstrated a strong performance in mathematics but are not quite ready to begin formal algebra in 7th grade will be placed into Pre-Algebra, which will lead into Algebra I in 8th grade. These students will be ready to begin Geometry upon matriculating to high school.

    Algebra I
    In Algebra I students move on to solving linear equations, functions, and inequalities; solving quadratic and exponential functions and equations; exploring rational and radical functions; and factoring quadratic and polynomial expressions. Exploratory topics include cryptography and number theory. Students also engage in building mathematical models to analyze real world situations. 

    Students with qualifying IAAT scores will be placed into Algebra 1 in 7th grade, which will then be followed by Geometry in 8th grade. Students in this track will be prepared to begin Algebra 2 upon matriculating to high school.

    Geometry
    In Geometry, students approach geometric concepts via the classic Euclidean approach. After laying the groundwork with assumptions and postulates, students then use deductive reasoning to analyze the properties of various geometric shapes and objects with particular attention paid to triangles and circles. Additionally, students study basic trigonometry and selected aspects of non-Euclidean geometry.
     
  • Science

    Students explore real-world issues through research, experimentation, and problem solving as they master concepts from the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, and geosciences. Students engage in inquiry-based units of study that build key skills and a deep understanding of the scientific and engineering design processes. Topics connect to grade level themes and projects emphasize STEM integration.
    6th grade

    Heredity and evolution, forces and motion, and sustainability and biodiversity form the core areas of study for 6th graders. Students learn to identify cause-and-effect relationships and engage in labs that demonstrate scientific principles and theories. Students are introduced to different types of models—mathematical, conceptual, and graphic—and practice using these models. Observation and research skills are a focus throughout the year. Communication skills, including creating arguments based on evidence, lab report writing, and showing accurate data, are also emphasized. Labs and design projects are selected to help students develop fundamental skills in scientific investigation and engineering design.

    7th grade 
    Students continue to develop scientific skills learned in 6th grade as they explore properties and uses of waves, the solar system and universe, and anatomy and physiology. Lab work becomes more experimental in nature and, by the end of the year, students are selecting their own procedures to find answers and solve problems. Dissections are also a significant part of the laboratory experience, and students compare and contrast the structures and systems of their own bodies with those of other organisms. Lab report writing becomes increasingly important, as students develop their communication skills and their ability to analyze data and draw conclusions. Highlights include a field trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the  instrument engineering project, and talks from visiting experts on a range of topics.

    8th grade 
    Growing independence marks the 8th grade year in science. As students study ecology and sustainability, chemistry, and robotics engineering, they improve their ability to define problems, design their own procedures and experiments, apply their skills, iterate solutions, and give and receive feedback. Analysis and interpretation of data using mathematical computation and measurement is emphasized, and students are expected to draw data-based conclusions. Robotics challenges and the dirty water test are popular projects, along with the construction of bio-char stoves as part of the preparation for the 8th grade capstone service-learning trip to Costa Rica.
  • Spanish

    The Middle School Spanish program fosters students' confidence and enjoyment of learning a second language. Students are encouraged to use Spanish as often as possible in classroom activities and conversation. As their skills develop, increasing emphasis is placed on grammar, reading, and writing skills. Students develop their knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures and become equipped to participate in a society characterized by linguistic and cultural diversity. We aim to prepare all students to enter Spanish II (or above) when they make the transition to high school.
    6th grade
    In 6th grade we offer two levels of Spanish, depending on student readiness, exposure to the language, and learning style. Students continue to review and build on language skills developed previously with more emphasis on writing and reading. Dialogues, skits, songs, pairing and sharing, and group activities are used to develop mastery of grammar and syntax in thematic-based units. Students also create short narratives, web pages, videos, and brochures. While oral communication is emphasized in the classroom, reading comprehension, written pieces, and cultural studies round out the coursework.

    7th grade
    We continue to offer two levels of Spanish in 7th grade. The four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are emphasized. Students communicate with one another in Spanish from the beginning of the year and write in their journals every day. Students practice using more advanced grammatical structures and learn how to listen and comprehend without focusing on word-for-word translation. Literature studies begin.

    8th grade
    8th grade Spanish covers complex grammatical structures such as commands, the preterit tense, and reflexive verbs. Coverage varies depending on the levels of the two groups. Students continue to build their vocabularies, write longer essays, and explore Spanish literature. The course prepares students to participate in the Spanish language and service trip to Costa Rica by building conversational skills needed for travel and emphasizing correct intonation and expression. Students who successfully complete this course will be prepared to gain placement in a Spanish II or Spanish III high school course.
  • Music

    We aim to develop musicianship through a variety of mediums, historical perspectives, and cultural lenses. Students explore both the artistic and technical sides of music by learning to sing and play instruments in ensembles. Our after school music program offers further opportunities for students to pursue their passions through individual lessons, pop bands, the recorder ensemble, and jazz band.
    Band (Grades 6–8)
    This class teaches students how to play instruments, read standard music notation in a range of genres, listen to each other, and work as team. Students choose between four instruments—trumpet, alto sax, trombone, and percussion. These instruments maximize the range of music that the band can perform, including rock, soul, funk, pop, and jazz music, as well as concert band standards. Bands will perform at least twice a year as students' experience and ability allows. Students in band will leave the program with skills in sight reading and improvising, as well as the ability to play in a range of styles.

    Chorus (Grades 6–8)
    In chorus, students explore their own voices and develop the skills necessary to sing in a variety of genres. Sight reading, pronunciation, singing in different languages, breathing, and projection are among the skills covered. Practical arranging and composition are also part of the chorus program; students choose songs and work with the teacher to create unique arrangements. Concert repertoire also includes vocal works chosen by the teacher to build skills and explore musical diversity. Choruses will perform at least three times per year as students’ experience and ability allows. Students will leave the program with sight reading skills and will be adept at using their voices in a number of genres and styles.
  • Visual Arts

    Creative problem solving, mastery of visual media, and effective communication skills are the cornerstones of the Middle School visual arts program. Students are challenged to work with a wide variety of materials and processes and are encouraged to create work that is personally, historically, and culturally relevant. Both individual expression and collaboration skills are emphasized. Rubrics are provided to clarify expectations, and students are invited to participate in the assessment of their work.
    6th grade 

    The 6th grade art curriculum varies per trimester with an over-arching emphasis on personal expression and the basic elements and principles of design. The first trimester is dedicated to drawing projects. Students are challenged to explore varied media and techniques for drawing. Projects ranging from controlled scribbling to focused drawing from observation provide students opportunities to expand their comfort and skill. The second trimester emphasizes painting and printmaking. Tools and strategies for creating original work are offered, including watercolor and acrylic painting and relief printmaking with mixed media and linoleum. The third trimester focuses on three-dimensional media, including additive sculpture, ceramics, and architecture. Content often reflects the school-wide themes of diversity, identity, and community.

    7th grade 

    The school-wide theme of identity is a touchstone for 7th grade art. Identity mask assemblages and personal logo designs are hallmark examples of identity-themed projects. Additionally, a variety of projects challenge students to develop personal expression and confidence with design through media including drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, and sculpture. 

    8th grade

    Eighth grade art offers students a variety of opportunities to be self-expressive, as well as use art media to comment on society, influence others, and express opinions. Students are asked to reflect on the school-wide theme of community and to work collaboratively to create legacy art for the school. Through research and studio work, students are challenged to consider artist communities such as those established within the great modern art movements of the 20th century. They are invited to employ ideas and strategies of contemporary art communities such as Hip Hop and graffiti artists. Effective self-expression through drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and ceramics continues to underpin the program. Increased emphasis on familiarity with design elements and principles encourages students to deepen their comfort with forging a design-sensitive lifestyle beyond Middle School.

Required Seminar Classes

List of 14 items.

  • Academic Technology (6–8)

    Students develop proficiency with the hardware and software platforms that the school provides. Typing, photo editing, and digital video production skills are also covered. Digital citizenship is a focus each year, and students learn about the lasting impact of their digital footprints.
  • Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies (7)

    In this seminar, students engage in a multi-disciplinary discourse that crosses cultural, racial, ethnic, political, religious, and geographical lines. While they scrutinize the differences between the terms, “Arab,” “Muslim,” and “Middle Easterner,” they also learn about the geography, topography, and history that are associated with the Middle East.
  • Costa Rican Culture and Society (8)

    Through this course students gain introductory knowledge of the sociology and historical dynamics that shape contemporary Costa Rican society, as well as current social issues that define Costa Rican life. In the final trimester of the school year, students learn anthropological and sociological research methods. They develop their own research questions that they then explore during their stay in Costa Rica. They conclude the trimester by creating a report of their findings, which will be archived and used by subsequent student
    cohorts studying Costa Rica.
  • Creative Writing (6)

    Creative writing is a year-long seminar designed to strengthen the imagination and writing ability of each 6th grader. Throughout the year students write fiction, plays, and scripts and learn to critique both their own work and the work of their peers in constructive and creative ways. They will read popular works, continue learning how to play with words, and develop their voices as writers.
  • The Road to Justice (7)

    In this two-trimester discussion-based class, students look at the historical and legal underpinnings of the United States. By examining our founding documents, the 13th Amendment, and the ongoing legacy of enslavement, including Jim Crow, lynchings, and mass incarceration, students will gain an understanding of the impact of the past on our present and future, the necessity of gaining multiple perspectives, and the importance of knowing who is telling the story so that they can better parse it.
  • Sexuality Education and More (6–8)

    Sexuality is the study of an individual’s biological, psychological, and social development throughout a person’s lifespan. The class is taught by the Middle School counselor,
    who provides developmentally appropriate guidance and insight on how to navigate this development through adolescence.
    • 6th Grade: Friendships, upstanding, identity, independence, confidence
    • 7th Grade: Mental health, anxiety, reproduction and puberty, human sexuality
    • 8th Grade: Relationships, consent, STIs, drugs and alcohol, decision-making/ethics
  • STEAM (6–7)

    Teachers in science, technology, engineering design, art, and mathematics (STEAM) come together to guide students in project-based learning. Past projects have included building rollercoasters, hydroponic gardening, coding, a play based on systems of the human body, and currency design.
  • Theater Arts (6–8)

    Teachers in music, art, drama, and dance collaborate to engage students in project-based learning. Each year, the class tackles a different theatrical form: dramatic play, musical, or
    film.
  • Cultural Affairs and Current Events (6)

    This class uses a variety of discussion formats—including the Socratic method, think-pair-share, and fishbowl—to engage students in an exploration of social identifiers and current events. Students develop communication and metacognition skills as they study and discuss multiple perspectives on complex news topics. The class is led by the director of diversity, inclusion,
    and equity initiatives.
  • Service Learning (6)

    A pre-requisite of ATSL, this course explores the different forms of service and community outreach. Students develop an understanding of direct service, indirect service, advocacy, and research. After assessing their interests, students choose a topic, issue, or cause to research and make a presentation to classmates.
  • Activism Through Service-Learning (8)

    Students review the difference between direct and indirect service and collaborate on projects in support of a social or cultural issue. Students also learn strategies for moving beyond individual action and working for systemic change.
  • Constitutional Law (8)

    Students analyze and dissect several Supreme Court cases to explore the lasting impacts of the decisions. Students are challenged to push aside their biases and blind spots to discuss the meaning of social justice, equity, and equality in the context of the law. Guest speakers share their experiences and practices.
  • Project of Discovery (8)

    In this two-term independent study course, students learn how to design, plan, and complete a long-term project of their choosing. This is a capstone class and is required for all 8th graders.
  • Yoga, Meditation, and Wellness (8)

    This seminar course gives students tools to relieve stress. Students learn special breaths, yoga poses, and meditation techniques.