A new middle school elective this fall challenged students to explore how they can take their learning outside.
At Nueva, the middle school years are an exciting time, when students in grades 5–8 find their voice and discover how they can impact the world. This is a gangly, growing, gleeful time. This is a period of their lives characterized by enormous expansion of their view of themselves and their place in the world.
Signature Elements of the Middle School
- Interdisciplinary studies and applied learning
- Dynamic electives
- Competitive athletics teams and PE choices
- Social-emotional learning program focused on resiliency and self-reliance
- Design engineering, computer science, visual arts, performing arts, and music
- Weekly interest-based classes offered in all grades
- Literature discussion clubs
- Curriculum-based, grade-level study trips
- Eighth-grade Recital Projects for deep inquiry in areas of interest
- Grade-level advisories build community and support students
Projects are explored through open-ended, essential questions:
How might the world sustainably feed itself by 2050?
What are the ways we come to understand the world? What constitutes evidence?
How do we determine objectivity and subjectivity?
What is justice and how does a community uphold it?
Nueva isn’t just a school—it is a place of growth. During middle school, I was pushed outside my academic comfort zone more times than I can count. I made friends who supported me through thick and thin, and I also became a better friend myself. I traveled to places that challenged me to redefine my worldview and also helped me discover my own place in our community. I know the curiosity and spirit I gained here will follow me through everything I do in the future.
– Alex S., Nueva Alumna
Supporting Students’ Transition from Childhood to Adolescence
Middle School students thrive in community. We believe it is essential for them to feel connected to and valued by their peers and adults, and to practice kindness and care for others. Within this support network, they can enjoy the freedom to follow their passions and try new things.
A rich advisory program serves as the backbone of the Middle School community structure. It is uniquely suited to adolescents and allows them time to develop their identities in small groups with an advisor who serves as advocate and mentor. During the year, advisories spend time together each week building friendships, working through challenges, and sharing experiences such as camping trips and Community Service Learning projects. In addition, time is set aside for entire grades to gather, learn together, and build community.
Middle School is an especially important time for students to participate in the social-emotional learning program, as they navigate the transition between childhood and adolescence. To meet students’ need for increased independence as well as to grow their increased capacities for metacognition and self-direction, Middle School SEL provides a balance of structure and exploration. Using caring and support, SEL specialists and Middle School faculty encourage students to step outside their comfort zones to stretch their academic and SEL skills and to reflect on themselves and their actions as they mature.
Through inquiry and authentic research projects that span multiple disciplines, Middle School students develop a keen understanding of exactly how connected the world has become.
In advisory, in grade-level meetings, and across disciplines in their classrooms, students will prepare for their culminating trips. They practice teamwork and conflict resolution skills in SEL, and they explore historical topics in humanities, writing, and art.
We believe there is much students can learn and gain from traveling outside school. Area field trips to parks, museums, and universities throughout the year provide students with rich hands-on learning experiences. In the spring, their experiential learning culminates in trips to various destinations, as they participate in deep-dive investigations on the ground.
“We challenge our students with complex interdisciplinary experiences. They come to understand that reading, writing, literature, and music are infused in science, math, and language so that in their adult lives, they bring forth all their resources to solve problems. We want them to see the world, and their place in it, as an interconnected whole. They are not just taking a trip or practicing a language — during the year, we are setting the stage for them to notice and fully grasp why there are differences, customs, practices, behaviors. They see academic disciplines come together vividly on their travels and they're ready for it.”
One-to-One Laptop Program
Every Nueva student in sixth grade and older will receive a laptop during each school year. Use of laptops will not be new to these students; technology is integrated into the curriculum by teachers in all grades in age-appropriate ways to support inquiry, creation, collaboration, and in-depth learning. Launched in 2007, the One-to-One Laptop program provides access to powerful computing and creative tools.
While our technology platform provides great opportunities, Nueva’s social-emotional learning faculty use this environment to educate students to become knowledgeable and discerning digital citizens. The SEL team developed a multiyear approach to educating students regarding online behavior to help them establish both a code of ethics and sense of self-control.
Each year, seventh graders experience the Drama Conservatory, a treasured part of the Nueva Middle School experience. Beginning in February, students study twice a week with professional directors and actors from around the Bay Area. After rigorous work honing thespian skills ranging from character study to stage combat, students divide up and dive into various productions including improvisation, Shakespeare, or contemporary and classic works. After performing for the Nueva community, the grade travels together to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where they experience professional performances of shows they just completed.
A new middle school class is providing students with a hands-on, interdisciplinary learning experience rooted in nature.
Molly Hasegawa is in her third year as a member of our middle school math team. We recently sat down with Molly to discuss a little bit about her love of math and the role community plays in her life and teaching practice, and to learn more about some work currently being done by our middle school math students.
Ask many Nueva students who have completed the sixth grade what a highlight of that year was for them, and you can expect to hear them talk about the Egg Drop in their physics class. Considered by some as a Nueva middle school science “rite of passage,” the Egg Drop is a culmination of weeks of learning, brainstorming, prototyping, iterating, and testing in which students apply Newton’s Laws of Motion.
Sixth-grade students, with the help of science teacher Cristina Veresan, investigated the wonders of the underwater world and the effect of the moon on the ocean in their elective, Between the Tides.
While FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team captain Lucy D. was building the chassis, build team lead James T. was working on the flywheel launcher, Jason C. was busy creating the intake, and Howard L. and Anton P. were building the wobble arm. This was life for the Sharkbytes, who worked together remotely to design, build, and program a robot for the 2020–21 FTC competition.
Every unit in Sam Modest’s sixth-grade humanities class begins with a discussion about a current event. The most recent unit began with an article about California Governor Gavin Newsom adopting a law to study and develop proposals for reparations and the final project turned students into activist-experts to improve a fictitious reparations bill.
In the new fall 2020 elective “Colors of Nature,” seventh- and eighth-grade students explored the notion that people of color have different access to and privileges in the natural world. Through class discussions and creative journals, students reflected on how environmentalism and racism are intertwined. Eighth-grader Jax C. shares an introduction, and three students—Anika G., Kayla L., and Anjuli M.—reflect on their experience in this course.
Viewing the world with an artist’s eye. Creating projects rooted in empathy. Empowering students with iteration and innovation.
Throughout the past year, I-Lab engineer and Hillsborough shop manager Christine Braun has been a fixture on the Hillsborough campus, using the I-Lab as her home base while teaching, leading, and planning for design thinking-related initiatives. She is also a lit club facilitator for a seventh- and eighth-grade lit club.