A bicycle-powered blender, a mixed media art portfolio, a time management app, a moving song about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida – Creativity and variety were on display at this year’s Recital Night on Thursday, April 11 when Nueva eighth-graders presented their inspiring and meaningful year-long projects to teachers, parents, and peers.
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.
Middle School is an important transitional time for any student, and we understand and embrace gifted learners who are curious, thoughtful, and adaptable.
Nueva provides them with an experience that meets them where they are, turning the forces at work on their bodies and minds into creative energy that unleashes ideas, passions, and most importantly, the confidence to become resourceful thinkers, problem-solvers, and intellectual risk-takers. This occurs in a community that values inclusion, empathic collaboration, and supportive care of all members.
The Nueva Way at the Middle School
The Nueva Way — Nueva’s constructivist, project-based approach — engages Middle School students with authentic, real-world, and interesting problems to solve. Teachers collaborate extensively across subject areas to deliver rigorous intellectual challenges that students crave. As the semester unfolds, Nueva faculty are always adding or amending lines of inquiry or projects in response to students’ interests, passions, and needs.
Concepts deliberately span traditional academic disciplines, offering students opportunities to make connections. Students have flexibility to shape their hands-on projects and choose how they will demonstrate their learning. Instead of final exams, students participate in culminating events throughout the year where they share their knowledge and expertise with the Nueva community.
"The power of student choice in learning leaves a lasting impact and, at Nueva, Middle School is a time to expand one’s experiences, think big, and have a voice in one’s intellectual pursuits."
Students Learn Best When
They Are Given Choices
Choices abound for Nueva Middle School students, and as they grow, they take increasing ownership of their academic experience. Our extensive offerings give them a lot of freedom to explore topics that interest them.
Interdisciplinary project work allows students to develop their own topics and projects in humanities, writing, math, science, art, and world languages. Design Thinking, engineering, and computer science offer flexibility in project creation and expression, as do open hours of unstructured I-Lab access. All Middle School students also participate in Academies that meet for 90 minutes every Friday.
Beginning in seventh grade, students choose two electives each semester from a wide range of topics — music, visual, performing, and literary arts, programming, robotics, and innovative courses spanning disciplines such as Science Rap Academy and Light, Sound, and Motion with Arduinos. The eighth-grade Recital Project is a six-month capstone project in a passion of their choosing.
During lunch and after school, students can choose to take part in student-created clubs, extracurricular activities, or athletics.
“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.”
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.
The Silk Road curriculum sets students on an immersive journey across 7,000 miles and more than 2,500 years. It exemplifies Nueva’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning, as humanities, science, and writing are intertwined.
Record numbers of students joined winter basketball and soccer to play and learn by doing. Nueva’s K-8 Physical Education Teacher and Athletics Coordinator and three faculty coaches reflect on The Nueva Way in their successful 2019 season.
Over the last year, the students of Nueva’s current fifth grade class have been on a mission to make a difference. Inspired by an episode of the Netflix series, The Kindness Diaries by Leon Logothetis, they sought to help children without access to clean water.
Last year as fourth graders in Matt Berman’s class, the students discovered there were no books for kids their age on the Greco-Persian Wars (part of their study of ancient Greece), so they wrote one of their own, published it on Amazon, and it quickly became the top-selling book in the Children's History category for two months.
On Friday, 86 eighth graders and their families gathered at Nueva's Hillsborough campus for one final celebration before advancing to high school (and beyond!).
The eighth-grade class of 2018 worked tirelessly to present, rhyme, and sing their appreciations of Nueva in 100 words or less. Together they reminisced over their completed STARPAP projects, painted exquisite literary memories of the Yosemite trip, and delivered clever, pithy speeches in true Nueva fashion.
Middle School Head Liza Raynal concluded her own 100-word address with, "Each student's speech will centuplicate the reasons why we are so proud to be the adults in their lives."
During the month of May, Nueva fifth- and sixth-grade students traveled east to immerse themselves in history and bring their respective year-long studies into real-world perspective.
Almost one year since the Space Academy lower and middle school elective class launched Nueva’s first venture into space, the students finally have the results of a hot air pattern experiment they tested in microgravity.
On Saturday, April 28, two Nueva middle school students hosted the first-ever Nueva Hackathon, a design event where people interested in computer programming and software development collaborate intensively to create usable software over a short period of time. This all-inclusive event was the brainchild of middle-schoolers Yash N. and Taher V., who organized the Hackathon with Twitter co-creator Dom Sagolla, who was one of the presenters amongst the 60 participants and attendees.
Nueva middle school students learn by caring in Christine Braun's robotics class. In December 2017, Chris, the shop manager & I-Lab engineer, met with the Los Angeles chapter of GoBabyGo! — a University of Delaware-based program dedicated to mobilizing young children with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a congenital disorder of movement, muscle tone, and posture affecting more than 200,000 children each year, and there is no known cure. Chris brought her inspiration to Nueva and recently led a team of middle school students in the design, construction, and delivery of the school’s first car to a GoBabyGo! family.