Middle School Humanities

The Middle School humanities program inspires a love of history, geography, culture, literature, poetry, and drama while cultivating independent thinkers and writers. The program focuses on the interrelated experiences of reading and responding to literature, composing creative and expository pieces, and thinking critically.

The humanities classes feature interdisciplinary curricula in which students apply theories and concepts. Teachers incorporate history, geography, and language arts to explore a central theme, topic, or experience. Through studying archaeology, sociology, economics, and political science, students hone critical-thinking and communication skills.

Grade 5

Fifth grade explores themes of individuality, community, and culture through various projects and pieces of literature. Students examine how communities and cultures form and change, including research on historical and current social movements.

In spring, they study the earliest people in North America through the lens of archeology, exploring local civilizations and those of the Southwest from centuries and millennia ago. Guiding questions include: 

  • How does geography and geology help shape culture?
  • How are cultural beliefs represented?
  • How and why do cultures change over time?
  • What are the ethical considerations researchers must make?

This study prepares them for their culminating Southwest trip to Crow Canyon Archeological Center in Cortez, Colorado, where students interact with the incredible civilization that arose in the Mesa Verde region.

Grade 6

Sixth-grade humanities covers American history from the formation of the colonies through themes of the Jeffersonian ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Through research, debate, public speaking, and examination of primary and secondary sources, students understand how the country developed socially, economically, politically, and geographically. They learn how the US became a world power amid struggles of reconstruction, industrialization, and wars.

In one example project, sixth graders create their own bills for Congress as they study the workings of government in preparation for their culminating trip to Washington, D.C.

Grade 7 and 8

In the fall, the seventh- and eighth-grade humanities curriculum alternates each year between themes of globalization and the Silk Road.

Through inquiry and authentic research projects that span multiple disciplines, students develop their understanding of how connected the world they live in has become. Seeing how the world is connected leads to the question of how the world became connected and they unravel this story through document-based inquiry that reveals the periods of exploration, colonialism, and imperialism that shaped the modern world.

The culmination of their studies is the commodities research project. Rather than becoming experts in an individual country or historical narrative, students think globally. They choose an important trade commodity and explore world history through the lens of this commodity. From chocolate to gold to ivory to tobacco, students develop a deep understanding of trade, economics, culture, politics, history, and more, through an intensive, interdisciplinary research project that they present at Nueva’s World’s Fair Culmination.

students working on humanities project


Historical Asian building structure


The Silk Road curriculum endeavors to demystify the vast continent of Asia, as students research how geographical conditions, trade, and the clash of belief systems have led to Asia’s contemporary realities.

The study of the Silk Road at different points in history affords students the opportunity to explore the economics of trade, transmission of belief systems, languages, scientific ideas, technologies, music, and the arts over vast stretches of both time and space, including the present. With an eye to issues of geography and natural resources, religion and religious conflict, and ethnic, regional, and national identity, students grapple with questions of historical context and find meaningful ways to confront these weighty topics that are still so alive in the world today.

Silk Road studies culminate in our own Silk Road Bazaar. Students explicitly assume the role of their chosen character, and teach their classmates, teachers, and parents about their profession. Students make their costumes, experience music and food of the time, and gain a deep sense of ancient culture. Our hands-on approach makes the experience tangible; students truly understand how the Silk Road connected the world in its time, and brought about impacts they can still see in their lives today.