Hawken Middle School is committed to serving the distinctive developmental needs of this age group. As students move through grades six through eight, they undergo physiological, social, cognitive and emotional changes, often entering as concrete thinkers and exiting with a far greater capacity for abstract and higher-order thinking. Our programs and curriculum nurture those changes, celebrating students as both individuals and valued community members. We attend closely to the development of character and intellect in each of our students, keeping their distinctive needs at the forefront of our collective decision making.
Acknowledging that the stages of emotional development and cognitive readiness vary among our students, we are committed to developing curricula that meets these needs at the individual readiness level. Every member of the learning community is held to high expectations. The Middle School is closely organized in grade level teams, crafting experienced and wholistic support at that particular level. Students explore topics in a practical way using the skills and knowledge they encounter to solve real world problems.
Aligned with these goals, the curriculum of every grade-level ties into an “essential question” that provides a greater level of depth and meaning to what students learn. These essential questions lead the students through experiences that ask them to relate what they learn to their own values, and the values of those around them:
Central to the foundation upon which our curricula are built is a safe and caring learning environment where students are encouraged to take risks and explore new interests.
- 6th Grade: How do my words and actions reveal my character?
- 7th Grade: How can I work to understand the perspectives of others?
- 8th Grade: How can I make a difference in the global community?
The Middle School operates on principles and practices centered on the distinctive developmental needs of this age group. Each grade level within the Middle School is horizontally aligned to include a team of faculty, representing each of the traditional academic subject areas - English, history, math and science. These faculty team members serve as grade level advisors to small groups of students, supporting the individual needs of each student and also aligning curricula across the grade to address grade level essential questions. Integration across disciplines is common at each grade level, particularly as students engage in thoughtfully crafted units of study around key skills and learning objectives. This is particularly evident through English and history programs, which merge into a fully team- taught humanities program by the eighth grade. Annual learning style inventories are used by faculty, staff and even the students themselves, to help guide and differentiate curricular choices.
Experiential Learning Takes Root
The Middle School uses block scheduling to support horizontal autonomy, experiential learning opportunities, and greater depth in content and skill development. Students often travel off campus and make extensive use of the Gries Center to engage in integrated service learning projects. These service opportunities are an important way our students feel empowered to make a difference, and are often grass roots efforts.
To further expand our students’ educational venues, each grade embarks on a Doorways trip in the spring, beginning with the 6th grade trip to Williamsburg. Traveling to various U.S. cities, including Washington D.C. and New York City, students are challenged to derive meaning from the living history and rich culture of each location, and to engage in the valuable opportunities that present themselves on each trip.
The Middle School journey for our students is marked by experiential traditions. Each grade level begins the year with activities and class trips that build class identity and introduce the year’s essential question and focus. By the end of the 8th grade, the goal of “making a difference” fuses with writing and presentation standards in the form of the Chapel Talk. With thoughtful guidance and support, each student researches a topic of their choice, writes a formal four-page paper about the topic, and presents an eight-minute speech to the entire Middle School community.
Grade Level Highlights
Each year in Middle School, students participate in Doorways Trips, which are curriculum-based trips that serve as a culminating experience to students’ intellectual and personal growth. In 6th Grade, this first Doorways experience takes students to Williamsburg, VA. In art class, 6th Graders create a colonial portrait accompanied by a short historical fiction piece. Additionally, students conduct a Williamsburg pottery project in which they learn to create inkwells, oil lamps, and other such utilitarian objects used in colonial America.
Along with a performance at the Great Lakes Theater Workshop, 7th Grade students complete a Mock Court unit which is an authentic and community based exercise that culminates in a simulation of a 4th Amendment-related evidentiary hearing in front of real judges.
In addition to the culminating Doorways New York City Urban Outward Bound Experience, 8th Grade students conduct a scientific study of the Chagrin River that results in real data being submitted to the state to help monitor the health of the river. In the spring, students in 8th Grade have the opportunity to participate in a service learning Internship Program with established local partners for three days; students give formal grant presentations to the service organizations and distribute designated philanthropic funds.