Middle School Philosophy
Middle School children are moving developmentally to a student-centered perspective, with a wider view of the world where their own ideas and interactions with peers are crucial. We must educate them in a way that taps into their growing understanding, not just of the content but of themselves and how they may apply their learning while giving them firm structure and support for their questioning and exploration of their world. Also, Middle School should be fun and filled with the buzz of active learning. It’s not Middle School without laughter!
3 Fun Facts about Middle School Head, Brendan Minihan
Favorite Subject in School: Recess! No, jk… English.
Hobby people would never guess: Cooking, especially Cajun and Creole cuisine.
Favorite Teacher, you had and why: Ms. Guma, my drama teacher, believed in me and taught me to be bold and put myself out there in uncomfortable situations. She taught me that I could do hard things, and she showed that she cared about me.
The faculty develop a robust curriculum with a personalized approach and a supportive relationship that will meet the needs of our students. Our teachers model innovative learning, teach through differentiated instruction, and coach students to build a strong sense of identity, which helps to create an environment where children want to belong, collaborate, and contribute.
Key features of our program include hands-on experiential learning, public speaking skills through projects and presentations, and leadership skills. We develop these skills progressively through their Middle School experience, starting small and building to signature keynote presentations, such as the 8th-grade speech, the History Nexus project, and the Sludge Lab in Science (more on these in the curriculum tiles). In addition to achieving excellence in our academic program, all students study visual arts, performance arts, health and wellness, and physical education and engage in social-emotional learning through our Advisory program and community-building initiatives.
In 6th grade, students are prompted to ask questions and develop ideas, which they support with facts and details from their research and reading. Students read various novels and short stories, and participate in global studies, hands-on research projects, STEM hero/heroine essays, and field trips. A few samples of 6th-grade assigned reading are: Born a Crime, Red Scarf Girl, and All Out (a collection of short stories).
In 7th and 8th grade, students write in a variety of forms, dedicating attention to learning new vocabulary and correct grammar usage. Many lessons are combined in English and history, and this integration permits students to have profound understanding of assigned narratives and their historical settings and conditions. Database research, films, visiting speakers, and out-of-state field trips are complementary to these programs. A few samples of 7th and 8th grade assigned readings are: The Outsiders, A Raisin in the Sun, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, Night, Cyrano de Bergerac, short stories, and poetry.
6th - 6th-grade play, New York trip to watch a musical and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, overnight trip to Lewes in collaboration with science
7th - PALS (a collaborative experience with Early Childhood), Children’s book unit, 7th-grade speech, overnight to Colonial Williamsburg
8th - Editing Buddies (a collaborative experience with Lower School), Interdisciplinary Holocaust remembrance unit with history, short story writing, rewriting a scene from Cyrano de Bergerac and performance, 8th-grade speech capstone experience, overnight to Washington D.C.
Tatnall's Middle School Computer Science program recognizes that technology permeates the lives of all our students. It is imperative for students to appropriately integrate technology to support their learning as computer science, digital citizenship, and information literacy are ever more essential in our students' daily lives. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration are strengthened and enhanced through the courses in this program. We strive to offer a strong foundation in computer science across all divisions with required coursework in the lower, middle, and upper schools. As students progress through their academic careers and gain proficiency, they have opportunities to take a breadth of courses from programming and database science to web design and robotics, and our top students can place into AP Computer Science A. Through the work done in this department, students learn that computers do more than merely compute; they are a creative and productive outlet for 21st-century learning.
Technology is integrated throughout our curriculum, whether it is teaching students how to create art in Adobe Illustrator or manipulate images in Adobe Photoshop, using AI in the math curriculum for reinforcement learning and enrichment, or teaching students how to use apps in their presentations and projects, and more. We teach students that computer science is a tool for applying what they have learned in a creative way. In addition, all 8th grade students take a one-term course in robotics, we offer robotics club and coding club to all students, and we participate in the annual Week of Code to inspire future computer programmers.
The Middle School History curriculum challenges students to move beyond the knowledge of facts to think critically about the past and to understand our modern world in preparation for being active, engaged global citizens of the future. Coursework is designed to develop the research, writing, and presentation skills necessary for students to effectively meet the opportunities and challenges of the Upper School History curriculum. In addition to essential content, lessons emphasize the development of skill work to challenge students while providing age-appropriate support.
To support the dynamic classroom experiences, the Department takes advantage of the Mid-Atlantic region's many historical areas and learning opportunities. Over the past five years, field trips have included overnights to Lewes, DE, Williamsburg, VA, Washington, D.C., and day trips to Philadelphia, New York City, and Gettysburg.
6th - Global Studies & Geography
Projects: The World & Me, The World Middle East Project, Famous Delawarean
7th - US History: Founding of the United States through the Era of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age
Projects/Signature Experiences - 28th Amendment, Gilded Age Groups
Trips - Williamsburg, Philadelphia (US Constitution Center & Museum of the American Revolution), Gettysburg, New York City (United Nations & Tenement Museum)
8th - US History: Age of Imperialism through modern day
Projects: Civil Rights Movement Project, Decades, Capstone Project
Trips - Washington, D.C.: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, The US Capitol, The US Supreme Court, National Portrait Gallery, Monuments & Memorials, and National Museum of African American History and Culture
The Tatnall School Math Department understands that students learn best when they are actively engaged in mathematics. The Tatnall curriculum is coherent and connected at each level, offers openings to engage students at many levels, and corresponds to each student’s unique gifts and skills.
Mathematics in Middle School focuses on enhancing numerical reasoning and algebraic thinking skills. Our courses take a problem-solving-based approach, utilizing multiple representations (numerical, graphical, symbolic, and verbal/contextual). The faculty incorporate technology, where it is enriching; we use the TI-84 calculator in class and in homework lessons to explore ideas and hone skills. We also use DESMOS, adaptive learning software, and other technology. We take a varied approach to meet all our students' learning needs. At the end of 6th grade, students have the opportunity to pursue different options within the math department: 7th Grade math, Pre-Algebra and Algebra, or Honors Algebra and Geometry. Student interest and ability are used to determine appropriate course placement.
In all of our courses, students develop perseverance and analytical skills that are essential for advanced mathematics.
All Middle School students at Tatnall sing and/or play an instrument every day. This unique model provides unparalleled access to music-making. An immersive experience enables students to develop their individual voices, artistry, and confidence. Students are encouraged to collaborate, take risks and listen. In 6th grade, students choose an instrument based on a data-driven selection process to study, play, and perform at semi-annual concerts.
Students take to the stage in 6th grade with a cross-curricular in-depth experience in which they produce and perform a play. In 8th grade, students performing art skills are put to the test with the 8th-grade musical in which they manage all aspects of the project, from set and costume design to choreography to publicity.
The science department faculty believes that the study of science is essential for every Tatnall Middle School student. At Tatnall, science students are actively engaged inside labs and outside on our natural lands in explorations and investigations that inspire them to become life-long scientists. As the impact of scientific innovations, applications, and information increasingly permeates our daily lives, it is imperative that our students have a solid base of understanding and the skills to be critical thinkers to function as knowledgeable citizens, consumers, and decision-makers in our technology-dependent world.
Tatnall middle schoolers progress through three years of scientific study with a General Science course in 6th grade, a Life Science course in 7th grade, and a Physical Science course in the 8th grade. Middle school science courses offer a wide array of projects and hands-on activities, including the traditional featured grade-wide projects such as the Bird Identification Project in 7th grade and the Sludge Capstone project in 8th grade.
Middle School visual arts is a time for exploration and understanding thoughtful and practical skills. Students are welcomed into an inviting atmosphere where they are exposed to various intermediate and advanced art mediums and techniques. It is important for each student to understand that art enhances their ability to see, comprehend, analyze, create, and evaluate. Our curriculum focuses on studio art, art history, and aesthetics.
The 6th-grade art experience is filled with hands-on material exploration, the importance of cultural significance throughout art history, and the development of a sense of ownership as an artist. 7th-grade students learn about making connections, working collaboratively, and gaining a sense of awareness of how art plays a vital role in the world. Integration of cross-circular core subjects such as English and Science plays an important role in projects throughout the year, such as learning about graphic design for the bird posters in science and illustration while writing children's books in English. In 8th-grade visual art, students primarily focus on building a personal sense of aesthetics, accountability, and appreciation for the arts. Students work with advanced mediums and techniques while exploring a variety of processes, such as painting, sculpting, photography, ceramics, three-dimensional art, and graphic design.
Communication and culture are front and center in Middle School World Language classrooms. French, Latin, and Spanish students have abundant opportunities to use and experience language in a rigorous and supportive environment. At each level of study, students participate in meaningful and authentic activities that facilitate their acquisition of a new language while helping them cultivate global awareness and cultural competency. Teachers actively seek out resources made by native speakers for native speakers to help provide comprehensible and practical input for their students. Middle School instruction follows a proficiency-based approach that allows students to increase competency across various modes of communication: interpersonal, presentational, and interpretive. Students also explore and appreciate diverse cultures to gain awareness of products, practices, and perspectives of and within the target language.
Our versatile and experienced teachers plan personalized instruction and provide opportunities for students to take their language out of the classroom by engaging with students from other divisions within the school. Additionally, the department sponsors a trip to Europe every other year. All 7th and 8th-grade students are welcome to hone their language skills and immerse themselves in new cultures on this trip.