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The mission of Sacramento Country Day School is to provide a rigorous college-preparatory education to students while fostering in them essential life skills: self confidence, creativity, integrity, and responsibility. The objective of the Middle School, specifically, is to deliver this mission in the manner most developmentally appropriate for early adolescents. We nurture and celebrate the child in our students while recognizing and appreciating the young “adult” in them as well. We strive to prepare our students for the rigors of high school and college, introducing them to a rich and deep intellectual study of English, history, math, science, foreign language, physical fitness, art, drama, music, computer science, and human development. Over the course of three years in Middle School, we grant students – and we expect of them – the increasing responsibility and independence vital to their future academic and personal success.
The Academic Program
Sixth graders are divided into two sections that travel together for English, history, science and math. The reading curriculum emphasizes multi-dimensional, in-depth reading of outstanding novels. Additionally, students write prolifically and with much variety as young authors explore changes in voice, purpose, audience, and form. Math carries students through the variety of topics necessary to prepare them for more specific courses in algebra and geometry; likewise, the science program builds on the Lower School foundation and provides excellent preparation for rigorous coursework to follow. Each day, resource teachers meet with students for foreign language and physical education, as well as a variety of electives, including computer science, journalism, debate, and the visual and performing arts. The organization of a sixth grader’s day allows for a smooth transition to a seventh grade schedule which is departmentalized and moves from classroom to classroom with teachers who are subject matter specialists. The goal is to help them gently transition to greater independence both academically and socially.
The school’s innovative iPad program, initiated in 2010, provides all Middle School students with a school-owned iPad to use for their three years of Middle School.
In preparation for the High School, seventh and eighth grade students are offered the full range of academic coursework, including a core curriculum of English, math, science, world languages, history, and computers. Classes capture the high energy level of Middle School students in challenging, interesting, and affirming educational activities. Placement of students in certain disciplines is dependent on developmental appropriateness. For example, the ability to consider the abstract differs in students and, therefore, students vary in their readiness for algebra and geometry. Similarly, instruction in world languages is varied according to students’ readiness.
Teachers across the curriculum cooperate to integrate their subjects. For example, the art teacher teaches the culture of art through language and history classes, science and history instructors share projects, and English and history programs teach cultural values of societies throughout the world.
Study skills are taught and practiced within the context of classes during the three years, with emphasis on organizational skills, listening, note-taking and outlining skills, preparing for and taking tests, and writing essays and reports.
The core curriculum is augmented by a series of elective courses, which provide students with additional opportunities for learning. In computer class, students learn word-processing, PowerPoint, and spreadsheet skills. Drama class teaches self-confidence and communication skills that are important in life. Instrumental music teaches self-discipline and musicality.
All Middle School students participate in physical education classes and may elect to play interscholastic sports. In P.E., nutrition and health issues are addressed, and students are challenged to develop self-confidence about their physical abilities. Children can participate in interscholastic sports beginning in the fifth grade. Teams compete with other middle schools in soccer, basketball, volleyball, track, and flag football.
Students have the opportunity to express their perceptions and feelings about issues arising from their growing up. In classes and other settings, special attention is given to drug awareness, human relationships, and the special challenges young adolescents encounter as they begin to emerge as adults. Faculty members, as well as resource people from the community, guide student discussions.
The Advisor System
Each student has a faculty advisor, an adult in the school community who is the student’s advocate and confidant. Advisors meet their advisees daily in homerooms, and meet during special appointments at other times of the day. Advisors are teachers who have chosen to work with youngsters of this age group, and who work together with the Head of Middle School to develop their own knowledge and facility in working with sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. Contact between advisors and parents, as is the case between teachers and parents, is regular and frequent. Through this close relationship, students develop self-value and inner-strength.
Middle School is the time when students are in need of additional educational support; it is a time of tremendous growth and discovery. The principal and staff focus on developmental issues in planning the educational environment. For example, forgetfulness, bewilderment over physical changes and extreme fatigue are common to this age group, and students need to understand the ways in which their feelings and characteristics are, in fact, normal for the age. Issues like communication with peers and with parents are often matters of conversation in private or group settings. In short, affective learning is an integral part of the program.
Outside the Classroom
A traditional feature of the Country Day program is the overnight trips taken by students and faculty as extensions of academic studies. Sixth graders work with naturalists at Redwood Glen near Santa Cruz, seventh graders explore Yosemite with the Yosemite Institute, and eighth graders enrich their study of U.S. history with a week-long trip to either Boston or Washington, D.C.
Field trips include the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and community performances. Assemblies are held throughout the year with guest speakers, history reenactments, and/or the arts.
Students take physical education every day, and they choose from 13 athletic teams, including soccer, volleyball, basketball, tennis, and track. In addition to the sports program, the Middle School has an active Student Council. The Council frequently undertakes community service projects which benefit both people outside Sacramento Country Day School as well as SCDS students and faculty. The Council also organizes frequent social activities, including four dances per year.
Finally, there is within the whole school a commitment to challenging students to think about ethical and moral choices they will make in life. We believe strongly that students who master the knowledge we have to offer without developing the ethical and moral values critical to responsible citizenship are not served well by their schooling.
Elective choices include computers, newspaper, studio art, ceramics, drawing, drama, band, orchestra, outdoor education, garden, engineering, public speaking and debate, creative writing, digital music, photography, and martial arts. Elective classes are subject to change depending on faculty and student interest.
Grades are assigned on a 4-point scale, A=4, B=3, etc. Students and parents receive grade reports once each quarter, and semester grades are recorded on the student’s official transcript. Teachers also communicate the current status of students through interim progress reports.
After Middle School
Typically, a majority of Middle School students choose to matriculate into Sacramento Country Day’s High School program, where they will receive the finest college preparatory classes, personal one-on-one college counseling, and thoughtful and in-depth letters of recommendations for college.