MS Program & Courses

As part of their academic and co-curricular programming, Calhoun's Middle School students are immersed in the New York City community and the larger world around them, frequently venturing out to museums, ethnic neighborhoods and cultural events.  Their on-site learning also takes them to Black Rock Forest in upstate New York and Clearpool Education Center for outdoor education, and to Boston, Mystic Seaport and Washington DC as part of their history and literature studies. Eighth graders are also invited to participate in global excursions to China and a Spanish-speaking country, which greatly enrich their language studies.

In all classes, teachers engage students in interdisciplinary, experiential, and project-based learning. See what progressive education looks like, by going to our Learning by Doing.

Courses--Required and Elective

English

English 6

Through independent reading, class novels, and exposure to different genres, sixth graders become critical readers. Students work together to determine key ideas in fiction and nonfiction texts, responding to their readings formally and informally through discussion questions, structured writing assignments, class discussions, and personal journals. Students are encouraged to be more independent in their analyses of literature. Sixth Graders also have experience with various writing genres, such as creative writing, poetry, formal essays, and reflection writing.

English 7
Time, Memory, Identity and the Power of Words

In seventh grade English, we strive, through our themes of Time, Memory, Identity, and the Power of Words, to help students develop skills in creative/expository writing (including formal essay writing, original thought, and poetry), literary analysis and language/structure conventions.

Students are asked to read works of literature that reflect our themes, coalescing around the power of words—Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and excerpts from Night, by Elie Wiesel—and we will, together, read, discuss and analyze them, both verbally and in writing.  The written work will be developmental, over the course of the year, aimed at students appreciating the process as well as the product and being able to be more independent in what they choose to write in response to what they read.

Writing is done through literature extension and the separate student of personal, narrative and expository essays.  Written work is aimed at students establishing their own voice, being able to write clear, crisp work, and understanding the value of correctness within their creations. Added to that are various opportunities in creative writing/thinking, accomplished through individual activities and extended projects.

After general instruction in punctuation and structure, language is studied through individual and group prescriptions based on students' strengths and areas in need of development, moving towards an in-depth study of style and variety. Vocabulary study occurs within the study of literature, so that words are learned in context, and practice is accomplished through application.

English 8
Coming of Age/Find That Theme!

Many of the works in this course are thematically related to science and social studies issues beginning with literature and events from World War I and the Jazz Age and Harlem Renaissance continuing through the civil rights movement. You will be asked to analyze the material in terms of growth, process, and evolution of character and to explore the literature for thematic content and literary style. Therefore, you will need to work to become a sophisticated reader who looks up vocabulary words, takes notes, and questions what is not easily understood. Organization of time and materials is essential in eighth grade, as is development of your intellectual curiosity. Essays and response writing will be assigned on a regular basis in which you will be expected to demonstrate mastery of writing skills. Reading assignments will be accompanied by study questions and followed by a quiz. You are expected to participate actively in class discussions. Grammar and vocabulary exercises will be assigned weekly.

Research skills will be introduced after the winter break. This is an opportunity to pursue a passion, but this must be a documented, thesis paper. The expectation is that essay-writing skills have been internalized in seventh grade so that fewer revisions of essays will be required.

Materials: Wordly Wise - vocabulary text
Literature:

  • Our Town
  • Inherit the Wind
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker
  • The Glass Menagerie
  • Jazz Age stories
  • All My Sons
  • Harlem Renaissance poets
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • Animal Farm
ELECTIVES

Creative Writing 7/8
This class is designed to help students explore and refine their individual creative voices. The class covers many forms of writing including fiction, poetry and memoir. Often the class serves as a workshop where students can present their pieces and receive feedback from their peers, enabling them to revise and polish their work. The class also discusses such topics as brainstorming, character development, description, point-of-view, dialogue, setting and figurative language. By the end of the year, students should expect to have completed several polished pieces as well as many shorter exercises.

Cracking the Case: What Makes a Good Mystery?
Learn about elements that make up a good mystery story by reading short stories, watching movies and television shows. We look at different kinds of mysteries, such as crime procedurals, suspense, whodunit, and more. After learning about the genre, we create our own mysteries using writing, film, or other ways that can help make sense of the evidence!

Literature Circle
Do you love to read and talk about what you read?  This small group discussion course is for you! We’ll read novels and short stories of high interest and meet to talk about them! Think of it as a book club that meets often. Hope to see you in the fall!

Middle School Newspaper
Are you interested in contributing to a Middle School newspaper?  Join the newspaper elective.  Together, we’ll continue the efforts begun this year with The Calhoun Times, to build an even bigger and better paper!  This class also serves as an introduction to journalism:  we talk about what makes a good newspaper article, and workshop different kinds of newspaper articles—including news stories, reviews, features, columns and more.  

Short Story Writing
Students will have the opportunity to write freely and creatively. Each student creates and crafts original compositions. Students read work from prominent writers and begin to create an original composition based on something that holds individual emotional value. Each student’s work is also up for peer critique, where classmates help cultivate ideas and learn to offer constructive criticism.

Interdisciplinary:

Playwriting 7 (Fall Trimester 1)
This introductory class explores the basic elements of writing for live performance. Through a series of guided writing exercises, we explore the following topics: Character, Dialogue, Conflict, Setting, Mood, Imaginative Writing, Obstacle & Action, and the concept that ‘plays are not written...they are re-written.’ In addition to in-class writing exercises, there are regular out-of-class writing assignments. The final assignment has each student playwright craft an original short scene for the stage. These scenes are presented in an OPTIONAL public reading of original work the end of the trimester.

Playwriting 8 (Spring Trimester 3)
This class explores the basic elements of writing for live performance. It is designed both for students who have taken 7th grade Playwriting, and for beginning 8th grade playwrights.  Through a series of guided writing exercises, we explore the following topics: Character, Dialogue, Conflict, Setting, Mood, Imaginative Writing, Obstacle & Action, and the concept that ‘plays are not written…they are re-written.’  In addition to in-class writing exercises, there are regular out-of-class writing assignments. The final assignment has each student playwright craft an original short scene for the stage. These scenes are presented in an OPTIONAL public reading of original work at the end of the trimester.

Social Studies

Social Studies 6
Examining Our Worldview

In 6th Grade Social Studies, students will be working to become diplomats with a global perspective. Through careful research of the ancient world and transitions of power, students will build a clear understanding of how the current Western worldview was constructed and why it continues to dominate society.

Students will become better researchers by analyzing historic texts, resources, and theories that have shaped civilization. Students will also be challenged to formulate their own theories and philosophies that connect them to the resources presented. Our study of historic philosophers will provide students with diverse perspectives to inform their thinking, and provide opportunities for continued exploration.

Social Studies 7

Our Social Studies class will be a stage for exploring identity, allowing students to expand their awareness about the ancient and current international communities. As students divide time exploring other cultures and heritages, while simultaneously learning more about their own, their depth of compassion about the world will continue to mature.

Social studies is centered on evaluating sources and thinking about history and current events through the lens of the multiple identities we inhabit. Students spend the year looking at Early American history from multiple perspectives—especially from the perspectives of those who may not be well served by our society’s arrangements of wealth and power. While looking at the roots of our current structural inequities, students can understand how we got here, and think about what steps can be taken to create a more just world.   By comparing multiple sources students not only have a richer and broader perspective of history, but they are being asked daily to question the patterns, motives, and power in narrative creation.

By offering a variety of sources for every content area students can discover for themselves different versions of history. For example when studying colonial Virginia, we looked at the Disney rendition of Pocahontas, along with primary source diary entries by Captain John Smith as well as textbook accounts and History Channel excerpts. With every event studied, primary source documents are contrasted with contemporary renditions and analyses for students to consider and draw their own conclusions.

 Our learning happens through classroom dialogue, written assignments, film screenings, map studies, political cartoons, consistent questioning of sources and perspectives and class activities that include a Salem witch Trials and Congressional Convention reenactment. This year we read two historical fiction novels in class set during the Revolutionary War and told from the perspective of runaway slaves to further enhance their spectrum of what is possible. We also spend considerable time on the abolitionist movement, Westward expansion and the displacement of Native Americans.

Social Studies 8

As is the case with most critical courses, this course will provide more questions than answers. How do we even begin to understand a broadly defined topic as US History? The time period that we will be investigating is 1877 to present. As we embark on this journey, we’ll consider the following ideas or questions: Should we focus on the histories of elected officials and political elites, institutions and bureaucracies; the expansion and contraction of political rights; or the peaks and valleys of Civil Rights in America? What about the importance of the fact that the US is built on the historical foundations of white supremacy, racial slavery, colonization, immigration and nativism, male domination, and heterosexual privilege?  Is our destiny to be one of struggle, a beautiful struggle that has bore witness to the expansion of rights?

In this course we will take a bold stance and attempt to take on all these questions. Studying history helps us to learn about the past, understand the present, and prepare for the future. We will investigate the past as well as current political, economic, and social conditions in the United States. Our current place in the world can be traced back to our beginning. We will examine some of the major developments in our nation’s past and ask some essential questions about them. While some historical facts are clear, other aspects of history require deeper critical analysis. The important thing to remember is that history always raises questions, but also provides clues to help answer them. We will engage in the work of “doing history” by immersing ourselves in a variety of media, primary sources, and text. We will attempt to not only interpret and find answers but to create even more questions that are worthy of investigation.

ELECTIVES

Feminism 
Seventh and eighth graders: Do you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not? Are you curious about what feminism is and how it connects to your life?  Is feminism available to everyone? This elective welcomes all girls, boys and gender-nonconforming students in the seventh and eighth grade to examine and explore issues through the lens of feminist intersectionality; that includes everything from gender roles and stereotypes, consent, media representations, music, culture, history and more!  We will be reading cool texts, watching movies, writing, going on field trips, etc. Your interest and voice will contribute to the direction this curriculum takes; bring it!

Interdisciplinary

Community Action/Kindness
As community members and citizens, we have the opportunity to develop partnerships and create positive change in the world. This discussion-based class helps students learn to become change agents, and teaches them to realize that the smallest actions can make a difference in the world. Are there changes you’d like to see at our school, in our city, our country or in the world? In this class, students have the opportunity to choose one issue they collectively feel passionate about and develop a strategy and carry out a plan of action around that issue. Join us!

Mathematics

The goal of the mathematics curriculum is to develop a solid base in number theory, concepts, and computational skills.  Throughout the course work, a strong emphasis is placed on mental and applied mathematics. Problem solving heuristics are discussed along with algorithmic skill development. Much attention is given not just to “how to solve a problem” but also “how do you want to solve a problem?” Acquired skills are put into practice in projects designed to integrate math with other disciplines and “real world” problems.

Math 6

Sixth grade mathematics begins with investigations in number theory including factors, multiples, primes, composites and prime factorization. We then dive into fractions, decimals and percentages, with an emphasis on understanding what they are, when they’re useful, and how to use the idea of equivalence to move seamlessly between them. We construct and hone efficient algorithms for operating with fractions. Students delve into two-dimensional geometry in which they examine regular and nonregular polygons, properties of triangles and quadrilaterals and how a shape’s internal and external angles determine whether the polygon can tile or tessellate. We move next to a study of probability and certainty, likelihood and chance. The year ends with an introduction to statistics and data analysis, in which students gather, organize, represent and analyze data, interpret results, notice trends and make predictions. The goal of sixth grade math is to give students the tools and techniques, instincts and stamina to tackle algebra and higher mathematics in the years to come.

Math 7

The 7th grade begins with a review unit of fractions, decimals, and percents. As our first official 7th grade unit, students are introduced to the notion of variables as they appear organically in graphs, tables, real-world scenarios, and equations. A new topic for most, students are excited to investigate integers, namely adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing with negatives. We also explore the four quadrants of the coordinate plane and apply the order of operations to multi-step problems involving negative values. We pursue a unit where we scale and compare values with the concepts of ratios, proportions, rates and percents. Within the unit, we solve and utilize proportions, find and apply unit rates, and apply proportional reasoning to work with percentages. During our study of linear relationships, we explore the concept of slope and the various ways to identify/calculate slope though a linear equation, graph, and given coordinates, and also explore the notion of y-intercept and how to identify it in a graph and equation. We identify connections between how linear relationships appear within real-world scenarios and how they translate between verbal and algebraic expressions. Our hearty algebra unit includes applying the Distributive Property within algebraic expressions and also solving equations with variables on both sides. Towards the end of the year, we explore surface area and volume of various 3D solids as we use our explorations and understanding of equations to derive the respective formulas. Finally, we end our year with various games and activities that generate conversations about probability, likelihood, and chance.

Math 8

Eighth grade mathematics approaches algebra with concrete exploration early in the year, building a strong foundation for the increasingly abstract algebraic concepts that students tackle later in the year. The material (un)covered includes integers, equations in the 1st and 2nd degree forms, computation of polynomials, simplifying and evaluating algebraic expressions (including the use of zero and negative powers), coordinate graphing, equation-solving through graphing, factoring, rational expressions, absolute value equations and inequalities, radicals.

ELECTIVES

Special Topics in Algebra 8
This course is an opportunity to more deeply explore Algebra I topics that are covered in Math 8. It is a great opportunity for students who are looking for an extra challenge in math, as we move fairly quickly through both old and new topics. Course topics include advanced factoring, distributing, systems of equations, inequalities and graphing.

Puzzles
Have you ever tried to solve a Rubik's cube without having to peel the stickers off the cube? Do you wonder how some people complete crossword puzzles quickly and seemingly effortlessly? And what the heck is KenKen?!  If you have ever asked yourself any of these questions, or if you would like to learn how to create and solve these types of puzzles and more, come check out Puzzles.

Special Topics in Math
This course is an exploration of a variety of mathematical topics, from Boolean Logic to Discrete Math to Probability and Statistics. Students have significant choice in what is covered, and the class gives everyone an opportunity to engage more deeply with the exciting world of mathematics.

Science

Science 6
Introduction to Weather and Climate, Geology, and Earth Science

The 6th graders begin the year learning about weather and climate.  Students study how to use and construct various weather instruments to see how they function and help monitor and predict weather conditions.  The students learn how to identify clouds and the types of weather associated with each one. Weather events such as thunderstorms, flash floods, blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes are studied in depth so that the 6th graders can comprehend how to best prepare for natural disasters.  The reading and interpreting of weather maps is another topic covered.  Finally, climate change and its effect on living organisms will be discussed. As the year progresses, the 6th grade science program turns to geology and earth science.  Students study the geological processes that are responsible for plate tectonics, seismic waves, and other forces that contribute to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building. Historical natural disasters such as the great San Francisco earthquake or the eruption of Mount St. Helens are studied so that students can better comprehend how such events affect the people and the surrounding landscape.  An in- depth study of rocks and minerals provides an exciting conclusion to 6th grade science.

Science 7

Seventh grade Physical Science: Science Through Discovery centers on the basic knowledge of physics (forces and motion, machines and mechanical systems, work energy and power, electrical relationships,) and an introduction to chemistry (atoms and elements, molecules and compounds, chemical reactions).

In many learning situations, students are expected to study prescribed materials and come up with correct answers by themselves. Usually, they have to read the information and then, they try out the acquired knowledge. In my classroom it is important that the students find science as an opportunity for them to discover and solve problems while working with others as a team.

What students learn in school should be connected to what they know about the world around them. These connections should contribute to their success in life.

Science 8

Through inquiry-based study and class discussions, eighth grade students explore both the micro and macro aspects of life. Students will also study DNA and genetics understanding how traits are inherited.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot will tie in with our study of cells, as well as, discuss how science has had an impact on racism and discrimination (particularly in the US).  We will discover how all life is classified and our constant need to change the ways in which we organize our world. Students will then have the choice to move on to the body systems or focus more on neuroscience. It will be an intense course but one that is driven by the interests of the class. Our physical science program provides the opportunity for the students to practice answering questions, working with others, and finding their own system for solving problems.

Middle School science, eighth graders will be able to deftly apply the scientific method to answer questions that come up in everyday life, as well as, use their reasoning and problem-solving abilities to examine the role of science today.

ELECTIVE

Science Olympiad (Fall Trimester 1 and/or Winter Trimester 2)This is a science and inquiry-based elective where the class will start prep work for the Science Olympiad competition held in March 2017. The goal for this elective is to prepare for all events offered at the Division B (middle school) competition. This is accomplished through classroom activities, research and training workshops. These challenging and motivational events are a balance of various science disciplines--biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and technology.  All events require teamwork, group planning and cooperation. The emphasis is on learning, participation, interaction, having fun and developing team spirit.

Computer Science

In our changing world, where computing plays an increasing role in the way we gather information (as well as to connect to and influence others), computer literacy is not enough. For this reason, computer classes also encompass media and information literacy. Students learn strategies for validating information (text or audiovisual) from various sources, as well as how to contribute safely and honestly to our information society. Students explore the yearly school theme in their class lessons and projects in order to better understand that technology can be a powerful tool for learning, for sharing and for change.

World Languages

Mandarin 6

The study of Mandarin starts with an introduction to help students understand the big picture about China and its people, culture and languages. After gaining this foundation, we move on to the fundamentals of language in China; Mandarin communication and Chinese characters. Within this context, students are guided to begin mastering the essential key to speaking Mandarin & tones. At the same time, students are also helped to distinguish between two writing systems: phonetics and pictographic. Basic conversation, Chinese characters, Chinese culture and history will be introduced. Projects and collaborative learning activities with other subjects will be applied to building understanding and connection with Mandarin language and Chinese culture.

Mandarin 7

After learning Mandarin for a year, the students will continue to develop basic conversational skills and proficiency in listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing. By mastering more vocabulary and grammar structure, students will continue to gain knowledge for expressing themselves on topics such as sports, music and daily routines. Chinese characters, Chinese culture and history will be continuously introduced. Projects and collaborative learning activities with other subjects will be applied to building understanding and connection with Mandarin language and Chinese culture.

Mandarin 8

In this class, the students will further develop conversational skills and proficiency in listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing by giving more complex linguistic and cultural context. Chinese characters, Chinese culture and history will be continuously introduced. Projects and collaborative learning activities with other subjects will be applied to developing understanding and connection with Mandarin language and Chinese culture.

Spanish 6

Would you like to learn how to dance Salsa? Would you like to learn songs in Spanish? Would you like to learn how to make delicious Latin desserts? In this course, students will have the opportunity to continue learning the language while doing interactive, hands-on, fun activities in a more relaxed “at your own pace” manner.  In this course, we celebrate all things Latin. Through dancing, singing and cooking, students will explore the history, heritage and pop culture of Latin America and Spain while continuing to prepare them for the rigorous pace of Spanish in the 7th grade.

Spanish 7

Creating awareness of social justice is the main focus of the 7th grade Spanish class.  We explore the issues that Latinos face in their home countries and the reasons behind immigration to the United States. We talk about the challenges that they face in this county but we also celebrate their achievements.  Students apply this knowledge while practicing grammatical concepts, learning new vocabulary, verb conjugations and commands focusing on strengthening their listening, comprehension and verbal skills. They apply this knowledge to several in class discussions, presentations, videos, and essays.

Spanish 8

Focusing on the development of communicative skills, while exploring Latin culture inside and outside of the classroom, continues to be vital in eighth grade Spanish. Traveling to places, cultural events, art exhibits and experience everyday life around New York City where the Latino life, influences and contributions are evident and palpable, students will continue to understand and appreciate another aspect of this big city and the diversity that surrounds it. By ordering food at a Latin restaurant, asking for directions, or learning how to dance Salsa in a studio in the heart of Queens, students will have the opportunity to test their Spanish abilities in real life situations.  Our newly Global Travel Program offers the opportunity to travel to a Spanish speaking country and immerse themselves in the cultures and language as no classroom can. This unique experience will be an important tool for the continuous study of the language.

Health, Life Skills, Wellness

Life Skills 6

Some of the objectives of 6th grade Life Skills include giving students academics as well as social/emotional strategies along with a broad understanding of their transition to Middle School. This class is divided into two components: the academic aspect and the social/emotional aspect, taught by learning specialist and school counselor respectively.

The transition from lower school to middle school can be daunting. Transitioning 6th graders will have the opportunity to meet every other cycle with the middle school counselor through this important time in their development. They will have a chance to explore their feelings and emotions, as well as to learn strategies how to express their feelings in a healthy way. Discussions will involve how you “talk it out” a problem and how “body language” can be a great indicative of how you or someone might be feeling, but at the same time, how it could be a source of “misunderstanding”.

Friendship is a big theme in middle school and will be explored with the 6th graders when they learn about “empathy”, “social recognition” and “social aggression”. They will have a chance to talk about conflicts, feelings of belonging (or not belonging) and what is the best way to deal with them. At last, students will discuss their role in the middle school community and at Calhoun school.

When learning about the academic piece of middle school, 6th graders will have a chance to take a step back, get organized, set goals and reflect on their work habits and personal learning style. Over the course of the year, students’ will work with the Middle School Learning Specialist during this transition into becoming an independent learner.

In the academic portion of Life Skills, students will explore themes related to staying organized and getting to know themselves as learners. They will have the opportunity to reflect on their binders, lockers and planners, setting periodic goals for themselves around staying organized. Life skills will also include an exploration of note-taking techniques as well as a study of utilizing nonfiction texts and online resources for learning.  

Health 6

During 6th Grade Health, students continue to look at health through the Health Triangle. Students go more in depth about the three aspects of the Health Triangle, physical health, mental/emotional health, and social health, and how it affects their lives. Throughout the entire year, students are encouraged to look at health through these three aspects and place topics covered into one, two, or all three categories. The first semester, we focus on our bodies and how they grow and work. Students learn about the various body systems, how they work, how they interact with one another, and how to keep them healthy. During the 2nd semester, 6th Grade Health focuses more on the mental/emotional and social aspects of Health. Students discuss stress management and goal setting. We then discuss bullying and how it can affect us in all areas of our life. There is more of a concentration on cyberbullying and online safety. Next, we combine all areas of the Health Triangle by discussing tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. Students examine how these drugs affect their different body systems, their brain, and their social lives. We also discuss peer pressure, both negative and positive, and responsible decision-making skills. We end the year talking about the male and female reproductive systems. We learn about basic anatomy, how both systems work, and how to be responsible about sexual health.

Health 7/8

During 7th Grade Health, students expand their knowledge of the Health Triangle and begin to look at Health through six different components, physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental. We discuss Public Health and how different professionals, organizations, and facilities care for people’s health through these components. We then discuss social media and cyberbullying. Students examine relationships, boundaries, and communication, as well as looking at peer pressure and decision-making skills. This leads us into our Mental Health Disorders project. Students spend a few weeks researching a mental health disorder, its causes, and treatment options. We begin the second semester, by discussing stress management, what causes our stress, and how we can release stress in a healthy manner. We then discuss nutrition and physical fitness. Students examine food consumption and energy output. Next, we discuss tobacco and alcohol. After a brief introduction, the students are split into groups for an Alcohol vs. Tobacco Debate. Students spend time researching a part of the body and how alcohol or tobacco affects it. The students then participate in a real debate, arguing whether one is worse than the other.

Our final unit of the year is on the male and female reproductive systems. We learn about internal and external anatomy, how both systems work independently and together, and how to be responsible about sexual health. Students tend to ask some really thoughtful questions, to which facts are given to help clarify any misinformation. During 8th Grade Health, students continue to expand their knowledge and health skills. Through discussions on nutrition and the importance of sleep, students begin to take ownership of what goes into their bodies and how to treat them. Students will look at mental health and its impact on the person and the community. Students will explore relationship management, and how different relationships look and feel, as well as talking about sexual health, sexuality, and responsible decision-making.

Music

Middle School music continues and expands on work done in the Lower School. For both choral and instrumental courses, students have the possibility of continuing their studies through twelfth grade. ((Private music lessons are available through Calhoun's After School Program.)

ELECTIVES

Chorus
Students learn healthy vocal technique such as breath support, good diction, projection and phrasing. They study a variety of styles such as Doo Wop, African chants, jazz, classical, madrigals and show music. Students predominately sing in two- and three-part harmonies, but have done four parts as well. Singers are encouraged to use their dramatic talents to bring the music to life. Solo work and small ensembles are also encouraged.

Instrumental-Winds/Brass/Strings
In this music option, the instruments available are flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, baritone horn and all string instruments. In fifth grade, students are encouraged to choose clarinet, trombone, trumpet or baritone horn so that their knowledge of the instrument's fingering is developed. They may also choose a stringed instrument. There is no charge for the instruction, but students need to have instruments for use in class and for daily practice at home. We suggest students rent their instrument in their first year of study (unless the child owns his/her own instrument) rather than purchase. Calhoun can arrange this. Rental information will be sent home at the first class meeting in September.  Students must sign up for the full academic year. Students take part in several performances each year, thereby enhancing their understanding of music as a performing art.

Jazz
Upon entering the eighth grade, students have the option to begin participating in our jazz program.  Here, students learn basic music theory concepts such as scales and chords that are then used to compose original pieces and to improvise over traditional jazz forms.  As we create a space to improvise musically, students are encouraged to think critically about the context(s) that music has been created in by looking at jazz as an instrument for social change and as a gateway into exploring their own identity.

Electronic Music Lab
This class is all about making beats.  Learn to make beats for your rap, pop, trap, or dubstep song.  Students will work in groups to create the hottest tracks on the Reason software and will eventually collaborate with the hip-hop club and the lower school film class.

History of Pop Music
This class will look at the evolution of pop music and the personalities that have guided its path.  We will look at themes in pop music and discuss the messages that seem to repeat themselves in the music we listen to.

Guitar for Absolute Beginners
This course is for students who have always wanted to try guitar but have never made the leap.  No experience is necessary.  Learn to rock out with your friends in a super fun music elective.  

Music Appreciation
This will be a class that focuses on how we listen to music.  Students will bring in music that they are listening to from home to present to the class and we will precede to talk about why we are drawn to certain artists and sounds.  We will also discuss how our brain reacts to music and the actual effect music has on our bodies.

Intro to Jazz
This class will be a chance for anyone interested in playing jazz to try it for one trimester.  Some experience playing music is recommended but all are welcome!    

World Music
This class will take a look at music from cultures around the world.  We will listen to and discuss artists who have gained a following in other parts of the world playing anything from traditional sounds to pop music from other countries.     

Visual Arts

The visual arts program enables students to develop the art skills and techniques necessary to give full visual expression to their ideas and experience. The students are involved in age-appropriate, material-based art exploration, through painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and collage. Art projects are often interdisciplinary, offering students the chance to consider aspects of their other classes through a cultural lens. Individual creativity within the context of a larger art historical dialogue is emphasized. There is opportunity to visit the many museum and cultural institutions of New York City.

REQUIRED COURSES

Art 6
Sixth grade art students begin their year in art by designing and binding their own personal sketchbooks for drawing investigations. Students begin each class with 10 minutes of silent drawing. Using real specimens such as insects, bones and shells, they create their own observation drawings in pen and ink, and complete an in-depth study of drawing and mark making, which includes drawing techniques such as contour, figure and still life. They use charcoal, pencil, graphite and conte crayons to investigate the subtle aspects of line, how to use darks and lights, and how to create texture in their work. They also explore in pen, brush and ink, looking at masterworks by classical artists to study the properties of lights and darks and ink washes. In addition to drawing, students explore painting and sculpture through various materials such as clay, wire and paper mache.  Many sixth grade art projects are interdisciplinary---connecting to the course of study in the Humanities curriculum. This offers students the chance to consider aspects of their other classes through a cultural lens.

Woodworking 6
In the Middle School shop program all 6th graders are required to take shop (7th and 8th grade woodshop is offered as an elective).  Throughout their experience they will engage in a thorough exploration of wood as a material and the thought processes necessary to manipulate the wood, build and create with it. A high degree of safety, responsibility, awareness, patience, and respect is consistently demanded of the students at all levels while they develop the skills and thought patterns necessary to accomplish personally satisfying results. In addition to the immediate goal of creating well-crafted projects from wood, there are more global learning goals that extend beyond the practice of woodworking. The nature of working with wood allows for a very tangible representation of individual growth, and in the shop that growth is emphasized, encouraged and celebrated every time it occurs. The goal of this practice is to generate confidence of ability and enthusiasm about future growth. Another way to track growth is in the quality of errors. Students are asked to consider every angle of a project and in learning to do so will inevitably make omissions and mistakes.  The shop offers a pause from the high stakes world students live in and encourages them to greet their mistakes and themselves with kindness, followed by an analysis of what happened in order to learn as much as possible from the error.  Student woodworkers will know they are gaining skills as they see the quality of their errors improve.   

  • This class follows a logical progression from 5th grade shop.  In a broad sense the topics expand on the knowledge presented in the previous year’s course while also allowing individual students to pursue any more specialized interests they may have developed. Topics covered include:
  • Projects such as wooden toys, instruments, larger projects, functional projects and an introduction to sculpture in wood.
  • In depth instruction with tools and techniques including, but not limited to, using jigs for greater accuracy, creative use of different wood species, working with plywood, and more.
  • Problem solving, personal research and navigating online data to find best solutions by aggregating ideas from a variety of sources.
  • Introduction to making/building/creating for the community – each student will choose a project to sell at an auction at the end of the year. The money raised will be used in a community-minded fashion decided by the entire grade as a whole.

ELECTIVES

Photo 101
This class is an introduction and exploration of a wide range of photography techniques.  Using mostly digital techniques (and possibly some film), we figure out how light becomes captured and recorded to create images and how you can use that information to create mind-blowing pictures with or without filters. The direction of the class is determined early on by what the class expresses interest in. Really into film? Let's do it. Photoshop sounds good? We have that, too.

Studio Art
Come and create! You don’t need to be a great artist, you just need willingness to explore and try new things! This class will provide you with opportunities to create in a variety of ways including drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture. You will build skills that will help bring your imagination to life in 2 and 3 dimensional works of art.  This class will introduce you to new materials and ways of thinking about art. We will explore artists from around the world and throughout history. We will take at least one field trip to galleries and museums around NYC.

3D Art
Do you like to build things? Do you like taking them apart? Are you fascinated by how objects are constructed?  In 3D Art we will be building things by adding, by subtracting, by finding, gluing, drilling, sticking, slicing, sawing, chewing, dropping, stacking, slotting, smoothing and smooshing.  The limit is our imagination.  One of the greatest things about working in 3D is that, as people, we exist in THE THIRD DIMENSION.  We’re already quite familiar with it.  We’ll get to know our materials and teach ourselves to communicate with and think in the third dimension.

Sketching Your Environment
We will explore the function of sketching to expand your innate artistic skills. This course will include sketching respective (personal) worlds and the wider world through rudimentary sketches of themselves, family, friends, and their city outside Calhoun. With spring approaching, some drawing would happen outside, in parks and museums.

Functional Woodworking 7
This class continues to explore the knowledge gained in 5th and 6th grade through building reasonably sized furniture, clocks, lamps, boxes and crates, picture frames, planters, and an array of other projects that serve a specific purpose.  There will be a high degree of accuracy and care required to build these projects but if done properly they will last many years and always provide a little bit of pride in their use.

Using Wood for Sculpture 8 
This class introduces the concept of using wood and other materials to create art.  Students will explore shape and form while challenging gravity itself to create interesting and personally meaningful sculptures. Students will be encouraged to push the boundaries of surface treatment including decoupage, textured finishes, stains, waxes and oils.  Finally students will be asked to identify meaning in their decisions. 

Theater

The Middle School Theater Arts Program’s Core Beliefs:

  • The study of theater teaches children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.  Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in theater, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.
  • Theater teaches children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.
  • Theater celebrates multiple perspectives.  One of the largest lessons in theater work is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.
  • Theater teaches children that in complex forms of problem solving, purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity.
  •  Involvement in theater work requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.
  • Theater work makes vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know.  The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.  Silence can be a medium both deafening and devastating, or more eloquent than words.
  • Theater teaches students the wonder of subtleties, that small differences can have large effects.  It teaches students that they have a physical presence which impacts upon others, their community, and their world.
  • Theater work helps children learn to say what cannot always be said.  When children are invited to disclose how a character feels or what the mood of a stage moment is, they must reach into poetic capabilities to find the words that will do the job.
  • Theater enables us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.
  • Theater engages, challenges, and develops the characters of students, not just their intellects.  It calls upon an individual’s courage, personal responsibility, and commitment to a group and patience to see a process evolve over time.  It teaches trust both in oneself and in others.

– Adapted and expanded from “What Art Teaches”
by E. Schloth, MS Theater teacher

Theater 6

Theater is a required class for all sixth graders, who work collaboratively both with their peers and with the adult and student members of the production and theater tech staffs.  Students work individually and in small groups, through a variety of guided theater exercises aimed at creating both group cohesion and a basic understanding of acting technique.  Students are guided through a process of building their own Curriculum play by reading, adapting or writing, experimenting and rehearsing a dramatized narrative text, which complements the sixth grade English and social studies curriculum.  The curriculum-based production is performed in mid-March in The Mary Lea Johnson Performing Arts Center.

ELECTIVES

Comedy Troupe
What makes you laugh? MS Comedy Troupe is an introduction to comedy where students study different forms and styles (from podcasts, to Commedia Dell’arte to stand-up comedy), and explore all things funny. Simultaneously, members of the class are introduced to comedy writing, performance and improvisation skills. Throughout the semester, students create their own comedic pieces to be filmed or performed live. In addition, they learn the importance of improvisation in everyday life and the fine line between comedy and tragedy. The term culminates in an assembly performance for the entire Middle School. 

Improv
Explore the elements of Improv in this introductory course. Learn some of the core fundamentals and principles of improv, focusing on various activities and exercises. We encourage trust, communication, agreement (“yes and”); active listening, character, status, and making your scene partner look good. 

One-Act Play Production (Fall Trimester 1 and/or Spring Trimester 3) 
Rehearse and perform a one-act play.  We will read a selection of short plays and scenes of all types (comic, tragic, modern, classic...or perhaps scenes we write together!) and select a short play or scenes to perform.  All rehearsals are in class; any performances will occur during the school day (no after-school time commitments!)  Open to students who want to act or direct.

Playwriting 7 (Fall Trimester 1)
This introductory class explores the basic elements of writing for live performance. Through a series of guided writing exercises, we explore the following topics: Character, Dialogue, Conflict, Setting, Mood, Imaginative Writing, Obstacle & Action, and the concept that ‘plays are not written...they are re-written.’ In addition to in-class writing exercises, there are regular out-of-class writing assignments. The final assignment has each student playwright craft an original short scene for the stage. These scenes are presented in an OPTIONAL public reading of original work the end of the trimester.

Playwriting 8 (Spring Trimester 3)
This class explores the basic elements of writing for live performance. It is designed both for students who have taken 7th grade Playwriting, and for beginning 8th grade playwrights.  Through a series of guided writing exercises, we explore the following topics: Character, Dialogue, Conflict, Setting, Mood, Imaginative Writing, Obstacle & Action, and the concept that ‘plays are not written…they are re-written.’  In addition to in-class writing exercises, there are regular out-of-class writing assignments. The final assignment has each student playwright craft an original short scene for the stage. These scenes are presented in an OPTIONAL public reading of original work at the end of the trimester.

Theater Games & Acting Exercises (Fall Trimester 1 and/or Spring Trimester 3)
We play and perform a wide variety of theater games, acting exercises and improvisational acting scenes.  Students have the option of selecting (or creating their own) acting scenes for individual and group “scene study.”  Public performance of any class scene work is entirely optional, and is not a class requirement.

Tech Theater
This course provides the opportunity to learn about designing the lighting and sound, developing scenic projections, and being a part of the set design and construction. Students learn the proper use of tools, electrical and sound equipment (lights, microphones, etc.).  In addition, 7th grade tech students will assume a number of critically important backstage operations for the running of the 7th grade fall production in our 74th Street theater.  To sign up for this elective, the primary requirement is that you must commit to staying at school 2 afternoons a week, and to being present every day during the production week and during the shows.  If you are not able to make this commitment, it is recommended you consider a different elective.

Play Production 7 (Spring Trimester 3)
This class is entirely performance-based: The director will cast students placed into this elective in acting roles to be performed in a full public performance in The Mary Lea Johnson Performing Arts Center (81st Street). The selection of performance text is based upon those students participating; the final choice of text is made after the class enrollment is complete. Classes are conducted as both acting classes and rehearsals for a series of public performances. Students will learn lines and staging while working closely with the adult members of the Calhoun MS Theater Program.  

Course requirements for the 7th grade production class:      

  • Students must be available for after-school rehearsals (M-F, 3:30-5:30pm) at the 81st street theater for the two weeks prior to performance week (3rd week of May 2017).
  • Students must be available for an all-day rehearsal on the Saturday prior to the May performance week.
  • Students must be available for afternoon and evening technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals, and performances during performance week (3rd week of May 2017).

Play Production 8 (Fall Trimester 1)
This class is entirely performance-based: The director will cast students placed into this elective in acting roles to be performed in a full public performance in The Steinberg Theater at The Calhoun Lower School, 160 W. 74th St. The selection of a performance text is based upon those students participating; the final choice of text is made after the class enrollment is complete. Classes are conducted as both acting classes and rehearsals for a series of public performances. Students will learn lines and staging while working closely with the adult members of the Calhoun MS Theater Program. (NOTE: Classes are held during the school day at 81st Street; additional after-school rehearsals and performances will be held in The Steinberg Theater at The Calhoun Lower School, 160 W. 74th Street. Students are responsible for getting themselves to the 74th St. space for after-school rehearsals.)

Course requirements for the 8th grade acting class:  

  • Students must be available for after-school rehearsals (M-F, 4-6 pm) at the 74th Street Theater during the first two weeks of November 2016.    
  • Students must be available for rehearsals on the two Saturdays prior to the November performance week.
  • Students must be available for afternoon and evening technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals, and performances during the November performance week.

 


Community Service

As community members and citizens, we have the opportunity to develop partnerships and create positive change in the world. This discussion-based class helps students learn to become change agents, and teach them to realize that the smallest actions can make a difference in the world.

ELECTIVE

Community Action/Kindness
As community members and citizens, we have the opportunity to develop partnerships and create positive change in the world. This discussion-based class helps students learn to become change agents, and teaches them to realize that the smallest actions can make a difference in the world. Are there changes you’d like to see at our school, in our city, our country or in the world? In this class, students have the opportunity to choose one issue they collectively feel passionate about and develop a strategy and carry out a plan of action around that issue. Join us!


 

Physical Education, Fitness

The Middle School Physical Education program offers students with the opportunity to participate in a program that focuses on the development of skills, team sports, cooperative learning, and physical fitness activities/evaluations. The students are taught a variety of different skills, rules, safety techniques and strategies associated with different sports. The objective is to provide students with physical activities and skills that they can enjoy throughout their lifetime. Throughout the course of the school year students will be taught and engaged in units such as basketball, soccer, hockey, team handball, volleyball, badminton, pickle ball, as well as a variety of other sports. Students also participate in cooperative learning activities that teach verbal communication, nonverbal communication, leadership, teamwork, as well as other important life skills. Students are given a fitness evaluation at the beginning and the end of each school year. Students are evaluated on their cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. There is also an important emphasis placed on student safety, sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership, fair play, cooperation, and friendly competition. The ultimate goal of the physical education department is to provide students with practical and fun fitness activities that will encourage them to live a physically active and healthy lifestyle.

ELECTIVES

Weight Training 8
The weight training and fitness class provides each student with the knowledge needed to understand the importance of strength and fitness training. Students go over weight room safety and work-out etiquette, and learn the significance of creating a fitness plan.  Students learn the importance of setting goals for personal improvement and achievement, and leave the class with a lifelong understanding of how to maintain adequate physical fitness for a healthy lifestyle.

Academic Requirements
6th Grade Required Courses

English
Social Studies
Mathematics
Science
Mandarin
Health
Life Skills
Art
Woodshop
Music (chorus or instrumental)
Theater
Physical Education

6th Grade Elective

Spanish

7th & 8th Grade Required Courses

English
Social Studies
Mathematics
Science
World Language (Mandarin or Spanish)
Community Service
Health/Life Skills
Physical Education

7th & 8th Grade Electives

Students choose one elective per trimester.

Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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