Our middle school serves an example of the positive experience that students and their families can have during the phase of rapid growth and intense change that occurs between ages 12 and 15. We see that students appreciate intellectual challenge and opportunities for meaningful work through which they can explore possible roles for them in the world. Students are working to refine their values during this time and the benefits of being in a school environment that supports them in that are deep and lasting. In these years, young people seek both independence and community. When provided with opportunities for both they grow as adaptable members of a team and they begin to create a vision for their personal future.
Our middle school students practice the skills they need to participate in society and make themselves ready to contribute to the wider world. Their quest for independence moves from the physical and intellectual accomplishments of early childhood and the elementary years to beginning to understand and address the final piece needed for adulthood: economic independence. At Mountaintop, we have one middle school class in which students study all of the subjects traditionally covered in these grades at all types of schools while also gaining self-confidence and self-knowledge that are not often found among this age group in other settings.
Students' work in many disciplines at this age level takes place in a whole-class seminar format that stands in contrast to the small-group lessons of their elementary years. A related feature is that the schedule includes more blocks of time dedicated to particular subjects as they are both ready to benefit from seminar work and preparing for the more traditional schedule that they will encounter in high school.
Practical Life: Elements of the practical life curriculum that students have experienced over their years at Mountaintop come to fruition in this classroom where students are responsible for maintaining a clean classroom and planning meals, regular social events, and a week-long trip as a group. Individual growth and preparation for the level of freedom and personal decision-making that lie just ahead in high school are addressed in through regular health and wellness sessions.
Leadership & Entrepreneurship: The middle school classroom is a bustling micro-economy in which money earned through Friday pizza delivery on campus and sales in Maria's One-Stop Shop is used for the class trip in the spring. Leadership positions related to several aspects of the classroom economy are available with Mountaintop faculty and administrators mentoring student business leaders throughout the year.
Language: Writing permeates work in many disciplines from analytical and persuasive writing to substantial research papers that students write twice each year. Literature is used both for discussion of issues that are important to the students and as examples of the various styles and structures used by authors. Composing inherited forms of poetry such as sonnets and sestinas is fun and challenging. Across all forms a writing students gain stamina and confidence by revisiting all of the steps in the writing process including steps in which they provide feedback to each other on works-in-progress. Presentation skills are also honed regularly.
Math: Students earn high school credit for Algebra I in their middle school years and have the option of going on to a Geometry course for high school credit as well. Units on specific skills such as data analysis and representation through graphs are also included.
History & Culture: In the middle school years many students take a new interest in current events around the world and are drawn to social action. These inclinations make this period a natural time to study history and find patterns and connections to contemporary issues.
Science & Permaculture: Lessons in the sciences flow from students' need to understand biology, chemistry and physical science use in order to keep the web of living things on campus healthy and productive.
Technology: Students acquire essential skills in technology and their expanding use of technology at this age for both research and social purposes is supported by ongoing lessons on safe and appropriate use.
Creative Expression: Students continue working in the visual and performing arts. Creative use of their growing repertoire of culinary skills is a popular pursuit and creative work in technology is also available. Students can specialize within these disciplines through a series of electives from which they can choose.