In the middle school, the curriculum is broadened and students deepen the skills introduced in the lower school. Ascend’s Humanities Program is the natural successor to the lower school literacy program; its primary goals are cultural literacy; critical-thinking, writing, close-reading, and public-speaking skills; and art and music appreciation. The middle school math program develops students who are deft problem solvers, with a knack for interpreting the world mathematically, and the science program harnesses the study of science and technology to explore issues of importance to students, their community, and society.
Beginning in the earliest grades, students develop a love of literature, as they think critically about texts, and engage in rich discussions with their peers.
In grade 5, students study the myth of Icarus and Daedalus—and learn the price of hubris.
In an in-school gallery, students study Brueghel's sixteenth century masterpiece, "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus."
This study is followed by a close reading of Auden's famous 1940 poem, "Musée des Beaux Arts," a meditation on Brueghel's painting.
Students conclude the unit by writing in class their own first-person retelling of the poem from the character of their choice. Fifth-grader Ialyah Jones stands with her verse, "Falling From The Sky."
After completing Ascend’s lower school program, students have developed the social and emotional capacities to thrive in a new environment where they enjoy increasing freedoms and responsibilities. Relying on the Responsive Classroom approach in middle school, we build a climate where our students’ desire for autonomy, competence, relationship, and fun are met; where students feel connected, heard, empowered, and safe; and where they are encouraged to begin developing independence of action and character.
The central focus of Ascend’s middle school culture is the development of agency—students’ knowledge that they are in control of their own lives and can act of their own free choices. The scaffolding of the early years is gradually pulled away so that by the time they reach college, students can self-manage with full autonomy.
This capacity will prove essential for further growth in high school, and in preparation for life on a college campus. Beginning in middle school, students transition between classes autonomously, take part in daily Advisory meetings, and choose their own elective enrichment classes.