Middle School

Academic Overview

Humanities

(Click here to read about the Humanities Curriculum)

Humanities studies focus on Theology, Social Studies, Language Arts, World Languages, as well as Art and Music classes. Theological studies explore Bible literacy, while emphasizing moral character and social responsibility, both within the Academy community and in the broader world. Social studies focus on the Ancient World and US Government, which ensures students understand the elements of western civilization grounded in the American polity. In Language Arts, students gain skills in approaching a wide range of literary genres, while mastering increasingly complex writing challenges. Language study provides options for French or Spanish, while art and music are emphasized both through specialized classes and in many of the humanities classrooms. Learn more about the Academy's REACH Program for accelerated learning in Language Arts and the World Language Program. See more on the Humanities Curriculum.

Theology

Emphasizes God’s goodness and God’s presence in your child’s life, in worship, and in commitment to service. Study emphasizes understanding self, positive values, and moral decision-making.

Social Studies

In grade 6, students will explore early humans and the rise of civilizations, all the while, intertwining map skills learned last year in 5th grade. In the sixth grade curriculum, students will be studying Sumer and Mesopotamia, ancient Kush and Egypt, ancient India and the Indus River Valley civilizations, ancient China, ancient Greece and ancient Rome. This year, students will continue to think and question like a historian whilst using sources, incorporating technology, and taking part in interactive lessons, which will help to solidify knowledge. A cumulative project will be completed where students research and study a civilization of their choosing and present on its most important characteristics, including: their government, religion, important leaders, social structure, and daily life.  The textbook used will be My World History by Pearson and Daily Geography Practice by Evan Moore.

The 7-8 grade curriculum focuses on American history from 1500  to the present.  Students in grade 7 study Colonial America to the Reconstruction period, while learning how to effectively think like a historians using the five lenses of history: cultural, social, political, economic, and military.  In grade 8, students focus on modern American history including the Second Industrial Revolution to the Persian-Gulf War.  Students use their skills and knowledge to enforce a greater understanding of historical events in the late 19th century to throughout the 20th century, while incorporating concepts learned in grade 7.  Geography will also be enforced weekly in both grades to better understand its impact on history.  In both grades, students are encouraged to enhance their research and writing skills in collaboration with ELA classes to construct thesis-based research papers which are properly cited and formatted using the MLA style.  The textbook used is the  American History: Survey Edition by Pearson and Daily Geography Practice by Evan Moore.

Geography

A student’s ability to understand geography is key to knowing how the world around them has impacted human history.  In conjunction with social studies, students will learn about the different regions of the world and more importantly how people have adapted to those regions.  Culture is key in knowing what people in certain regions have developed when it comes to how they live their lives.  The 6th grade geography curriculum will look at North America, Central America, and South America.  In doing so, students will learn about their own backyards and how geography shaped where they live. In 7th grade, students will look at Europe, Russia, and Africa.  It will allow them to understand and know life in those regions and compare them to North America.  The 8th grade curriculum focuses on Asia, Russia (the Asian portion), and Australia along with the Pacific Islands.  This curriculum will allow students to see life in those very different lands along with their physical features. The textbook used is the MyWorld Geography: Survey Edition by Pearson.

English Language Arts (ELA)

The Grades 6-8 English Language Arts curriculum continues to teach and reinforce strong reading, writing, and grammar skills begun in the lower grades. Mastery of skills will be achieved through independent and guided reading of quality literature, building a strong vocabulary, and modeling/practicing formal and informal writing throughout the curriculum. The eight parts of speech are taught using the Loyola Press Voyages in English program, and vocabulary is studied using both the Sadlier Vocabulary Workshop program and vocabulary in context for novels and stories read in class. An exploration of literary genres emphasizes critical thinking while exploring literary elements. Students at the middle school level will read at least four novels per year, in addition to various poetry, drama, and short story units. Novels taught include Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit (Grade 6), Fever 1973 by Laurie Halse Anderson (Grade 6), The Giver by Lois Lowry (Grade 7), Call of the Wild by Jack London (Grade 7), The Pearl by John Steinbeck (Grade 8), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Grade 8). Writing, along with oral communication skills, is developed through an organized writing process that emphasizes strong mechanics, grammar, and citing supporting textual evidence in MLA Format. Writing includes narratives, description, opinion pieces, research, as well as creative writing. Please see the Academy's REACH Program for information about accelerated learning in Language Arts.

World Languages

Students in Grades 6-8 are exposed to more comprehensive foreign language development. These students have selected the language of their choice for full time (5 days/week) study. The program adopts a broad spectrum of communication skills utilizing the 5 C's of essential foreign language development: Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons, and Community.  Diverse and engaging teaching strategies – including reading, speaking, writing dialogues, performing skits and listening to audio recordings of various native speakers – help students develop mastery in the basics such as the alphabet, colors, numbers, calendar vocabulary, familiar objects, present tense verb conjugation and Spanish/French culture. The program follows the inclusion method of study where at least 50% of classroom instruction occurs in the target language. By the completion of grade 8, students at the Academy are ready for Spanish II /Spanish II Honors or French II / French II Honors in high school.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) 

(Click here to read about the STEAM Curriculum)

In STEAM, the focus is on the technology side so as to introduce students to the Macintosh I5 computers which are available for their use in the computer labs. Since the computers are PC compatible, students will be learning programming and making use of applications on both Apple and PC platforms. In addition, students will create innovative projects and practice teamwork problem solving in the math and engineering areas. Grade 6 focuses on building structures while grades 7-8 work with physics and rocketry.

Additonally, graphic design and desktop publishing skills will be learned through Microsoft Publisher and online resources. Other topics covered every year include webquests, research, and “roundtable” discussions of ethics in technology. 

(Click here to read about the STEAM Makerspace)

Mathematics

Promotes logical thinking through lessons that emphasize sequenced computational skills, concept development, basic algebraic expressions, problem-solving techniques, and real-life applications. Pre-qualified students are eligible to participate in the Academy's REACH Program for accelerated math instruction, where they can matriculate a grade level above their peers. All students participate in the integrated STEAM Program for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math inquiry-based learning opportunities.

Grade six math classes use the curriculum Progress in Mathematics textbook published by Sadlier-Oxford. Throughout the year we will work with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percent, and integers.  Students will be exploring algebraic concepts including order of operations, exponents, and variables. Formulas, equations and definitions of mathematical terms will be emphasized.  Going through the problem solving process as well as utilizing a variety of methods and strategies will be addressed along with communicating to others how solutions have been found. It is important to note that students are assessed not only on finding a correct answer, but their ability to progress through and show all steps needed to reach an answer.

Grade seven will use the curriculum outlined in the Pre-Algebra Pearson Prentice Hall textbook. Students, using the Pre-Algebra text, will build upon previously learned concepts by exploring and discovering problem solving skills essential to algebraic expressions and equations, linear and nonlinear functions, spatial thinking (involving geometric concepts), data analysis, and probability.

Grade eight will use the curriculum outlined in the Algebra I Pearson Prentice Hall textbook. Students will explore algebraic concepts that will reinforce and further develop pre-algebra skills that are essential to all future math courses.  Students will build upon their experience with functions and equations as they move on to more abstract algebraic concepts including polynomials and quadratic equations and functions.  

Throughout the year,  students will engage in various methods and strategies to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught and the connections to previous years of learning.  Students will not only be assessed on correctly solving a problem but having the ability to interpret the solution and describe its reasonableness in terms of the context of the problem.

Science & Technology 

The middle school science curriculum focuses on a hands on, minds on approach to learning. This means that all  students will participate in many lab investigations, both in and out of the classroom, with the textbooks being used more as a reference resource rather than the main source of lessons. Students in the program are encouraged to question the world around them and learn how to make meaningful connections by applying science concepts to experiences. By being engaged in the program students will investigate answers to their questions and use data to support their findings. Different types of techniques will be utilized within the classroom, such as: whole class activities, large group presentations, working in groups and individual activities. NDA’s middle school science program is more than memorizing facts and figures, it’s about being engaged and excited. It’s about being lifelong science learners.

In the sixth grade students will be active participants in the learning process as they explore and discover our world, space and human ingenuity. The Science Explorer Series, published by Prentice Hall, will be one support the students will use. Students will start with astronomy and will create a three D model of the moon and a digital book of planet facts. The students will take a field trip to Framingham State University where they will spend the day at their planetarium and explore what it would be like to be living on a colony on Mars. They will also perform experiments that astronauts in space would carry out. In the second module the students will read and investigate “The Earth's changing surface” by Prentice Hall. The students will participate in many hands-on experiments as they investigate the Earth's layers, volcanoes, geologic time, and much more. Science lessons will require students to act like scientists. Students will question, hypothesize, observe, and conclude as they perform experiments and write lab reports.

The students in the 7th grade will start out studying life science, using the textbook “Environmental Science” by Prentice Hall as a primary resource. This book allows many hands on experiments including growing brine shrimp from eggs, creating a closed system for plants to live, and growing a plant from a seed, pollinating the plant and getting new seeds from the original plants. The students will also have an opportunity to study the Notre Dame watershed and discover what types of trees are in the forests. From there we will move on to parts of the book “Earth’s Changing Surface” and finish with”Motion, Forces, and energy.”

Eighth grade students can expect to cover the Prentice Hall units including, but not limited to: Motion, Forces, and Energy; Chemical Building Blocks; and Chemical Interactions. Students will participate in laboratory experiments, design challenges and at home  projects. Evidence of learning will be documented in student journals and through the submission of projects. Journals will be picked up periodically (students will be made aware) and graded as homework. Projects, such as the Science Fair, will count as a test grade. The students are encouraged to think like scientists by asking questions, making observations, inferring, predicting, and experimenting when possible. The Scientific Method, as well as The Engineering Design Process will be used for all labs and as a basis for reports.

All 7th and 8th graders take part in the NDA Science Fair. Winners continue to the UMASS Lowell Fair and even to the State Fair in Worcester.

Want to Learn More?

Come see for yourself what is going on in the 5th - 8th  grade classrooms. We hold two open houses a year for Lower School prospects as well opportunities for a personal tour, and Shadow Day experiences to attend a morning of classes and lunch with a host student.

The Academy's Extended Day Program assists families who require options for after school care and the Enrichment Activities program provides special opportunities for children to explore personal interests. Learn more about the Admission process here