Academics » Middle School » Academic Overview

Academic Overview

Social Studies

In grade 6, students will explore early humans and the rise of civilizations, while, continuing map skills learned in 5th grade.  They will continue to think and question like a historian while, incorporating technology and taking part in interactive lessons A cumulative project will be completed where students research and study their civilization of choice presenting on its most important characteristics, such as their government, religion, important leaders, social structure, and daily life.

The 7th and 8th grade  curriculum focuses on American history from 1700-1945. Students in grade 7 cover colonial America through the Reconstruction Era. They will also learn how to effectively think like historians by analyzing and reviewing both secondary and primary sources. Students in grade 8 will cover the Second Industrial Revolution to World War II. They will also begin to look at the cultural, social, political, and economic factors that have shaped history which will be applied to World History at the Upper School level.   This curriculum encourages students to enhance their research and writing skills in collaboration with ELA classes in constructing a thesis-based research paper. 

English Language Arts (ELA)

The Middle School  English Language Arts curriculum continues to 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. An exploration of literary genres emphasizes critical thinking while exploring literary elements. Students will read at least four notable novels per year, in addition to various poetry, drama, and short story units. 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 Honors Program for information about accelerated learning in Language Arts.


World Languages - Spanish - Grades 7-8 

Students in Grade 6 select a language that they wish to study full time (5 days/week) for comprehensive foreign language development. In Grades 7 and 8, the Spanish 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 of the basics such as the alphabet, familiar objects and school terms, as well as present tense verb conjugation of regular and irregular verbs.

In 8th Grade, the program will focus on continuing the students understanding of grammar by studying advanced items such as possessive and demonstrative adjectives, adverbs and present progressive tense. They will also further their understanding of the culture by exploring Spanish Literature and various customs. The program takes a communicative approach, by speaking primarily in the target language. English is used sparingly only to explain difficult grammar situations. By the completion of grade 8, students at the Academy are ready for Spanish II/Spanish II Honors in the Upper School

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

(Click here to read about the STEAM Curriculum)

The primary focus of Middle School STEAM is technology. Students will be introduced to the Macintosh I5 computers which are available for their use in the computer labs.  The students will be learning programming while making use of applications on both Apple and PC platforms. In addition, they will create innovative projects and practice teamwork problem solving in both math and engineering. Grade 6 focuses on building structures while grades seven and eight work with physics and rocketry. Graphic design and desktop publishing skills will also be learned as well as other topics such as  webquests, research, and discussions about ethics in technology.

(Click here to read about the STEAM Makerspace)


Middle School 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 Honors program for accelerated math instruction, where they can matriculate a grade level above their peers. Students also participate in the integrated STEAM program for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math inquiry-based learning opportunities.

Throughout the year in grade 6 math, we will work with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percents, and integers. Students will also explore  algebraic concepts including order of operations, exponents, and variables while emphasizing formulas, equations and definitions of mathematical terms. 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. Students are assessed not only on finding a correct answer, but also by their ability to progress through and show all steps needed to reach an answer.

Grade 7 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 8 will explore algebraic concepts that reinforce and further develop pre-algebra skills 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. All students will participate in many lab investigations, both in and out of the classroom. Students are encouraged to question the world around them and learn how to make meaningful connections by applying science concepts to experiences.  They will also 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, small groups and individual activities. NDA’s Middle School science program develops lifelong engaged and excited science learners.

In the 6th grade, students will be active participants in the learning process while acting like scientists as they explore and discover our world, space and human ingenuity. They will question, hypothesize, observe, and conclude as they perform experiments and write lab reports. Students will start with a hands-on approach to astronomy creating 3-D models and performing experiments that astronauts would carry out.They will also be visiting the planetarium at Framingham State University.  They will continue their hands-on investigations as they study the earth and its layers, the rock cycle and more by creating their own volcanoes, earthquake resistant houses and 3-D models of the earth’s layers.

The students in the 7th grade continue their hands-on science experience as they begin studying life science.  They will conduct experiments including growing brine shrimp from eggs, create a closed system for plants to live, and study temperature inversion, modeling how the concept works. The students will also study the Notre Dame watershed. Earth’s changing surface and cells and heredity will also be studied. The students will have many opportunities to expand on the knowledge by sharing their research with their peers through the use of Google Docs.

Eighth grade students can expect to cover areas of study including 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 graded student journals and through project submissions. 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. A highlight of the year for 8th graders is the preparation and participation in the NDA Science Fair.


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