St. Nicholas Middle School

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Students eagerly look forward to entering Middle School for the opportunity to be assigned a locker and to change classes every hour taught by a professional faculty. They find it is a challenging experience as they learn to be more responsible, independent, and more organized. The thoughtful and purposeful planning of the Middle School curriculum provides a cohesive, stimulating program, which paves the way for a smooth transition to high school.

Throughout the middle school grades students continue to develop their study skills using various techniques; such as identifying main ideas by outlining, recalling information by creating flashcards, and identifying important facts through note-taking skills. Students also receive instruction on test taking skills. The skills learned from these classes help prepare students for high school and beyond.

The core subjects are described below. See Supplementary Courses for descriptions of all other classes included in the curriculum.

Sixth Grade

We provide a unique program for our students at this level. Our English course includes more intensive practice of grammar and composition skills to better prepare students for the demanding Middle School curriculum. Students are required to analyze, define, explain, and critique their reading selections. They are also required to orally read narrative and expository text fluently and with appropriate pacing, intonation, and expression.

Math includes the mastery of the four arithmetic operations using whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. Students apply their knowledge to statistics and probability. Students conceptually understand and work with ratios and proportions, and they compute percentages (e.g., tax, tips, interest). They use algebraic equations involving geometric shapes and ratios.

Earth Science is studied involving geology, meteorology and environmental science. Students learn about the earth's topography, and how it has been reshaped by the weathering of rock and soil. They cover many phenomena on the Earth's surface involving plate tectonics. Students will understand that organisms in ecosystems exchange energy and nutrients among themselves and with the environment. They will study the sun, solar system, stars and galaxies. They will also practice the scientific method by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful experiments.

2014 San Andreas Fault Field Trip

In history students expand their understanding of the past by studying the people and events that ushered in the dawn of ancient civilizations. Continued emphasis is placed on the everyday lives, problems, and accomplishments of people, their role in developing social, economic, and political structures, as well as in establishing and spreading ideas that helped transform the world forever. Students develop higher levels of critical thinking by considering why civilizations developed where and when they did, why they became dominant, and why they declined. Students analyze the interactions among various cultures, emphasizing their enduring contributions and the link, despite time, between contemporary and ancient worlds.

Seventh Grade

In English, students analyze literature by studying character and plot development along with literary techniques. Students will practice literary analysis by identifying the parts of a plot, studying characterization, points of view, and figurative language. Vocabulary development is enhanced by the study of Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and root words. A strong emphasis on spelling and proper grammar, as well as correct punctuation, prepares the students for the high school entrance exams. One to three paragraphs of supporting details are used in composition writing to develop a main idea.

In pre-algebra, students learn to solve a variety of equations and inequalities containing variables. They also become proficient in operations with integers and rational numbers in solving algebraic problems. In the second semester, an emphasis is placed on understanding geometric concepts, including area and volume. Finally, students receive a practical application of many skills they learned throughout the year by preparing a project in which they keep track of revenues and profits in a business of their own creation.

History provides the study of the social, cultural, and technological changes that occurred in Europe, Africa, and Asia after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Students study the history and geography of great civilizations that were developing concurrently throughout the world during medieval and early modern times. They examine the growing economic interaction among civilizations, as well as the exchange of ideas, beliefs, technologies and commodities. They learn about the resulting growth of the Age of Reason during the Renaissance period. Finally, students study the political forces, which resulted in the rise of democratic ideas.

In science, students study cell biology, genetics, evolution, life history, and living systems. They will compare and contrast an animal cell and a plant cell. Students will understand that the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. Students will also study the anatomy and physiology of plants and animals. They will also practice scientific experimentation by developing their own questions and performing their own experiments.

2014 Catalina Field Trip to study Biology

Eighth Grade

A strong emphasis on spelling and proper grammar, as well as correct punctuation prepares the students for the high school entrance exams. English provides opportunity for our students to write clear, coherent, and focused essays with formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions. These will include narrative, expository, persuasive, and descriptive essays. Students will continue to develop their knowledge of word origins and word relationships, through the study of Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes and root words. Students will also continue to analyze literature by studying character and plot development along with literary techniques, identifying parts of plot, direct and indirect methods of characterization, first and third person points of view, and figurative language.

2014 Senior Retreat to St. Nicholas Ranch

All of our students will cover Algebra 1 in their senior year. Students learn how to solve complex algebraic equations, inequalities, and proportions. As the year progresses, students will study functions, linear equations and systems of equations. In the course of their study, students will also receive instruction on and reinforcement of essential math skills, such as operations with decimals, percentages, integers, and rational numbers. An "Algebra Fitness" project is completed in the second semester to reinforce algebraic skills learned throughout the year in the context of issues related to health and physical fitness.

Seniors study United States history, including the study of the ideas, issues and events of the American Revolution, the framing of the Constitution, the Civil War and Reconstruction period. They learn about the challenges facing the new nation, with an emphasis on the causes, course and consequences of the Civil War. They make connections between the rise of industrialization and contemporary social and economic conditions. Students trace the development of American politics and the emergence of major regional differences.

Science delves into the area of physical science where students study motion, force, and how to compute velocity. They learn the structure of matter, including the atom, elements, compounds, and the periodic table of elements. Students also study chemical reactions and the principles of chemistry that underlie the functioning of biological systems. They will also practice scientific investigative skills and experimentation.