Upper School (6-8)
Why GUS for Middle School?
Developing intellects and bodies, new desires for independence, complex social relationships—these all make the years between 11 and 14 a time of exploration and growth. At Glen Urquhart, we believe that middle school students thrive most when they receive intellectual challenge and emotional support in a caring environment. They need to spread their wings safely, remain children in ways that are appropriate, and become teenagers at their own pace. The intellectual strength of our academic program readies our middle school students for success in a variety of independent and public high schools. Whether they are tackling mathematics abstractly or experientially, expanding their understanding of literature with abstract thinking, studying a foreign language as a lens into the breadth of world cultures, or applying scientific principles to constructing solutions to global problems, our middle school students benefit from a curriculum that challenges them to discover the best within themselves. We marvel at the interests and talents they develop in these years.
As students enter the upper school (grades six through eight), our teachers challenge them intellectually, support them emotionally, and treat them individually as they undertake more complex academic and personal pursuits. Our schedule incorporates longer class periods to allow for in-depth study and project-based learning. Year-long themes continue through eighth grade, coinciding with the developmental growth that happens in these important years. Our interdisciplinary curriculum ensures students go beyond learning a single subject, fostering an understanding of how all subjects are related. Students also advance their critical thinking, problem solving, essay writing, and public speaking skills so they are fully prepared to thrive in the most challenging secondary schools. Our upper school students build confidence as they develop their voices. They learn to share their ideas and support their arguments. They take risks in the classroom, on the field, and on the stage.
Students in the upper school experience an integrated curriculum that includes courses in English, mathematics, science, social studies, Spanish, and Latin. All eighth graders take Algebra I, and most students graduate having had both Spanish and Latin. Those who need support in math may take math lab in lieu of a world language. In addition, they are encouraged to become fully engaged in the school community as artists, performers, and athletes. Their close connections to the adults in the GUS community develop in them the confidence to be comfortable with adults so that they routinely join the teachers and coaches in a partnership to find success in secondary school and beyond.
Student Life Program
There are several components to our Student Life Program, giving students and teachers an opportunity to establish rapport and giving teachers an opportunity to provide the best possible counsel to students. We believe that we work in a partnership with parents to help students grow responsibly and healthily toward adulthood. The components of the Student Life Program include the following:
Homeroom teachers meet with their students at the beginning of the day in the upper school. Homeroom time begins at 8:15 AM so that more time can be devoted to the “Developmental Designs” curriculum, which is an extension of “Open Circle” in the lower school. The goals of the program are to promote a sense of community within the class and to develop positive social skills within each student, all of which are part of our Bullying Prevention Program. It is critical that students be on time for homeroom. Homeroom is also “home base.” Each upper school student has a large locker inside his/her homeroom. Students keep book bags and projects in the homeroom, eat lunch there, and do chores. At the end of the day, there is a checkout procedure for making sure students are organized to leave for home. The class reviews the assignments for the day, and students make sure they have all the appropriate materials for any homework assignments.
The weekly Life Skills period in the upper school gives students a chance to explore nonacademic topics of value to young teenagers. Topics discussed in past years have included drug and alcohol use, peer relations, decision-making, communication, media education, preparation for secondary school, and sexuality.
Each upper school student has a teacher or administrator as an advisor. Generally, there are seven or eight advisees in a group. Advisors keep an eye on each of their advisee’s social progress and emotional health while at Glen Urquhart School. They meet with their advisees once a week for lunch. Each advisory group has students from all three grades. Advisors are also available for informal discussions with their advisees. Advisors informally keep track of a student’s nonacademic issues, which can include everything from developing friendships to serious disciplinary infractions. During the lunch meetings, the advisory groups discuss an agenda related to the goals of our Student Life Curriculum, usually having to do with social development and peer relations. These lunch meetings are another component of the School’s Bullying Prevention Program. Each week a different member of the advisory group brings a snack to share. We encourage nutritious snacks, such as fruit or healthy treats, rather than donuts or other foods high in sugar content.
Experiential Learning Trips
GUS students participate in an exciting array of field trips from the time they enter kindergarten to the time they graduate from eighth grade. Field trips are a part of the fabric of the school. We believe that students need to explore the world around them in order to experience the places and events that they first learn about in their classrooms. Every year students go on several significant field trips. By the end of eighth grade they have had ample opportunity to experience the richness and diversity of New England, as well as to experience first-hand the topics of the classroom. The abstract is made real, and the memories of these trips last a lifetime.
Students and faculty in grades six through eight begin the school year with an overnight trip to Camp Winaukee in New Hampshire. The focus of the trip is to build a sense of community and responsibility among all upper school students, which is accomplished by games and activities (climbing wall, canoeing, archery, arts and crafts, etc.) that help students become better acquainted and enjoy each other’s company. By the end of the trip the students know each other in new ways, and they have a shared sense of responsibility for the well being of the group.
Sixth graders visit the ancient civilization exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in order to examine artifacts that are examples of the five themes of geography or of the five elements of a civilization. In the spring, sixth graders spend three days at Heifer International in Rutland, Massachusetts.
Eighth grade field trips include a day trip to the chemistry lab at MIT, a day trip to Concord and Lexington to explore the roots of the Revolutionary War, and another extended field trip (four days) to New York City that enhances their study of immigration.