Curriculum

In English at the Middle School, formal composition is emphasized, along with the informal writing of thoughts and ideas in journal format. In Forms VII through X (5th through 8th grades), the stress is on expository writing – the sort of writing required in the courses the students will frequently encounter in secondary school and college.

Grammar is to formal composition what phonics is to reading and spelling. The purpose of this course is to provide the students with a thorough working knowledge of the structure of the language. This understanding is essential to composing proper sentences and paragraphs.

Literature begins as soon as the child enters school. In Forms VII through X, the course is more formal and includes a considerable amount of writing dealing with themes, ideas, and symbols. It is hoped that students will gain some understanding of our literary heritage and benefit from ten years of experience in dealing with ideas.

Reading is no longer taught as a form class at the Middle School, but it is still emphasized and encouraged, to help students reach the highest possible reading levels so they can excel in all areas of study. Vocabulary continues to be a focus at the Middle Division, with ever increasing difficulty of words, in preparation for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT.

Computation and concepts are emphasized at all levels in Middle School mathematics. A significant amount of practice for mastery is necessary to fix the concepts and methods in students’ minds; however, as students progress through the School, they learn to solve problems in various ways in order to develop their conceptual thinking skills and ability to create efficient and appropriate solutions. Students graduating from St. John’s will have covered Honors Algebra I or Honors Geometry, and secondary schools give credit for these courses to our higher scoring students.

The St. John’s science curriculum of classroom experiments, problem-solving techniques, increasing integration with mathematics, and a hands-on learning approach deepens in complexity in the Middle School science program. At the Middle School, Form VII (5th grade) presents an annual Science Fair, using the scientific method to create hypotheses and to perform experiments to complement their integrated study of all the sciences. Form VIII (6th grade) studies earth science, exploring the structure of the earth and plate tectonics, highlighting phenomena like volcanoes. Form IX (7th grade) studies life science, using digital microscopes and dissections to explore the wonders of living things. Physics and chemistry are studied in Form X (8th grade). At all levels at the Middle School, cutting edge equipment such as digital microscopes, Vernier LabQuests (high resolution touchscreens which make it easy and intuitive to collect, analyze, and share data from experiments), and Probeware enhances learning and assure a solid basis in the STEM curricula. Form X students typically receive high school credit for their Honors Physical Science class taken in their 8th grade year.

Forms VII and X (5th and 8th grades) pursue a comprehensive study of United States history, beginning with early settlers. In Forms VIII and IX (6th and 7th grades), students progress through world geography and world history. Form VIII geography seeks to familiarize the student with the location of the basic political structure and geographic features of the world. Specific cultures, regions, environment, and map skills are also emphasized. A Geography Fair offers students the opportunity to showcase their knowledge of foreign lands. History in the Middle School leads students to trace the roots of our religious, social, political, and cultural institutions.

Latin in Forms VII through X (5th through 8th grades) initially teaches students to comprehend the Latin language through practice in reading Latin stories. Through this reading, they develop an understanding of the social and political history of the Romans, especially during the 1st century A.D. Through vocabulary study, students are able to learn relationships between words in both English and Latin. Grammar concepts used in both languages are also reinforced. Particularly in Forms IX – X, Latin grammar is treated quite substantially, in order for students to be qualified for intermediate Latin courses and other romance languages in preparatory or high school.

St. John’s Latin students also take part in the competitive regional and state Latin Forums, placing among the top handful of participating schools statewide. They also take the annual National Latin Exam and National Latin Exploratory Exam, receiving some of the highest-level honors. Students graduating from St. John’s often receive high school credit for Latin I Honors.

Divinity classes are required of all students regardless of their religious faith. The Judeo-Christian ethic as expressed by Jesus Christ, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself,” is central to the curriculum throughout all grade levels. All students participate in outreach projects each year that allow them to live out these commandments.

At the Middle School, the Bible is studied in a more intensive and sophisticated way. Participation in character development programs is required. In all Forms, students examine what we are learning about our Christian faith, and explore the role of Christian ethics and morals in shaping our lives.

Computer classes are a progressive development of computer knowledge and skills. The goals are to increase general understanding on how to produce work using a computer and other current technologies in such a way as to enhance their use for other classes. The technology objective identifies the essential knowledge and skills that all students need to be active and lifelong learners in a technology intensive environment. Technology is changing rapidly and the curriculum is designed to form the foundation for continuous learning in an ever-changing world.

Yearly advances in skills and stamina in the Primary and Lower Schools prepare students for the Middle School program and, for most, participation in athletic teams. For all students, personal fitness, sportsmanship, teamwork and leadership become increasingly important elements of development. All students in the Lower and Middle Schools participate in the Presidential Physical Fitness program.

This program provides studio art guidance and instruction to students throughout the School, including a variety of appropriate artistic media suited to each campus. For all St. John’s students, systematic exposure to art created throughout the ages will provide an important dimension of cultural knowledge and sensitivity. Art studies will help them to understand how the artistic legacies of earlier ages are reflected in more recent art, how they can enrich their own creative efforts, and how art reflects and even helps to shape the history of nations and cultures.

The St. John’s music program encourages students to become musically knowledgeable. Students study composers, practice composition, and learn to appreciate a variety of music.