The rigor of our Middle School (6th-8th grade) curriculum is evident, but there is also an overarching goal to develop responsible young men and women who are interested in what they learn and who they are becoming. It is important, then, that in addition to the academic rigor of the curriculum and the personal guidance of the faculty, students have the opportunity to shape their own education.
Academically, we offer an advanced math curriculum that ends with Algebra I (or Geometry for accelerated students) and a science program that integrates technology and theory and mathematics and the experimental. Students study two languages (Latin and Spanish), logic, public speaking, world politics, vocabulary and grammar. Significant time is also given to the arts, including painting, drawing, singing and drama. And to round out this expansive education, we also offer physical education and the opportunity to join team sports.
Middle School students at STCS are also members of our House System. The House System is, certainly from the student’s perspective, the highlight of their STCS middle school experience. But while the students primarily think of the House in terms of fun, the faculty utilize the well-planned events to take on a mentoring role. Special care is given to instill in every young person a sense of personal responsibility not only for who they are now but also for the future high school students they shall soon become.
Our entire curriculum should prove worthless though, if our students are disengaged. Our teaching style, then, is very conversational. Much time is given to student generated discussion. We want to create a collegial atmosphere where students help one another formulate ideas. This is done, not only through Socratic seminars, which are conversational in nature, but also through a pedagogical methodology rich in debate.
So many young people have little meaningful instruction in art; few experience God in the satisfaction of making something with one’s own hands. At St. Theresa’s we are committed to the idea that everyone should be an artist—we have Art in every grade, Pre-K thru 8th. When our students are older, when they are 40 or 50, we want them to feel invigorated by their ability to paint, draw, or sculpt what a lifetime experience has enabled them to see and feel.
Our Art program focuses heavily on drawing, painting and sculpting. Historically, and developmentally, these disciplines are foundational to so many other forms of artistic expression. Through these mediums we give our students, “eyes to see” the multivalence of the world, to see deeply within themselves and within human experience, to see and mimic the artistry of God.
We think of Art as a mixture of work and play. Our classes dynamically move from collaborative to individual projects all under the gentle guidance of a mature and accomplished artist. We work hard to bring out the best in each student and every student showcases their best work in the two art exhibitions we put on every year.
At STCS students develop a taste for the finer things; they can appreciate excellence when they see it, and they truly find joy and satisfaction in creating a portfolio of meaningful work.
History in grades 4-8 is a five-year survey grounded in Western Ciilization. History lessons are taught through the reading of primary texts and historical fiction discussed in Socratic seminars. Close reading and note-taking from lectures and readings are also emphasized, as we intend to develop fundamental academic skills. Students are asked to write a significant number of literature-based papers and research papers to solidify the learning process.
The History sequence is:
- 4th Grade: Dawn of Civilization through the end of the Roman Empire
- 5th Grade: Fall of the Western Roman Empire through High Middle Ages
- 6th Grade: Late Middle Ages through Prelude to Revolution
- 7th Grade: Age of Revolution
- 8th Grade: The Twentieth Century and the Modern Era
Geography classes (7th-8th) are focused on contemporary global points of debate. Students are asked to research competing viewpoints surrounding a particular issue, to take a side, and defend that position in a debate style format.
The goal of our Middle School curriculum is to develop well-formed citizens infused with a healthy sense of global responsibility.
At STCS, our students are students of the written and spoken word. Much attention is given to a rigorous analysis of language. Grammatical studies at STCS (1st-7th) are intense and are seen as preparatory to the Logic classes that all of our Middle School students take in sixth and seventh grade. We feel that both Grammar and Logic help develop clear thinkers. Poetry classes also nurture their burgeoning analytics skills as students are asked to master the art of scansion.
In addition to analysis, we are also especially intent on helping our students learn how to express themselves elegantly and persuasively. Classes in rhetoric, both written and oral rhetoric, help students find their own forms self-expression appropriate to their own intentions and the audience they find themselves addressing.
At STCS we tend to avoid a “report” oriented language arts curriculum (something that pervasive in American education) that asks students to “cut and paste” from informational texts. We offer to our younger scholars, instead, the blank page and the unoccupied podium, and we ask them to produce something original. We ask our Middle School students to write, to speak, and to defend themselves within the community of intellectuals that is our student body.
The study of Latin is a time honored tradition with a long track record of success. At STCS, in 2nd through 8th grade, Latin is taught as a living language. We want our students to feel comfortable with Latin, believing that the best way to develop Latin readers is to develop their conversational skills. Our focus in studying Latin is primarily cultural. Through years of consistent Latin training, our children are being oriented in a powerful way to the classics of Western Literature.
At STCS students read the great books of western civilization. These great books are discussed in Socratic seminars where students collaboratively engage texts under the gentle guidance of an instructor. We want students to acquire a love affair with books and we think that Socratic seminars are essential to connecting young learners to that great conversation that has engaged educated people for centuries.
In addition to round table seminar discussions, students are asked to write many literature-based papers. Most of their Middle School writing, in fact, emerges from the great books our students read as part of the curriculum. At the end of every writing exercise, students are asked to present and defend their papers to their peers in a symposium format.
In short, we think that the best way to develop one’s best thinking is to only read the best.
I am a man of simple tastes easily satisfied with the best. -Winston Churchill
Math is a subject that is highly prized at STCS. Our students typically average within the top 15% of the country in their math scores.
We use the Singapore Math Series (Pre-K-7th) because we believe the program fosters real mathematical thinking. Every student finishes at least Algebra I by 8th grade with accelerated students finishing both Algebra I and Geometry.
Our music program primarily consists of vocal instruction through the Ward Method. The Ward Method was developed to teach American Catholic school children the fundamentals of music so that they would be able to sing the vast repertoire of sacred music that is a part of the Roman Catholic Church’s tradition. The Ward Method is unique in that it has a basis in Gregorian chant. The Ward Method also teaches modern musical notation and song. We have multiple after school choirs that enable students to build on the vocal instruction they receive during the school day.
We also offer instrumental lessons to our student body after school that include piano, violin, cello, flute, and organ, as well as many public performance opportunities. In short we want to develop a culture of music at STCS and we fully believe that music, like math and science, should be a part of the lives of all our students.
At STCS, Physical Education is an essential part of our mission to educate the whole child. It is important in the younger years to develop healthy habits of an active life which will enrich their lives for years to come. Our motto is mens sana in corpore sano for we believe that an active physical life aids a healthy mind.
Physical Education is also intended to introduce our students to the value of sports. Sports, if engaged in the right way, is a wonderful venue for character formation. Through sports we learn endurance, patience, sacrifice, and teamwork.
We take our religious mission seriously. We feel that it is imperative that students understand the Catholic Faith and how that Faith relates to the various alternate viewpoints that students will encounter in today’s pluralistic, multicultural society.
Religious education at STCS, therefore, is a sustained engagement in Scripture, Apologetics, Church History and the Catechism of the Catholic Faith. But as true faith involves not only the head, but the heart and hands as well, retreats and projects that develop a sense of social responsibility are essential to our sense of religious formation.
The Middle School Science curriculum offers a graduated and systematic exposure to many scientific disciplines (e.g., earth, biological and physical sciences) but the curriculum is unified in a number of ways. First and foremost, we are concerned to help our students think scientifically. This of course involves weekly science labs that develop the skill of scientific discovery and verification. Second, mathematics factors heavily in the classroom as students not only use the equations of the scientific laws they are learning but are also inducted into the actual process of formulating observable phenomena into mathematical equations. Finally, as the history of science is one of advancement through the mutual exchange of theory and technology, our science curriculum is a unique blend of STEM and what in earlier generations was called “natural philosophy.”