Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Thanks to a dynamic faculty and a caring culture, students in our Middle School take on adolescence in a stimulating and supportive environment. At these ages, students perform best when they’re given the opportunity to be curious and expressive, and our Middle School helps them develop these critical competencies as they further their academic excellence. During these crucial years, we challenge them to take big risks, interpret and reflect on the world around them, explore their untapped potential, and solidify their core values for life.
Early adolescents perform best when given the opportunity to engage, interpret, question and reflect upon their world. Each of our courses provides students with the chance to develop these critical competencies in collaborative and creative ways. Students have an active and primary role in their own education, and our faculty strives to develop and align appropriately challenging curricula. There are numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary projects and approaches, as students explore their newly discovered potential.

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  • Overview & Philosophy

    Middle School students experience their transitional adolescent years in an intellectually stimulating and supportive environment. Our Middle School program acknowledges that learning comes best when students own it; we accept our primary charge of gently but surely transitioning that ownership to your child’s shoulders.
    Early adolescents perform best when given the opportunity to engage, interpret, question and reflect upon their world. Each of our courses provides students with the chance to develop these critical competencies in collaborative and creative ways. Students have an active and primary role in their own education, and our faculty strives to develop and align appropriately challenging curricula. There are numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary projects and approaches, as students explore their newly discovered potential.
    Our Middle School curriculum also manages to move beyond the typical core toward other opportunities that ignite passions and enrich learning. Students can enroll in two different electives at any one time and have numerous leadership opportunities including managing service learning projects, participating in clubs, or serving as class officers. Our on-campus farm and Cuyahoga Valley National Park serve as blank slates, where students and teachers can imagine projects large and small.
    Finally, each grade level enjoys an annual, week-long excursion to Chicago, The Great Smokey Mountains Institute at Tremont, and Washington D.C. With so many different opportunities, Middle School students can begin to consider their individual educational goals in unique and stimulating ways.
  • Schedule

    Old Trail’s innovative, research-backed schedule incorporates our progressive curriculum, opportunities for individualization and 21st century models of using time effectively. Centered around our hour-long class periods and six-day cycle, the day is well-paced and balanced,  allowing students ample opportunities to take intellectual risks and dive deeply into each subject. Although not a traditional block-schedule, the reduction of daily classes in our program gives faculty the chance to offer several types of creative pedagogical instruction per class period, ensuring all of our learners can connect with the material. With long blocks of time reserved for visual arts, athletics and advisory, the middle school schedule balances all of the needs of growing adolescents.

    One of the most unique features of our schedule is that students can adapt their schedules to meet their individual interests and learning profiles. Each day includes a flexible study hall block that can be used for music performance classes, quiet study, advisor meetings, collaborative work, or enrichment time with a specific teacher. Once a cycle, students in Grades 7 and 8 can also choose an elective - specialized courses that ignite passions and explore new interests.
    Finally, we offer a daily 25-minute unstructured period immediately after lunch. Though some students use this for outdoor play, the block of time also allows for students to visit with teachers, small group instrumental sessions, and student-generated clubs. In combination, these flexible and fluid periods allow students and teachers the space to construct schedules that support exploration, enrichment and extension.
  • Advisory

    The advisory structure in Old Trail’s middle school seeks to give students the comfort of having a specified teacher, working on his/her behalf.  The advisor attempts to galvanize trust and cooperation with each advisee, cultivating student advocacy at school.
    Just as parents sit down and talk to their children about hopes and short-term academic goals, advisors will mirror that activity in advisory sessions.  The advisor and the student will take time away from their own family-sized group (a 1:8 advisor to student ratio) to explore short and long-term goals, manage and learn from challenges, and celebrate successes.
    Though advisors remain in regular contact with families throughout the year, advisors hold biannual, formal conferences. Going beyond a typical meeting that includes only a teacher and parents, our conferences also include the student, to allow the child to have a voice in his/her own education. It is this shared advocacy and our sense of in loco parentis that helps students find their individualized place in our positive, supportive community, and supports parents as our partners in their child’s holistic development.
    Advisory programming focuses on the individual and his/her place in the group and other communities. It is in these cyclic meetings —within the group’s comfortable, familial community—where students can best create and practice altruism, and celebrate diversity.  Whether students are engaged with the advisor to mediate reasonable consequences for unreasonable behavior, or whether that advisory group is exploring an ethical issue that has global and per­sonal implications, parents can be assured that at the core of the program is the School’s desire to assure individual difference in an environment of thoughtfulness and understanding.
  • Spring Trips

    For many middle school students, our annual overnight trips are the most memorable experiences while at Old Trail. Developed to integrate with our academic and social curricula, the trips offer students a unique and intensive experiential education. Students travel with a host of faculty chaperones, while they explore sites and attractions both well-known and obscure. Each successive trip program increases expectations of responsibility and maturity, ensuring that students enjoy a developmentally-appropriate trip throughout their time in the middle school.

    Our sixth graders venture to Chicago as part of a 4-day/3-night excursion. Intended to be a “first urban experience,” the trip makes good use of the city’s remarkable collection of museums. Students carry journals throughout the entire trips, filled with short and interactive assignments that connect the on-site learning back to the classroom.

    Seventh grade students travel due south to the famed Tremont Institute in the Great Smoky Mountains. Over the course of their five days at the rustic site, students discover the natural beauty of the landscape, take a daylong hike, learn how to square dance, and enjoy camaraderie of communal living.

    Eighth graders take their famed, capstone trip to Washington, D.C. As part of our unique trip design, students and advisors tour in small groups. This allows students to create an itinerary that suits their own academic interests. Additionally, this method of school group touring allows our students to enjoy attractions and restaurants that aren’t capable of catering to huge school groups.
  • Technology

    Middle School classrooms are equipped with projectors and document cameras. Each student has a Lenovo touchscreen laptop as part of our One-to-One (1:1) program. iPads are also available to students for specific projects. Their computers make the integration of educational technologies possible. These technologies enhance, enrich, and facilitate the learning process.

    Through our Digital Citizenship Curriculum, student learn how to be responsible and respectful digital citizens. Students have access to the Makerspace with 3D printers, 3D design software, LEGO sets, and robots that support their learning. 

List of 3 items.

  • Explore Grade 6 - Highlights and Curriculum

    • Experience art, history and culture during a week-long class trip to Chicago.
    • Collaborate, design and present during a week-long, on-site and interdisciplinary unit exploring Perspectives: Life at Stan Hywet.
    • Increase exposure and understanding of World Languages with the choice of either Latin or Spanish.
    • Improve critical thinking and creative problem-solving strategies in a math sequence customized to student abilities.
    • Develop advanced skills as musicians by participating in band, string orchestra or chorus.
    • Pursue enhanced learning opportunities in visual arts, technology, music, library and media, service learning, physical education and swim.  
    • Explore history, science, and world cultures through hands-on edible education cooking lessons.  Students learn about early agriculture and the history of bread, the importance of biodiversity, and the contributions of Spanish and Roman cultures.
    Students learn, develop and apply key skills in writing and composition, vocabulary, grammar, speaking and listening. Through challenging coursework, students are prepared to become efficient readers and effective communicators. Students use context clues and root words to discern meaning of complex, unfamiliar vocabulary. Students write research reports and other expository forms, personal narratives, creative prose and poetry, all while focusing on content, structure, examples and evidence, style and tone. They apply lessons in grammar, proofreading, revision and editing to correct and enhance their work. With numerous individual presentations and class discussions, students become confident speakers and respectful listeners. Students read a variety of novels, short stories and poems including classics, historical fiction and selections that highlight the middle school experience. These books, as well and corresponding exercises in comprehension, analysis and evaluation, encourage students to become skilled and informed readers.

    Students are introduced to Latin through listening to and reading the target language. At this first stage of language acquisition, students learn what it means to have effective interpersonal communication skills by practicing close listening to the language and being an attentive, engaged member of the classroom. As students grow in confidence, they are able to begin speaking and writing in Latin. Regular topics of discussion and writing include the calendar and the weather, describing people or characters in stories, discussing things the students enjoy, and simple, creative stories. Students are also introduced to various cultural topics, such as mythology, the foundation of Rome, ancient Roman housing, and Roman daily life - all through listening to and reading the target language. In the second half the year, students also begin regularly reading Latin novellas to improve their literacy.

    In middle school, the Old Trail course sequence allows students to be appropriately challenged with curriculum and concepts that coincide with their abilities. After an Algebra test, review of prior testing and teacher assessment, students are placed in either Math 6 or Math 6A. In both courses, students learn new skills essential to the successful completion of Algebra and/or Geometry. Students study proportional relationships, operations with integers and rational numbers, expressions and linear equations, geometric constructions, ratios, percent, proportions, probability and statistics. Both courses prepare students for one of three Algebra courses offered in Grade 7 and for long-term success in math. Students also participate in Edible Education, preparing food and calculating proportions of ingredients.

    Students participate in either band, strings or choir. In these groups, students study basic technique of their instruments or voices, rhythm and note reading and learn to perform basic music vocabulary. The band, orchestra and choir demonstrate their range of musical learning with two evening performances throughout the year, as well as special venues like Tuesday Community Assemblies or Rubber Ducks baseball games. 
    Physical Education
    Students learn about personal health and wellness, nutrition, weight management, fitness and exercise. They learn about the impact healthy eating choices can make on their overall health and performance. In regards to fitness, students learn about maximizing heart rate, stamina, muscular endurance, and muscular strength. In the swim component of our course, students improve strokes, turns and dive techniques and stamina. They utilize these skills by participating in interscholastic meets. In the gym, students acquire and improve individual skills and techniques, and learn the rules and strategy behind various team sports including: soccer, field hockey, flag football, volleyball, basketball, cross country, track and field, lacrosse and tennis.
    Through many interesting hands-on experiments, from testing skull identities to analyzing force using marshmallows and balloons, students use the scientific method to obtain accurate results.  Students study geology, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanos, mineral and geological formations. They learn about motion, force, types of energy and machines. In their study of plants and ecology, students are introduced to the concept of biodiversity and the importance of wetland environments to plants, animals and humans. Through research, field work, experiments, drawings, discussions, debates, and project work, students are able to better understand and appreciate science as it relates to their everyday lives.
    Social Studies
    Students begin their study of ancient history by examining geographic concepts and learning how geography impacts where civilizations begin and flourish. They analyze research, artifacts, and the impact of various theories and interpretation on historical information. They use many different tools, including primary and secondary sources to help them connect to the information. Students study indigenous peoples and their culture and how the advancement of society has adapted over time and impacted civilizations. They explore the great ancient civilizations of North America, Latin America, India, Greece, and Rome. They discuss and evaluate the many factors that contribute to the development of these countries including: geography, social interaction, religion, the economic and political environments, and the culture of each civilization. Students discuss the achievements, beliefs and influences of each of these countries on current governments, both in the U.S. and overseas. The 6th Grade also does a week-long project based learning experience with Stan Hywet to examine the impact of Stan Hywet on Akron in the past and today.
    As students progress in their study of Spanish, they are challenged to demonstrate proper pronunciation, conjugations, punctuation, sentence structure and voice inflection. They add new vocabulary related to food and everyday places. To enhance conversations skills, students role-play and create cartoons that convey various social situations. To apply their knowledge of numbers, students play cards, bingo and dice games. Students celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by preparing and presenting research on Latino countries, traditions and influential people. They learn the importance of holidays, such as The Day of the Dead, and create video presentations focused on current political or cultural events.
    Visual Arts
    Students explore a variety of media as they continue to build their skills in drawing, painting, graphics, calligraphy and sculpture. Theory is introduced to further elaborate upon ideas about color, perspective and design. Teachers discuss artists, artwork and provide technique demonstrations to develop the four strands of art education: art appreciation, art history, art production and art criticism, as well as problem-solving and critical thinking.
  • Explore Grade 7 - Highlights and Curriculum

    • Experience outdoor and environmental learning during a week-long class trip to The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.
    • Compute, solve and interpret challenging math equations by completing one of three ability-based preparatory Algebra courses.
    • Lead discussions and enhance speaking and listening skills through participation in class presentations as well as student-generated groups and leadership councils.
    • Compete as a team member in a variety of interscholastic team sports.
    • Identify, study and analyze the similarities and differences of world religions and cultures.
    • Pursue enhanced learning opportunities in Spanish, Latin, visual arts, technology, music, library and media, service learning, physical education and swim.    
    • Engage in edible education cooking lessons to personalize poems, witness chemistry in action while fermenting vegetables, enjoy classic Spanish and Roman foods, and understand the blending of cultures along the ancient Silk Road.
    Students read fiction, a memoir, coming of age and fantasy novels, as well as poems, plays and pleasure reading selections of their choice. They lead discussions in literature circles and act out sections of stories as participants in Reader’s Theater. Students learn proper speaking and presentation techniques, incorporating form, content, voice and body language. They also practice becoming effective listeners, from taking useful notes to evaluating key messages. Students continue to develop their writing skills by reinforcing grammar, learning to work within the proper formats, and proofreading and editing their own work and the work of other students. Students continue to improve their communication skills through individual presentations, class discussions and writing assignments.
    Latin students continue their practices of listening, reading, speaking, and writing in the target language. Early on in the year, students are introduced to the idea of “cognitive academic language proficiency”, or acquiring vocabulary and knowledge about more specific cultural topics. Some of these topics include mythology, ancient Roman architecture and city planning, food and meals, entertainment, and the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by the great eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Students are also introduced to the grammatical structure of Latin in the 7th grade year.
    Students will be placed in one of three ability-based Algebra courses, Algebra A1, Algebra A, or Algebra. Algebra A and A1 are both beginning Algebra courses and Algebra is a high school level Algebra course.  In all three courses, students will estimate, compute, solve and interpret challenging problems using paper and pencil, calculator and mental methods. In Algebra A and A1, students reinforce their skills with rational numbers, ratios, proportions and percent. Utilizing applications in Geometry, students use formulas to find perimeter, area, surface area and volume of two- and three-dimensional objects. In Algebra, students will expand their knowledge and proficiency in solving problems involving real numbers, scientific notation, square roots and exponents. They study linear and quadratic equations in graphic, symbolic and tabular formats, then graph, model and solve problems. Students also study some applications of geometry, probability, and statistics. As with all Middle School Math courses, emphasis is placed on complete understanding of each mathematical concept. With various course options, students can work at an appropriate pace as they become well-prepared, confident learners. 
    Performing Arts
    Students continue their performing arts education by electing chorus, orchestra, band, handchimes, world drumming, or stage acting. Each allows students to advance their understanding of artistic concepts, improve their talents, and gain an appreciation for various composers and musical styles.  Student skills are assessed with written, and playing or vocal tests throughout the course. All students are challenged with learning and playing unique pieces across many genres. Students work individually and in groups to develop their performance techniques.  Students in all three music courses prepare for concert performances once per semester. They are also given the option to participate in the Ohio Music Educators’ Association solo and ensemble adjudicated event.
    Physical Education
    Regardless of skill or prior experience, students have many opportunities to participate in team sports, interscholastic competition. During all seasons, students practice during class time, with matches or games taking place after school.  Team sports for both boys and girls include tennis, cross country, lacrosse competitive swim, basketball, and track and field. Girls can also play field hockey and boys can play soccer. Students also have the option to participate in instructional activities including: fencing, table tennis, yoga, outdoor games, and guard start which is a course that includes water safety and an introduction to life-guarding. Whichever sports or activities they choose, students will learn skills and strategies of the games as well as respect and good sportsmanship both on and off the field.
    Students continue to apply the scientific method as they conduct observational studies and evaluate validity of scientific articles. With a focus on water quality, students collect, test, analyze and report on findings in an off-campus pond study. They also evaluate environmental problems and solutions, with lessons on biodiversity, sustainability and conservation. Students investigate cells, cell process, characteristics of organisms and the roles and characteristics of bacteria and viruses. Students also complete units on body systems and heredity and genetics. Students also have the opportunity to research and debate a genetic topic such as GMOs or cloning. Through engaging, hands-on coursework, students strengthen their ability to think critically from a scientific perspective.
    Social Studies
    Students explore the themes of Geography and analyze the interactions between people and their environments. They study, evaluate and reflect on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the Early Byzantine Empire, the Legacy of Rome, The Golden Age in the East and West, West African Empires, the Middle Ages in Europe, and the European Renaissance. Students also learn about, then compare and contrast the belief systems of world religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Students evaluate the life and teaching of leaders, analyze cycles in an empire, and identify conflict.  They also study the influences and accomplishments of various cultures in art, philosophy, language, architecture, engineering, law and government on later societies, including their world today.
    Students connect with the Hispanic World through everyday conversation. Their abilities are assessed with written and cumulative listening tests. Throughout the year, students practice translating spoken word into correct written sentences. Students discuss greetings and fairwells and daily and weekly schedules. They learn expressions and vocabulary of objects common to the classroom and their health. From life in the city to family dynamics, students explore Mexico City, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. They learn expressions related to transportation, sightseeing, dining, attractions and free time activities. To help students associate with Spanish culture throughout the world, students discuss and present information regarding current events in both Spanish-speaking countries as well as those affecting the Latino population in the United States.
    Visual Arts
    Students focus on further development of art skills, skillful use of materials, art vocabulary, creativity and concepts of design. Two-dimensional lessons may include: painting, collage, drawing, digital art and printmaking. Three-dimensional projects may include: ceramic experiences, abstract sculptures, bookmaking and geometric forms constructions. Art history, art appreciation and art criticism are integrated into the lessons as a framework of the curriculum.

  • Explore Grade 8 - Highlights and Curriculum

    • Experience and explore U.S. History during a week-long class trip to Washington, D.C.
    • Gain leadership skills as an officer in student council, Admission Office Student Ambassador, participant in Trail to Service, and as a returning member in a variety of interscholastic team sports.
    • Observe, investigate, collaborate, analyze and discuss challenging scientific concepts through extensive hands-on lab experimentation.
    • Cultivate interests through participation in a wide range of elective courses including: robotics, acting improvisation, world drumming, creative writing, farmhands, pottery on the wheel.
    • Progress as a written and oral communicator with the many opportunities to research, evaluate write and present on various topics throughout all coursework.
    • Pursue enhanced learning opportunities in Spanish, Latin, visual arts, technology, music, library and media, service learning, physical education and swim.    
    • Collaborate in edible education cooking lessons to develop kitchen skills while applying science concepts and learning about Spanish and Roman cultures.
    Students gain confidence as communicators.  They continue to expand their vocabulary with new words that help them relate to characters, assess qualities and clearly express ideas and beliefs. Students complete a poetry anthology, reflect on their choices, and learn to thoughtfully evaluate the work of their peers. With class reading assignments, students explore many topics, from heroes and heroines to human nature and society. Students explore classical tragedy with the works of Shakespeare. They also read a variety of short stories including mystery, horror, adventure and fantasy.  Students then complete and present projects that deepen their understanding of these diverse topics. Students continue perfecting their writing, speaking and listening skills and gain the ability to meaningfully discuss and evaluate characters and themes.
    Latin students engage in a more rigorous study of Latin through acquiring more academic language, while continuing to engage in conversations and readings that are student driven. Some cultural topics covered in the 8th grade year include the ancient Roman military and warfare, literature, religious practices, and important events of the Republic and the Empire. Students also continue their grammatical studies in the 8th grade year. The year is culminated in two projects: the writing of a Latin children’s book and a research project on a topic of the student’s choice.
    Students continue their studies in one of three courses, determined by pre-requisite completion and competency.  Algebra B1 is a continuation of Algebra A1 and establishes a solid foundation on which students can begin Algebra 1 in high school. Algebra B and Geometry are equivalent to high school level Algebra 1 and Geometry courses, respectively. In Algebra B and B1, students will use written and mental methods and calculators to estimate, compute and solve equations involving real numbers, scientific notation, square roots and exponents. They study linear equations in graphic, symbolic and tabular formats, then graph, model and solve problems. Students also study some applications of geometry, probability and statistics. In Algebra B, students extensively study quadratic equations, including application to real life situations. In the Geometry course, students explore and experiment with geometric concepts through a variety of activities and real-world applications, including formal geometric proof. Students utilize a compass, ruler, and computer technology to aid them in communicating and understanding advanced mathematical concepts.

    Performing Arts
    In chorus, orchestra, band, world drumming, handchimes and stage acting, students advance their understanding of performance concepts, improve their talents, and gain an appreciation for various composers and genres . Their skills are assessed with written, and playing or vocal tests throughout the course. All students are challenged with learning and playing unique pieces across many genres. Students work individually and in groups to develop their performance techniques.  Students in all four Performing Arts courses prepare for performances once per semester. They are also given the option to participate in the Ohio Music Educators’ Association Solo and Ensemble Adjudicated Event as soloists and/or as part of an ensemble. Additionally, select band and chorus students have the opportunity to participate in an additional Honors Band and Choir event at The College of Wooster.
    Physical Education
    Students in Grade 8 return as experienced athletes and team leaders. They participate in an advanced level of interscholastic competition or choose to participate in elective instruction activities or sports. Students practice during class time, with matches or games taking place after school.  Team sports for both boys and girls include tennis, lacrosse, cross country, swim team, basketball, and track and field. Girls can also play field hockey and boys can play soccer. Instructional activities include: international games, volleyball, fencing, table tennis, yoga, outdoor and water initiatives, biking and instructional basketball.  All students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary in an emergency situation. They become certified in CPR and also demonstrate the use of early defibrillation equipment.
    Through a substantial number of hands-on lab experiments and activities, students interact with and gain a deeper understanding of a wide range of challenging topics. In Grade 8, students work individually and collaboratively to study a range of topics including: matter and the structure of matter; atomic theory; interpretation and use of the Periodic Table; chemical reactions; the history of evolution and natural selection; engineering and design theory. Throughout the course, students complete a variety of interactive studies. They design their own investigation, by organizing, creating, performing and evaluating an experiment from start to finish. They study famous scientists and their discoveries, and construct and exhibit a unique art project that requires students to develop their own unique creature that will thrive in a set environment.  Students conduct labs (using high grade equipment) to study chemicals and their interactions.
    Social Studies
    Students learn the intricacies of U.S. History beginning with the founding of Jamestown.  They study life the English Colonies including the effects of religion, leadership and government, slavery, Native Americans, trade and economy. They explore the concepts of independence, liberty and freedom as they cover the American Revolution, the launching of a new government, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, The Civil War and Reconstruction. Students complete numerous projects that allow them to reflect on the subject matter. Students discuss what it means to be an American as well as a citizen in their school community. They apply their knowledge of political concepts by comparing and contrasting the leadership styles of early and modern day American leaders. Students also complete special coursework in preparation for their class trip to Washington, D.C. 
    Students fine-tune their speaking and listening skills through everyday conversation. They practice various greetings and discuss classroom activities, family members, daily activities and modes of transportation. They work on politely expressing wishes and preferences. They learn to recognize numbers from one to one million and discuss exchange rates. Students explore the culture of Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina and Chile focusing on vocabulary related to family life, household chores, sports and weather. To gain a better understanding of the role of Spanish speaking countries and Latinos in the global community, students listed to and read current news stories.
    Visual Arts
    Benchmarks include:
    Art Making - Through close observation and sustained investigation, students develop individual and global perspectives on art; utilize the principles of art; solve design problems; and explore perspective, scale and point of view.
    Developing Art Literacy - Students hone observation skills and discuss works of art; develop visual arts vocabulary to describe art making, the tools and techniques used to produce art, and the elements and principles of design; read and write about art to reinforce literacy skills; interpret artwork by providing evidence to support assertions; and reflect on the process of making art.
    Making Connections Through Visual Arts - Students recognize the societal, cultural and historical significance of art; connect the visual arts to other disciplines; and apply the skills and knowledge learned in visual arts to interpreting the world.

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Old Trail School is an independent day school (toddler through grade eight) located in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.