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Middle School

In Middle School, our first priority is to support our students on their journey from childhood to young adulthood, with all the joys, frustrations, complexities and accomplishments that come with it. In this close-knit community, each girl is encouraged to develop a sense of her unique strengths as she masters complex new intellectual, emotional, social and physical skills.

We believe that Middle School should be a time of spontaneity and exuberance, encountering adversity and exploring avenues to overcome it. We see this period as an essential moment for guidance from cherished adults, forging lifelong connections with new and old friends, and instilling a deep and unquenchable love of learning. 

Our Middle School program embraces a student’s freedom to ask questions and not always have the answer, to experience the delight of discovery through process and to challenge her own thinking and that of her peers. As our students grow, so do their responsibilities and independence, all in preparation for the challenges and demands of the Upper School.

Our program embraces a student's freedom to ask questions and not always have the answer."
Tim Brownell
Tim BrownellHead of Middle School Student Life

An Education for the Future, Grounded in Tradition

During Middle School, students transition from the playfulness of preadolescence to a more purposeful and scholarly life—all in a nurturing and supportive environment. Grounded firmly in the liberal arts, the curriculum is rigorous yet accessible. English classes tackle universal themes in classics like The Odyssey and Great Expectations, while developing skills in a modern language of their choice before bolstering it with Latin. Technology is also an integral part of Middle School, with computational thinking classes, including robotics or coding, required most years.

Speaking Your Mind; Finding Your Voice

Middle School is a time for students to find inner confidence, develop their own point of view and learn to express themselves in a thoughtful and respectful manner. From weekly community meetings where students present to their peers, to moments of expression through music, art and drama, to public speaking courses for all of Class VII and VIII, Middle Schoolers begin to unlock the power of their voices while learning to listen intently and purposefully to others.

Unplugging to Connect

In Middle School we choose to use technology deliberately, maximizing its benefits while minimizing the opportunities for its distractions. Students are taught how to be good digital citizens while navigating the pitfalls and promises of social media, and they are provided multiple opportunities to take a break from technology during the school day and even at home. In our widely popular Digital Fresh Start program, students pledge to put down their phones and limit their exposure to social media. Parents are given tools to support their daughters when they choose to do a digital detox, as part of a division-wide initiative on improving mental health.

A Community Where Everyone Belongs

Middle School is a time at Brearley when students begin to develop a greater sense of their own identity while learning to value each other. They are taught to affirm and uplift each other, to listen intently and deeply, and to have respectful conversations across differences. From our numerous affinity groups and clubs, to health and wellness classes and peer-led groups, Middle School students are given abundant opportunities to grow socially and emotionally, ultimately preparing them to be part of a community of mutual concern and support.

Class V Curriculum

English

Composition, creative writing, grammar and spelling; The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Prairie Lotus, Hurricane Dancers; short stories and poetry in connection with work in United States history.

History

The early history of the United States through 1790; related work in English; introduction to global geography. 

Modern Languages

Students begin their exploration of either French or Spanish language and culture or continue with their study of Mandarin.

Modern Language Choices

Drama

Exploration of the craft of acting through the rehearsal and performance of an adapted play by Shakespeare at an assembly in the spring. 

Art

Students engage in large group observational drawing sessions and, in small groups, rotate through three courses, each of which takes place over ten weeks.

Class V Art Mini-Courses

Technology

In small groups, students rotate through three courses using the Snap programming language, each of which takes place over ten weeks.

Technology Mini-Courses

Health

Lessons on nutrition, human sexuality, substance abuse prevention, safety and peer pressure are integrated into the Middle School advisory program. School counselors teach a stand-alone series of classes that follow age-appropriate national standards for health education. In addition, students have sessions with the organization Freedom from Chemical Dependency and take self-defense classes from Krav Maga trainers.

Mathematics

Continued development of number sense; computation with positive whole and rational numbers in both fraction and decimal forms using both mental math strategies and traditional algorithms; percentage; probability; geometry, including area, perimeter and volume; data analysis and graphs, applications and problem-solving. 

Science

Exploration of electricity; wiring a household circuit; properties of matter; physical and chemical changes; chemical reactions; investigating gears and simple machines.

Reading and Writing Practicum

The first year of a two-year sequence for students who benefit from practice in expository writing; close reading of a variety of genres and texts; reinforcement of study skills such as outlining and note taking. 

Music

Singing, solfège, theory fundamentals and group instrumental instruction. All students in Classes V–VIII have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular choral, jazz and orchestral ensembles, handbells and a recorder concert. Girls who study privately may perform in school-sponsored recitals. 

Library

Development of personal reading taste through stories read aloud; pleasure reading; research skills in connection with student projects. 

Physical Education

Transition from learning motor skills and movement concepts to learning sport-specific skills in increasingly complex game play and performance situations; continued focus on social-emotional learning as students are exposed to the demands of competition and higher expectations for decision making, collaboration and sportsmanship; fitness, dance—salsa, swing and jazz; monthly Red/White competitions.

Class VI Curriculum

English

Trickster: Native American Tales; folktales from around the world; selections from Monkey King and The Arabian Nights; The Odyssey; analytical and creative writing; a class play. 

History

Complex ancient societies: Egypt; the development of Judaism from Moses through Solomon; the rise and fall of the Persian Empire; Greek history through Alexander the Great; Indian history through the Mauryan Dynasty; Roman history through Augustus; Chinese history through the Han Dynasty. 

Modern Languages

A continuation from Class V in the study of language and culture.

Modern Language Choices

Drama

A collaboration with each English section to present a play dramatizing stories related to the VI English curriculum. 

Studio Art

Continued work on the basic skills of visual expression through projects relating to the mythology of the ancient and non-Western world. 

Language

Studies in grammar and composition; public speaking; nature of language; introduction to philology through etymology and the relationship of English to other Indo-European languages. 

Physical Education

Transition from learning motor skills and movement concepts to learning sport-specific skills in increasingly complex game play and performance situations; continued focus on social-emotional learning as students are exposed to the demands of competition and higher expectations for decision making, collaboration and sportsmanship; fitness, dance—salsa, swing and jazz; monthly Red/White competitions.

Mathematics

Review of fundamental operations with whole numbers, fractions and decimals; order of operations; negative numbers; ratios, rates and proportions; percentage, with practical applications; area and perimeter, volume and surface area; introduction to algebraic expressions and equations. 

Science

Study of the structure, function and interdependence of the human body’s physiological systems; human health. 

Reading and Writing Practicum

Second part of a two-year sequence (see Class V); further practice in writing paragraphs, essays and creative pieces; researching and delivering an oral report; analyzing and reading complex texts. 

Music

Singing, solfège, theory fundamentals and group instrumental instruction. All students in Classes V–VIII have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular choral, jazz and orchestral ensembles, handbells and a recorder concert. Girls who study privately may perform in school-sponsored recitals. 

Library

Genre study including biographies, poetry and nonfiction; research skills integrated with history classes; instruction on and practice of media literacy skills through picture books. 

Technology

Mastery of Snap programming language through modeling exploration, trial-and-error problem-solving, generative and pixel art; design projects utilizing Glowforge laser cutters. 

Health

Lessons on nutrition, human sexuality, substance abuse prevention, safety and peer pressure are integrated into the Middle School advisory program. School counselors teach a stand-alone series of classes that follow age-appropriate national standards for health education. In addition, students have sessions with the organization Freedom from Chemical Dependency and take self-defense classes from Krav Maga trainers.

Class VII Curriculum

English

Poetry, including by William Blake, Li-Young Lee, Quandra  Prettyman and Elizabeth Bishop; grammar; Great Expectations; A Raisin in the Sun;  formal introduction to poetic terms; analytical and creative writing.

History

World history from 200 through 1500 C.E., including the origins of  Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire; the Byzantine Empire; the rise  and spread of Islam in Asia to India and to sub-Saharan Africa on the Swahili  Coast and in the Mali Empire; Hinduism and the spread of Buddhism to China;  the Chinese Empire from Han to early Ming; China’s impact on Japan; the  impacts of the Mongol conquests on Eurasia; the emergence of Europe from  feudalism through the Renaissance.

Modern Languages

Students continue with their modern language study. Class VII students who are new to the school or were in Language Practicum can start French.

Modern Language Choices

Latin

Introduction to the language and culture through reading about daily life in a first-century Roman family combined with practice in declensions, conjugations and elementary grammar using the Suburani Latin program. 

Studio Art

Exploration of the elements of design through printmaking,  focusing on complex pattern development inspired by diverse historical examples. Beginning this year and continuing through all subsequent studio art classes,  students complete a self-guided museum assignment as part of the course’s  requirements. 

Physical Education

Transition from learning motor skills and movement concepts to learning sport-specific skills in increasingly complex game play and performance situations; continued focus on social-emotional learning as students are exposed to the demands of competition and higher expectations for decision making, collaboration and sportsmanship; fitness, dance—salsa, swing and jazz; monthly Red/White competitions.

Mathematics

As part of the School’s program to provide each student with appropriate  individual support, from Class VI onward students are grouped into sections  designed to support their learning. Students who benefit from direct guidance by  the teacher to build skills and understanding are best served in a section called  Principles, which provides more extensive scaffolding and greater opportunity for practice. Those whose skills are solid and who understand and apply new  concepts readily are best served in a section called VII Extended, which explores  the same mathematical content as the VII Principles class, but with increased  abstraction and more complexity. Students in both sections have the opportunity  to take calculus in Class XII. 

Class VII Math Section Descriptions

Science

Investigation of the nature of weather, climate change, forces, potential and kinetic energy, and Newton’s laws of motion, in the context of the laws of conservation of matter and energy. Specific topics in meteorology include heat energy, humidity, precipitation, air pressure, wind, air masses and fronts, and seasons. The course concludes with an exploration of motion and writing  programs in the p5.js programming language to model the effect of multiple  variables on the bounce of a ball.

Writing Workshop

For students who do not study a modern language and who benefit from further practice in the analysis of fiction and nonfiction texts, expository writing, and the research process. This is the first year of a two-year sequence. 

Music and Drama

Music and Drama collaborate to produce an original work of  musical theater in the spring term; the class also attends a dress rehearsal at the  Metropolitan Opera. The study of music continues as it began in Class V, with  the addition of percussion to the offerings in instrumental music.

Public Speaking

Lessons on practical application of public speaking skills,  including storytelling without filler language and presenting with confidence. 

Health

Lessons on nutrition, human sexuality, substance abuse prevention, safety and peer pressure are integrated into the Middle School advisory program. School counselors teach a stand-alone series of classes that follow age-appropriate national standards for health education. In addition, students have sessions with the organization Freedom from Chemical Dependency and take self-defense classes from Krav Maga trainers.

Class VIII Curriculum

English

Short stories by authors including Julia Alvarez, Toni Cade Bambara, James Baldwin, James Joyce and Edgar Allan Poe; grammar; Maud Martha; poetry; Twelfth Night; formal introduction to narrative structure; analytical and creative writing. 

History

Global history from 1500 to the late 19th century. Topics focus on the emergence of globalization including the European conquest of the Americas; the Ottoman and Mughal Empires; Ming and Qing China; Tokugawa Japan; the American, French, Haitian and Latin American revolutions; the Industrial Revolution; 19th-century European imperialism; and the Meiji Restoration in Japan. 

Modern Languages

A continuation from Class VII in the study of language and culture.

Modern Language Choices

Latin

Continued study of vocabulary and syntax—with attention to uses of the  participle, indirect statement and subjunctive in subordinate clauses—using the Suburani Latin series. 

Studio Art

Drawing and work in color based on direct observation of the  natural world. Techniques include drawing, collage and mixed media. One  museum study assignment is required.

Physical Education

Transition from learning motor skills and movement concepts to learning sport-specific skills in increasingly complex game play and performance situations; continued focus on social-emotional learning as students are exposed to the demands of competition and higher expectations for decision making, collaboration and sportsmanship; fitness, dance—salsa, swing and jazz; monthly Red/White competitions. Class VIII also has one trimester of West African dance and spring electives designed by the students. 

Mathematics

As part of the School’s program to provide each student with appropriate individual support, students are grouped into sections designed to support their learning. Students who benefit from direct guidance by the teacher to build skills and understanding are best served in a section called Principles, which provides more extensive scaffolding and greater opportunity for practice. Those whose skills are solid and who understand and apply new concepts readily are best served in a section called VIII Extended, which explores the same mathematical content as the VIII Principles class, but with increased abstraction and more complexity. Students in both sections have the opportunity to take Calculus in Class XII. 

Class VIII Math Descriptions

Science

Second year of a two-year physical science program on matter, energy and the earth. Topics include an introduction to concepts of chemistry and geology and study of the conservation and sustainable use of the Earth’s resources. 

Writing Workshop

The second part of the sequence begun in Class VII;  further practice in the analysis of texts, expository writing and the principles of  effective research. 

Music

Singing, solfège, theory fundamentals and group instrumental instruction. All students in Classes V–VIII have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular choral, jazz and orchestral ensembles, handbells and a recorder concert. Girls who study privately may perform in school-sponsored recitals. 

Public Speaking

Introduction to formal and extemporaneous skills of  public speaking, culminating in the presentation of a two-minute speech. 

Health

Lessons on nutrition, human sexuality, substance abuse prevention, safety and peer pressure are integrated into the Middle School advisory program. School counselors teach a stand-alone series of classes that follow age-appropriate national standards for health education. In addition, students have sessions with the organization Freedom from Chemical Dependency and take self-defense classes from Krav Maga trainers.

Beyond the Classroom

Athletics

The Brearley Athletics Program offers students in Classes V–XII the opportunity to participate in a competitive athletic environment.

Learn more about athletics

Arts

The visual and performing arts play an integral role in the curriculum and life of Brearley students.

Dance
Drama
Music
Visual Arts

Clubs

Middle School students have multiple opportunities to explore their interests beyond the curriculum.

Learn more about clubs and activities

After-School Program

Brearley's after-school programs support learning for Lower and Middle School students outside the classroom.

Learn more about our after-school program