Middle School

Philosophy

Rivers challenges students to attain their highest possible level of academic achievement. The school sets high standards and expects students to participate actively in their learning. Whether in our innovative, multi-disciplinary Middle School program or the more traditional college-preparatory program of the Upper School, the faculty cultivates a rigorous and collaborative environment that encourages student performance and demonstration of logical thought, informed and articulate voice, creative vision, and character growth. We believe strongly that the role of our faculty is not merely to show students the solution, but to help them discover it for themselves. Our teachers work closely with students – in the classroom and beyond – toward the ultimate goal of both finding the answers and truly understanding them.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Rivers Middle School and to share with you some thoughts about our dynamic program.

The Rivers Middle School brings together enthusiastic, caring teachers and a dynamic and collaborative atmosphere in its goal of educating early adolescents. With generally 120 students in grades 6, 7, and 8, the Middle School offers a personal, integrated, and exciting program, creating a community of learners in which young people feel comfortable taking intellectual risks and growing both as students and individuals.

The core group of Middle School teachers and administrators has spent years working with early adolescents and perfecting a program that best suits the age group. Early adolescents are just discovering how to move from concrete to formal thinking. They begin the middle school years learning through direct contact with ideas, events, and people as they transition into being more formal and creative thinkers able to visualize, conceptualize, hypothesize, reason, and deal in the abstract. Our program is designed to consider the many needs of this age group and is structured in a way to grant students a level of freedom to explore. This type of environment provides students with more opportunities for responsibility so they can be challenged in a rigorous environment while also learning through experience.

Formal grades are purposefully not a part of our Middle School students’ evaluations in order to respond to the developmental ranges reflective of this age. While students receive scores on tests and quizzes and rubrics for projects and writing, Rivers middle schoolers make a more meaningful connection to their progress by receiving detailed teacher comments instead of traditional marking period grades. It is our goal to have students push themselves and risk their thinking without worrying about getting a lower grade or failure. We want students free to learn from their mistakes, actually the way the brain learns best, and to learn strategies and skills for the ways each individual needs to approach his/her learning.

A key to engaging middle schoolers and developing eager learners is making interdisciplinary connections and focusing on real-life applications. Thus, students studying scale in pre-algebra work in Latin class on Roman town planning and measure campus buildings to fit them into a scale map of Pompeii. From mock trials to writing poetry to building boats, this kind of learning takes on many shapes. Early adolescents love to experiment and explore with their vivid imaginations. The Middle School program taps into these key attributes to maximize each student’s growth.

Writing is one of the many skills at the core of the Rivers Middle School experience. The emphasis on writing empowers students to find their voice and to express themselves creatively, personally, and analytically across the academic disciplines. Writing instruction occurs in a workshop setting in which students receive feedback both from teachers and peers in the process of their writing.

In addition to regular nightly work, Middle School students are expected to plan and execute long-term projects, many of which culminate in special presentations. Several times a year, middle schoolers, parents, and faculty come together for special events such as Humanities Night, Sixth Grade Projects, and Science Night – where students present their work in a forum that makes them the teachers.

Students in our Middle School will find a day filled with stimulating classes, exciting labs, playful interactions, and artistic discovery. In addition to the core classes, students in grades 6, 7, and 8 take yearlong visual arts and performing arts courses. At various times during their Middle School years, students are involved in seminars and semester courses including drama, media literacy, health and wellness, human development, and leadership training. At the end of the class day, students participate in our athletic program, which provides continued development of teamwork, skill, and perseverance through a number of interscholastic and some intramural sports.

I hope you get a sense of the unique environment we have created for our students here at the Rivers Middle School and share our excitement about the breadth of experiences we offer.

Sincerely,
Susie McGee
Head of Middle School