Junior High Curriculum
The Clark Montessori Junior High Curriculum incorporates four major subjects and a pair of very exciting and unique field experiences. The four major subjects and the field experiences are all studies under eight Instructional Themes. The Instructional Themes are explained directly below, the four major subjects below that, and the field experiences to the right.
There are eight quarters in the two years of a student's Junior High career at Clark Montessori. Each quarter is taught under the one of the eight Clark JH Instructional Themes. The themes were chosen based on the academic requirements of junior high students and the developmental needs of the adolescent.
The eight junior high instructional themes are:
- Explorations & New Beginnings
- Independence & Interdependence
- Leadership through Stewarship
- Acquiring a Sense of Belonging
In addition to relating academic work to these themes, the teachers incorporate group initiatives, field study, and culminating celebrations around the chosen theme.
In Junior High, mathematics is organized in a two-year cycle. Most students use the textbook series Prentice Hall Mathematics for Junior High, which is supplemented with Connected Mathematics materials, as well as Montessori materials to cover the state's Academic Content Standards for Mathematics. We organize the curriculum into units over the span of the two year curriculum that allow us to study each topic in a logical sequence and appropriate depth.
Topics are introduced concretely by relating the mathematics to real-world situations. Then, concepts are developed to abstraction, as the use of equations, formulas and rules are developed. Students work alone, in pairs, and in groups to complete daily work, quizzes, and projects. Calculators are permitted for many assignments.
Some 8th grade students are invited to take Algebra 1. This decision is based on exhibiting exceptional math skills, good proficiency test scores and excellent work habits during 7th grade. Algebra students must be self-motivated and be excellent readers. They must want to take algebra, and be willing to work hard - in fact, they often have homework when the others do not.
Following the 2-year cycle of curricular themes, the junior high Language Arts program includes literature, English grammar/usage, full implementation of the writing process, and oratory.
Students read assigned novels each quarter, as well as books of their own choice. Students respond to these literary texts in guided response journals collected weekly, and orally in class seminar discussions. Assigned novels range from the classics to current bestsellers that appeal to student interest and connect to the cycle theme.
Students write frequently in all forms. Writing Journals are weekly collections of personal, reflective entries; projects and novel work offer opportunities for academic writing; field studies and other out-of-school projects provide a forum for potential publication.
Every cycle contains a culminating project that interweaves readings, social studies lessons and filed studies. Working alone, in pairs or in project groups, students do personal research and construct creative interpretations. In addition, weekly skill work includes Vocabulary Workshop, Sourcebook readings, grammar, and editing practice.
Clark Montessori Junior High science is organized as a two-year curriculum. Science at the 7th and 8th grade level is largely in-class work. Teachers introduce topics, then students work in groups to complete laboratory experiments, projects, and science content reading assignments. They work independently, too, on up-to-date readings and questions that are designed to spark their thinking.
Explorations and New Beginnings
During this cycle, students learn many of the skills that scientists use to conduct investigations. Our scientific investigations focus on weather and climate. We explore the movement of water and energy through earth’s atmosphere and hydrosphere and its effects on weather. We begin to explore the ways in which a catastrophic event on earth can be a new beginning.
Identity: My World, My Role
Students learn about the interior structure of the Earth. They learn about constructive and destructive forces on earth through investigations about the causes and effects of earthquakes and volcanoes.
Independence and Interdependence
Students consider the fossil record and evidence of earth’s past. They examine theories on how the complexity of living things has changed over time. Students study animals and the adaptations which make them suited to their environment.
Leadership Through Stewardship
During this final quarter of the school year, our typically multi-age classrooms are, instead, working on very different goals.
Seventh graders study space science, in which they learn about the patterns and motions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. They explore the solar system, as well as the life cycle of stars, types of galaxies, and how astronomers study the universe.
Eighth graders study marine biology in preparation for the amazing Andros Island Field Study. Through this work, they examine the structures and complexity of living things, the amazing biodiversity of a coral reef, and the myriad interactions of living things that make a coral reef so amazing.
In this unit of study, we focus on Ecology. Students investigate earth’s ecosystems. They explore the interactions between organisms and their environment, and examine the impact of human activity on the delicate balance of the natural world.
In this cycle, students identify a problem in their daily lives and work to develop an invention that will solve that problem. We also cover many important science concepts including energy sources, types of energy, conservation of energy, and energy changes in a closed system.
During this unit of study, students will delve into forces and motion. They will experience the laws of motion hands on with our exciting culminating activity.
Acquiring a Sense of Belonging
During this final quarter of the school year, our typically multi-age classrooms are instead working on very different goals.
- Seventh graders study space science, in which they learn about the patterns and motions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. They explore the solar system, as well as the life cycle of stars, types of galaxies, and how astronomers study the universe.
- Eighth graders study marine biology in preparation for the amazing Andros Island Field Study. Through this work, they examine the structures and complexity of living things, the amazing biodiversity of a coral reef, and the myriad interactions of living things that make a coral reef so amazing.
The culminating experience for 7th graders is Leadership Camp; for 8th graders, the Andros Island Field Study.
At Clark Montessori Junior High, students cover the Social Studies academic standards according to the Instructional Themes explained above, not necessarily chronologically. As always, students work alone, with partners or project groups to complete varied activities. A description of the Clark Montessori Junior High Social Studies curriculum follows:
Explorations and New Beginnings
We explore past ideas and dreams of ancient cultures dating back to the earliest civilizations up through the beginning of our own American culture. We look at the efforts humans put forth to construct a society and a culture designed to meet the tendencies of humans. We examine creation stories of different cultures to determine commonalities among all people.
In this Cycle study, each student will be asked to explore and reflect upon her/his own identity and how that adds to a collective identity, be it the identity of our community, our school, their neighborhood, or our country. In addition we work on identification of various symbols of the United States, economic concepts, and understanding that the major role of political parties in a democracy is to provide a choice in governmental leadership (i.e. candidates and platforms). We also identify and experience opportunities for involvement in civic activities.
We focus on the decades of the Twentieth Century, noting along the way, how our historic tapestry has been woven. We take a look at the three branches of government and how their independent identities help to contribute to our government as a whole. We also look at the ideas that helped to weave our levels of government and how they function. Finally, we examine the responsibilities of public officials and processes of law.
Leadership Through Stewardship
This is the culminating cycle of the year and we look at how each of us can make a difference in the world. We look at our membership in various communities and how to be effective agents of social change in all of them. We also turn a critical eye upon ourselves and assess how we are changing through personal effort and awareness. Leadership Camp is the 7th grade challenge and Andros Island is the 8th grade challenge.
We study the arts of story and society through mythology. Myths provide perspective and reference points by reflecting themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, constructed inner mysteries and thresholds of common passages, and are related to the deepest of inner struggles. Myths are stories of the ancient human search for truth, meaning, and significance. These stories send us messages from the past about the wisdom it takes to be human. They teach us what is behind literature, the arts, and the complexities of society. We also study how our democratic process mirrors the political process of Greek culture.
In this cycle we examine three types of governments: democracy, monarchy, and communism. We look at some of the failures of the American experiment in relationship to individual rights. We look at the new ideals proposed in four important American documents. And we ask ourselves questions about the change process, our role in it, and determine what and whether change is needed here in the United States.
Here, we experience the richness of cultural diversity. A study of immigration takes us on a voyage of discovery. We discover a variety of customs, beliefs, dreams, delectable foods, music, art, and a myriad of personal histories expressing not only the differences that make us unique, but also the commonalities that unite our global family.
Acquiring a Sense of Belonging
This final cycle of the year studies adolescence-one stage of the life cycle of being human. In most societies, it is traditional to give girls and boys new duties, new knowledge and rights, an extended vision when they reach adolescence preparing them for another stage-adulthood. This is the "Sensitive Period," Maria Montessori explains, when we develop the noble characteristics that prepare us to be fully human. This is a time to evince a sense of social justice and a sense of personal dignity. Success measured by student capacity to demonstrate self-confidence achieved through becoming aware of our astounding ability and power to adapt. The culminating experience for 7th graders is Leadership Camp; for 8th graders, the Andros Island Field Study.
Special Needs Intervention
Clark Montessori provides quality instruction for students who have special needs. Students are supported in the general education classroom by an Intervention Specialist who collaborates with the community teachers to provide accommodations and modifications aligned with each student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Additionally, students may meet with an Intervention Specialist in an intervention elective, a supported study hall, and/or during solo time for help with organization and time management strategies, social skills training, content tutoring, goal setting, and assessment.
There are two field study experiences that are part of the junior high curriculum: Andros Island Marine Biology Field Study and Fall Camping.
Andros Island, The Bahamas
The culminating experience for Clark Junior High students is the field study trip to Andros Island in the Bahamas in May of the 8th grade year. Students lodge at Forfar Marine Biology Field Station for land studies and cultural studies, and sail with Forfar staff to study wind theory and the coral reefs.
This field study is designed so that students:
- Experience another culture through first hand interaction, and develop an appreciation of another culture.
- Challenge one's self academically, socially, and physically.
- Identify Caribbean reef species, including invertebrates, corals, fishes and algae.
- Study the interrelationships among species in the coral reef ecosystem.
- Explore the various ecosystems including blue holes, mangroves, and shorelines.
- Study coral reef development and types of reef formations.
- Observe and discuss the human impact on an island and reef ecosystem.
- Learn the basics/fundamentals of living on and helping to operate a sailboat
Students keep a Field Journal which includes lecture notes, interviews, research and sketches and daily written reflections about their experiences. They write a formal paper and present research on a major and minor topic and assess themselves daily on their leadership skills.
Seventh grade students are encouraged to earn at least half the cost of this trip through school organized fundraising events and personal savings. Actual academic and leadership preparation occurs throughout the 8th grade year with intensive preparation the week prior to the trip.
Some final reflections from students following the 2004 Andros Field Study:
"I learned that your heart will push you more than your mind."
"After seeing and learning about Bahamian culture, I realized how my life is so completely different. I never realized how completely I am used to a life of luxury.
I'm used to having plenty of water, long hot showers, air-conditioning and my own bed. Now that I have their way of life I almost consider myself rich…"
"I have grown-there is no other way to say it…I felt so close to classmates…I listened to a little boy's story instead of the man he puts himself out there to be- I talked to a friend, not just a classmate…this is the moment that made us, us."
During the difficult time of adolescence it is helpful to leave the accustomed environment of the family in the town and go to quiet surroundings in the country, close to nature. The calm surroundings, the silence, the wonders of nature satisfy the need of the adolescent mind for reflection and meditation.
- Maria Montessori
Fall camping experience is SO much more than a mere field trip. Like all of our field experiences, it is Clark Montessori's way of providing our children with a taste of Maria Montessori's vision for adolescents, her "erdkinder."
But it goes even further than that! Fall camping...
- provides the opportunity for students to develop independence, interdependence, and self-reliance
- fosters new relationships between students, their teachers, and the environment
- allows freedom to act on individual initiative within limits and rules that give necessary guidance
- fosters in students the power of self-adjustment to new environments, which ultimately results in a happy social life and that facilitates individual progress
- opens us all to the wonders of nature
- helps students to understand their place in the world.
During camp week and the actual camping experience, students will participate in:
- Tent set-up, care and clean-up
- Planning, preparing, cooking and clean-up of meals
- Care of equipment that must be shared and used by all junior high communities
- Living together in the close confines of a tent with new classmates
- Building the campfire and the beauty and power of fire
- Communication, cooperation, and fun involved in canoeing, hiking, and bicycling
- Learning about and designing experiments involving bats or spiders
- Activities and games that provide opportunities for cooperation and fun rather than competition