Our Philosophy

Leave a Place Better Than You Found It is the motto of the Middle School. We like to think of our Middle School as a vibrant and joyful community where students are happy to come to school. Teachers are also happy to come to work because they have the freedom to develop and implement exciting and engaging curricula. They also genuinely like Middle Schoolers; unlike other Middle Schools where high school and elementary school teachers "cross over" to teach Middle School, Wheeler's Middle School teachers are dedicated experts in the age group. They are also dedicated in the sense that their collective goal is to know every student as an individual. It is the norm that a teacher has detailed mental list of a student's strengths and weakness as well as knowing the her dog's name and ice cream preference. Students thrive knowing that while the academic, social, and individual standards are high, they are an integral part of a community of adults and peers who will support them.

This educational philosophy, outlook, and approach results in exciting and innovative programming. Unique to the Wheeler Middle School is the Sixth-grade Farm Program, a unique educational opportunity that takes education out-of-doors to our nearby property in Seekonk, Massachusetts. Other distinguishing features of our program are a series of courses on Unity & Diversity, an emphasis on environmental action, and our initiatives in place-based education, using the city of Providence to inform curriculum.

Daily Life in Middle School

Daily life in Wheeler's Middle School is an exciting mix of serious work and serious fun. Classes engage students and inspire their curiosity. The daily schedule of a Middle Schooler reveals much about daily life. School starts at 8:00am with an emphasis on community either in homerooms or in assemblies. Sixth graders spend a majority of time in their homerooms with their homeroom teachers in Language Arts, Social Studies, and homeroom periods. Other classes offer a time to travel to other rooms and sometimes other parts of the campus. In this way, 6th grade is very similar to an elementary school model but with a Middle School twist. Their older counterparts in 7th and 8th grade travel more from class to class and spend less time in homeroom. Modern Language and Math meet every day. All other classes meet either four days a week (English, History, or Science) or two days a week (Art, Performing Arts, Physical Education).

Students end their day not in classes but in either a study hall, extra help sessions with teachers, or in elective classes offered by the Aerie Enrichment Program (see department list above). For some students the school day doesn’t end at 3:00pm. About half of our students, depending on the season, participate in after school athletics at Wheeler’s Farm. The day begins with a sense of community and ends in the same way. In between, students engage in rich and engaging learning, connect closely with one another and their teachers, and have fun.

Young Un, Middle School Head

Middle School Curriculum

List of 12 items.

  • Academic Support

    Some Middle Schoolers either choose to take or are recommended for the Academic Support program. These students require additional support in a small classroom environment to help them realize their potential. 

    The goals of the Academic Support program in the Middle schools are:
    • To identify the student’s strengths and weaknesses and teach study skills and strategies that best support the student’s learning style
    • To foster the student’s metacognition (the ability to reflect on one's thinking) in order to determine the most appropriate study skills and strategies for that student
    • To develop solid advocacy skills.

    Academic support is offered in place of modern language.
  • Aerie

    The staff assists in classroom projects such as producing notepads from recycled paper, and bringing in guest speakers for classes on topics ranging from gun control to North American raptor behavior, to human rights in Burma, to State Department strategy in Afghanistan. 

    Aerie has designed advanced French and Spanish classes for native speakers, supports the award-winning Math Counts Team, Mock Trial team, Literary Magazine and Chess Team, and sponsors the geography and spelling bees.

    Aerie also organizes the Activities program, mini-courses that meet twice weekly for six-to-eight-week sessions throughout the year. Recent offerings include: CPR/First Aid, Dance, and Film.
  • Art

    Art classes meet twice a week for students in grades six through eight. Wheeler's Middle School has two art studios that include a kiln and darkroom. Through a series of carefully designed projects using a variety of two and three dimensional media, students learn to develop their problem-solving, organizational, and perceptual skills. Just as importantly, students use their art skills to explore their own creativity and imagination.
  • English

    The Language Arts and English courses are really classroom workshops. Students and teachers live as a community of readers and writers who are constantly digging in, inhaling, chewing on, pawing through, puzzling over, stretching, digesting, kneading, and playing with the English language. 

    In reading workshop, students read and discuss independent and shared texts, including poetry, short stories, novels, essays, and plays. In writing workshop, they approach a variety of genres by studying their elements, then implementing those elements in our own pieces. 

    All Language Arts and English teachers ask their students to practice and refine their skills. They encourage their students to be voracious readers, bold writers, confident speakers, and curious listeners.
  • History

    Sixth-grade history is part of the Humanities curriculum. In it, we focus on the three themes of culture, community, and consciousness as we study the trans-Asian Silk Road trade route, modern globalization, current events, and civil rights in the Jim Crow era.

    Seventh-grade history focuses on key events in the US particularly key events and themes from the Founding Era to World War II.

    Eighth-grade history continues with a focus on the US from 1945 to the present during the first semester. Second semester, students study Chinese history from 1949-present. At the end of the year, students create a final project comparing the two countries.

    Throughout, students build skills writing, research and project management.
  • Library

    The mission of the Prescott Library (named in honor of the 6th Head of School) is to provide a safe, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment for students, faculty, and staff, to take leadership in the academic program including but not limited to the literacies informed by digital access, and to ensure that students develop the essential skills needed to navigate the rapidly evolving information landscape of the 21st century.

    This mission reflects the value of the teaching library in the intellectual life of the School, and the essential role each Library faculty member contributes in helping students become lifelong readers, enthusiastic learners, and competent researchers who know how to find the information they need, use it ethically and foster
    • creativity through inquiry 
    • collaboration as a means of effectively synthesizing information,
    • communication using various mediated formats to demonstrate learning and new knowledge 
    • critical thinking: defining information needs to problem solve 
    • Promote reading, provide thoughtful, unbiased suggestions of materials, and encourage intellectual curiosity.
    • Collaborate in the teaching process and develop an information literacy curriculum that is integral to the classroom work of Wheeler faculty.
    • Participate in school-wide and multi-school events that connect students with literature and ideas.
    Christine Smith, Library Department Head
  • Mathematics

    The 6th grade program, like the Lower School, uses the Math in Focus curriculum. The Math in Focus breaks down complex mathematical concepts into smaller chunks and encourages the students to concept mastery before moving on. The 7th and 8th grade program uses the College Preparatory Mathematics curriculum as the basis for its math program and has done so for the past several years. This award winning curriculum emphasizes constructive mathematical thinking and allows us to demonstrate the department belief that students learn best by meaningful, structured discourse about mathematical ideas. 

    A combination of individual skill development, team problem solving and articulation of mathematical understanding are part of every lesson in the middle school math classrooms. As teachers, our belief is that students should be engaged in “doing” mathematics, not watching teachers do math and listening to them talk about it.
  • Modern Languages

    Middle School modern language teachers emphasize oral proficiency, active learning of everything from grammar to vocabulary, and employ different technologies to enhance the language learning process for their students. 

    The Middle School offers three modern language options: Chinese, French, and Spanish. Students can start their language studies in 6th grade. Students who come to our program having learned Spanish in their elementary education can continue in a special section of Spanish.
  • Performing Arts

    Our curriculum strives to nurture each student’s special talent and enthusiasm, provide the opportunity for students to explore and develop a passion for performing arts, and through performance, raise the community’s awareness of the performing arts.

    The curricula focus on: 
    • skills development (technique, vocabulary, and theory) 
    • composition and improvisation (creativity) 
    • ensemble and communication skills (the ability to work within a group) 
    • self-esteem gained through performance (sharing artistic achievement) 
    • a broad global and historical perspectives (exploring cultures through teaching materials) 
    • critical analysis (becoming a discerning and knowledgeable audience)

    Theatre Curriculum 
    In the 6th grade, the students are introduced to theatre terms, history and performance with an emphasis on Greek Theatre. In the 7th grade the students are introduced to improvisation, speech, and beginning scene study. Building on the seventh grade studies, eighth graders are introduced to the written text and scene design. Students in the 7th and 8th grades may take part in the main stage spring production. 

    Music Curriculum 
    In Middle School music, students build upon the fundamentals of music learned in the Lower School program. By the end of their Middle School experience, students will have had the opportunity to study guitar, wind and brass instruments, music composition, music theory and improvisation. Interested students can join the Middle School Chorus or an instrumental ensemble. These groups perform at Middle School assemblies, Wheeler events, and in the Providence community as individual performance groups or as combined ensembles. 
  • Physical Education

    Our Middle School physical education program offers our students a wide range of activities from team sports to ‘lifetime’ individual activities. It is an elective process whereby the students have the opportunity to choose their activity and remain in that unit for a 2-3 week period. Each grade meets 50 minutes twice per week. We feel strongly that decision making, commitment, fitness, fun, sportsmanship and cooperation are integral components of the well rounded Wheeler student.
  • Science

    Sixth grade science is primarily a life science curriculum emphasizing hands-on investigations. The course focused on life processes, classification, human body systems and biodiversity with particular attention to the plant and animal kingdoms. 

    In Seventh grade science, students investigate forces, motion and energy. Along with planning and carrying out scientific investigations where data is collected, analyzed and interpreted, students also participate in several related engineering design challenges. Earth Science is the focus of the second half of the year. 

    The eighth-grade science curriculum consists of one semester of chemistry, focusing on metric units, matter, and the  periodic table. The second semester goes into cell biology, genetics, and evolution.

    Students enjoy classes in the Design Innovation and Build Lab and the Prescott Library to supplement what they do in their classes.
  • Technology

    Wheeler Middle Schoolers have seamless access to technology. Sixth- and seventh-graders are provided a school-owned Chromebook. Eighth-graders bring their own device. Besides this seamless access to a device, the technology program includes coding, and audio-video production in Design Innovation and Build Lab and Green Screen Room. 
    While this kind of access is vital, faculty promote wise and effective use of devices. In classes and advisor periods, students learn about:
    1. organization of documents, images, and other files in Google Drive;
    2. writing conventions for email and other e-communications;
    3. ethical use of information found on the Web; and,
    4. best and safe practices in social networking.
    Most importantly, the Middle School faculty promote a level of technology integration where student devices are integral tools and means, but not ends, in the educational process.

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