Middle School at Wheeler

A lot changes for students while they are “in the middle” of childhood and adolescence.

 

During that time, Wheeler helps each student build academic skill sets and curiosity to create a foundation for high school.

Parallel to academics, we understand adolescents want answers to their questions about themselves, the world and their place in it. And in ways that are safe for risk-taking and growth.

Our Goal

Success in the twin pursuits of academic and individual growth during the Middle School years (Grades 6-8) comes down to students expressing their curiosity, asking great questions and then figuring out the ways to find the answers. These keys to success for adolescents are also the keys to preparation for high school and for lifelong learning, they just may not realize it yet! Wheeler also recognizes that—in our rapidly changing times—the definition of a “classroom” is evolving. Today’s classrooms are now centers of collaboration, design, imagination, and production.

Our Faculty

The organization and temperament of our Middle School faculty assure that we get to know our students. Advisors meet with their student groups daily and often more than once a day. Because much of each school day is spent with students in class, advisor periods, field trips, lunch, recess and at times on athletic teams, Wheeler teachers learn much about your student’s individual, social, and academic life. Advisors are organized into grade-level faculty teams and meet weekly to discuss, among other things, the academic as well as the social-emotional progress of your child.

Our Curriculum

Besides getting to know their students well, teachers also design rich, innovative curricula and programs in the humanities, STEM, and arts to tap into a student’s natural curiosity, need to learn something relevant and the desire to direct her/his/their own learning. A Wheeler Middle School classroom is often productively noisy as students wrestle with a problem or design a solution. Sometimes we employ technology; other times we don’t. Sometimes we read contemporary authors; other times the classics. And, sometimes the classroom is a theater like Trinity Rep or a multi-dimensional Providence neighborhood through Cityside for 8th Grade, the Wheeler Farm, a gallery on our own campus or at the Rhode Island School of Design, or science labs either at Brown University or our own Hirsch/Alperin Design-Innovate-Build Lab. Combined with the vigorous foundation of habits of mind and heart that we foster in our daily classroom instruction, each student moves on to Upper School with an intellectual foundation for upper-level scholarship, adventures, and achievements.

To You, The Student

At Wheeler’s Middle School we understand that you are making many decisions as you progress from leaving elementary school to preparing for high school in a few short years. Our teachers help you take risks, fail (i.e. try again) and succeed in building a strong academic foundation while fostering your social and emotional growth. You are asking questions of yourself, friends, family, and the world at this time in your life. We are here to help you learn how to find the answers by finding your own strengths and styles of learning. It is somewhat cliche to talk about “finding your voice” at this stage in one’s life, but at Wheeler, we believe that it is by building confidence, empathy, resilience, and friendship that your voice can be heard.

Watch our Middle School video

Farm Program for Grade Six

In Wheeler 6th grade, you get the freedom to take risks that can lead to success (or failure) within a supported network of faculty and friends. The 21st Century skills of innovation, collaboration and communication are pursued in a school environment that is safe and trusted. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in our Wheeler 6th Grade Farm Program — 8 weeks at the Farm Campus, where the homeroom is based in a pavilion set among the fields and forests of 120 historic acres, the largest green space in Seekonk, MA. Each homeroom and teacher are welcomed by the Farm Program director, a Farm Program assistant, and auxiliary teachers in subjects such as art and history. Nearly everything studied can be transdisciplinary. No bells ring to end a period. Concrete is replaced by pine-needled paths. You learn to create, cook and clean up (!) from family-style meals. Students launch rockets across fields to study math, science and engineering (as well as learn a little bit about trial and error!) Art, poetry and creative writing skills are set in nature and among inspiring large-scale pieces of public art. Free time is given to projects such as building a fort of fallen branches on Junebug Mountain, whittling a walking stick for the many pathways and trails or watching the clouds drift across the top of our solar-powered Van Norman Field House.

long shot of fields, fieldhouse, art sculpture and a class of students with teachers at The Wheeler Farm

C.LEAR for Grade Seven

Using the Middle School’s Divisional Motto, Leave a Place Better Than You Found It, and our place-based, community learning initiatives as guides, our 7th-grade year is dubbed C.LEAR and emphasizes the incredibly rich (in range and content) learning that can take place in the community within an easy walk of the Wheeler campus. Seventh graders are finding their own way and taking leaps forward in their learning, personal and community growth. Rather than being homeroom-based for 20+ periods a week, students travel from class to class and have a wider variety of teachers. Students still have advisors, but they feel more independent and want to be more on their own. In short, their world gets larger. This early stage of adolescence is the perfect time for the change from primary to secondary systems and to get students off campus exploring the community, meeting new people, and adding more dimensions to their learning.

Cityside for Grade Eight

As an urban counterpoint to the rural Farm Program beginning of Wheeler Middle School, the new Cityside Program is the capstone of the Middle School experience. Embracing the City of Providence itself as a classroom, students venture with teachers beyond the Hope Street campus into our new WaterFire Arts Center classroom, launching into the neighborhoods, ecosystems, and places of our capital. Students choose an area of inquiry over the school year and use traditional academic subjects, technology, and collaboration to study the cultural, human, economic and political geography of place. The goal is to create a year-end portfolio presentation with the support of faculty and community experts that meets academic goals as well as fosters the development of an engaged, informed student-citizenry.

A boy pulls a water sample from a river in Providence while another student and teacher look on as part of the Cityside Program.

Visual & Performing Arts

Wheeler’s award-winning and historic arts programs are linked to our founder Mary C. Wheeler’s own beginnings as a creative force in American education. Art classes meet twice a week for students in grades 6-8. Wheeler’s Middle School has two dedicated art studios that include a kiln and darkroom. Through the visual arts, 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.

Our performing arts curriculum strives to nurture each student’s special talent and enthusiasm and provide the opportunity for students to explore and develop a passion for performing arts. Through performance, we raise the community’s appreciation of the performing arts. All Middle School students take theater classes, learning about Greek Theater in grade 6, and 8th graders are able to perform in a Spring Play, one of the most popular events on the school calendar. Music classes introduce and offer Chorus and Instrumental ensembles and teach music theory, composition and improvisation.

1 to 1 Computing / BYOD

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 our Hirsch/Alperin Design Innovate Build Lab and our campus Digital Production Studio.

While this kind of technology access is vital, faculty promote wise and effective use of devices and digital citizenship. In classes and advisor periods, students learn about:

  • organization of documents, images, and other files in Google Drive;
  • writing conventions for email and other e-communications;
  • ethical use of information found on the Web; and,
  • 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.

Two girls work on laptops on the floor of a classroom.

Athletics

Through a comprehensive athletics program on some of the finest facilities in New England, our students learn the value of competition and collaboration early. When they step out on the field, court or course they already know what it takes to win – and have the abilities to do so. The Middle School athletic program provides students with the opportunity to compete in interscholastic athletics, offering 11 sports for boys and girls, a full-time athletic trainer and facilities both on the Providence campus and at the 120-acre Wheeler Farm campus in Seekonk, MA. You can participate on a team that is geared to your interest and ability, learning the basics and building your competitive strengths. With Wheeler’s 29 varsity team championships in the last 5 seasons and multiple varsity individual student-athlete award winners on a yearly basis, our Middle School athletics program prepares students for the enjoyment, camaraderie and, what we call, “productive challenge” of competition and fun that leads to a successful varsity program.

Social and Emotional Learning / Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Middle School is a time for asking questions and making discoveries that are both personal and oftimes profound.  Through our Advisory system, our faculty get to know your student and are able to chart not only your child’s academic progress, but social-emotional progress as well. Our welcoming, inclusive community celebrates what we have in common with each other as well as what makes each of us unique.  We cultivate finding one’s voice, being kind, strengthening empathy and resilience. Community values, programs and affinity groups for both students and parents are offered all year long. Each Middle School student learns the divisional motto is not something one memorizes but something one lives: “Leave A Place Better Than You Found It.”

Library Information Commons

The Prescott Library at Wheeler has dedicated libraries for each division of the School. Inquiry based research projects are the foundation of the Middle School Library curriculum. Within the Middle School, the Library Information Commons is a hub of access to resources in both digital and print format as well as the research needs for each student to use on a daily basis before, during and after school. There is a dedicated Middle School librarian who leads the division in fostering a love for independent reading, inquiry-based learning and the development of critical thinking and research skills needed to move into high school. The Middle School Commons, as it is known, is one of the most popular campus spaces for students at these grade levels.

A view through a door into the Middle School Library Learning Commons

Middle School Administration