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Middle School | Gr. 6-8

Our Philosophy

The Middle School is a joyful and vibrant community where students and their teachers are excited to come to school. When you walk into the aptly named Hope Building, you can feel the buzz of energy and vitality. The Middle School’s philosophy and approach are designed to bring out the best in young adolescents by using an approach that is both simple and sophisticated. The simple part, really a goal, is that we strive to know our students because we believe in the close correlation between how well a student is known and how well a student learns. Also, at a more human level, middle schoolers simply want to be understood. The sophisticated part, really a recognition of our rapidly changing times, is that the definition of a “classroom” is evolving. Today’s classrooms are now centers of collaboration, design, imagination, and production. In other words, the Middle School is a place where students are supported and challenged in an environment that both honors the individual and nurtures the community.

Knowing Students Well: The organization and temperament of the Middle School faculty assure that we get to know our students. Advisors meet with their advisor groups daily and often more than once a day. Because much of each day with their students in class, advisor periods, field trips including overnight retreats, lunch, and recess, advisors can learn much about their advisees’ individual, social, and academic lives. The advisors are organized into grade-level faculty teams and meet weekly to discuss, among other things, the academic and social-emotional progress of the students. To make the connections between school and home both seamless and more individualized, advisors serve as the main point of contact for almost all communication.

Curiosity-driven curriculum: Besides getting to know students well, teachers also design rich, innovative curricula and programs that tap into the students’ natural curiosity, need to learn something relevant, and desire to direct their own learning. A Wheeler Middle School classroom is often productively noisy as students wrestle with a problem or design a solution. Often there are more questions than answers and more talk time for students than there is for teachers. Sometimes we employ technology; other times we don’t. Sometimes we read contemporary authors; other times the classics. And, sometimes the students’ classroom is a theater like Trinity Rep, a multi-dimensional Providence neighborhood (Cityside for Gr. 8 coming Fall 2019), the Wheeler Farm (see Farm Program), a gallery at the Rhode Island School of Design or a lab at Brown University.

Engaging the World: As we invest in our commitment to learning from the rich and complex history and current state of our community and world, and our campus becomes permeable and expansive, two programs modernize Mary C. Wheeler’s vision of a town and country school and bookend the Middle School experience: the Farm Program and the Cityside Program.  Both programs take advantage of Wheeler’s urban and rural campuses to provide hands-on, experiential opportunities that inspire, challenge, and motivate middle schoolers to learn deeply. Combined with the vigorous foundation of habits of mind, thought, 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.

Young Un, Head of Middle School

Learn More About The Middle School

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, 7th and 8th grade programs use the College Preparatory Mathematics curriculum as the basis for its math program and have 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.

Growing Minds: The Middle School Blog

List of 5 news stories.

  • Productive 'Gossip' At An N-12 School

    by Young Un
    A school with student ages ranging from 3-18 means something a teacher says to one class can get around pretty quick to another!  But there are advantages to this type of campus connectivity as this latest blog post reveals.
    Read More
  • Neuroplasticity and Annoying Questions

    By Young Un
    What do Wheeler’s new “Learn our Powers” mission statement, big questions, diversity, and neuroplasticity have to do with each other? The short answer is lots. The slightly more detailed answer is all the things that make teaching and learning at Wheeler, especially in the Middle School, engaging and vivid.
    Read More
  • The Relevance of Synoikismos To 8th Graders

    I’ve been preoccupied with two questions as a principal, teacher, citizen, and parent for some time now, even before the 2016 election. What is the impact of the political climate on adolescents and what should we do to help our students make sense of and improve it? With its new “Learn our Powers” Mission Statement, Wheeler is more clearly positioned than ever to help students to answer these questions. This passage, in particular, serves as a guide:

    While all our paths of discovery are unique, each of us will develop the empathy, knowledge, and skills needed to lead a life of joy, meaning, and impact as ethical, engaged, and creative citizens of our school, community, and world.

    How do we help students become ethical, engaged, and creative citizens of our school, community, and world?
    Read More
  • Photo from last year's Block Island trip by Steve Jenks

    Radical Acceptance

    by Young Un, Middle School Head
    In the face of unprecedented challenges to their generation, Middle School children need radical acceptance.  Here's why.

    Read More
  • Innovation — A Value Proposition For Students

    By Young Un, Middle School Head
    Veteran educator Young Un debuts a new blog about educating students in a fast-changing world where innovation risks becoming just another buzzword and traditional educational values of inquiry and research should still matter. 
    Read More
View All News

Contact Us

List of 2 members.

216 Hope Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02906-2246
Phone: (401) 421-8100
FAX: (401) 751-7674

Founded 1889

The Wheeler School is an independent coeducational college preparatory day school for Nursery, Pre-K, K-Grade 12 serving Providence, RI, Greater Providence and Greater Boston. The Hamilton School welcomes Grades 1-8 with language-based learning differences.