From a developmental standpoint, the middle school years are rich with possibility. At Rutgers Prep, our divisional leadership is hard at work ensuring that our students have opportunities to develop in areas that sometimes fall outside of the traditional academic disciplines… but are no less critical to the development of our students. This commitment to keeping our curriculum fresh is evident in both our middle school’s Ideas and Innovation programming, as well as in the students’ “Cycle Classes,” which students rotate through over the course of each academic year.
This year’s sixth grade Cycle Classes, for example, are Citizen Kid, Digital Kid, Art, and Latin. In their Citizen Kid classes, middle school students will grapple with primary sources and the civic responsibilities of citizens. As New Jersey heads into a gubernatorial race, our students will have an opportunity to interact directly with at least one of the gubernatorial candidates. We encourage our students to not only seek out the topics with which they are passionately engaged as learners, but also to actively consider their role as future citizens.
Students in our Digital Kid Cycle Class will be learning to keyboard, thereby increasing the efficiency of so much of the rest of their work. (Although based on research about how we learn best, the Rutgers Prep middle school also maintains a division-wide commitment to note-taking and journaling by hand.) Digital Kid students also work with recording their own voices, eventually moving to podcasting. This focus on developing one’s voice is also a division-wide commitment, as the school makes a conscious effort to ensure that students become more comfortable as public speakers and presenters. (This commitment is particularly in evidence when our middle schoolers travel beyond campus in the service of learning; at a recent trip to Philadelphia, members of the US Constitution Center’s staff were impressed with our seven graders’ poise and self-possession.)
Much of the thinking about curricular offerings at Rutgers Prep is driven and supported by the latest research; art classes are overwhelmingly associated with positive outcomes for students, and introducing students to Latin as sixth graders gives them a taste of language study so that they’ll be better prepared to select Latin or Spanish as a part of their regular seventh grade curriculum. Middle school-aged students are primed to embrace new ideas and get started on the development of sophisticated skills that will foster lifelong learning interests. At Rutgers Prep, our middle school curriculum is designed to provide students with a range of tools to support that intellectual development and enable effective learning.