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CURRICULUM GUIDE Problem-based, experiential learning

Inspiring + Developing Courageous Leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change. Our Passion Empowering each girl to live her potential

Our Beliefs • Empowering a girl changes the world • It is fundamental to understand and address issues of difference and oppression • An integrated, collaborative curriculum challenges and engages students • Middle school should be joyful, curiosity-filled, and safe and 1

open to all voices

Hallmarks of the SGS Approach • • • • • •

High expectations and support for critical thinking Sensory-rich “being there” experiences Inquiry-based learning projects An emphasis on social justice and global citizenship Opportunities for choice and collaboration Frequent “stand and deliver” opportunities for public speaking for all students

As we embarked on the high school search after four years at SGS, we were shown at every turn just how prepared our daughter was for the next stage. We attribute this 110% to SGS’s commitment to inspiring, nurturing, and challenging our daughter in all ways.
There are many independent middle school choices in our town, though I’m convinced there isn’t another school that prepares middle school girls in the way that SGS does. - SGS Alum Parent

Content Areas Core Teachers, Specialists, and Grade Teams Like most middle schools, teachers are hired to teach the content of one or more disciplines for one or more grades. Unlike many middle schools, we take holistic learning seriously and, as a result, we expect a high degree of coordination and collaboration among all of the teachers of a particular grade. The curriculum and classroom teaching of an individual teacher derives its context from the larger curriculum of a grade and adapts to the experiences of students in other classes. Teacher collaboration extends beyond simple schedules and logistics as the team must coordinate how they unfold the integrating themes; how they develop the core skills and meta-skills of leadership and social justice; how they orchestrate culminating projects; and how they address emergent challenges with individuals and groups of students.

Our Content Areas Include: • • • • • • • • •

Adventure and Wellness Art Language Arts and Humanities Mathematics Music Performance Studies/Performance Arts Science Social Studies and History Spanish

Core Skill Development SGS Faculty as a whole shares the responsibility for developing the core skills of: • • • • •

Society is so fond of telling students, especially girls, that certain things are just too competitive. SGS taught me to ignore this mindset, to dream big, and see myself as an achiever because that is half the battle when braving anything. - SGS Alumna

In my freshman year of high school, I was at a higher level than the majority of my classmates in all my core subjects. - SGS Alumna

Communication Democratic Citizenship Leadership Problem Solving / Analytical and Critical Thinking Work Habits

S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Being a S.T.E.A.M. school means that S.T.E.A.M. is integrated into the curriculum, across grade levels, throughout the year. In addition to the regular, on-going S.T.E.A.M. integration, our approach includes a two-week, projectintensive period that includes cross-grade project groupings. This “S.T.E.A.M. Surge” is a chance for SGS students to immerse themselves in a traditional S.T.E.A.M. project that has been re-designed, with the help of a grant from the Women’s Funding Alliance, to specifically engage middle-school girls.


Informed by Standards, Not Driven by Them The SGS educational experience is rich and nuanced, and so is our approach to assessing and reporting student progress. While teachers often use quantifiable measures like geography quizzes and math assessments to provide basic checkpoints, they also consider assessment to be an essential part of the authentic work teachers and students do together each day. For each study and major project, our faculty takes great care in articulating the skills, understandings, and outcomes they expect of their students, guided by a deep familiarity with nationally considered standards, and of child and adolescent development. Teachers provide varied ways of both supporting those outcomes and assessing them. They closely observe students in the process of working, and carefully analyze their products, often with the help of rubrics designed to support students as they move toward the highest of expectations. At SGS, we have never used letter grades. Our in-depth progress reports, sent home three times a year, provide a rich picture of our students’ strengths as well as their challenges. These comprehensive reports are supplemented by less formal feedback on daily and weekly assignments. We also work hard to develop each student’s capacity for honest and productive self assessment, with adult support. Twice a year, each student leads their parents and advisor through a personalized “Learning Team Meeting,” where students share important pieces of work and reflect on their progress toward self-chosen goals. LTMs put middle school girls right where they need to be: at the center of the conversation regarding their academic and social/emotional development.


cul·mi·na·tion/ kəlmə'nāSHən/ Noun

The highest or climactic point of something, especially as attained after a long time.

SGS was founded on the research-supported notion that education must provide relevant experiences that can be assessed using complex rubrics – often in front of live, expert audiences. “Culmination” is a time for the girls to “stand and deliver” and show us what they have been learning. It is a time for big ideas as our students work collaboratively to present models, art, and writing, among other things. It is also a time of some stress, given that we are also teaching the reality of working with a deadline and meeting the needs of an audience. With this in mind, our expected outcomes for each grade are both relevant and challenging, stretching our girls toward that “optimal zone” of learning that is neither totally comfortable nor overwhelming. The outcomes-oriented assessment for each grade level is listed below.

Each 5th grader... • • • • • • • • • • •

Learns the “art of community” Becomes an artist Learns to play the ukulele Stewards the school garden Learns to think like a scientist Learns to think like a mathematician Becomes a poet and storyteller Presents at a gathering of the entire school community Becomes a leader among her peers learning the power of allyship Investigates familiar topics with a new, critical lens Greets visitors and represents her school with confidence

Each 6th grader... • • • • • • • • • • • • 5

Uses art to represent her identity and body Learns to play the guitar Explores, in-depth, her personal identity from a genetic, anatomical, and cultural perspective Begins a three-year course in Spanish Takes on the role of doctor-in-making Deepens her mathematical confidence and competence in preparation for Algebra Presents her poetry to the community Publishes her writing Trains for and successfully completes a 3-day bike trip Learns the art of welcoming new members to a community Leads a community meeting Has an opportunity to be mentored by an inspirational woman from the greater Seattle community

Each 7th grader... • Chooses an issue she cares about, studies its root causes, and takes action through our Pay It Forward program • Uses art as a means of educating and raising awareness for her chosen cause • Continues her study of Spanish • Continues to publish written works • Becomes an explorer through a simulation of the Lewis and Clark Expedition • Becomes a scholar of the US Constitution • Has an opportunity to visit Washington, DC for a close-up view • Becomes an expert on our legal system through a Mock Trial experience in a local courtroom • Begins a two-year course in Algebra • Recognizes her leadership style and her capacity to change the world around her • Has an opportunity to run for Student Council office and lead students who are both younger and older • Hosts over 700 guests at our Annual SGS Luncheon • Continues to learn about sexuality in partnership with teachers and family

Each 8th grader... • Leads by example by taking healthy risks and embarking on individual adventures (physically and intellectually) • Learns and uses a process of making group decisions through consensus • Culminates her study of Spanish with a week-long Spanish Immersion Trip • Culminates her SGS art experience by realizing a vision for an art exhibit at a local museum space • Explores identity and social justice themes in a Social Justice Cultural Understanding (SJCU) class • Writes, produces, and acts in an original full-length film • Develops plan for an invention and presents a pitch to professionals in an Idea Incubator • Becomes a space explorer through a simulated mission on the Space Shuttle • Completes her two-year Algebra course • Actively participates in choosing her next school through our Next Schools Program for students and families


Fifth Grade

Theme: Digging Deeper As an introduction to Middle School for girls who are ready for it, our fifth grade program is special. With a smaller group and one core teacher, our fifth graders are learning what it means to be a member of the SGS community. They steward the school garden and decide as a group how they will contribute to the twice-weekly all-school Community Meetings. In-depth integrated units span the disciplines of science, social studies, language arts, math, and engineering to explore topics fully and with a critical lens. For example, a Food Study gets students behind questions like: What does the food we eat say about us? What can we learn about other people, places, and times by exploring their foods? Broadly framed questions like these help our fifth graders explore cultural norms, geographical dynamics, and food equity in ways that are hands-on and developmentally appropriate. A Toy Study provides an opportunity for students to examine cultural and gender stereotyping in marketing and also engages them as engineers as they consider questions like: What kinds of toys are available for children today and what does that say about our culture? What toys are missing for today’s girls? And of course they’ll design their own!

Fifth Grade Curriculum Content Language Arts Content + Skills • • • • • • •

Creative, Persuasive, and Analytical Writing Writing Mechanics and Vocabulary Research Skills Writing Process: Planning, Drafting, Feedback, Revision Critical Reading Comprehension Reading for Pleasure and Lifelong Learning Developing Oral and Written Arguments

Social Studies + History Content + Skills • • • • •


The history and economics of food and agriculture Food equity as it relates to demographic populations Geography, especially as it relates to food and culture Cultural anthropology through studying toys as artifacts of other times and places Media literacy: identifying and analyzing implicit messages

Science Content + Skills • • • • • • • • • • •


Plant Anatomy and Physiology Worm Research and Dissection Microscope Work The Food Pyramid Renewable Energy Simple Machines Food - Properties and Chemistry Data Collection and Analysis Basic electricity and circuitry Garden Stewardship Environmental Studies

Mathematics Content + Skills • • • • • • • • • • •

Place value Number Theory Patterns and Relationships Mental Math Fractions and Fraction Operations Decimals and Decimal Operations Factoring Data Analysis Measurement Data Collection Problem Solving


Sixth Grade

Theme: Development, Identity, and Progress Our sixth-grade journey centers around helping students explore issues of identity. Students are asked to challenge their notions of who they are and what they’re capable of from the very first day of school, when they begin learning how to use power tools to design and create functional gocarts. A study of how the brain works, and how they can take ownership over their own learning, develops into a full-fledged study of human biology. They become anatomical experts, confidently representing their knowledge through in-person medical board exams with real doctors. In fact, learning to “stand and deliver” what they know through public speaking is a major focus for our sixth graders, whether the topic is their own mathematical thinking, an art project, or a thesisdriven argument. Each sixth grader is responsible for facilitating an all-school Community Meeting and sharing a presentation on the topic of their choice, as well as eliciting participation from the entire school. With their increasing independence, SGS sixth graders become very intentional in how they push themselves as readers and writers, setting meaningful (and very public) goals. Toward the end of the year, they learn to repair bicycles, as they train and prepare for their three-day bike trip across Lopez Island. By pushing themselves and encouraging each other, their bike trip is the perfect culmination for their year’s journey.

Sixth Grade Curriculum Content Language Arts Content + Skills • • • • • • • • • • •


Creative Writing Autobiographical Writing Writing Mechanics and Vocabulary Research Skills Integrated Literature Fluent Creative, Persuasive, and Analytical Writing Effective Speaking Writing Process: Planning, Drafting, Feedback, Revision Critical Reading Comprehension Reading for Pleasure and Lifelong Learning Developing Oral and Written Arguments


Social Studies + History Content + Skills • • • • • • • • •

Global Contributions Cultural and Family Histories How personal and group identities are formed How value-based decisions inform our behavior on a personal and societal level How government, law, and politics facilitate decision-making to further the public good Understand relationships among people, decisions, and events to analyze root causes Spatial Patterns Human and Natural Systems Relationship between access to resources and decision-making

Science Content + Skills • Brain-ology: • Brain Anatomy • How We Learn • Stress, Exercise, and Nutrition • Learning, Memory, and Growth • SGS Medical School • Genetics • Body Systems - Clay Body Building • SGS U-Tube Science Channel • Board Exams • Body and Machine - Bike Repair and Maintenance • Ethics of Animal Research • History and Facts • Debate and Dialogue • The Scientific Method

Mathematics Content + Skills • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Fractions and Fraction Operations Decimals and Decimal Operations Whole vs. Partial numbers Integers and Integer Operations Proportions, Rates, Ratios, Percents Problem Solving Abstract and Quantitative Reasoning Multiple Representations of Mathematical Concepts Pattern Recognition Estimation Data Analysis and Presentation Equations and Expressions Statistical Literacy


Seventh Grade

Theme: Positive Change from the Ground Up After spending their sixth grade year exploring issues of identity, seventh graders expand their scope to consider who they are in their community and how they can become agents of change, not just in the future, but now. Historical studies empower students to skillfully take on multiple perspectives and to support their ideas with evidence. They begin the year by studying the formation of the U.S. Constitution and how the document, and its interpretation, has evolved over time. Over the course of the year, they also explore questions like: How has American society both lived up to and fallen short of the ideas set forth in our founding documents? What were the lasting impacts of the Lewis and Clark expedition? What impact did various social movements have in Seattle and the rest of the country? They conduct independent research on current sociallyrelevant topics of their choosing, learning to synthesize information and take a stand to advocate for themselves and others. In fact, SGS seventh graders are given many unique opportunities for leadership, from running the Student Council, to participating in a Mock Trial at the King County Courthouse, to hosting the Annual Seattle Girls’ School Luncheon with over 700 guests.

Seventh Grade Curriculum Content Language Arts Content + Skills • • • • • •

Persuasive, Creative, and Analytical Speaking and Writing Creative Writing Integrated Literature Writing Process: Planning, Drafting, Feedback, Revision Critical Reading and Research Reading Comprehension and Critical Thinking for Effective Writing

Social Studies + History Content + Skills • U.S. and Washington State History, Revolutionary Era to mid-20th Century • In-depth study of the U.S. Constitution • Use multiple sources of evidence to analyze possible causal factors contributing to selected historical events • Explore a number of social movements of the last century • Interpret and use data to understand historic, demographic, and geographic patterns • Develop and implement an action plan that addresses a genuine community need through a “Pay It Forward” program

Science Content + Skills • The Scientific Toolbox • Observation and Inference • CSI - Strange Objects • Metric Measurements and Conversions • Paper Airplanes and Experimental Design • Engineering Challenge • STEAM Surge • Myth-Busters Chemistry • Phases of Matter - Molecular Movement • Tennis Ball Pressure Lab • EXCEL Graphing and Analysis • Supergraphics • Climate Changes • Polar Bears • Weather and Climate • Sources of Energy



Mathematics Content + Skills Algebra Proportions Expressions and Equations Rational and Irrational Numbers Linear Relationships and Rates of Change Coordinate Graphing Systems of Equations Quadratic Equations Looking for Regularity in Repeated Reasoning Problem Solving of Area, Volume, and Surface Area (through scale drawings, geometric constructions, and 3-D shapes) • Drawing Inferences about Populations, Based on Samples • • • • • • • • • •


Eighth Grade

Theme: Alone We Go Fast, Together We Go Far Eighth grade is a time of tremendous transition. Our students are deeply immersed in the fun and challenge of their final year of middle school, but with one eye toward high school and the world beyond. Will I be ready? The eighth grade program reflects and supports this tension in playful and productive ways. An Idea Incubator project, for example, supports students as they develop plans for inventions and present them for feedback to a panel of female entrepreneurs and engineers. A top-secret simulated mission to the International Space Station challenges students to study crime scene and forensic techniques, comparative anatomy, and hydraulic engineering -- all with the goal of traveling to and solving a crime and safely returning to Earth in time for their celebratory (reallife) trip to Mexico. Their final whole-class collaboration is a student-produced film, making creative and technical decisions together by consensus, which is no easy task. Meanwhile, they are wrapping up their two-year Algebra 1 course, and participating in highly integrated programs like Global Studies and Social Justice and Cultural Understanding. They leave SGS with a broad perspective on the world and their own place in it, ready to expect big things from themselves and the people around them.


Eighth Grade Curriculum Content


Language Arts Content + Skills Reading Workshop Academic Writing Creative Writing Videography Writing Process: Planning, Drafting, Feedback, Revision • Critical Reading and Research • Reading Comprehension and Critical Thinking for Effective Writing • • • • •

Social Studies + History Content + Skills • World Geography • Global Studies • Social Justice and Cultural Understanding

Science Content + Skills

Mathematics Content + Skills

• The Idea Incubator: Invention, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship • Background Research • Business Plan • Deliver a Pitch and Incorporate Feedback • Mission: Forensics, Engineering, High-Pressure Communication • Forensic Science • Comparative Anatomy • Hydraulic Engineering • Biostatistics: Data Organization, Analysis, and Visualization • Analysis and creation of biological data sets and visuals • Competency in basic Excel skills, including spreadsheet organization and manipulation

Algebra Proportions Expressions and Equations Rational and Irrational Numbers Linear Relationships and Rates of Change Coordinate Graphing Systems of Equations Quadratic Equations Looking for Regularity in Repeated Reasoning Problem Solving of Area, Volume, and Surface Area (through scale drawings, geometric constructions, and 3-D shapes) • Drawing Inferences about Populations, Based on Samples • • • • • • • • • •


Additional Content Areas Adventure + Wellness The SGS Adventure and Wellness (A&W) program helps build a strong foundation for developing a life-long commitment to healthy living. Over all four years, skills are developed in communication, interdependency, trust, and community building. Students are exposed to physical activities that include basketball, hiking, tumbling, strength training, cooperative games, self-defense, and cardio and strength training classes. A&W also incorporates the school’s sexuality education program. In partnership with families and with attention to what is developmentally appropriate at each grade, we recognize that knowledge and awareness of this topic is essential at this time in a girl’s development.

Art Under the direction of our Resident Artists, our art program spans four years and includes many projects that are integrated into grade-level studies. Within those projects, however, the girls progressively gain an extensive skill base for both technical and conceptual work. Fifth and sixth graders often engage in skill-building projects designed to grow confidence and foundational art skills, such as value drawing and color mixing. Seventh and eighth grade students develop skills around highly ambitious ideas, culminating in a final year of independent artistic exploration and an eighth grade exhibit at a museum.

Music All fifth-grade students learn to play ukulele, and then guitar in the sixth grade. Through the study of these two instruments, students study different musical styles, and learn the fundamentals of music theory and notation. Students develop their individual musical expression and creativity as well as their ability to work as a team and perform as an ensemble. Seventh and eighth graders have the option to further develop music skills and ensemble performance through our Rock Band program. Our music studio is fully equipped through a generous donation of instruments from Pearl Jam.

Performance Studies/Performance Arts Performance Studies/Performance Arts is a new program that combines an academically layered approach to the study of performing arts, with an experience-based immersion in cross-genre performance. Students develop their writing with many opportunities to share their work with live audiences, especially poetry, playwriting, and both fiction and nonfiction. They engage in improv, theater games, spoken word, movement, and acting activities that build their leadership, confidence, collaboration, creativity, and sense of identity. Some highlights of the program include monologue performances, poetry slams, and a student-written and produced dramatic film.

Spanish SGS students explore the Spanish language as well as Latino and Hispanic cultures with the goal of basic understanding of the language as well as an appreciation of the diversity of its native speakers. The classes are engaging and collaborative. At the end of the three-year learning experience at SGS, eighth grade students have an option to travel to a Spanish-speaking country for a one-week Spanish immersion experience.


Athletics Basketball Bouldering Cross Country Rock Climbing Snowboarding/Skiing Soccer Track + Field Ultimate Frisbee Volleyball

Co-Curricular Programs Our co-curricular programs are an essential part of SGS. They support and amplify what happens in the classroom.

Advisory Groups The SGS Advisory Program places an emphasis on supporting students academically, socially, and emotionally. Advisory Groups, composed of an adult advisor and students from a single grade, meet twice per week. Each girl’s advisor also acts as her advocate, offering advice and support, and communicates purposefully with families, fellow teachers, and with our Dean of Student Life. Advisors facilitate Learning Team Meetings in the fall and spring.

Affinity + Alliance Groups SGS students have the option of participating in school-based affinity groups to explore their ethnic, cultural, or sexual identity with the support of peers, faculty, and staff. Affinity and Alliance Groups meet monthly during school hours.

After-School Programs After-school programs include Scholar’s Club and After Care. Other programs have included Rock Band, Math Club, Robotics, Richard’s Rwanda/IMPUHWE, and Yearbook.

Ambassador Program This program is for students who want to support the school at various admissions events. Interested students go through a thorough application and training process and must commit to volunteering at several admissions events.

Wednesday Workshops We offer a range of classes in partnership with Coyote Central including drama, photography, chess, hip-hop dance, drill team, journalism, choir, graphic design, robotics, woodworking, and cooking.

Mentor Program The goal of the Mentor Program is to make our students “strong from the inside out” by building a village around each girl. The unique experiences and insights that each student gains by having a mentor enhances her education at SGS and becomes a rewarding growth experience for the mentor as well.

Student-Interest Groups SIGS are created by students seeking an outlet for specific activities or interests. Led with the help of a faculty advisor, past SIGs have included Art SIG, Writers SIG, and Harry Potter SIG.

Student Council Student Council plans and leads student activities such as dances, talent shows, fundraisers, and spirit week. While the elected officers are all 7th graders learning to lead both older and younger students, each advisory group elects its own representatives, and all students are welcome to attend meetings.


Profile for Seattle Girls' School

Curriculum Guide 2015-2016  

Curriculum Guide 2015-2016