Middle School

"When boys and girls step into single-sex classrooms in Middle School, they are able to shed gender expectations, find their unique voices, and develop a strong sense of self."

Welcome to Middle School

The Middle School hallways at SCH are filled with joy, energy, and academic passion. Students eagerly explore their identities and consider important questions: Who am I? How do I learn best? Am I a mathematician, a writer, a photographer, a historian, a coder? What values matter most to me? How do I handle bumps in the road? And what is my role in the larger world? 

The Middle School years are transformative. We are committed to building on our Lower School foundation and creating a single-sex academic experience in grades 5-8. When boys and girls step into the classroom, they are able to shed gender expectations, find their unique voices, and develop a strong sense of self. Students analyze literature, build solar cars, craft their own poetry, lead probability carnivals, participate in math and reading competitions, and use Sketch Up to design 3D models. Our 8th graders graduate Middle School empowered and ready to seize the myriad opportunities offered in our coed Upper School.

Relationships are at the heart of each student’s experience in Middle School. Students are paired with an advisor who becomes a trusted mentor and advocate in all arenas of their advisees’ lives—academic, social, and emotional—and their advisory group becomes their family at school. Our talented faculty lead classes that are engaging and hands-on, with students at the center of every activity. Whether students are interested in robotics, the orchestra, creative writing, US history, geometry, digital publishing, or social entrepreneurship, there is an avenue to explore your passion.
As I often remind our students, in Middle School, grades and awards don’t define you. What does define you is this: Are you working your very hardest? Do you treat everyone around you with kindness and respect? Do you ask for help when you need it? Do you own and grow from your mistakes? Do you have the courage to stand up for what is right, even when it’s hard? And do you believe you can grow into the student and person you strive to be?
I encourage you to visit campus and experience the warm community, academic rigor, and undeniable passion that pervade the halls at SCH. As you peek around, you may find yourself wishing that you, too, could return to Middle School!

Meadow Pepino
Head of Middle School


Our Program

List of 12 items.

  • Art

    Our lively visual arts program seeks to balance the learning of solid foundational skills with the adventure of expressive freedom. Our program is rich in two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and digital art opportunities, collaborative experiences, and exposure to a variety of artistic traditions and cultures, building a broad visual literacy.Through these experiences, students develop an understanding of artistic concepts and an appreciation of the richness and complexity of artistic expression across the world. Classroom projects emphasize the development of visual and manual problem-solving skills and encourage students to exercise their hands, brains, eyes, and hearts simultaneously. Exposure to a wide variety of materials and projects helps students to draw on different aspects of themselves as young artists. In the process, they learn to evaluate and appreciate both their own work and the work of their classmates in deeper, more meaningful, and more informed ways.
  • Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership

    Middle School students enjoy classes through the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL). These classes focus on specific 21st century skills and topics identified as important for college and employment, including teamwork and collaboration, interviewing and oral presentation, prototyping, coding, economics and finance, and research, data, and analysis.
  • Engineering & Robotics

    In the Middle School, students take a course that serves as an introduction to the basic facets of design and engineering. It emphasizes the following: the evolution and history of design, the design and engineering process, the importance of proper sketching techniques, measurement and tools used in design, and the use of those tools and techniques to innovate or invent solutions to problems. Through active engagement and tinkering, students identify problems and seek solutions while learning that resiliency in problem solving is essential to success. Short projects throughout the course are designed to build skills, teamwork, resiliency, and curiosity.
  • English

    The ability to read critically, to interpret figures of speech and characters’ motivations, to analyze narrative and poetic structures, to speak with conviction, to listen with empathy, and to write clearly and confidently are not only crucial to literature studies but also invaluable skills for understanding this ever-changing global community. Our English program is skill based but also fosters a lifelong love of reading whose foundation is an investigative, curious spirit and a desire at every turn to respond with the student’s own observations, beliefs, and analysis. SCH students graduate with the critical-thinking tools, the writing abilities, and the questing spirit that will make them confident to face whatever the world places in their paths.

    The English program strives to solidify a lifelong love of reading and writing. We reinforce and build upon the boys’ reading fluency and comprehension, develop their interpretive reading and analytical writing abilities, and expand their grammar and syntax mastery so that they can successfully employ varying sentence structures in their own writing. The books we read are chosen both for their literary quality and for their appeal to a Middle School boy, from classics like The Old Man and the Sea, Romeo and Juliet, and Of Mice and Men to contemporary classics like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and A Long Walk to Water. The writing assignments embrace many genres, from essays and journal entries to short stories, poems, and graphic novels. Our boys leave the Middle School as budding analytical thinkers, critics, and authors with the confidence and the toolbox to help them thrive in Upper School English.

    In Middle School for Girls, the English program supports students’ developing fluency in reading and writing. We foster a culture of reading that includes self-selected books as well as common, class texts. Students learn to read critically and interpret a mix of contemporary and classical works. We read books that appeal to girls and offer them windows into other worlds, e.g., Romeo and Juliet, Coraline, Incantation, and The Secret Life of Bees. We emphasize the drafting process, and students learn effective writing and revision practices. The writing assignments embrace expository, poetic, narrative, and analytic writing forms. We teach usage and grammar and mechanics explicitly and in the context of student writing. Our girls leave the Middle School as critical readers and dynamic writers.
  • Health and Wellness

    Students learn about important topics related to healthy living and emotional wellness. Topics include nutrition, exercise, strategies for mindfulness and stress reduction, anatomy, puberty, human reproduction, sexual education, and drug education.
  • History

    In today’s dynamic global environment a strong knowledge of history and the ability to think critically is an essential part of a 21st century education. SCH students study history in inquiry-driven classrooms that promote experiential learning and develop historical empathy. Understanding the perspective of historical figures and their diverse experiences allows students to reflect upon their own lives and to understand more fully the world and cultures they live in and will help shape.

    In Middle School, the history curriculum is designed to take advantage of the passion, curiosity, imagination, and energy of Middle School students. Students in 5th and 6th grade examine the geography and history of the ancient world, exploring themes with contemporary relevance. In the 7th and 8th grades, students participate in a two-year study of American history using the resources of Philadelphia to engage in experiential, hands-on learning. Students deepen their ability to analyze and create a wide variety of traditional and new media sources, write in many formats, and present and speak in public.
  • Language

    The language program Pre-K–12 is shaped by two important beliefs: the first is that it is essential for our students, in an ever more interconnected world, to develop an awareness of and appreciation for cultures other than their own. The second is that they can accomplish this goal more thoroughly and meaningfully by developing the linguistic competency to navigate life in these cultures.

    In Middle School students may choose either to continue their Chinese studies or to start on a Romance language track. If they choose the latter, in 5th and 6th grades they take a Prima Lingua course in which they study the linguistic features common to many languages and the grammatical structures of English. In 7th grade, those students not continuing to study Chinese may choose to begin to study French, Spanish, or Latin. As befits older students, they tackle a larger volume of vocabulary and increasingly sophisticated grammatical structures.
  • Math

    The mathematics program at SCH Academy aims to develop students’ problem-solving skills and logical thinking. At all ages, this is accomplished by applying standard skills and concepts to real-life applications as much as possible. We want our students to be willing and eager to tackle a new problem, regardless of whether it looks like one they’ve done before.

    Middle School math emphasizes process over results as it exposes students to the fundamentals of algebraic thinking. While reinforcing basic arithmetic skills with fractions, decimals, and percents, we begin in 5th grade to use variables in mathematical expressions and equations, culminating in 8th grade with formal algebra and the solving of systems of equations as well as quadratic equations. We emphasize multistep problems to teach the importance of doing work on paper rather than in your head. Algebraic thinking is taught in the context of real-world problems rather than as discrete skills, which helps students grasp the relevance of what they are learning. Middle School students gain confidence and expertise in tackling multi-step problems and translating words into mathematical expressions while learning good processes along the way.
  • Music

    The music program for Middle School students includes both performance opportunities and non-performance music learning. Students who self-define as singers or instrumentalists may elect to participate either in Boychoir or Girlchoir or Instrumental Ensemble (5th grade)/Middle School Orchestra (6th-8th grades). For those students who want a non-performance based class, we offer Explorations in Creating Music in 5th grade, Explorations in World Music in 6th grade, a more advanced Explorations in Creating Music in 7th grade, and Explorations in Musical Ensembles in 8th grade. Beginning in 5th grade, students may choose to participate in Musica Mundi after school. This steel band explores cultures and traditions from around the world while further developing students' musicianship and performance skills. Students may also elect to participate in one of the school sponsored recitals provided twice a year.
  • New Media

    New Media courses are taught as part of the curriculum developed for the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, include classes in coding and interactive design, communications and design and fabrication.

    Coding classes begin with learning SCRATCH and JAVASCRIPT designed to help students learn the core concepts of computer programming. Communications classes build foundational skills in communicating through many media types and students learn the basics of 2D and 3D design and how to produce prototypes using the vinyl cutter, laser cutter and 3D printer in their Design and Fabrication classes.
  • Performing Arts

    In Middle School, students build a well-rounded theatrical foundation, focusing on collaboration and teamwork, script analysis and character development, acting technique, improvisation, technical design, and scriptwriting. In 5th grade, students create filmed performances of published monologues. In 6th grade, they work in production teams to create short silent movies. In 7th grade, students write original monologues based on interviews with SCH faculty and staff. They share these monologues in live performance. Students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade may also elect to participate in Middle School Drama, one of the first coeducational activities for boys and girls. In this activity, students are able to further develop their skills in the various aspects of theatre and gain firsthand experience in mounting a full theatrical production. Students have the opportunity to participate either as actors or as stage crew. Crew activities include set and scenic, props, costumes, lighting, sound, publicity, and dramaturgy. Students may also apply for a leadership position as stage manager or technical director.
  • Science

    The science curriculum offers students in every grade challenging and exciting learning experiences that help them develop the skills of scientific inquiry and an understanding of the laws, systems, and structures that define our natural world. Classes provide students with opportunities to use the most up-to-date equipment and technologies as they ask questions, design experiments, explore, collaborate, and become efficient and effective problem solvers. Our interdisciplinary curriculum integrates engineering principles in meaningful and relevant ways and asks students to quantify their work using appropriate mathematical and statistical tools and to use the arts and new media to model their work or creatively and richly display what they have synthesized.

    Many of the course materials and activities are designed and/or assembled by the SCH Science Department to enhance and supplement available materials. Teachers are guided by the Next Generation Science Standards, PA Science Standards, the National Science Teachers’ Association, and local curricular materials. In addition, all divisions make extensive use of the surrounding Wissahickon ecosystem, as well as the school’s “green structures,” as part of our dynamic, real-world-based curriculum.

    Students in Middle School continue to refine and strengthen basic science practices—skills used by real scientists and engineers. Our project-based approach to learning challenges students to design their own investigations by forming hypotheses, investigating in the lab or field, quantifying and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. These projects involve them in meaningful, open-ended, inquiry-based problem solving from designing and constructing solar-powered cars, to engineering earthquake-resistant towers. In 7th and 8th grades, students have an opportunity to gain greater exposure for their research projects by entering outside competitions such as the Christopher Columbus Awards and the Junior Solar Sprint at the Franklin Institute. Through these experiences they strengthen their scientific skills and begin to think of themselves as scientists and engineers.

Program Highlights

Community Building and Outdoor Education through Class Trips
Learning from and experiencing the outdoors is an important part of the Middle School experience. Class trips punctuate the Middle School years, helping to build class unity and providing new perspectives on classroom learning. Many students cite their outdoor and trip program experiences as among their most memorable ones at SCH.
Honing Skills and Entrepreneurial Thinking
Middle School students enjoy classes through the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL). These classes focus on specific 21st century skills and topics identified as important for college and employment, including leadership and ethics, interviewing and oral presentation, prototyping, coding, economics and finance, and research, data, and analysis.
Service Learning Opportunities 
Students build their sense of effectiveness and learn they are part of a larger community through opportunities to serve, both within and beyond the school.
Learning Environments Outside the Classroom
Opportunities abound for Middle School students to try new pursuits—on the playing field, on stage, and in a broad range of learning environments. In this way, students develop the confidence to act and are empowered to use their intrinsic talents as artists, authors, musicians, scholars, scientists, “techies,” community activists, and more.

AEIOU Program: Our Mission to Build an Inclusive Community
Our Middle School culture is grounded in SCH’s core values -- diversity, thoughtfulness, courage, integrity, and resilience. We are committed to building an inclusive community through our advisory curriculum called AEIOU: Awareness, Empathy, Inclusivity, Difference as Opportunity, and Understanding.