Our middle school includes grades 6 – 8 and is located at 2120 Dorchester Avenue in Dorchester, MA.

We use EL Education’s ELA curriculum that combines rigorous, standards-aligned content with effective and engaging instructional practices that link reading and writing with speaking and listening skills. Students read increasingly complex fiction and non-fiction texts and utilize reading, research, and writing skills to investigate compelling science and social studies topics such as ocean conservation, screen time and the developing brain, and the plight of refugees. In addition, Conservatory Lab teachers have developed their own interdisciplinary units that challenge students to grapple with big ideas and compelling topics that shape their lives.

The yearlong writing curriculum at each grade level is aligned to Massachusetts Common Core State Standards to give students the opportunity to practice and master writing in various modes and genres, including narrative writing, poetry, informative/explanatory writing, and opinion writing. In science and social studies expeditions, students conduct independent research and collaborate on written and multi-media products that synthesize and communicate their learning for audiences beyond the classroom.

Teachers use a variety of interactive math materials, curricula, and texts from carefully selected math resources to craft lessons that provide a high level of rigor, meet Massachusetts Common Core State Standards, prepare students for proficiency on the PARCC exam, and ensure that instruction is differentiated to fit each student’s needs. Lessons emphasizes rigorous reasoning, practice, and reflection through solving real-world problems.

Middle school students continue to apply core practices that promote essential critical thinking, research, and presentation skills used by historians and social scientists to interpret the past and help us develop an understanding of our world—of time and causation, of place, and of our individual and collective rights and responsibilities. A culture of debate enlivens the classroom and gives students the opportunity to synthesize their knowledge and skills to make claims and arguments that support their point of view.

Sixth graders identify the essential elements of a civilization as they explore the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and China, and construct their own ideal civilizations. They explore different forms of government and investigate people’s choices to conform to or resist authoritarian regimes, including Communist China under Mao, fascist Germany under Hitler, and Chile under Pinochet.

Seventh graders investigate world geography as they participate in case studies that ask the question: How do the actions we take locally impact people and places around the world? Throughout the year, students are immersed in a culture of debate, formulating positions and conducting Model United Nation style debates on contemporary hot topics such as the use of drones, child labor, and disposing electronic waste in developing countries.

Eighth graders take a critical look at American democracy as they draft a strategic options memo to their senator or representative on a topic drawn from today’s immigration debate, conduct a mock court trial around a constitutional or criminal justice issue, and examine opposing viewpoints about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Music-integration. During social studies learning expeditions, students listen to, learn about, and perform musical traditions and genres from the historical periods they are studying. Through music, they begin to have a conversation with history, connecting major political and cultural events and movements through song. For example, eighth graders enliven their investigation of African American history by listening to and singing broadside ballads about the conflicts and events that shaped this important part of our nation’s history.

Middle school uses SEPUP’s (Science Education for Public Understanding Program) Issues in Life Science and Issues and Physical Science curriculum that employs a combination of laboratories, investigations, readings, models, debates, role plays, and projects. SEPUP’s inquiry-based units align with Massachusetts Next Generation Science Standards and anchor life science, earth science, and physical science investigations in real world issues.

Select SEPUP units are incorporated into an interdisciplinary science expedition at each grade level. For example, 7th graders conduct water quality testing at nearby Savin Hill Cove and identify the sources of pollution that threaten the survival of this coastal ecosystem right in our backyard. While investigating the chemistry of plastics, 8th graders consider the ethics of disposing electronic waste in developing countries and create a graphic nonfiction book to educate consumers about the social and environmental hazards of the electronics industry.

Through music, students begin to have a conversation with history, connecting major political events and movements through song. For example, students learn about the role of music as propaganda during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and how music became a tool for social change during the U.S. labor movement.

Music also animates science and engineering investigations. For example, while learning about coding and electronics, 8th graders build and program metronomes to blink in time with a piece of music, then build mini keyboards coded to play a C-major scale.