PS - 8 Academic Programs » Middle School Program

Middle School Program

Fifth - Eighth Grade Program

After mastering the important foundational skills in the elementary years, a student is ready to develop more disciplined methods of organizing time, pursuing subjects in greater depth, and developing an understanding of self and their place in the world. One of the key elements of a St. Matthew’s education is the age appropriate experiences that facilitate the development of character, leadership skills, and new interests and talents.

Throughout the Middle School program, students are introduced to increasingly challenging and probing academic course work, enrichment in the arts, music, and physical education, and are given a strong foundation in study, research and computer skills. The academic disciplines of English, mathematics, history, foreign language and science are the core of the academic program. The introduction of a 1:1 iPad program in the fall of 2011 further demonstrated our commitment to integrated technology throughout the curriculum to enhance student productivity, engagement and collaboration. A commitment to meeting the needs of diverse learners through differentiated instruction, collaborative and individual problem solving and authentic assessment are an integral part of the Middle School curriculum. The program prepares students for future academic success at the secondary school level, whether in the most competitive independent schools or public high schools.
The St. Matthew’s Middle School program is departmentalized. Fifth grade is a transition year where students have core teachers for math, reading and language arts in addition to specialists in history, science, music, art, computer, religion and PE. By sixth grade, students are involved in a fully departmentalized program, traveling from teacher to teacher for all of their subjects. All students in grades 5-8 are assigned a locker and an academic advisor.
Mathematics and Science Programs: The mathematics program prepares all students to complete Algebra I in the eighth grade, and offers an accelerated track preparing qualified students for accelerated Algebra I. Lab-centered science courses in a state-of-the-art facility feature hands-on investigations in biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science and biotechnology. With computers linked to video microscopes and the Internet at each lab station, students are able to do hands-on as well as minds-on research in science.
Language Arts (English): The language arts curriculum provides a balanced instructional program in literature, vocabulary development, and grammar, as well as expository and creative writing. Literature studies expose students to both classic and contemporary authors and develop reading comprehension through interpretative and critical evaluation. The teaching of writing is enriched by the availability of computer keyboards for every student in the class.
Foreign Language Program:
Latin (Grades 5 and 6): Students are introduced to the study of Latin as well as Ancient Roman and Greek mythology in the fifth grade year. Sixth graders learn Latin vocabulary, as well as the culture of Ancient Pompeii through their study of Cambridge Latin’s Unit One. By the end of the year, they can analyze simple Latin grammar and translate to English as well as English to Latin. They also read and review tales of Ancient Greek and Roman mythology in their preparation for a National Mythology Exam.

Spanish (Grades 7 and 8): Spanish is a two-year sequence that is equivalent to a Level One high school course. The four language skills: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening Comprehension, are the pillars of the course. Vocabulary is introduced through stories and is used for authentic communication where students talk about their own lives and their community. Conversation and communication in Spanish are emphasized at all times. Relevant aspects of the Hispanic culture are woven into the stories and class discussions. Students are well prepared and typically place into Spanish II in high school.
Technology Program: Students learn and master a wide variety of technology and design thinking skills through an integrated program utilizing the latest software, hardware, and maker tools. That includes 1:1 iPad program, Apple computers and laptops, and two makerspaces. Technology and making enhances the skills for research, connectivity, creation, calculation, and expression, thus making the learning experience interactive, multi-dimensional and engaging. Responsible, safe and appropriate use of technology is emphasized. Students engage in a variety of technology-rich projects such as web design and programming, Lego robotics, iBooks creation, video filming and editing, and music composition. Teachers take advantage of a variety of technology resources for teaching and evaluation purposes as well as communication and collaboration between students and parents.

Library: The Library houses over 13,000 volumes and is a hub of activity on campus. Its extensive fiction and non-fiction collection serves as a fine resource for pleasure reading or reference materials. Students locate materials using iPad search stations. Many materials can accessed in either print or digital format. Resources include print books, eBooks, searchable databases as well as periodicals.
PE and Athletics: The St. Matthew’s physical education program provides sequential and developmentally appropriate activities designed to provide the students with the skills and knowledge necessary to gain an appreciation for the benefits of maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. Students are gradually exposed to increasingly complex physical activities, cooperative games, and sports. With the availability of an indoor gymnasium, the Meadow, an expansive playing field, and a dedicated rooftop sports area students are able to participate in a wide range of indoor and outdoor physical education and recess activities, as well as interscholastic after-school sports teams. In addition, a large swimming pool is used extensively for PE instruction and the interscholastic swim team. After-school interscholastic competitive teams are offered in a variety of sports, such as volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, swimming, golf and flag football. A no-cut policy encourages participation by everyone, playing time is given to all during the regular season, and sportsmanship is valued equally with winning. At the same time, we field highly competitive teams, winning many league championships.
Fine and Performing Arts: Instruction in music, drama, and art is considered an integral part of developing each child's creativity. In grades seven and eight, a variety of elective courses are offered in those areas. Students can participate in a multitude of musical and dramatic performance opportunities. With the availability of the Sprague performing arts facility and the visual arts center, students have the opportunity to further their creative talents. Annually, professional groups present cultural programs in music, dance, and theater during the year. Students are also given an introduction to both art history and speech.
Advisory Program: All Middle School students are assigned to a small group grade-level advisory team of approximately 10 students mentored by a faculty advisor. These groups meet daily to further our social-emotional curriculum by planning and engaging in school-wide or advisory level activities such as character formation roundtables and to cultivate a greater understanding of themselves, classmates and teachers. Advisories provide each student with a faculty advocate and advisor to assist him or her in academic, social, and emotional growth.
DEEP and STAR: St. Matthew’s offers students an opportunity to apply their learning in either of two integrated programs in the 3rd trimester of the eighth grade year. In DEEP (Diving Education Enrichment Program), students are taught to scuba dive and apply this knowledge to a math and science based independent research project that culminates in the creation of a web-page and science-fair type exhibit where DEEP students present their experiences and findings to parents, teachers and fellow schoolmates. STAR (Shakespeare Theater Arts and the Renaissance) offers students more interested in the humanities, art and theater an opportunity to delve into the Elizabethan era. They study either Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth in depth, learn to fence and do stage combat, recreate the Old Globe Theater in set design, and study acting as a rehearsal exercise class. The STAR course culminates with an outdoor, evening production of interpretive scenes from Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth.

PROJECT QUEST: Project Quest is a 6th grade interdisciplinary unit that challenges students to investigate a variety of present day and historical issues with water, and select a topic of interest. Working in small groups, students investigate their area of study, analyze data, research historical impacts, build a product to take action and communicate their findings.

Approaching their work from scientific, historical, religious, and artistic lenses, students culminate in a final piece represented as a digital book, a video documentary or a TED-style presentation to peers, faculty, and other audience members.

Launch points for the NOW, THEN, ACTION! and SHARE segments of Project Quest can be viewed by clicking here. Each segment contains a description of what students developed, along with links to student work samples where available. 
The Guppy Project: Fifth and seventh graders at St. Matthew’s are engaged in The Guppy Project, a multi-year science experiment about the evolution of guppies. Both indoor and outdoor fish research facilities are dedicated to the project. Fifth graders learn about aquarium water quality by using test kits and temperature probes, and seventh graders perform a guppy census and record data about spot size in male guppies two times each year. The project’s goal is to provide a college-level laboratory experience in collecting evolutionary data. More information about this unique project is available online.

Student Government: Middle School students participate in school government through the Student Action Leadership Team (SALT). Eighth graders are elected to executive board officer positions through student elections and selection by upper school faculty. SALT representatives have responsibility for community and school service, school spirit-building activities, and sponsoring events such as the school-wide talent show and the In-N-Out lunch program. All funds raised are directed to community outreach agencies selected by the students.
Class Retreats and Excursions: All students in grades 5-8 are involved in the school's retreat program which take students and their teachers outdoors and off-campus to engage in exciting team and spirit-building activities. Each class will have a special retreat program in the fall to help build both class unity and welcome new students, promote individual growth and character development. Developing skills in collaboration, negotiation and leadership are further goals of all class retreats. Overnight trips include: Malibu Creek State Park, Catalina Island, Sequoia National Park, and New York/Washington D.C.
Service Learning: A vital part of each child's education is participation in grade-level community service projects. Every class participates in community-based service commitment as well as school-wide service activities sponsored by SALT. Grade level projects include sponsoring a family through the One Voice organization, partnering with a class at a parochial school, and helping the hungry and homeless. The culmination is a Service Learning project done in the summer before Eighth Grade where students do hands-on work with the clients of a local organization of their choice. Being of service to others allows students to see themselves as capable helpers and to act with the empathy nurtured in them at home and at school.

Community Education: The Middle School program strives to take advantage of the rich cultural and environmental opportunities that Los Angeles and California provide. Sixth grade students take a trip to the Getty Center to examine works of art and mythology they have studied in class, while the seventh grade visits downtown Los Angeles and the Museum of Tolerance. And it is off to the theater for the seventh and eighth graders to attend productions of literature they have read. All students in grades 5-8 are involved in community-wide service and outreach projects.
Class Buddies: Each Middle School class teams up with an elementary class of younger students. Individual students are assigned a specific “buddy.” Periodically, class buddies sit with each other in chapel, jointly work on a service learning activity, and engage in fun activities during Spirit Week. In the eighth grade year, students establish a special relationship through a number of specific activities with their Kindergarten buddies, culminating in the eighth grade and Kindergartners singing together during the graduation ceremony.