Middle School (5th-8th Grade) students are 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 self-advocacy skills. The academic disciplines of English, mathematics, history, science, and foreign language are the core of the academic program. 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 high school level, whether in the most competitive local independent schools, boarding schools, or public high schools.
The St. Matthew’s Middle School program is fully departmentalized, with students traveling from teacher to teacher for all of their subjects. Classes meet on an 8-day rotating schedule for 70 minutes each. All Middle School students are assigned a locker and an academic advisor.
The English curriculum in the Middle School is driven by themes unique to the developmental needs of each grade level. Students are provided with rich studies of a variety of texts, multiple opportunities for expository, analytical, and creative writing, and sequential study of vocabulary and grammar. Throughout the course of study, students engage in oratorical contests, public speaking, performance, nature writing and creative writing activities.
5th Grade theme: “Our Changing World”
Guiding questions: How does contact affect communities? How does change influence our world? How does setting impact personal change?
6th Grade theme: “Coming of Age”
Guiding questions: How does story help us to survive in the real world? How do countries come of age? How does experience/rites of passage help us understand and confront change? How do stories teach you about yourself?
7th Grade theme: “Conflict and Values”
Guiding questions: How do environments affect/shape/construct one’s values? How do stories help us make sense of the world? What happens when your personal values conflict with society?
8th Grade theme: “The Moral Compass”
Guiding questions: How do experience and knowledge inform one’s moral compass? How do we reconcile external and internal paradoxes? How does the interplay of dreams, oppression and societal pressure affect one’s moral compass?
5th Grade students complete the Everyday Math curriculum and are divided into heterogeneous groups.
Our 6th-8th Grade program consists of the following courses:
Math (6th Grade), Pre-Algebra (6th Grade), Honors Algebra (7th Grade), Pre-Algebra (7th Grade), Algebra 1 (8th Grade), Honors Algebra 1, (8th Grade), Geometry (8th Grade)
Students are placed into the appropriate course based on several data points that relate to achievement, readiness, and approach to learning.
Living a life of curiosity guides the science program at St. Matthew’s. At all grade levels, students are taught to approach the world with an inquisitive mind and learn how to ask questions, solve problems, and develop an engineering mind, while also learning specific content.
In Middle School, students study Earth Science (5th), Environmental Science (6th), Biology (7th), Physics, Chemistry, and Innovations (8th). They learn how to conduct experiments and write traditional lab reports while also engaging in a variety of project-based engineering tasks.
In 5th grade, our students explore the geography of the whole United States as well as learn about Native American tribes and European colonization. In 6th grade, students study ancient civilizations and connect what they learn to current issues around how water impacts civilizations. 7th graders study world history, including the rise of Islam, medieval Europe, the Aztecs, and the history of China and Japan. The 8th grade year concludes with a study of United States history, focusing on migration and immigration. Through a lens of diversity and inclusion, students connect what they are learning to current events and modern migration stories.
Latin (5-6): 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 (7-8): 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. Relevant aspects of the Hispanic culture are woven into the stories and class discussions. Conversation and communication in Spanish are emphasized at all times. Students are well prepared and typically place into Spanish II in high school.
The Arts and Electives
In 5th and 6th grade, students continue their musical education with an instrumental music class. Choosing from a selection of brass, woodwind and percussion, they learn to play an instrument and be part of a musical team. 7th and 8th grade students are given a range of arts, humanities and technology-based electives to choose from, participating in two different classes each year.
One of the highlights of the music and arts program is the Spring Musical. 8th graders take the lead, either onstage in major roles or backstage as the set design, lighting, and sound crew. Students in grades 5-7 participate as members of the ensemble cast.
The St. Matthew’s Physical Education Program provides sequential and developmentally appropriate activities designed to provide 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 P.E. instruction and by 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.
All Middle School students are assigned to a small group grade-level advisory team of approximately 12 students mentored by a faculty advisor. Advisories provide each student with a faculty advocate and advisor to assist him or her in academic, social, and emotional growth.
Religion, Chapel and Service Leadership
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 our Student Government.
In 5th Grade, students develop a relationship with Second Grade children from Saint Anne School, a Roman Catholic School in Santa Monica where many families live below the poverty line. A joint book writing project helps foster the relationship between the students. The 5th Graders also support Saint Anne through bake sales that raise funds to enhance their partners’ classroom.
As part of the 6th Grade interdisciplinary program that explores water issues, students participate in Heal the Bay activities alongside their 2nd Grade buddies, helping raise awareness about water issues within our school and the greater community.
Grade 7 focuses on supporting the needs of the hungry and homeless in our community. After a visit to some of our Community Outreach Partners, the students lead the joint Parish-School Food Ingathering and later serve meals at a local shelter and transitional housing community.
The 8th Grade Service Learning summer project is the students’ opportunity to make a self-initiated difference in the world and to begin living out the School motto of Serve, Lead, Flourish in their own communities. Students complete nine hours of community service at an organization of their choosing, challenging them to get involved in a community that feels different from their own and recognizing their own gifts and how much they have to offer others.
Student Government: 8th Grade students participate in school government through the Student Action Leadership Team (SALT), and are elected to executive board officer positions. SALT representatives have responsibility for community and school service, school spirit-building activities, and 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.
Student Ambassadors: Rising 8th Grade students apply and are selected to this leadership position. Ambassadors lead Middle School tours for prospective families and assist with Admission Open Houses, and help welcome new students to St. Matthew's.
Other Middle School Highlights
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.
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.