Middle School (6-8) at Saint John Academy
In middle school teachers create engaging lesson plans that further challenge students in the areas of critical thinking and reasoning, skills that students will need in high school. In middle school students further develop their study skills, and learn other effective homework habits — to meet academic demands, and prepare for the rigors of high school.
Grammar and composition are emphasized in the Language Arts subject area. Students learn editing and revising skills and often work with peers on a variety of tasks, including projects and skits. Students practice using varied sentence structure in their writing and master concepts such as parts of speech in conjunction with their vocabulary and spelling study.
Students’ vocabulary development focuses on mastering the various nuances of English language words and phrases. Students learn multiple definitions, connotations, and parts of speech for each vocabulary term. They are also exposed to concepts such as etymology, root words, prefixes, and suffixes. Students learn to incorporate vocabulary and spelling terms into their writing and oral presentations through journal writing, poetry, skits, and word games. Learning to listen and speak effectively is another important component of Language Arts, and students frequently read aloud and perform in front of their peers.
The middle school literature program at Saint John Academy offers students an introduction to the world of classical literature. Rather than using a literature textbook, students read novels, short stories, poetry, essays, and history. There is no differentiation in the 6th grade, but in the 7th and 8th grades, students are selected for either the honors literature course or the age-appropriate literature course. The works that students are reading this year include works by J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Chaim Potok, Somerset Maugham, William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Rudyard Kipling, Guy de Maupassant, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Homer, Evelyn Waugh, O. Henry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Robert Frost, and Emily Dickenson among others. The literature program also includes a significant amount of writing to help students hone this very important skill. In the late spring, the two 8th grade literature sections work together to produce and present one of Shakespeare’s plays at the Diocesan Shakespeare Festival. The 7th grade, during the last week of school, presents to the school a mystery/detective play that it has produced.
The middle school math program at Saint John Academy recognizes that, at middle school age, some students learn and understand new mathematical skills faster and more handily than other students. It is for this reason that, beginning in the 6th grade, Saint John Academy offers an age-appropriate math class and an advanced math class. In the 7th grade, students are selected for either the 7th grade math class or the pre-algebra class. In the 8th grade, students have the opportunity, after taking a math diagnostic test at the end of their 7th grade year, to take either Algebra 1 or pre-algebra. This two-tiered system has helped students thrive in the rigorous math curriculum that St. John offers to students.
Science is a discipline requiring the ability to observe, analyze, and apply critical thinking skills in order to solve problems. By implementing the LabLearner™ program here at Saint John Academy in grades 1-8, students are able to participate in a 100% hands-on experience in a fully equipped in-school lab, which will prepare them for high school science.
LabLearner™ is a comprehensive program designed to demonstrate basic scientific concepts in developing stages throughout the 1-8 educational experience. LabLearner™ focuses on augmenting student’s cognitive abilities in critical thinking and problem solving in a lab setting. For each new topic the program provides a CELL (Core Experience Learning Lab) which the teachers integrate into their science classes. All students in grades 1-8 have access to LabLearner™ and the teachers are briefed on the details of the program at the beginning of the year. The program enables the students to explore the wonders of science while developing problem solving skills that will serve them not only in science class but in life.
Sixth Grade Science investigates areas of Earth and Environmental Science (Weathering and Erosion, Space and the Atmosphere), Physics (Energy and Simple Machines) and Chemistry (Properties of Matter and Solubility).
Seventh Grade Science investigates areas of Life Science (Cellular Organization, Genes and Proteins, and the Cell Cycle and Adaption) and Chemistry (Solutions, Acids and Bases, Atomic Structure and Chemical Reactions).
Eighth Grade Science will investigate areas of Chemistry (Acids and Bases), Physics (Heat Transfer, Friction, Simple Machines, and Electricity and Magnetism) and Life Science (Ecosystems).
Various learning strategies include purposeful reading, outlining, note taking, critical thinking and discussion. Multiple assessment measures are used to gauge student performance, including quizzes, tests, research and oral reports, debates, interviews, models, drawings and exhibits. Integration of Social Studies with other curriculum occurs regularly with Language Arts, Science, Math and Technology.
Saint John Academy’s comprehensive religious education program emphasizes formation in the Roman Catholic faith, with a focus on the liturgical calendar. Students participate in the devotional life of the Church, including a weekly school Mass, and the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Penance weekly. In addition to the example set by their extraordinary Catholic lay teachers, students receive periodic instruction from their parish priests and members of other religious communities.
The teaching of a world language (Spanish) provides a variety of benefits. When children study world language, they develop higher cognitive thinking skills. Studying Spanish exposes students to the beauty and richness of another language and civilization. Foreign language study also helps students gain a better understanding of the grammar/ structure of their native language. As a result they usually perform better on standardized tests (Terra Nova, HSPT, SAT, ACT).
The ultimate goal of an academic elementary foreign language program is to complete successfully the level one high school curriculum. The high schools currently require a world language placement test and/or recommendation by the student’s world language teacher. Many students who have graduated from St. John Academy have tested into Spanish II in high school, or Spanish II Honors.
At Saint John Academy, students in 6th grade have Spanish class twice a week. Students in 7th and 8th grade have Spanish class three times a week.
Health / Physical Education
P.E. is offered at Saint John Academy for PK – 8. Our physical education program teaches the students to invest in self-respect and confidence through sportsmanship and exercise. The program starts with balance and coordination exercises and games for the younger students. By graduation, our students have learned valuable lessons in team work and have a working knowledge of many sports as well as experience with healthy exercises appropriate for their age range.
SJA views physical education as an integral part of a holistic Catholic educational process. SJA promotes and models lifetime wellness by teaching sound guidelines for a healthy lifestyle. Students are taught to respect their bodies and understand the importance of making good choices regarding eating and exercising.
The SJA music program is centered on the Ward method, a composition of music training founded in Gregorian chant. This method teaches all elements of music that includes rhythm, pitch, notation, composition and conducting through movement and singing. The student Treble Choir practices three days a week and performs at Church and school functions.
Saint John Academy’s art curriculum is designed to develop a young artist’s technical abilities and vision, through the study of a variety of traditional and contemporary media. Media used include drawing, oil pastels, acrylics, paper mache, clay, chalk pastels, water colors and textile arts.
Each student has the opportunity to create their own projects and artwork based on the works of famous artists, including those of Van Gogh, Picasso, and Monet. There is no limit to what they are able to create. Students also work on large scale projects as a class, such as scenery and props for school plays and musicals.
SJA uses an engaging, project-oriented approach to captivate students, and involve them more deeply. Students are actively engaged in learning the practical applications of software through hands-on activities. Research, writing, and math skills are emphasized throughout various projects as the use of technology is integrated into the classroom curriculum when possible. Middle school students build on the skills learned from elementary school and further learn how to use and create spreadsheets, design marketing materials for promotional ventures, write HTML, and design simple Web pages.
Use of digital photography, desktop publishing, and other practical skills enable students to produce such products as calendars, Christmas cards, and promotional brochures. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access are some of the practical applications the students learn to use.
Study Skills (6th Grade)
Sixth Graders at Saint John Academy take a Study & Research Skills course so as to be prepared for the increased demands of middle school, high school and beyond. The curriculum focuses on organizational skills, tips for success in different aspects of academics, and research skills. Skills learned include: personal organization skills for schoolwork, note taking techniques, homework tips, test taking tips, research methods, and how to develop a Works Cited list. The course is also coordinated with the middle school faculty, to integrate cross-curriculum projects into the classwork, so that the sixth grade will have practical, current applications for the techniques that they learn.
National Junior Honor Society
Saint John Academy has established the Father Franklyn M. McAfee Chapter of the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS). The National Junior Honor Society is a leader among organizations recognizing outstanding students. More than just an honor roll, students who are chosen must demonstrate excellence in the areas of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character. These characteristics have been associated with membership in the organization since its beginning in 1921. Chapter membership not only recognizes students for their accomplishments, but also challenges them to further develop as individuals through active involvement in school activities and by providing community service.