Charleston’s Newest Middle School
Our nationally recognized, private Middle School opened August 2020 with 6th grade.
Our middle school program is designed to harness the potential of adolescents through a combination of a rigorous, research based academic curriculum with a strong focus on the unique and essential social emotional skills tweens and teens need. We want our graduates to emerge as confident communicators, accomplished thinkers, empathetic friends and partners, adaptable learners, and creative leaders who are ready to enrich their next environment with their gifts.
Middle schoolers participate in a variety of courses that combine the individualized, inquiry-based approach of our elementary program with an intentional shift to greater depth of knowledge and research in core content areas. The curriculum is cohesive, carefully sequenced and structured to prepare students for high school and beyond.
The Cooper School bases its project work on The Project Approach model developed by Lilian Katz and Sylvia Chard. Project Work is defined as an in depth investigation of a real word topic worthy of time, attention and energy.
Small projects will exist in core subject areas, and be based on the current unit of study. However, 3 times a year, for 2 week blocks, student will participate in “Clusters”. During Clusters, Middle School students will be grouped into small, multi age collaborative groups. These groups will engage in interdisciplinary units based on interests, and led by a member of the TCS faculty, or a member of the broader community. During this 2 week period, students will have Clusters for the entire morning block, and core classes in the afternoon. Clusters will change yearly as we address the needs and interests of our students, as well as engage the competencies and talents of our faculty and community at large.
Electives provide middle schoolers with the opportunity to choose classes that coincide with personal interests. Allowing students to have choice in their own course of study allows for independence and accountability. Of course, we have a myriad of interests in our study body. Our goal is to create a space for students to explore what excited them most, and to experiment with topics they may be curious about. Some examples might be: Google Sketchup, History of Rock Music, Mindfulness and Yoga or Journalism.
Learning Labs are three periods each week for supplemental work on academic subjects. During Learning Lab students have an opportunity to meet with teachers to review, clarify, or expand their understanding of each subject. This time can also include special learning topics like study skills and wellness.
Community Involvement and Service Learning
In their advisory group, Middle Schoolers will research and choose a community partner with whom to do monthly service work. Students will commit to that partnership for the entire year, and we will explore different ways to help chosen organizations. For example, on advisory group might their community involvement on the environment. Students could adopt a beach and work together to identify threats to the beach and habitat and clean the area. Another advisory group might focus on intergenerational community involvement, making connections with residents of elder-care facilities near campus.
The Cooper School embraces the thoughtful and intentional use of technology as a tool for learning, promoting the idea that students should use technology as creators, not consumers. Our project-based approach values the integration of technology in all disciplines for research, creation, and presentation. Furthermore, we strive to provide students with fluency in regards to equipment and applications.
All Middle School Classrooms will be equipped with interactive smartboard technology and/or TV’s for presentations of learning. The Cooper School Middle School will be a one to one Chromebook program. Each Middle School student will be given a Chromebook at the beginning of their Middle School enrollment. Direct instruction around the appropriate use of technology will ensure learning goals are achieved. Technology learning goals will include digital citizenship; research including finding, evaluation, analyzing and processing information; communication through spreadsheets, databases, and discussion threads; multimedia projects and presentations.
While technology serves an important and critical role, The Cooper School Middle School will continue to use researched best practices to inform our technology use. The most current studies show using laptops in classrooms to take notes and/or engage in active learning decreases student achievement for both the user, and for nearby peers (Sana, Weston & Cepeda, 2012). Laptops during instruction often mean students are multitasking during lessons. Students who multitask on laptops during class time have impaired comprehension of course material and poorer overall course performance (Kraushaar & Novak, 2010). Additionally, learners in view of the laptop, even if they weren’t on laptops themselves, had impeded learning. Therefore, even our one to one model will be thoughtful, intentional, and purposeful.
As for personal electronics, cell phones, ipads, and smartwatches will not be permitted in classrooms. Playing games, sending messages and internet “surfing” is contrary to the purposes of the school and will be restricted.
Student progress is measured through individual and group projects, oral and written work, formal tests and quizzes, homework, and daily classroom participation. Teachers use rubrics, written comments on work, and more formal reports to communicate progress to the student. Three times a year, formal report cards in the form of checklists and comments sum up a student’s performance in the areas of work habits, social emotional leaning, and subject content mastery. The Cooper school uses standardized tests (ERB) once a year in in reading, writing and math. While we do not gear the curriculum or set goals for a particular student according to what is measured on standardized tests, such tests are a helpful tool in evaluation.
Official Parent-Teacher conferences will be held twice a year, in the Fall and the Spring. Parents will meet with their student’s advisor to go over their child’s academic work and progress, as well as their social emotional development. Students will demonstrate their own learning and goals through a portfolio of work and discuss their own progress with their parents at this time. Parents will also have the opportunity to speak privately with their student’s advisor.