While there is no absolutely strict formula to which we adhere, the Middle School staff attempts to maintain a balance of 7th and 8th graders, as well as males to females. We simultaneously strive for diversity within our student population and a common sense of “group.” As a result, we look for students who we think will thrive within the Harmony program. Sometimes, these are students who have a distinct need for a more personalized, supportive, social environment. And sometimes, these are students who simply want a more creative and academically-rigorous atmosphere. All students are evaluated on a case-by-case basis and we attempt to reach our decision based upon anecdotal information from parents, the students prior experiences in school, and an authentic sense of who the student is as a person.
The process of entering the Middle School takes two paths. For prospective new students coming to Harmony, an application is filled out, an interview with both parent and student is held, and an essay is written by the potential student as to why they want to attend Harmony School. Once all interviews are completed, the staff attempts to assemble a collection of kids we think will work well together. Students who have previously been in the Harmony system must have their elementary teacher’s recommendation to be assured a place in the Middle School. If no questions arise, then both continuing and new families are invited to a parent orientation in August where more questions can be answered and general information is disseminated.
Core classes include Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts and 5th period (see below), physical education, current events, Exploration and Creation, and art and team building.
“5th Period” is an afternoon class that meets for a semester, mixes high school and middle school in classes that students select, subject matter range from folk art to advanced math.
Students also participate in family meeting, small group, daily clean up, all school meetings, convocations, parent/student/teacher conferences and Friday afternoon special events such as ice skating, hiking, indoor climbing, walking, and sports.
Students have weekly assignments in all core classes (Math, Science, Language Arts/Social Studies), long-term projects that may require outside resources, regular reading assignments, and miscellaneous other requirements. We recommend that student spend an average of 45 to 60 minutes per day. Study hall is offered Tuesday and Thursday after school.
We do not give letter grades but have two parent/student/teacher conferences (in November and May) to assess student progress. A standardized achievement test is given to all the students during second semester. Parents are encouraged to meet with staff whenever needed to clarify goals and expectations.
In order to graduate, students must receive credit from all three middle school teachers in their core subject, credit in social responsibility (indicating that the student was an active member of the Harmony Middle School community who could demonstrate that they are an independent learner), and eighth graders must complete a graduation project.
If a student transfers to another school we write a personal transcript.
Family meeting is Harmony School’s governing system. The Middle School has family meeting twice a month. It is chaired on a rotating basis by the graduates and is the means by which we make decisions, deal with problems, and discuss nuts-and-bolts issues. Family meeting is a school-wide institution and together with Student Solidarity allows for student input on issues that relate to them and the school.
Exploring the world via independent projects is a fundamental part of the Middle School. Our goal is for students to discover subjects they feel passionately about. These can be in almost any area — the arts, sports, reading, hobbies, politics, computers, etc. We’ve found that the depth of engagement and understanding in one subject can inspire students to excel similarly in other areas.
On alternate Wednesday mornings when not involved in community service, students work on independent projects of their choice. After having completed a project that demonstrates basic research and paper writing skills, as well as technology elements such as PowerPoint, iMovie, iDVD, etc. students branch out to topics that reflect new interests or skills they may wish to acquire.
We think the ultimate goal of Harmony Middle School is to help students become truly invested in themselves, their classmates, and the wider world around them.
Trips are an integral part of the Harmony Middle School experience. As such students are expected to choose, plan, and participate in them. We take two to three trips every school year.
We want students to have a direct say in their education. And, likewise, we want them to be able to impact their fellow classmates in meaningful and positive ways. To achieve this we give students a choice in classes, activities, trips, etc. and a voice in decisions that directly or indirectly affect them. In family meetings students literally create and enforce the rules. It is this democratic atmosphere that insures that every individual is valued and respected.
Personal challenges take many forms — from setting academic goals at the beginning of the year, to meeting the social and emotional needs of the group, to overcoming the fears of indoor climbing walls to outdoor high ropes courses. Over the course of the two years, we consciously put students in a wide variety of academic and non-academic situations and help them find what it takes for them to succeed.
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