Middle School: Grades 6 - 8
Our middle school features the best of rigorous curriculum plus fun and activity. With everything from building CO2 cars in sixth-grade science to exploring identities in an eighth-grade exhibition, we build academic skills through hands-on, collaborative learning.
Sudents in middle school are enrolled in the Language Arts class for their respective years.
Language Arts 6
The ability to connect with literature and the human experience surrounds the 6th grade language arts curriculum. This course examines the power of words, delving deeper into text in order to further develop reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Reflection and critical thinking are woven into the course through literature circles. In writing, students are challenged to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information through a yearlong project where they select a topic of interest to them and craft a variety of pieces including informational articles, short stories, biographies, editorials, interviews, and reviews. Their written work is shared on a website they design and update throughout the year.
Language Arts 7
In this course, students engage and interact with multiple forms of communication to enhance reading and writing skills. Throughout the year, students explore all areas of literature and hone their skills in writing and reading fiction and non-fiction. Students participate in literature circles to select a text on World War II and work to educate their peers on what they have learned. Students also engage in classic texts to understand how perceptions of ourselves and others impact the world around us. This 7th grade Language Arts course is all about exploring: within books, within writing, within the world, as well as within our own backyards.
Language Arts 8
Throughout this course, students explore over-arching questions of the human experience, examining ideas like reality and justice through a variety of both non-fiction and fictional texts. Students collaborate with fellow classmates to learn essential skills to analyze texts and strengthen writing. Additionally, students participate in interdisciplinary learning to create connections between literature and the world around them.
When students join UMA, they are placed into the appropriate math classes based on records and requests received.
Why does math exist? A really simple question that needs to be experienced in order to be fully understood. This class is about experiencing, resonating with, and building a relationship with patterns. We will use our hands to explore the representation, communication, relationships, and operative functions of math on a conceptual level and therefore use it as an expressive tool.
The Pre-Algebra course is an introduction to basic algebra concepts and a review of arithmetic algorithms. The course is designed to help students overcome any weakness mathematics, emphasizing the concepts necessary to be successful in advanced algebra courses. This course helps students to develop good mathematical study skills and learning strategies. We begin with a brief review of the number system and operations with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and positive and negative numbers and eventually cover topics including rational and linear exponents, ratios, proportions and percentages, simple and complex equations, inequalities with one variable, an introduction to geometry, and some probability and statistics.
This class is designed to expand students knowledge on topics in Algebra. Reviewing concepts from Pre-Algebra, we add some new spins on the material, along with several other new and exciting topics. Concepts include, but are not limited to, number operations, understanding functions, equivalent equations, inequalities, right triangles, comparing lines and functions, and interpreting data from graphs. We also address basic concepts of geometry, all the while relating these topics to real life examples that are interesting and relevant.
This class utilizes nature to discover geometry fundamentals and the theorems that follow. Students employ the endless repetition of iteration to create mathematical representations of trees, the human circulatory system, and landscapes.
Students in middle school are enrolled in the Social Studies class for their respective years.
Minnesota Studies (6)
Minnesota Studies introduces the concept of exploring our state through the disciplines of history, geography, civics, and economics. Highlights include a mock legislative session, structured academic controversies, and an in-depth, self-directed inquiry into the U.S.-Dakota War. Students are challenged to present what they learn in different modalities as they ponder the question: What does it mean to be a Minnesotan? In addition to learning about Minnesota, current events at the local, national and international levels are examined throughout the year.
United States History (7)
What does it mean to be an American, specifically one from the United States? Examining our history allows us to consider what critical events, people, and ideas have shaped our development as a diverse, creative, industrious, and often polarized nation. This course digs into a people’s history that goes beyond presidents and wars to everyday heroes, rebels, and revolutionaries across a broad spectrum of time.
Your t-shirt is from China, your jeans are from Malaysia, your sneakers are from Ukraine, and you are eating carrots from Mexico; yet, you have never left the country. How can that be? The world has become increasingly interdependent, yet we may hardly know anything about those we rely upon in other countries. This course takes students on a tour of North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa to study different cultures and how interactions amongst various peoples have changed demographics, prompted revolutions and wars, catalyzed mass migration, and altered the planet we all share. Through themes related to culture and technology, migration, trade, and human interaction with the environment, students will begin to see themselves in a larger context—beyond their neighborhoods and cities and toward the path to becoming a global citizen.
Students in middle school are enrolled in the Science class for their respective years.
In this course, students build and experiment with rockets, are immersed in the “Science of Speed,” and create and program Lego® robots as a way to learn about force and motion, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and sound. In class, students engage in a mix of collaborative projects, readings, multimedia, labs, presentations, and the design process.
Life Science (7)
Science is a way of carefully observing, analyzing, and thinking critically to arrive at inherent truths about the world in which we live. In this year-long course, students roll up their sleeves and use components of the scientific method to examine everything from cells to entire ecosystems. Thought-provoking, inquiry-based labs and projects require students to make careful observations, critically analyze data, and arrive at inherent truths of their own. Students need not be afraid to get their hands dirty and their intellects challenged as they explore the following units: Cells and the Human Body; Genetics and Heredity; Evolution; and Ecology.
Earth and Space Science (8)
In this course, students explore and learn about the Earth, Moon and Sun System, the planets, weather, solar weather, and the solar system. This class is a mixture of collaborative labs, readings, discussions, projects, and presentations.
While all classes incorporate UMA Pathways, sixth-grade students are enrolled in stand-alone Pathway classes. Each student takes two Pathways per semester during their sixth-grade year.
Design & Engineering
In this introduction to the design and engineering mindset, students develop a deep understanding of the engineering cycle as they play the role of a modern day engineer by collaborating, brainstorming, operating under real-life constraints, and, most importantly, failing. Students build a relationship with making mistakes and growing from them. This course is hands-on and student driven.
The Edible Schoolyard pathway offers 6th-grade students an introduction to discovering the wonders of the world through food. Students will be using their math skills, honing their knife skills, and identifying new cooking terms as they follow the rituals and routines we develop as a class. Core subjects are integrated into the culinary classroom to drive home the wide spectrum of the value of food. Lastly, students read the book Chew on This by Eric Schlosser.
The big question addressed in the 6th-grade Essential Ingredients course is: How can we consciously utilize the elements of our surroundings? Students examine both the physical elements of our surroundings and the social elements. During the course, students physically manipulate and create substances for different purposes. They also explore the human side of elements to determine what makes us human and how social inputs affect us.
River to River
What is the connection between people, places, and resources? How does the local environment influence humans? How do humans impact the environment? This course introduces students to the Mississippi River from both the humanities and science perspectives. Students spend time near and on the river (or local bodies of water) to investigate current properties and hypothesize their own ideas.
At UMA, we consider the Visual Arts to be an integral part of our curriculum. For this reason, middle school students are required to take at least one semester of Visual Arts each year.
Foundations in Art
This required introductory course is designed to give 6th graders a sampling of art projects that emphasize the practice of artistic behavior. We begin by reviewing and practicing the use of elements organized by the principles of art. Eventually, students gain an understanding and appreciation of self and others through art history, culture, and heritage. Throughout the course, a variety of media and techniques create an active and independent learning experience.
Art Around the World
Students explore different regions and cultures throughout history and make connections to contemporary artworks. Furthermore, they employ the various tools and techniques that these cultures used to create work of their own. Students also dive into the ideas and purposes that were attached to past creations to inform their own work.
Students learn the basic parts and uses of a single lens reflex (SLR) camera. The class discusses the foundations of photography composition and uses these to take artistic black and white photographs. Students also learn how to use and maintain a darkroom, where they develop their own photographs. Lastly, we learn the steps of mounting photographs and displaying them for viewing. In addition to creating photographs, students research and discover a variety professional photographers as well as photographic occupations.
Ceramics is offered to those artists who enjoy working with clay. Students spend the first weeks of class mastering a variety of clay building techniques and then independently design and create a series of ceramic artwork throughout the rest of the semester. Students are expected to use all of the various techniques within their creations. All artwork will be displayed upon completion.
The foundations of this art class are based on the philosophies of a Choice-Based classroom. Each day, students enter the art studio as a working artist, where they independently — and at times, collaboratively — plan, experiment and construct different artwork throughout the semester using the medium of their choice. Students are expected to develop a theme for their work and are encouraged to use a variety of materials. Artwork is displayed appropriately as it is completed.
Students will engage in a variety of printmaking processes to create images of their choosing. Students learn monotype, multi-layer monotype, collagraph, multi-layer collagraph and reduction block printing. This is a studio forward class which focuses on creation, critique, and reflection. Students learn how to operate in the printmaking studio and are expected to create artwork each day.
Photography: Step into the Light
Students explore how light and technology have influenced art and culture. They start in the Renaissance period building camera obscura to create drawings then move into the darkroom. Students learn the basics of black and white photography as well as other ways to use the darkroom equipment in the creation of Rayographs. Finally, students enter modernity using digital cameras and photo manipulation software to finish the semester.
At UMA, we consider Music to be an integral part of our curriculum. For this reason, middle school students are required to take at least one semester of Music each year.
Art of Awareness
What causes us to feel what we’re feeling? How can we slow down to find our center and make us more aware of articulated decisions? Explore what makes us human and how to navigate the seemingly overbearing moments through meditation, reflection, and self-advocacy. As a class, we learn how our intellect, body, emotions, and intuition affect us and how we can express each component individually through music.
This class features a combination of music history, analysis, and performance, and it’s all about the Fab Four. Students listen to the Beatles’ discography, discuss the impact of their career on the music industry, and learn to sing and perform our favorite tunes from the Beatles’ catalogue.
The Engineering of Songwriting
Explore the UMA Design and Engineering pathway in a creative light. Students use the UMA Design Process to explore and create within the different elements of songwriting: instrumentation, harmony, melody, structure, and lyricism, all while pondering the idea of intention and awareness.
After the strong 6th grade foundation of ukulele technique, 7th-grade students have the chance to take their skills to the guitar. This class uses popular and folk music to teach note and chord technique. There is a strong degree of composition and improvisation included in the curriculum. Students have opportunities to play and practice alone, with small groups, and in a large ensemble.
Musical Design and Engineering
In this course, students build their own instruments and play them in ensembles. We use junk, pvc, and repurposed instrument parts to create drums, flutes, didjeridus, and more. This course explores the physics of sound and mechanics of instruments, as well as musical artistry, collaboration, and performance.
In this required 6th-grade introductory class, students learn foundational drumming, singing, and ukulele skills. The class focuses on ensemble rehearsal skills, basic music theory and reading, and simple composition.
In this course, students bolster their performing skills, both musically and nonmusically, and gain confidence presenting material in front of a crowd. Students have the opportunity to work alone and in small groups to prepare regular performances to present to the class. Class discussion focuses on strategies for building confidence, planning presentations, and collaborating with others.
Students in the sixth grade learn to sing a variety of pop, folk, and classical music in this course. While this class is similar to a typical choir, it features a stronger focus on popular repertoire. In addition tolarge ensemble work, we will also place an emphasis on small group performance and composition.
UMA currently offers Spanish at four different levels. As our program grows, we plan to expand our world language offerings.
For all Spanish classes at UMA, the key is an authentic experience! We take advantage of any authentic experience we can get our hands, ears, and eyes on. This usually comes to us by way of authentic music, movies, short films, short stories, myths/legends, unique holidays, commercials, and current events, among many other cool and interesting things!
Elective classes are available to all middle school students but are often limited by grade. All electives are offered as semester-long classes.
This 7th-grade elective more fully develops cooking techniques and delves into basic nutrition, herbs and spices, the history of food, and the cultural aspects of food. In addition to cooking, students read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and then top the semester off by showing off what they learned by cooking and serving a sit-down meal for their parents.
The 8th-grade culinary elective focuses on where our food comes from, government policies on food, and food injustices. Students also focus on the wide variety of cultures we have in MN and how this has expanded our image of a “hot dish” state. Other topics include the science of cooking, diets, and writing food reviews.
Environmental Citizenship (7/8)
Do you enjoy breathing air? How about drinking clean water? Do you like eating food? What do you think about a wolf hunt in Minnesota? What’s the big deal about climate change anyway? This course examines the following major environmental issues currently concerning Minnesota: water quality, climate change, and wildlife management. Within these topics, students investigage the following case studies: potential sulfide mining in the Boundary Waters, factory farms, renewable energies movement, the rapid decline of the honeybee, and hunting vs. protecting Great Lakes timber wolves. Examinations of these case studies culminate in informed debates between students as they assume the roles of different stakeholders and try to find common ground on which compromise is built. Finally, students will be asked to participate as an environmental citizen and take action on a topic of concern that they are passionate about.
History’s Greatest Villains on Trial
This social studies elective explores the most controversial characters in human history. Rather than looking at broad topics, students have the opportunity to focus on individuals who have been vilified in history. Our goal is to examine these people, the time periods they live, the supposed “crimes” or evils they committed, and decide for ourselves whether they truly deserve the title “villain” or if they have been wrongfully accused! The majority of the course is a guided examination of the villains and a mock trial. The last part of the course will be individualized research on a villain of the student’s choice, allowing an in-depth discovery of a so-called villain who was not covered in class.
History’s Mysteries is a social studies elective course that explores unsolved mysteries in our world’s past. Unlike most history courses, where classes focus on larger scale issues and events, this class allows us to focus in on the weird, unexplainable, amazing, tragic, and strange topics that often do not make it into the history books. Students examine events and the time periods in which they occur and come up with their own credible theories, just like real historical investigators!
Introduction to Programming Languages
Students have the opportunity to explore and learn a variety of programming languages. Student interest and prior experience will be taken into account.
Programming I (Scratch)
The Scratch Programming course is an introduction to computer programming. As a visual programming language, Scratch provides a rich learning environment to create interactive, media-rich projects, including animated stories, games, and anything else students can imagine. Students are expected to create a free scratch account, so they can upload assignments to the teacher’s private studios for grading. Our final unit is an independently driven, student project.
Programming II (Python)
Have you ever thought about designing your own app or game? Python is an introduction to programming/coding in a more traditional sense of needing to type in the code, rather than dragging and dropping blocks like Scratch. Students use the basics of programming by assigning variables and making calculations. We explore strings, lists, tuple, maps, and loops, as well as the basic drawing function within Python. Students learn to ask questions using “if” and “else” statements. If time permits, students discover more advanced topics such as classes, objects, and other Python functions.
Real World Math I (Fall semester)
This class involves projects, speakers, and activities that connect to middle school math application. Possible activities include connections to real world jobs such as architecture, finance, trade occupations, and more.
Real World Math II (Spring semester)
This math elective is not a continuation of Real World Math I from the first semester. This class offers projects that build off of BizWorld, a program that involves “entrepreneurship, business, and financial responsibility while emphasizing the importance of 21st-century skills like collaboration, critical thinking, leadership, and creativity. In each program, students work in teams to solve real-world problems.” Additionally, there are activities that support identified students who need to strengthen their math skills.
Students design, build, and program robots to meet a variety of challenges. Students should be able to expand upon skills learned in previous years, but no previous experience is required.
UMAker Sewing Lab
Students explore how to use and maintain a sewing machine while learning basic sewing skills. Once the basic skills are mastered, students alter clothes from their closet and/or choose a pattern to complete. Project ideas include hats, backpacks, bags, pillowcases, skirts, blankets, or just about anything a student can imagine. Final projects are showcased in a show at the end of the semester.