Rigorous curriculum plus fun and activity

Middle School Highlights

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.

Language Arts

Students 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.

Math 6

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.

Algebra I

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.

Social Studies

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. 

Geography (8)

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.

Science 6

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.

Edible Schoolyard

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.

Essential Ingredients 

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.

Visual Arts

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.

Darkroom Photography

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.

Choice-Based Art

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.

Advanced Printmaking

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.

World Languages

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.

Drawing and Painting






Animal Husbandry

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Upper Mississippi Academy

Upper Mississippi Academy is a public charter school providing high-quality education for students in grades 6-12 in the St. Paul-Minneapolis metro area. Located in downtown St. Paul, UMA’s experiential, collaborative environment encourages dynamic teaching and learning through an interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional instructional approach.



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