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Middle School Curriculum – Above and Beyond

Sixth graders at Rutgers Prep work on their podcast

Franklin J. ’23 and Brett D. ’23 work on their podcast

From a developmental standpoint, the middle school years are rich with possibility. At Rutgers Prep, our divisional leadership is hard at work ensuring that our students have opportunities to develop in areas that sometimes fall outside of the traditional academic disciplines… but are no less critical to the development of our students. This commitment to keeping our curriculum fresh is evident in both our middle school’s Ideas and Innovation programming, as well as in the students’ “Cycle Classes,” which students rotate through over the course of each academic year.

This year’s sixth grade Cycle Classes, for example, are Citizen Kid, Digital Kid, Art, and Latin. In their Citizen Kid classes, middle school students will grapple with primary sources and the civic responsibilities of citizens. As New Jersey heads into a gubernatorial race, our students will have an opportunity to interact directly with at least one of the gubernatorial candidates. We encourage our students to not only seek out the topics with which they are passionately engaged as learners, but also to actively consider their role as future citizens.

Students in our Digital Kid Cycle Class will be learning to keyboard, thereby increasing the efficiency of so much of the rest of their work. (Although based on research about how we learn best, the Rutgers Prep middle school also maintains a division-wide commitment to note-taking and journaling by hand.) Digital Kid students also work with recording their own voices, eventually moving to podcasting. This focus on developing one’s voice is also a division-wide commitment, as the school makes a conscious effort to ensure that students become more comfortable as public speakers and presenters. (This commitment is particularly in evidence when our middle schoolers travel beyond campus in the service of learning; at a recent trip to Philadelphia, members of the US Constitution Center’s staff were impressed with our seven graders’ poise and self-possession.)

Much of the thinking about curricular offerings at Rutgers Prep is driven and supported by the latest research; art classes are overwhelmingly associated with positive outcomes for students, and introducing students to Latin as sixth graders gives them a taste of language study so that they’ll be better prepared to select Latin or Spanish as a part of their regular seventh grade curriculum. Middle school-aged students are primed to embrace new ideas and get started on the development of sophisticated skills that will foster lifelong learning interests.  At Rutgers Prep, our middle school curriculum is designed to provide students with a range of tools to support that intellectual development and enable effective learning.

Rutgers Prep Student Receives Award

16-11_rps_langenfeld_arc_award Rutgers Prep is pleased and proud to congratulate John Langenfeld ‘17 on being named a 2016 “Angel Among Us” award winner by the Arc of Somerset County earlier this month. The Arc of Somerset provides services and advocacy for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families to support development and achievement at every stage of life; in a typical year, they offer support to approximately 1500 individuals. Their goal is to promote learning and independence in an integrated, community-basd setting, and they host an annual gala to both raise funds in support of their work and honor community members who have made significant contributions through service to their communities.

As a Co-President of our Tend To A Friend program, John has helped recruit new volunteers, plan activities, and just generally make sure that things are running smoothly.  (Tend-To-A-Friend provides parents raising a child with special needs some respite in an otherwise chaotic and challenging world, while at the same time offering special needs children and their siblings an exciting and fun “night out” here at Rutgers Prep.) John has also served as a “One on One” buddy for Hop, Skip, & Jump, a program for special needs children that helps teach social skills and motor development. “I am committed to continuing to work to support special needs young people,” says John of his many hours of service.

In addition to his significant service commitments, John has also been an honors student throughout his time with us; he has consistently sought to challenge himself as a learner, with impressive results. John has also been involved in music through our Men’s Choir and Madrigals group, business through our Entrepreneurship program, and athletics as a two-sport varsity athlete and starting second baseman for our 2016 Prep B. State Championship Baseball Team.

John’s devotion to helping make other young people’s journeys a little easier has been inspiring to witness, and we wish him every success as he prepares to study Engineering in college next year.

Ideas & Innovations Courses Offer Choice, Exploration

Rutgers Prep’s continuing commitment to student-centered learning is nowhere more evident than in our Middle School Ideas & Innovations courses. New to the curriculum this year, the Ideas & Innovations courses are available to all 6th through 8th graders at Rutgers Prep, and represent a broad range of topics which students engage with for about eight weeks before moving on to their next “I & I” course. The first courses offered through this program ranged from Coding to Financial Literacy; students were given a list of eight to choose from and the vast majority of this year’s participants received a course from among their top three choices. “Choice is part of the point of this program,” stated Middle School Principal Bob Marotto. “Students are heading into academic environments in which they will have more and more choice over their course selections, so we wanted to give our students a low-stakes way to get the feeling of making these kinds of choices.” Middle School Assistant Principal Stacy McMillen shared, “Another key benefit of the I & I courses is that they give students access to greater curricular diversity; in most cases, students will be engaging with a field of inquiry that they typically wouldn’t have access to in our regular curriculum.” The I & I courses are designed with an eye towards creating a collaborative, low-pressure environment; they are non-graded, hands-on, and project-based. The response from students and teachers has been gratifyingly enthusiastic; take a look at the photos below for some glimpses into the first curricular cycle’s worth of courses.