Parker Middle School
At Parker, the Middle School curriculum is built around tapping into students' interests and helping them discover and explore their passions.
Grades 6 - 8
Middle school inspires future leaders by challenging them to inquire, to think, to reason, and to act. Creative problem-solving, respect for each individual, and collaborative efforts are hallmarks of the middle school culture. Our talented and supportive faculty understands and responds to the unique needs of adolescents, fostering in each student a sense of confidence, ethics, responsibility, and respect for themselves and others.
The visual and performing arts are woven into all areas of the curriculum. Students also are provided ample time for expanding their creativity in writing, discussion and debate. Students take art, music, physical education, and health two times per week in mixed-grade groupings.
Math in the Middle School
Our math program emphasizes deep understanding of concepts. We use the Connected Math Project (CMP) text as a basis for study. CMP helps students understand important mathematical concepts, skills, and procedures, and gives them practice in communicating their reasoning. Because flexible thinking is important in problem solving, the program encourages many ways of thinking and reasoning with arithmetic, geometry, measurement, algebra, probability and statistics. We accelerate the program in grades 6-7 so that students are prepared to take the NY State Regents Exam in Integrated Algebra in June of the eighth grade year. Hands-on projects that extend mathematical concepts are interspersed throughout the year.
Grade 8 students take Integrated Algebra, and sit for the NYS Regents in June. Students who pass the Regents can place out of algebra in most high schools. We believe that exposure to algebra for all students is helpful, and that even those who need more practice and re-take the course in ninth grade, benefit by having had the algebra course at Parker.
English Language Arts (ELA) in the Middle School
Tackling large themes, finding a writers voice, developing a taste for independent reading, and preparing for a future of academic writing and reading are all goals of our middle school ELA program. We believe that when students have some choice in reading they are motivated to read more. Therefore, students also bring their choices of books to the classroom for the independent reading program. To further develop a love of reading, students gather in book groups during the year, to read, analyze and write about a book with a small group of classmates. Short stories and poetry round out the program. Students explore writing through personal narrative and fiction, and the program prepares students for a future of academic writing by teaching them to craft essays.
Peer review, revision, and presentation are used to assess student progress and customize the feedback for each individual. The ELA program also supports the writing and revision of the social studies thesis.
In grades 6-7 recent whole class novels have included The Outsiders, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, The All True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Maus and Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
Grade 8 students move from the young adult canon into the some American classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Crucible, and A Long Walk to Water.
Science in the Middle School
The Parker campus is an ideal facility to encourage students to pursue their understanding of how the natural and physical worlds work. The 2017 expansion of the building added 3,000 square feet to form our Discovery Center. In it, students enjoy a spacious laboratory, and easy access to the outdoors. Once outside, students can explore a campus that represents the diversity of the North East deciduous forest, meadows, creeks and a pond.
Learning by doing is our motto for science instruction, and students are actively involved in lab work as they explore science principles. Grade 6-7 study physical science and life science in alternate years. Grade 8 studies earth science.
Flexibility in our program allows our science teacher to dwell longer on a topic when students are generating questions that they want to pursue. Our program strives to be responsive to areas of student investigation since this skill encourages a love of science and is a parallel to what practicing scientists do.
To demonstrate their understanding, students complete projects, like making a geological timeline, interpreting results from our weather station, writing songs about light waves, and assessing the water quality of the Hudson River. We take care to prepare them to transition to high school by also giving traditional assessments like quizzes and lab reports.
Students participate in a STEM week each year, doing a big project that uses math and science. Students have completed projects like building rockets, building a gagaball pit, planting gardens, and illuminating the campus pavilion with solar powered lights.
Watch our middle school science video...
Learning a second language is not only useful, it fosters an understanding and appreciation of other cultures and a diverse society. Middle school students learn speaking, listening, reading, writing and grammar in Spanish. Their language learning is complimented by cultural studies the feature the wide array of Spanish speaking countries. We administer a proficiency exam to students in grade 8, so that they may place out of first year language in high school if they are ready.
Parker has an exchange program with St. Peter’s International School, in Barecelona. St. Peter’s middle school students visit Parker every other year, and Parker students visit St. Peter’s School every other year. Students stay in homes, participate in school, and do some sightseeing when in the country.
The physical and emotional changes of the early years of adolescence often contribute to turbulent times in the life of a middle school student. Our advisory program responds to this by providing support for social and emotional growth, as well as the formation of academic identity. Each student is assigned a faculty advisor. Advisors meet with advisees for Morning Meetings and each grade meets once a week for a long advisory period. Advisors become familiar with the individual academic and organization needs of each of their advisees. They set goals with each student and their family, and meet with each student and their family for two family conferences each school year.
By understanding the roots of civilization, students come to understand societies today. Students are engaged by events long ago through role playing, demonstrations, and creating artistic expressions like editorial cartoons and 3-D models.
Grades 6-7 study global history and early American history in alternate years. Grade 8 studies American history, beginning with pre-European North American cultures. Projects support the formation of historical concepts, as do traditional avenues like reading, writing and studying for quizzes.
Research and writing skills are paramount to the Parker middle school social studies program. Students in grades 6-7 research and prepare a “mini-thesis,” on a topic of their choice. Students participate in a poster session, presenting the main points of their papers to an audience of parents, family, friends, and teachers.
Grade 8 students write a substantial thesis, of 12-20 pages, as a culminating experience during their spring term. Each eighth grader presents their thesis before an audience of parents, visitors and teachers on thesis night. Every student’s thesis is archived in our library. Our graduates tell us that writing the thesis in eighth grade was formative for them – and of critical importance when the they went to college.
Our school day runs from 8:30 AM – 3:45 pm. Before and after school supervision is available: 7:30 – 8:30 AM and 3:45 – 5:45 PM. Because we believe that outside time is important for development at all ages, middle school students have two outside recesses a day, in addition to a short morning snack time.
All middle school students participate in clubs, weekly, within the regular school day. Organized according to student interests, clubs have included yearbook, an outdoors club, a crafting club, a Dungeons and Dragons club, and a dramatics club. Identifying common areas of interest and organizing those into clubs gives students opportunities to develop passions and make social connections.
All middle school students are invited to participate in seasonal sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, cross-country running, or spring track. Soccer and basketball games are organized against other independent schools. Parker hosts annual cross country meets for area middle schools. Over 85% of middle school students participate in after-school sports, and our teams have a no-cut policy.
Other after-school offerings can include LEGO Robotics Club, drama, Spanish club and baking.
Preparing for life after Parker
Our younger students look up to the middle school students, and the Parker program actively seeks ways to increase the amount of responsibility that middle schoolers have in the school. Every middle schooler is assigned a buddy in the lower school. Buddies work together on academic tasks like reading and writing, and also on getting to know the campus by hiking and playing outside.
Seventh graders are given a small grant of seed money, with the stipulation being that they use the funds to do something kinds. Called the Butterfly Effect Projects, seventh graders have used their grants to benefit the homeless, orphans in Ghana, animal shelters, children in hospitals, programs that prevent school violence. They are proud of their success, and the program instills a sense of empowerment in the students just at a time when they have a growing awareness of social welfare.
We purposely seek leadership opportunities for our oldest students because having positive experiences of leadership during early adolescence increased confidence when starting high school. Eighth graders host the weekly whole school assembly, serve as hosts during the Read Across America Day, and prepare special presentations throughout the school year, by taking social action, and when presenting their theses. Eighth graders take an annual curricular-related trip to Philadelphia for five days. This is a culminating experience that reinforces academic, emotional and cultural elements of middle school. The eighth grade is beloved by the younger students. Graduation from eighth grade is a whole community event, and every eighth grader makes remarks during the ceremony.
Our graduates tell us how well prepared they were for high school. They relate that Parker influenced them by encouraging them to love learning, feel confident about asking for help from adults, and think beyond grades about their high school experience.
About half of each graduating class attends a local public school after Parker, and about half attend private schools. Parker graduates are sought after by independent schools.The most frequently attended private schools for Parker graduates are: Albany Academies, Darrow, Doane Stuart, Emma Willard, LaSalle, and Holy Names.