CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE, GRACE & CURIOSITY
When you step into Tyler Hall and Science & Technology building, the energy is palpable. Capitalizing on the enthusiasm and curiosity of these adolescent students, our faculty design hands-on, student-centered learning experiences. On a typical day, you might see students testing roofing materials on model houses as they discuss solar energy; hear students debating cultural topics in one of four languages as they expand their global horizons; feel students supported through our carefully aligned writing program as they begin to find their own voice; and experience the passion of students solving problems of the future logically through their understanding of mathematics and holistically through their learning from the past. When our students step on the theater stage or put on their Cyclone jersey, we help them see themselves as part of something bigger, something special.
"We see the students both for who they are, and with an optimistic lens, for who they are becoming. We know our children. At this crucial and impressionable age, we know what makes them engaged, what they dream of, and what challenges them. When our students complete their Middle School journey, we celebrate their grace, their curiosity, and their independence."Maureen Daily, Head of Middle School
Fifth graders are on the move. Everything is new - from changing classes, to lockers, and getting themselves from point A to point B. Students enjoy what they see as “freedom”, what we call the beginnings of independence. Our fifth grade teams are smaller groups of students than the other grades to allow time for nurturing, welcoming, and easing them through the transition to a new division with new responsibilities. The academic curriculum includes multiple interdisciplinary projects throughout the year (i.e. Greekfest) and cumulative projects at the end of each semester to begin the practice of pulling major themes and understandings from each of the areas of study. Students also take their first steps into after-school extracurriculars which fuel their new-found independence. Fifth graders close the year with a class trip to Green River Preserve in the South Carolina mountains. For some students, it is the first time away from home, but for all our fifth graders, it is quality time exploring nature and bonding as a class after their first year in the Middle School.
For our sixth graders, success comes in doing the little things such as being organized and doing daily classwork. There are more expectations than before, so our teachers provide structure and guidance in how to tackle the work. Sixth graders learn the work/play balance and begin to develop more self-advocacy skills in asking for help when needed. An exciting highlight for sixth graders is Winterim in early January. Many of our Winterim trips are multi-grade level experiences - students exploring their passions, or adventure. As the “big kids” in Tyler Hall, they have the chance to mentor and welcome the fifth grade students new to Porter-Gaud. But even though they emerge as leaders in some ways, they still aren’t too old for a game of tag or hide and go seek at lunch or during Community in Shady Acres.
Seventh grade is all about learning and working collaboratively. Project-based learning takes place in every major discipline, which can include establishing a pen-pal relationship with a student across the globe, educating the community on plastics, and learning how to work within a group and manage deadlines. When failures unfold (as they always do), our seventh graders are learning to dust themselves off and trying a different approach. By the end of the seventh grade, our students develop study techniques for their individual success. The step-up in academic rigor and complexity can be a challenge at the start of seventh grade, but students emerge stronger and more confident for it.
Independence, planning ahead, and leadership define our eighth grade experiences. Students are learning how to articulate their opinions, but also learn to appreciate differences in thinking among peers. More discussion-based and higher-level thinking is both encouraged and required in the classroom. Our teachers are continually asking 'Why do you believe what you believe? How do you know that to be true?' The relationships and communication between teachers and students matures and students grow more comfortable seeking out their teachers for extra help. Many students participate at the JV / Varsity level in athletics rather than bantam level - as these are the initial steps to their next adventure as Upper School students. The Outward Bound challenge at the end of the year is a major milestone when students learn to lead through compassion and test the boundaries of their own limits. They leave the Middle School equipped and empowered to be successful in the Upper School.
The Middle School Advisory Program’s primary focus is to build relationship between student and advisor, while also building a sense of community within the advisory group and broader school community. Our advisors provide students with strong personal connections that balance guidance and independence while emphasizing the importance of respect and empathy in interactions with others. Advisory nurtures self-advocacy and community-mindedness in all of our fifth through eighth-grade students. Advisors offer that blend of academic and social support that students need during this critical developmental period. They also serve as an important communication link between families and the school.
Life 101 is the Middle School’s component of our school-wide student wellness program. This program empowers students across all three divisions to acquire, integrate, and practice vital skills related to health and wellness in order to promote social growth and self-awareness. It’s focused on four specific areas which include; spiritual life, social and emotional learning, inclusion and diversity, and leadership.
Life 101 delivers student wellness through a weekly curriculum of mini-courses, workshops, classroom lessons, speaker series, assemblies, presentations, and our school rituals and traditions.
Middle School computer science is an excellent introduction to 100 % hands-on, project-based learning through computer science projects. The goal of the middle school program is to give students a solid introduction to computer science in platforms such as block-based coding, physical computing, 3D design and printing, introductory game design and introductory robotics. Students also explore text-based programming through Minecraft Python, Swift Playground, and music creation programming.
Winterim takes place during the final week of Christmas break. It a series of experiences and trips to introduce students to enrichment activities, topics and culture outside of the standard curriculum. Winterim experiences allow students to choose their course of study and discover new talents and passions. It creates students who are invested in discovering the world around them. Whether it’s in our local community or abroad, Winterim is invaluable to the social and emotional learning of our Middle School students.
A Porter-Gaud education extends far beyond our campus. Students of all grades take trips to reinforce our curricular program, gain independence, and bond as a class. Annual trips include:
- Fifth graders: Green River Preserve, SC
- Sixth graders: Williamsburg, VA
- Seventh graders: Washington, DC
- Eighth graders: Outward Bound School in Linville Gorge, NC