Course Descriptions


The Middle School art curriculum is organized around three themes: creating art, looking at art, and living with art.

Students explore the artistic traditions of cultures around the world with an emphasis on the language of art, perception, and interpretation. Subjects include:

  • Architecture
  • Ceramics
  • Crafts
  • Collage
  • Drawing
  • Graphic Design
  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • Product Design
  • Sculpture
  • Textiles

Art 6
Sixth-grade students study art of the ancient world with a focus on the art of Asia.

Art 7
Seventh-grade students study art of the ancient world with a focus on the art of Europe and Africa.

Art 8
Eighth-grade students explore the art and culture of America and Latin America.


The Middle School writing program instills a love of literature while teaching students to write with purpose, clear organization, and a developed voice.

English 6
Sixth-grade English emphasizes reading, writing, vocabulary, and research and study skills. Active discussions are encouraged as students read literature that focuses on the theme of "the hero's journey." The class also uses articles from Junior Scholastic current events magazine and The New York Times Upfront magazine for expository writing.

Reading List
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Adventures of Ulysses by Bernard Evslin
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
To Be a Hero (anthology)

Throughout the year, the students learn:

  • Analytical and interpretive skills
  • To support their opinions by citing specific text references
  • To develop confidence by working collaboratively with their peers
  • Critical writing skills
  • To recognize common literary themes
  • Research methods and tool

English 7
Seventh-grade English focuses on literature with a theme of the "coming-of-age experience." The curriculum reinforces grammar and vocabulary with an emphasis on the critical written analysis. Students study the short story, novel plot, and literary terms. The course includes:

  • Introduction of the essay format
  • Narrative, descriptive, persuasive, and expository writing
  • Literary circle participation and application of discussion skills to written compositions
  • Common literary themes
  • Reference citations
  • Team collaboration
  • Development of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and vocabulary

Reading List
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
Deadly by Julie Chibbaro and Jean-Marc Superville
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Who Am I (anthology)

Outside reading requires students to read novels in five different genres and to write a literary analysis of each. The students also use articles from Junior Scholastic current events magazine and The New York Times Upfront magazine for expository writing.

English 8
This course seeks to help students build confidence and skill in their understanding of literature and in their response to it. Thorough, deliberate discussion of a range of core reading materials strengthens students' connection to literature and provides opportunities for reflection and growth. They continue developing mastery of various writing forms and styles, including exposition, narration, persuasion, analysis, description, and literary criticism. Throughout the school year, there is a particular emphasis on refining the five-paragraph essay. Students explore critical-thinking skills through literature and learn grammar and vocabulary on a weekly basis.

Reading List
Heat by Mike Lupica
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Little Worlds: A Collection of Short Stories for the Middle School (anthology)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings
Vocabulary from Classical Roots B (textbook)
Easy Grammar Plus (textbook)

Foreign Language

Students take Spanish in grades 4 through 8. For grade 8 language studies, students have the option of completing the Spanish program or of taking Latin I or Mandarin I, both of which are Upper School courses. Students can elect to take both Spanish and Latin I upon the recommendation of their current foreign language teacher and with the approval of the Middle School division head. This option is only recommended for students who are strong not only in foreign language studies but also in their other academic courses.

Spanish 6
Sixth-grade Spanish introduces basic pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Students learn useful idioms from everyday life and the basic geography of the Spanish-speaking world. They couple oral conversation with written homework to reinforce vocabulary and grammar structures.

Spanish 7
Seventh-grade Spanish reviews the Spanish 6 exploratory course before beginning coursework in the Buen viaje! textbook. Oral and written communication is regularly assessed through class work, testing, homework, and quarterly projects. Students also study cultures, history, and current events in the Spanish-speaking world. This course is the equivalent of the first half of high-school Spanish I.

Spanish 8
Eighth-grade Spanish follows the second half of the Buen viaje! textbook. Students increase their oral and written communication skills as their knowledge of vocabulary and grammar progresses. Students continue to study cultures, history, and current events in the Spanish-speaking world. This course is the equivalent of the second half of high-school Spanish I. Students should be eligible for Spanish II or higher. 

Latin I
The primary focus of Latin I is to enable students to read and understand texts adapted from classical Latin or texts written in Latin by contemporary educators, to know and understand the history and culture of the classical civilizations, to understand the influence of Latin on the English language, and to deepen students’ understanding of English vocabulary. The textbook used is the Cambridge Latin Course. At this stage a heavy emphasis is made on linking Latin grammar and vocabulary with the grammar and vocabulary of English, Spanish, French, and Italian. Students develop their reading skills and learn to deduce the meanings of the words based on their prefixes and roots.

Mandarin I
This beginning Chinese course teaches students the essentials of Mandarin Chinese and develops basic speaking, listening, reading, and writing (both pinyin and characters) proficiency. Students learn to ask and answer questions, exchange opinions, express likes and dislikes, and talk about people, places, activities, plans, obligations, needs, and personal preferences. Students learn functional activities such as telling time, counting, exchanging telephone numbers, and talking about the weather. Additionally, Chinese history and culture is introduced, with an emphasis on the comparison and contrast of current cultural realities in the U.S. versus those of China.


History 6
Grade 6 history focuses on Mesopotamian and Egyptian societies through the rise of the Roman Empire. Throughout the year, students ask the question: "What can we learn from these ancient cultures?" This course begins with a study of how archaeologists work and basic history vocabulary. Greek and Roman cultural roots are then explored, along with Greek mythology. Using a hands-on approach, students are encouraged to question and use critical thinking.

History 7
Grade 7 history studies European medieval history through the Renaissance into the rise of the modern nation-states of Europe. Students learn what life was like in the Middle Ages. Topics include:

  • The decline of imperial Rome and the Germanic invasions
  • Irish, Franks, and Russian cultures
  • The strength of the Christian church
  • Feudalism
  • The impact of the Islamic world
  • The rise of the Mongols
History 8

Grade 8 history begins with the early settlement of the New World and ends with the growth of modern America through the two World Wars and Vietnam conflict.

Economics and its relationship to American history is a recurring topic. Discovery and first settlements are reviewed as the class investigates "The Age of Sail," the only intercontinental means of transportation. Students participating in an economic activity entitled "All That Glitters Is Not Gold," in which they study economic concepts that influenced settlers. Ways that Americans earn a living and economic influences on behavior are also discussed.

Art, dance, music, poetry, and technology are interwoven throughout the curriculum, including vocabulary and writing exercises developed in collaboration with the English department.

The class culminates in an exciting one week trip to Washington, D.C. each year. Students visit Williamsburg, Monticello, Mount Vernon, and Gettysburg; meet with Congressional representatives; and tour historic sites and monuments.


Middle School math courses are based on the Principals and Standards for School Mathematics published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Students learn to:

  • Value and enjoy the process of learning mathematics
  • Become a mathematical problem solver
  • Develop logical thinking
  • Be confident in their work
  • Communicate mathematically
  • Make connections between mathematics and other disciplines
  • Apply mathematics to everyday life
There is a focus on the content standards for numbers and operations as well as geometry and measurement.

Math 6
Grade 6 mathematics is the continuation of the Singapore Math Program, which is taught in the primary and intermediate grades. This course emphasizes practice, problem solving, analytical thinking, and exploration. Using an interactive whiteboard provides practice and real-world situations while computational skills are exercised each day. Students learn:

  • Pre-algebra
  • Approximation
  • Data organization
  • Estimation
  • Geometry
  • Measurement
  • Mental arithmetic
  • Probability
  • Problem solving
  • Real applications
  • Statistics
Math 7
Grade 7 mathematics emphasizes pre-algebra skills and concepts, such as variables, equation solving, and problem solving. A full range of algebra topics are also presented. Student learn:

  • Algebraic concepts
  • Positive and negative numbers
  • Rational numbers
  • Solving equations and inequalities
  • Geometry
  • Ration, proportions, and percents
  • Graphing linear and quadratic equations
  • Areas and volumes
  • Applying algebra to right triangles
  • Statistics and probability
Math 8
Grade 8 mathematics emphasizes problem solving and real life applications as part of a comprehensive algebra and geometry curriculum. Algebra courses are equivalent to a high-school Algebra I course.

Using hands-on labs and interdisciplinary projects, math is presented in a variety of ways. Students also study strategies and study tips to improve their test-taking skills.

Students learn:

  • Fractions, decimals, and percents
  • Real number system
  • Equations, inequalities, and applications
  • Graphing linear equations and inequalities in two variables
  • Systems of linear equations and inequalities
  • Exponents and polynomials
  • Factoring and applications
  • Rational expressions and applications
  • Roots and radicals
  • Quadratic equations
  • Elementary statistics


The Middle School music program builds on skills learned in kindergarten through grade 5. Students will have been exposed to music theory; singing in the keys of C, F, and G; and playing and singing polyphonic lines of music. Using Orff instruments or their own instruments, students are taught improvisation and how to solo. A "musical ear" is developed, and students explore songs in minor keys and jazz scales. Students sing both solo and with a chorus as they are taught proper vocal production and singing techniques.

Two annual concerts are performed in the Sister Carlotta Performing Arts Center — a Christmas concert and a spring concert. In choral, instrumental, and solo performances, Middle School students showcase their musical abilities.

Physical Education

With a focus on the value of physical activity in a healthy lifestyle, Middle School students are introduced to a wide range of sports. They are encouraged to build skills in all sports rather than specialize in one.

The Middle School Physical Education Program includes the following sports in which basic skills, rules, and game play are taught. The program emphasizes basic game techniques and strategies as well as overall conditioning, for endurance, flexibility, and strength. Programs are based on fall, winter and spring seasons. These classes meet four times per week.

  • Volleyball
  • Soccer
  • Flag Football
  • Basketball
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field
  • Swimming
  • Water Polo
  • Softball
In addition to P.E. instruction, students may participate in after-school competition with other schools. Sports included in after-school competitions are the following:

  • Volleyball
  • Soccer
  • Flag Football
  • Basketball
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field
  • Golf
Practice for these competitions is done in the P.E. classes during the day with games played after school. Boys and girls in grades 6 through 8 participate in local leagues comprised of private and public schools. All students who sign up to play are placed on a team. There are no tryouts, and we do not cut anyone from a team. All interscholastic programs abide by the rules set by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).

Our Middle School students also participate in the Big Sur International Marathon's "Just Run" program, which begins in the primary grades. Our students are also encouraged each year to participate in the BSIM 3K and 5K runs.

Religious Studies

The Middle School religious studies program is inclusive of all spiritual backgrounds and nurtures a sense of unity. Drawing on Catholic traditions, students explore faith and spirituality as they participate in liturgies, seasonal celebrations, community-service projects, and community prayer. The program nurtures a sense of belonging and promotes living more purposefully and joyfully as God's people. We integrate the common elements of faith, wisdom, and worship — respectful, interested, and gracious towards all faiths. Class discussions offer opportunities to question, to doubt, and to think critically. Students are encouraged to reflect and deepen their personal beliefs, attitudes, values, and practices. Age appropriate class material deepens students' understanding of the liturgy, prayer, doctrine, and social teachings of the church.

Religious Studies 6
Students study the Hebrew Scriptures to review historical events and learn how those lessons impact our lives today. The Christian belief of salvation is also explored.

Religious Studies 7
The seventh-grade curriculum studies the basic beliefs and practices of the major world religions, including the person of Jesus and the Christian Scriptures.

Religious Studies 8
The eighth-grade curriculum concentrates on the dignity of each human being and on understanding ethics and moral dilemmas.


The goal of the Middle School science program is to learn to think and work like a scientist. The hands-on curriculum focuses on the scientific processes of observing, investigating, recording data, inferring, and applying, which are as important as acquiring facts. The science lab is well-equipped with the materials and tools for a full investigative program.

Science 6: Earth Science
The sixth-grade science curriculum inspires curiosity while equipping students with the basic skills needed to explore the natural world. Topics include:

  • Introduction to Scientific Investigation

  • Rocks and Minerals

  • Restless Earth

  • Weather and Climate

  • Change over Time

  • The Hydrosphere

  • Earth and Space

  • Nutrition and the Chemistry of Food
Science 7: Life Science
In seventh grade, students begin to make connections between scientific theory and their own experiences and development. This hands-on course is an exploration of the living world around us. Students participate in dissections and project-based activities. Topics include:

  • Environmental Ecology
The Cell

  • Genetics and Heredity

  • Classification

  • Reproduction

  • Human Organ Systems
Science 8: Physical Science
The eighth-grade science curriculum encourages students to use their scientific understanding to become aware of the implications of their behaviors on a global scale. This hands-on, lab-based course focuses on:

  • Atoms and the Periodic Table

  • Electricity and Magnetism

  • Force and Motion

  • Simple Machines

Technology Studies

All are encouraged to enhance their creativity in the Middle School technology courses, which focus on innovation, prototyping, entrepreneurship, collaboration, Design Thinking, research, discovery, and adaptability. Classes meet twice weekly in our Innovation Design (ID) Lab.

Middle School students have school email accounts and access to Google Apps for Education. They work and share collaboratively, blog, and build digital portfolios and use word-processing, spreadsheet, forms, presentation, and graphics programs.

The students are introduced to various coding and mobile-app development applications and create actionscript interactive games. They also complete projects that incorporate a wide variety of tools and applications, including 3-D modeling, video and animation, and/or circuitry and robotics.

Each Middle School student makes extensive use of the network and performs regular Internet research. Students investigate various new applications and instruct others on what they learned.