Welcome to the Middle School!
A welcome letter from Lower & Middle School Director Mary Tuck
Our program addresses the diverse developmental needs of students in the 7th and 8th grades as it bridges the transition from childhood into adolescence. The program provides the skills necessary for continuing academic success and enables students to enter the Upper School as confident, articulate, self-motivated learners.
The Middle School is a warm and vibrant community, and our teachers are inspired, effective professionals who love working with and learning from early adolescents. We emphasize an interdisciplinary curriculum grounded in the skills necessary for academic achievement, intellectual growth, and social, emotional, and physical wellness.
Seventh grade girls presenting a cultural studies project
The 7th Grade Cultural Studies program encourages girls to examine and to make connections between history and the choices they make in their own lives. Girls explore the literature, geography, anthropology, and history of various global communities. Utilizing technology and design-based thinking, girls pursue essential questions through Socratic discussion, research, hands-on projects, and writing. Working independently, collaborating, and reflecting, students consider how their decisions can carry both global and local implications and how their own actions can make a difference.
The 8th Grade American Studies program examines the political, economic, and social history of the United States, exploring issues of equity, social justice, and citizenship through interdisciplinary study of key time periods and literary texts. By using innovative learning approaches such as portfolios, video writing, conferencing, and performance-based assessments, students hone their critical thinking and creative problem solving skills while becoming thoughtful collaborators and confident risk takers.
Girls engaged in a math class
The 7th Grade Pre-Algebra course supports and solidifies the foundational knowledge needed to be successful in Algebra 1. With an emphasis on mathematical reasoning, students build skills through analytical problem solving, conceptually relevant projects, and real-world inquiries. There are substantial opportunities for reinforcing skills and providing extension.
In 8th Grade Algebra 1, students continue building upon skills necessary for success in higher-level math curricula. This course enriches girls’ understanding of mathematical processes and operations and offers a range of differentiated teaching techniques in order to best meet individuals’ needs.
Seventh Grade working in science lab
In the 7th Grade Life Science course, students explore our natural world, from the inner life of the cell to the complex relationships that make up the biosphere. We place emphasis on developing investigative skills through frequent hands-on labs, experimental design projects, and creative expressions of scientific ideas.
In the 8th Grade Concepts in Earth and Physical Science (CEPS) course, students discover the principles behind the geologic and astrophysical forces in our universe through a variety of labs and technology-based investigations. Students will marvel at observing the heavens with our telescopes, and will find the intersection of physics and biology through a bovine eye dissection.
Preparing a project in Spanish class
Seventh grade students choose Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, or Latin to study for their two years of Middle School. In each course, girls learn the foundation of the target language and the associated culture. In the modern spoken languages, students practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing, while for Latin, girls focus on reading comprehension. For all the languages, we focus on developing analytical skills.
Seventh graders collecting soil samples
Middle School girls engage in three separate interdisciplinary units on water, soil, and climate change. During these units, the girls experience firsthand how they as life-long learners can use their subject-area knowledge and skills in an interconnected way to explore real-world topics. Our English, history, math, science, and service learning faculty have created units that allow the girls to discover the ways that different disciplines can join together to address problems that single disciplines cannot.
The Water Unit focuses on the global issue of access to safe drinking water. Students research the factors that contribute to water scarcity, record and analyze water usage, understand dehydration and water-borne microorganisms, read fiction and poetry about the absence of water and a journey to a water source, explore how communities can work together to ensure sufficient access to clear water, and identify potential solutions to critical problems. A student-created club, the Water Warriors, helps students deepen their impact by raising awareness and supporting the building of wells and sanitation systems for schools in Kenya and Vietnam.
The Soil Unit focuses on the importance of the soil under our feet. Students take soil samples to study the soil ecosystem, explore decomposition and nutrient cycling, write poetry and nonfiction about the life cycle, study Victory gardens, understand the golden ratio, and explore how communities can work together to keep our soils and food supplies healthy. They help restore habitat in local canyons, install and maintain drought tolerant gardens on our campus with a master gardener, and create a soil e-zine that captures what they’ve learned and what they advocate.
The Climate Change unit focuses on exploring the causes of our rapidly warming world and ways to take action to create a more sustainable future. Students study the impact of climate change on food, water and animals in these areas, calculate personal carbon footprints, write persuasive letters to share ideas for solutions, debate the Key Stone Pipeline, analyze data about energy sources and their use, and discover existing and proposed legislation at the local, state and national level. They explore climate change at the California Science Museum, tour a local power plant, and create videos to propose positive change.
Drawing in an art studio
The Middle School Visual Art program reinforces visual art skills and formal concepts taught in the Lower School art program. Girls learn technique and process in order to develop control of artists’ tools and materials, and gain vocabulary and critical analysis skills. In the 7th Grade semester course, girls focus on observation and translation of their visual world through representational and non-representational modes of communication. The 8th Grade semester focuses on the process of translating visual imagery through multiple media, seeking connections between work in clay, digital imaging, painting and mixed media.
Orchestra class rehearsing outside
Seventh grade students participate in either Chorus or Orchestra, mixed-age ensembles that develop musicianship and ensemble skills by learning how to adjust their sound in a large ensemble, trying musical repertoire of various styles, and applying music theory knowledge to playing and singing. Both courses offer opportunities to perform throughout the year, and 8th grade students may choose a year-long course in music.
Seventh Grade students rehearsing in Theatre class
Theatre at Westridge is an exciting, thriving artistic community. The 7th Grade Theatre Arts course provides an introduction to theatre arts at Westridge. Through games and fun activities, girls learn to build an ensemble with trust and support. To explore performance, girls practice theatre improvisation, develop a physical and vocal warm-up, and explore character development through scene work. Girls also learn about theatre terminology. Through guest visits from the Westridge Theatre department faculty and staff, girls have the opportunity to explore and familiarize themselves with the Westridge Performing Arts Center and all the various positions involved in bringing theatrical productions to life.
Eighth grade girls can choose a year-long theatre course that explores monologue work, scene study, improvisation, playwriting, and the technical elements of theatre production including stage management, scenic and properties design, and costuming. The course also culminates in a year-end sharing for families and friends. Eighth Grade girls also have the opportunity to participate in a spring production in the Wagener Black Box Theater where girls serve as actors, work backstage as part of the costume crew, technical crew, or light board or sound board operators, and may serve in leadership positions as assistant directors, production stage managers, or assistant stage managers.
Middle School volleyball tournament
Middle School actively engages girls in a comprehensive program which includes team sports, fitness and recreational activities, dance, and yoga. Building on a solid Lower School program, girls hone motor and movement skills with a thematic emphasis placed on the importance of cardiovascular fitness. The program works to instill enthusiasm and motivation for lifelong participation in physical activity as well as to prepare students for interscholastic competition in Middle and Upper School.
Seventh grade working at a local charity
Service Learning encourages Middle School students to understand and embrace their responsibilities of global citizenship. Through the service learning program, girls discuss issues of community concern and participate in service learning projects at the school, in the Pasadena area, and across the globe.
The 7th Grade course connects students with environmental responsibility on a personal level. They’re exposed to a range of environmental issues and projects through field trips, guest speakers, and hands-on experience, and provided with tools to lead more eco-friendly lives.
In the 8th Grade program, students broaden their understanding of social issues at local and global levels. It addresses issues such as domestic and international poverty, animal rights, children’s welfare, and environmentalism, and culminates in small-group student service projects exploring selected issues.
Human Development gives girls at both grade levels the opportunity to learn about issues that impact their social, emotional, and physical lives, in and out of school. Through conversations and activities, girls are empowered with accurate information while exploring their own values and beliefs. Parents are encouraged to participate in these conversations by engaging their daughters in discussions about their own family values, a focus that is continually emphasized.
In 7th Grade, students explore the transition to Middle School, personal respect, the importance and complexity of friendships, and emotional and physical well-being, as well as comprehensive information about the developing bodies of adolescents and an introduction to human sexuality.
In 8th Grade, students discuss effective communication and decision making, health and wellness, media literacy, assertiveness and personal safety, cultural identity, reproduction and sexuality, stress relievers, and identifying and coping with pressures typically associated with adolescence.
Seventh Graders kayaking along the California coastline
Discovery Week is a week-long exploration of topics in mixed-age groups outside the classroom setting. Students have opportunities in creative arts, cultural awareness, outdoor education, travel, and service, and include on-campus experiences, day trips, and overnight trips.
Recent offerings have included exploring U.S. history in Washington, D.C., working with and learning about animals, whitewater rafting on the Kern River, rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, making short films, caring for and learning to ride horses, exploring the California coastline, and designing and sewing clothes.
A Tiger softball victory!Participating in Middle School Athletics is fun! Each girl who wishes to try a sport will be on a team – which means every girl can play every sport. The Tigers have competitive 8th Grade teams and the 7th Grade and tournament teams are for those still developing their skills. Westridge competes in the Middle School Independent League in basketball, flag football, golf, soccer, track & field, softball, swimming & diving, tennis and volleyball. Middle School girls also compete on the high school equestrian team. For details about our program, please visit the Athletics section.
Childcare for the After School Program during the 2016-17 school year is supervised by the CEC (Child Educational Center). This program is for students in grades 4 – 8 and runs from dismissal until 6:00 p.m. Students are able to stay on campus and play with friends, do school work (supervised program for both the Lower and Middle School), collaborate on projects, and participate in activities and clubs facilitated by the CEC. This extra time helps create a sense of belonging for the girls, an awareness that this campus is a special place just for them.
Students may stay as long or as little as they like until 6:00 p.m., and they may stay however many days Monday – Friday that they like. The cost of the program for the 2016-17 school year is $1000, which may be paid by the semester - $500 by June 30 and then $500 by November 15th.