Arete’s full-year classes ensure that students build a strong foundation in Mathematics and English Literature & Writing while also exploring additional passions in Foreign Languages, Visual & Performing Arts, and Philosophy.
Unique among middle school students, Areté’s sixth, seventh, and eighth graders acquire a developing philosopher’s toolkit that will inform their worldview and approaches to learning for the rest of their lives.
Middle school students enroll in a year-long philosophy course in which they delve into and adopt our Head of School’s abiding fascination for trolley-car ethics problems! Through thought experiments, intellectual debates, and puzzles, they are also introduced to the basics of Epistemology, Logic, Metaphysics, and Aesthetics.
At the start of the year, middle school students complete assessments and are subsequently placed in a mathematics section that meets them at their current skill level while challenging them to forge ahead in the world of mathematics, making connections among concepts and embracing a passion for learning. Areté’s research-based, integrated approach to mathematics allows students to break away from a traditional mathematics sequence (i.e., separating pre-algebra from geometry) and instead to see how the many mathematical fields and concepts interact. We find that this approach to mathematical learning not only removes resistance and anxiety, but also allows students to advance more quickly and understand mathematical concepts and their applications more thoroughly. Our highly interactive classroom and project-based math curriculum allow students to challenge themselves daily and embrace identities as advanced problem-solvers.
Literature & Writing
After completing theme-based explorations of English-language literature in the Fall Semester, middle school students continue on with English instruction in the Spring, gaining exposure to additional classic and contemporary works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama, and learning how to write analytically, descriptively, and persuasively. Areté’s discussion-based and writing-intensive English curriculum inspires students to engage deeply with literature — and therefore with their world and with what it means to be human — while also developing key academic skills that they will need to succeed in academia and in life. In the Areté Middle School, English class is not about taking bland multiple-choice tests on insignificant literary details, but rather about coming to class with a hundred original thoughts and philosophical musings on an annotated passage from the works of Shakespeare. It is about composing and delivering a persuasive speech that uses strong research, arguments, counter-arguments, and rebuttals, along with rhetorical appeals and devices, to convince the audience of a passionately-held point of view. It is about fine-tuning one’s use of grammar and mechanics in order to communicate profound thoughts in a clear and powerful manner. It is about developing a strong point of view as a reader and an original voice as a writer.
History and Science
After engaging in spirited Fall Explorations of both subject areas that are aligned with California curriculum per grade level, students dig into interdisciplinary Humanities and Science Deep Dives in the Spring. In these in-depth, passion-based courses, students experience connections among history and other fields within the humanities and among different scientific and mathematical topics of interest. Areté students are therefore more able than others their age to see and embrace the big picture and understand how the pieces of our world fit together. This passion-based study of the humanities and sciences in turn inspires a lifelong love of learning. Past Deep Dives in the Humanities and Sciences have focused on world mythology from numerous cultures and eras, the history of philosophy and psychology, astronomy, and mechanical engineering; yearly Deep Dive curriculum is finalized in the Fall semester based on collaborative course proposals drawn up by students and faculty.
Creating An Artistic Identity
Not all consider themselves artists, but everyone can develop an artistic sensibility.
What do we mean by this? When one has cultivated an artist’s perception, the “artist’s eye,” one can better navigate all modes of knowing. As John Berger, the 20th century’s most gifted interpreter of arts, said, “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.” Areté students learn key artistic and interpretive skills by rotating through a full year’s worth of mini-courses in Visual Art (spirograph art, painting, and drawing), Fashion Design (including cosplay), Photography, Theatre, Music, and Creative Writing (with additional options available in the future, depending upon students’ and teachers’ passions and expertise). As a culminating project, each student delves deeply into two or more of the introduced art forms, selecting a faculty mentor to oversee a multidisciplinary, original art project. Throughout their study and creation of art, Areté students not only advance but also develop their artist’s eye and, through it, start to fashion the world around them. By nurturing a more nuanced way of seeing, the Middle School Arts rotation exponentially increases a student’s ability to create a robot, write an essay, deliver a persuasive speech, discern interdisciplinary connections, or create art that might just change the world.
Over the course of a year, middle school students rotate through Spanish, French, Mandarin, Japanese, Latin, and even a special introduction to Cuneiform taught by one of the world’s twenty experts in this ancient Sumerian writing system.
Throughout their foreign language rotation, students:
- Study the rules of each language- sentence diagramming, parts of speech, grammar, tones, etc.
- Learn basic vocabulary and, in the case of Japanese, Mandarin, and Sumerian, characters.
- Study the rich culture associated with each language through project-based components: assembling recipes from the Spanish-speaking world, for example, or creating Japanese calligraphy.
- At the end of the rotation, build their own language either individually or in collaboration with others, including codifying the language; inventing rules; writing a short document in the language; and teaching an introductory lesson.
- Decide which foreign language options(s) they wish to study in depth in high school and beyond. Many students also choose to participate in immersive, school-sponsored language study trips to locations such as Japan, France, and Spain.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
To make sure that students’ bodies are as exercised as their minds, Areté offers a year-round Physical Education class that is in line with state requirements and allows students to co-design units of interest with the instructor (i.e., tennis, basketball, softball, distance running, yoga, dance, etc.)