5th – 8th Grade
The Girls’ School begins middle school in fifth grade because of the significant transition in girls’ development at this time. By age 10, girls are shifting from “learning to” — read, write and calculate – and beginning to apply their communication and problem-solving skills. Our environment encourages intellectual risk-taking, fosters collaboration without shying away from competition, and enables students to deepen their understanding of themselves and the world around them.
- One class per grade
- Small class size
- School day 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Below you will find an overview of each subject in middle school. For a detailed description by grade, please download our curriculum guide.
In middle school, students continue their study of literature, history and culture in an integrated humanities curriculum. Literature units and writing assignments allow for deeper understanding and analysis of historical events. Students build skills in reporting, analyzing and synthesizing information. Spelling, vocabulary, writing mechanics are strengthened as they expand their writing toolkit with literary devices, and a deeper understanding of forms and genres. Essential questions examining the human experience tie historical topics to current events. Each grade produces and performs a play and enters creative writing competitions. Themes for the year are as follow: 5th grade – US History, 6th Grade – World Geography, 7th Grade – US History (continued), 8th grade – World History.
Mathematics instruction at The Girls’ School uses manipulatives, games, practical applications and interdisciplinary projects to promote understanding and flexibility in problem solving. Students work in groups and independently. Students participate in math competitions including the American Mathematical Competition (AMC-8) and Math Olympiad. The standard progression leads to Algebra I by eighth grade, and advancement to Geometry and beyond is possible for exceptionally motivated students who have demonstrated mastery of concepts. In middle school the math curriculum reinforces previously taught concepts to move the students into thinking algebraically, and introduces concepts in geometry and trigonometry.
The science program at The Girls’ School encourages our students’ natural curiosity about the world around them. In middle school, each grade devotes the school year to the in-depth study of a scientific discipline including field studies, earth science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology. We make use of flora, fauna and natural geologic features of Central Texas to explore biology, physical science and earth science. Multi-day class trips to Mckinney Roughs, Palo Duro State Park, and the McDonald Observatory build on scientific studies. Local field trips to labs, universities, and Camp Mabry’s Starbase Academy further enrich the curriculum.
Science, Engineering, and Technology
SET is a pass/fail course that each middle school grade takes one semester a year. The goal of the class is to introduce the students to various ideas and technologies in the STEM field that are not covered in their standard coursework. We introduce increasingly complex ideas at age-appropriate levels and try to integrate classroom learning with technologies they are using both in and out of the classroom. Hands on projects build teamwork and problem solving skills. Topics include: computer literacy, Scratch programming, physical engineering and building, computer science, Python programming, and a study of how adolescent brain responds to social media.
In middle school, our Spanish language program develops a solid foundation in Spanish and encourages an understanding and an appreciation of Spanish-speaking cultures. Each grade level strengthens the skills acquired in the lower school, while focusing on details of grammar, communication, and culture. Sixth graders begin learning the components of high school Spanish I, including the conjugation of all present tense regular verbs, the production of grammatically correct paragraphs, and the maintenance of a five-minute conversation. The seventh and eighth grade Spanish program finishes the Spanish I curriculum and continues into Spanish II. Students read, write, speak and play games on a daily basis.
The GSA art curriculum is designed to develop each girl’s individual creativity and self-expression through a well-rounded study of art. Students are exposed to a wide variety of art forms and mediums, which are introduced in an historical context and exemplified in the work of notable artists. Artistic mediums/processes covered during the year include pastels, drawing, grayscale, acrylic painting on canvas, printmaking, pen & ink, and clay. Middle school students are encouraged to enter their work in various local/regional/national competitions and work on their choice of multi-media independent study projects.
GSA students are required to take music lessons – either strings or piano. Music classes meet three times a week in grades 5-6 and twice a week in grades 7 and 8.
Middle School Strings
The middle school strings classes promote a refined approach to the instrument while developing a deeper appreciation of music. Students tackle a wide variety of musical styles, including pop songs, world music, and unedited classical pieces, and are introduced to jazz improvisation techniques. Units on musical analysis, theory, history, and counterpoint introduce musical concepts through playing and lay the foundation for a broader level of musicianship. Dedicated students are encouraged to take private lessons, audition for All-Region Orchestra, and play in Chamber Orchestra. School-wide performances take place twice a year.
The piano program is individualized and developed to build applied skills in notation reading, posture, and expression. Student composition assignments and multi-media projects are designed to improve musical and creative ability and increase comfort level with experimentation, musical exploration, and performance.
PE & Health
The GSA embraces a holistic approach to health and wellness education, engaging the mind as well as the body. From fifth through eighth grade, students learn to maintain physical fitness and flexibility, as well as cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance; they also may participate in individual and team sports. They continue to practice dribbling, volleying, throwing, catching, shooting, rhythms, dance and yoga. Throughout the program, sportsmanship and teamwork are emphasized. Sex education called GET REAL Comprehensive Sex Education That Works is taught as a comprehensive program in sixth through eighth grades.
Social Emotional Learning
In middle school social emotional learning is taught through our advisory program and integrated into the curriculum. Each grade has an advisor and an advisory class once a week. Through council, mindfulness, class meeting and small group work students explore the themes of: study skills and organization, respect for self and others, environmental stewardship, body image, integrity, , communication, identity, empathy, independence, friendships, tolerance, diversity and citizenship.
Our Service Learning Program connects our students to the wider Austin community where they work develop the knowledge and skills to become capable and responsible participants in the world. Each grade participates in at least one partnership with a local not-for-profit organization or charity where they have hands on experience supporting that organization. Recent local partnerships for middle school include: Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, The Gazelle Foundation, The Goodwill Resource Center and Green Gate Farms.