Middle School Academics
Grades 6, 7 and 8 are departmentalized with students receiving instruction from specialized and class teachers in Reading and Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, upper-level French, Religion, Social Studies, Computer, the Fine Arts which include Formal Art Instruction, Drama and Music, and Physical Education. Subjects are integrated to the extent possible through cross-curricular instruction - for example, math/art; science/writing; language arts/technology; social studies/drama; French/drama and art.
Daily formal instruction is enhanced by a variety of activities. Art and technology are integrated into the religion curriculum to create deeper understanding of and greater appreciation for Catholic traditions. As part of the middle school curriculum, students participate in various community service activities of their choosing. Formal and informal liturgical and para-liturgical experiences are offered. The sacrament of Confirmation is received during the eighth grade year and includes a two-day student retreat at the McGucken Center in Occidental, which is nestled in a Sonoma County redwood forest.
The RISE program, which focuses on conflict management - Respect, Include, Safety (emotional and physical) and Effective communication - significantly supports the religious education program. Led by student leaders in grade eight, students in all grades learn ways to respond to and handle conflict in their lives.
French Language and Culture
The program includes daily instruction from native French speakers. Grammar and conversation are integral to the program and major goals include developing a proper accent and fluid speaking ability. Reading, writing, conversation, listening and comprehension, cultural events and games are part of the learning experience. Literature, songs, field trips and projects are also used to support new concepts or ideas.
The middle school curriculum includes one long-term group project about French civilization, which the students present in front of the class in French.
Literature and Life-Long Learners
Even at the Junior High level, students are read to on a daily basis. Comprehension, character development, appreciation for settings, and narrative prediction are elements of the learning experience in literature. A field trip to Jack London State Park supports the 8th grade literature program, which includes a study of the author and his literary works. Literature circles are an integral aspect of the learning program, promoting a deeper and richer appreciation for specific selections. Students take responsibility for leading small group discussions, in which they are called to substantiate and share observations.
NDV follows the California State Board of Education's mathematics curriculum and frameworks, which guides the standards set forth by the Department of Catholic School of the San Francisco Archdiocese. In addition to mastering and honing basic mathematical concepts, students are taught to use strategies, skills and concepts to find solutions. They are taught to implement mathematical reasoning by analyzing problems through identifying relationships, distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information, identifying missing information, sequencing and prioritizing information, and observing patterns. Students learn to formulate and justify mathematical conjectures based on a general description of the mathematical question or problem posed, then determine when and how to break a problem into simpler parts.
Our middle school mathematics program hits key technical aspects of the Board of Education's framework, which includes knowledge of:
We strive to create hands-on math activities and real-life problem solving assignments to create deeper meaning.
Science and Outdoor Education
The science curriculum in grade six emphasizes the study of earth sciences. Students at this age are increasing their awareness of the environment and are ready to learn more. The standards in grade six present many of the foundations of geology and geophysics including plate tectonics and earth structure, topography, and energy. The material is linked to resource management and ecology, building on what students have learned in previous grades. Unless students take a high school earth science class, what they learn in grade six will be their foundation for earth science literacy.
An outdoor education trip in grade six is a five day, five night class experience through the Yosemite Institute (YI) where they spend their time exploring the flora, fauna, hydrology and geology of Yosemite. Students and chaperons stay in tent cabins and enjoy hikes and lectures presented by the YI staff throughout their stay.
In grade seven we focus on this very exciting time in the study of life sciences. Knowledge of biological systems is expanding rapidly and the development of new technologies has led to major advances in medicine, agriculture, and environmental management. Another definitive reason to focus on life science in grade seven is the students' own biological and behavioral transition into early adolescence. Young adolescents make decisions that may have an enormous influence on their lives. The study of life science provides a knowledge base on which adolescents can make well-informed and wise decisions about their health and behavior. The relevance of the curriculum to their lives helps students maintain an interest in science and expand their knowledge of the natural sciences.
Students in grade eight study topics in physical sciences such as motion, forces, and the structure of matter, by using a quantitative, mathematically based approach similar to the procedures they will use in high school. Earth, the solar system, chemical reactions, the chemistry of biological processes, the periodic table, and density and buoyancy are additional topics that will be treated with increased mathematical rigor, again in anticipation of high school courses. Students should begin to grasp four concepts that help to unify physical sciences: force and energy; the laws of conservation; atoms, molecules, and the atomic theory; and kinetic theory. Those concepts serve as important organizers that will be required as students continue their science education.
Core curriculum - as outlined by the San Francisco Archdiocese and based on the California State Standards - focuses on world history, ancient civilizations and U.S. government. Research projects and group work are interpolated into the program. In addition to field trips to nearby museums and exhibits, guest speakers enrich the students' learning experiences.
The visual arts, formally taught under the direction of a full time art teacher, focus on famous artists and their works. In addition to learning drawing, watercolor painting, and pastel techniques, the students create clay art pieces fired in the school kiln. Students study artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georgia O'Keefe, Claude Monet, Jackson Pollack, Gustav Lim, Frida Kahlo, Viola Frey, Keith Haring, and Sean Sully.
Creative drama and presentation skills are developed and utilized in the social studies and French classes.
The Art of Storytelling - 7th Grade: Seventh graders work with a professional storyteller to learn storytelling techniques that help them bring to life children's classics, which they present to the primary grade students.
Theater Arts - 8th Grade: A professional theater director works with the eighth grade students to develop their acting, singing, and dancing skills. The year culminates in a full-length musical production, which has become a much-loved tradition at the school.
Classes are taught on a weekly basis in the school gymnasium by a credentialed instructor whose lengthy tenure has produced an impressive learning program for our children. Each PE session includes a period of exercises and several invigorating laps around the upper level or lower level tracks. Skills needed for specific sports are both taught and practiced during physical education. Physical fitness and nutrition are also important aspects of the program. Student participation in cross-country and track events sponsored by CCCYO is strongly encouraged.
NDV also has vibrant team sport participation through the CCCYO league. Though our student population is not large, our middle school students have successfully won division championships in volleyball, soccer and basketball.
Students in the seventh and eighth grades are required to complete a total of 30 hours of community service prior to Confirmation or graduation. The required activities are designed to serve others outside of the NDV community. The eighth grade students serve one day at St. Anthony's Dining Room as part of their Religion class.
The entire student body supports other organizations throughout the year with activities such as the Holy Childhood Association at Advent, the Canned Food Drive sponsored by CJSF, the Operation Rice Bowl Project at Lent, and the missions and outreach services of the Marists and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange through the Mission Carnival.