Early adolescents can love school

The adolescent years are a period of extraordinary intellectual and personal growth. Our Middle School is a close-knit community designed to support and challenge students to reach for excellence, take appropriate risks, and embrace their inner voices. Featuring small classes, seminar-style discussions, intensive interdisciplinary projects, enriching elective offerings, and a robust advisory program, our program helps students build critical academic knowledge and skills, while simultaneously developing the essential elements of their characters in areas such as resilience and integrity. Our students are seen and respected for being themselves, and in turn they embrace their role as scholars with questioning spirits and a deep love of learning.

Increase autonomy and responsibility

Many intellectual, physical, hormonal and social changes occur during adolescence. The brains of 11-to-14 year olds are literally “under construction” in both the frontal lobes, where decision making and organization takes place, and also in the neural circuitry and synaptic connections throughout the brain. Early adolescents still need the loving support of caring adults while they are asserting new levels of independence, and also kind and firm support when they struggle. Our experienced faculty understand this complex neurological state and relate well with children at this stage of life, bringing equal parts playfulness and seriousness to the classroom and social environment as they inspire creative, ethical and intellectually curious students.

An education designed to play to their developmental strengths

If you spend time with middle school students, you’ll quickly learn that they are highly focused on social interactions, eager to be hands-on and minds-on in the classroom, and intensely concerned about what is fair and just. That’s why our program emphasizes collaborative learning experiences, active learning and project-based curriculum, and lots of authentic connections to the real world outside the school. We also know that sometimes children need to take a break from class debates and group projects to have focused time for individual work! And they need explicit instruction in study skills, including organization, tracking assignments, management materials, time management, test-taking skills, and more.

High expectations and strong support are the best preparation

Gateway’s Middle School prepares young adolescents for the most rigorous high school curricula by meeting students exactly where they are developmentally. Curriculum is matched to their knowledge, skills, and capacity for abstract thinking. Content is made relevant and meaningful to their lived experiences and their consumption of news and media. Developing strong character as people of integrity and compassion works in concert with our academic program. Our graduates are accepted at the most competitive regional private and public high schools and are known for being confident, self-directed, engaged and excited students.

Melding innovation and experience in the classroom

Read more about how our program uses real-world, interdisciplinary learning below.

The Walkout to End Gun Violence: Student Leadership in Action
On March 14, 2018, our middle school students participated in the National School Walkout to honor the lives lost in the school shooting in Parkland, FL, and others. The children determined that in order to be eligible to participate, students were required to attend at least two of three preparation meetings. Our middle schoolers asked faculty to facilitate conversations about the Second Amendment, and how gun control and mental health issues are depicted in the media. A self-selected group of five student leaders met separately to craft a permission slip, which required each participant to explain to their parents why they felt it was important to be part of the walkout. Each student then wrote their personal call to action on a sandwich board, which the students wore during the walkout. Our students walked down West Cliff to the Lighthouse, where they formed a line facing the street. At the mark of one of the student leaders, they began 17 minutes of silence. Many passing drivers and pedestrians showed their support; for example, a woman jogging with her baby stopped and asked to take a picture, while a driver pulled over and told the students they were heros.

Those students who did not participate in the walkout also had important learning experiences. In small groups they discussed their choices to stay at school, their feelings and comfort with the idea of direct action, and the responsibility they each carry for finding the right ways to advocate for the issues about which they are passionate.

The Museum of Exclusion: Project-Based Learning In 8th Grade
In preparation for their week-long grade trip to Washington D.C., where they will visit half a dozen museums, 8th grade students investigate the field of museum exhibit design. Through readings, videos, guest speakers and on-site visits, they learn how designers weave together images, text, sound, interactive elements and physical space to create emotional and intellectual responses in attendees. Next, working in small groups, students select a group of marginalized peoples from California history — women, children, slaves, native peoples, LGBQT+ and many others — and create a full-scale museum exhibit to teach others about the issues and experiences of their chosen cohort. The exhibits are presented twice; first in an afternoon/evening session on the ground floor of the local Museum of Art and History, and then on the school campus the next day to students in our elementary program.
Fighting Hate: Dialoguing About Religious Similarities and Differences
One of the most effective ways to develop inclusive attitudes in adolescents is to have them spend time learning about people outside of their typical familial and social cohort. In the spring of 2017 we collaborated with the Islamic Networks Group to host a panel of speakers representing observant Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The panelists are given time to explain the central beliefs and practices of their religions, and then are guided into dialogue to examine how these religions are similar and different from each other. Students are free to ask questions about the history, values, and structures of each religion, and hit upon powerful insights into how religious views have shaped history and continue to influence modern society. In 2017, a 7th grader stunned the room into silence with his powerful question at the end of the program, “How can we work together to fight the hate escalating in the world?”.

Academic Curriculum

Humanities
Our interdisciplinary Humanities program combines English Language Arts and Cultural Studies/History into a single integrated curriculum. Students develop their skills as critical readers and fluid writers across a range of genres and purposes, while thinking deeply about the geographic, natural, political and cultural forces that have shaped civilization in various times and places. Students come to make sense of the emerging patterns and trends in contemporary society.

Reading comprehension is developed through whole-class readings, literature circles, and independent reading; from poetry and fiction to biography and primary source documents, students gain skills across a wide range of literature, and learn how to respond to a text with authentic and original thinking.

Our students come to see writing as both art and craft, understand the role that process plays in successful writing, and effectively communicate their ideas in writing. As writers, students learn to plan and prewrite, draft and edit, revise and then publish and present their work to peers and larger audiences. From research essays to poetry, students develop their voice and write for specific audiences, while consolidating their mastery of grammar and mechanics and developing a rich vocabulary.

The 6th grade Humanities class focuses on ancient civilizations around the world, and begins by examining the rise of early humans in Africa and their migration into Eastern Europe and Mesopotamia. Early Neolithic cities and the domestication of plants and animals foretell the rise of ancient civilizations. Studies continue with the ancient civilizations of India, Egypt, China, Europe and the Americas. The year culminates with DIG, a simulated archaeological excavation of mythical civilizations created by the students.

The 7th grade Humanities class integrates a broad study of ancient, medieval and Renaissance cultures with the four foundational skills that constitute the language arts (reading, writing, listening, and speaking). Literary investigations are undertaken in accordance with the examination of various historical eras including the Fall of Rome, the Birth of Christianity, Growth of Islam, and Medieval Europe. The year culminates with a study of the European Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Age of Exploration.

The 8th grade Humanities class is a broad survey of American history and literature, beginning with early North American cultures and concluding with WWI and the Progressive Era. Major units of study include the American Revolution, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Civil War and its aftermath. The curriculum culminates with a trip to Washington D.C. in the spring, and a concise unit on rhetorical strategies as students prepare to deliver their graduation speeches.

Mathematics
Gateway’s Middle School math program develops flexible and confident mathematical thinkers. Through our implementation of College Preparatory Mathematics, we encourage learning through investigation, discovery, and problem-solving. Mathematics is taught through a combination of direct instruction, practice, and investigations in small groups. Gateway middle school teachers work with students at their level, providing differentiated curriculum and online enrichment. Our students place into a wide range of class in high school, in line with their abilities and motivation.

All 6th graders participate in Course 1 of College Preparatory Mathematics. In this class students learn the foundations of collaborative practice, productive discussion, and iterative inquiry to derive the meaning of mathematical procedures. Discovering how to learn in this way is viewed with equal importance to the content covered. Students in 6th grade study statistics, analyze data, learn to construct and deconstruct numbers and operations, use ratios to describe relationships and use models and standard algorithms for computations with fractions and decimals. Students explore beginning Pre-Algebra concepts such as simplifying variable expressions by combining like terms, using the Distributive Property, evaluating variable expressions and solving simple equations and inequalities.

In Course 2 students develop more strategies in collaborative mathematical practice and productive dialogue. They debate around mathematical ideas, and continue iterative inquiry to derive the meaning of more complex procedures. This course develops students’ abstract thinking, which is required for more algebraic representations. Students complete operations with integers and rational numbers, use diagrams and equal ratios, determine percent increase or decrease, and learn to simplify variable expressions by combining like terms and using the Distributive Property. Other content includes solving linear equations and one-variable inequalities, an extensive exploration of probability, and the distribution of data. Proportional thinking is emphasized, as are ratios and the calculation of unit rates.

Students in Course 3 explore algebraic concepts by using problem-solving strategies, learn to represent a linear function with a graph, table, rule, and context, solve systems of equations, symbolically manipulate expressions, and solve contextual word problems using multiple strategies. They describe various geometric transformations on a coordinate grid. Their study of statistics continues as they represent data using scatterplots. Students compare ratios and calculate unit rates and slope ratios. They analyze the slope of a line graphically, numerically, and contextually. Students recognize and solve problems involving proportional relationships. They graph and analyze non-linear functions. The course explores connections between Algebra and Geometry through properties of similar figures and use of the Pythagorean Theorem to solve problems in two and three dimensions.

Core Connections Integrated I is the first course in a sequence of College Preparatory Mathematics courses that continues through Calculus. Because this is a high school equivalent course, we expect students who participate in this class to be motivated, exhibit excellent work habits, seek challenges, and to maintain a grade of at least 85%. The course is well-balanced among procedural fluency, deep conceptual understanding, problem solving, and adaptive reasoning. Integrated Math I develops fluency with solving linear equations, inequalities, and systems, and extends these skills to non linear functions. Students learn to represent and solve quadratic and exponential functions through use of graphs, tables, equations, and contexts. They use multiple techniques to solve problems symbolically, analyze the slope of a line, and solve systems of equations and inequalities.

Science
Gateway’s Middle School science program engages students with an innovative hands-on curriculum and ensures that students develop a solid foundation in the scientific disciplines of earth science, chemistry, physics and biology. Each unit includes investigation, discussion, activities, writing, and connections to the real world.

In Earth Science, 6th graders begin to look at the ways in which our earth is a working machine. Students explore the interior of the earth, minerals and rocks, earthquakes, the force of water, ocean resources and other natural resources. Course units include the Earth’s Interior; Changing of the Earth’s Surface; How the Ocean Works; Natural Resources; Ecology Overview and Family Life.

In Life Science, 7th graders learn about living things from the simple prokaryotic cell to the complex human body, and many plants and animals in between. Our studies in this field allow for many hands-on activities, labs, dissections, and field trip adventures to illustrate and explore the many facets of life science. Course units include: Cells; DNA, Mitosis, and Meiosis; Reproduction; Genetics; Evolution; Taxonomy and Phylogeny; Animal Body Systems; Plants; and Family Life.

In Physical Science, 8th graders begin to unlock the secrets of our universe through the unifying principles of physics. Our studies in this field allow for many hands-on activities, labs, and adventures to illustrate and explore concepts in chemistry, physics, astronomy and cosmology.
Course units include: Structure of Matter; Reactions; The Chemistry of Ocean Water; The Chemistry of Nutrition; Motion; Forces; Buoyancy and Flight; Astronomy and Family Life.

All Middle School students design experiments, conduct research, and report findings at our school Science Fair each year. Gateway students enter their work and perform well at regional Science Fair competitions. Our students regularly win at the County level and go on to compete at the State Science Fair each spring.

Spanish
Our Middle School Spanish program uses high school curricula that are middle school friendly to build proficiency in grammar and vocabulary, and explore the geography and cultures of Spanish-speaking countries. The program focuses on developing the four skills of language learning – listening, speaking, reading and writing. The curriculum includes a range of enrichment projects integrating music, video making, skits, oral presentations, games, research projects, book making, field trips, cultural outings, and pen pals. By 8th grade, students are reading short novels in Spanish. While some students come into our Middle School with no prior Spanish instruction, all of our students graduate from 8th grade prepared for Spanish II, and many place into Spanish III in 9th grade.