Welcome back! I hope you and your families enjoyed the summer as much as I did. I feel rested and ready for the school year with students to begin. This year in Humanities, the students will learn about the rise and fall of some of the great civilizations of the ancient world through the lens of cultural universals like literature, art, architecture, mythology, family, religious beliefs, and philosophies. With each integrated unit, I will post resources and other important information on this blog for parents, and I will send you an email when I update periodically.
We begin the year exploring the concept of “geographic luck” presented in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, as the students look at the rise of the earliest human societies and their migration throughout the world. Dr. Diamond’s explains that the reason some parts of the world developed into complex civilizations while others remained hunter-gatherer societies is not the result of genetic superiority, but rather “geographic luck.” It depends on which resources, crops, and animals were available to be domesticated. This is an important place to begin our ancient history studies, because it forces the students to see the world as a whole both in terms of geography and timeline. This is just an introduction to these complex ideas; students will continue to explore the concepts presented in this book during their 7th grade year and again in their college-level history classes.
Our first reading and writing assignments will be based on the novel Maroo of the Winter Caves by Ann Turnbull, which enhances our history studies as we explore the shift of humans from hunter-gatherers to complex societies. This short novel will be used as a springboard for some of our class discussions and writing exploring identity awareness.
Next week, students will also receive their vocabulary workbooks and first grammar packets. There is another link on this blog that will have the information for the online access to the vocabulary series where there are study guides, games, and downloadable MP3’s of words and definitions to help the students study. We will spend a lot of time this school year focused on study skills, helping “each learner learn how s/he learns.” The vocabulary and grammar workbooks provide small, daily assignments intended to offer students practice on their discreet writing skills without the pressure of a large writing assignment and focused attention on memorization and retention of information. You will often see these assignments as homework, but please know this is a small portion of what happens in class (about 15%). I try to send students home with work I know they can complete 100% independently, work for which there is a clear ending so they can have a daily sense of accomplishment and go to bed each night feeling prepared for school. I prefer to keep the open-ended, long-term creative projects at school where they can collaborate, ask questions, and play their way through a challenge.
Being the first year of middle school, “second kindergarten,” as I lovingly call it, I’m sure you will have questions and concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me or any of your child’s teachers and advisors. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with Bill< Wendy and Tess to learn about each individual student and the group as a whole over the summer, and I know this will be a wonderful year for us all.
I look forward to seeing all of you at Middle School Back to School Night on Thursday, September 14th. We are all working together to ensure your child’s middle school years are enriching and meaningful. It’s an honor to be here at Gateway School!