Our Middle School prepares students for high school and beyond by providing opportunities for rigorous academic achievement, ethical leadership, a powerful understanding of themselves and others, and engaged global citizenship.
At this stage of the St. Thomas School journey, academics take on an even sharper focus and greater intensity. Students undertake close readings of classic American texts and delve into Shakespeare. They continue to prepare for high school-level math, honoring their skills as critical thinkers. They study Spanish along with U.S. history and ancient civilizations. And their scientific explorations include chemistry, genetics, physics, and astronomy.
Peru, Washington, D.C., and the wilder corners of Washington State are an integral part of the Middle School experience. So are are service learning projects that empower students to become compassionate, involved, reflective citizens.
Our intention is to endow our Middle School students with self-confidence, autonomy, and the ability to think critically and creatively, along with the timeless core values that give life depth and purpose. We prepare students for the high school of their choice. More important, we prepare them for the adventure of life.
Middle School Hallmarks
Advisory: Experiencing Community
Middle school students begin and end each day in an Advisory session. This special group not only forges community, but also offers a forum to discuss the unique set of experiences, challenges, and responsibilities that face students during the middle school years. While students move from class to class, experiencing the richness of different teachers' approaches, and gaining in-depth subject area knowledge, Advisory is a critical anchor in the day, providing each student with a key adult that serves as a coach, advocate, guide, and mentor.
Advisory activities include:
Students assume increasingly larger leadership roles as they journey through Middle School.
Buddy programs with younger grades draw out a special leadership skill set as middle school students serve as guides and mentors to younger children. The older students develop a deeper sense of responsibility and grow in understanding of the profound influence they can have on their school community. The buddy relationship is a significant and joyful one for students of each age.
Leadership Lab - 7th Grade
Beyond helping as student ambassadors with Open Houses and serving as key leaders in the Senate, our 7th Graders experience a training ground in very special setting: Leadership Lab. This weekly class offers some unique, challenging experiences where students are exposed to contemporary research on the topic as well as given unusual challenges to experiment with their new-found knowledge and skills. The first trimester focuses on connecting with younger students who would look up to and admire our young adolescents. Each student completes an apprenticeship in an Early Learning Center classroom, understanding that all human beings undergo profound developmental changes in the realm of physical, social, emotional, and cognitive realms. The second trimester is focused on preparing to lead Chapel lessons for the whole school and learning social and emotional traits based on Daniel Goleman’s research on social and emotional skills. The last trimester sees the class develop and act upon a service learning project of their own creation beyond the walls of the school.
Service Lab - 8th Grade
Service is very closely connected to leadership concepts in the Middle School. Leadership and service are closely intertwined. Unique to St. Thomas School, our 8th Graders have a weekly Service Lab that connects closely to Social Studies and English classes, where students learn critical needs of the globe today, educate themselves on these contemporary issues, designing service projects that actively engage the issue, making choices and designing processes themselves that lead beyond the school community. Students use The Teen Guide to Global Action to help design their own independent projects. The 8th Grade Peru trip also reflects this quest for global understanding and connection. The 8th Graders’ projects become part of a final exhibition at our school, where students will capture their growth, service, and learning in a meaningful way. The 8th Grade graduation ceremony speeches feature this service as a major theme – a wonderful way to leave the world of STS!
Middle School students need to sense that what they are studying has meaning and is relevant to their personal lives, as well as the wider world. At St. Thomas School we have crafted a set of experiences that reflect students’ developmental stages and growing interest in the broader world. We have sought to define each year’s experience with a unifying idea that gives shape and identity to that year, but also connects with the overall Middle School journey:
- 4th Grade: Exploration
- 5th Grade: Origins
- 6th Grade: Discovery: Entering New Worlds
- 7th Grade: Revolutionaries
- 8th Grade: Engaging with the World
Middle School Trips
Voyage to Peru: 8th grade
The 8th Grade trip is a special adventure that connects closely with the many elements of the year. The 7th and 8th Grade years are designed to help students build a picture of the globe today. Reflecting this, the class visits Peru, a Spanish-speaking country, incorporating language, social, academic, and leadership challenges. The trip will include the following focal points:
- Global issues (Social Studies course)
- Spanish (Foreign Language course)
- Service Learning
- Culture and social customs exploration
An important element of 8th Grade Graduation will be preparing an exhibition on Service Learning. Aspects of the trip are connected to this. We will also be building a partnership with students and communities in Peru on an ongoing basis, eventually developing a host/visitor exchange program in future years.
This international trip represents the culminating experience for our 8th Graders before Graduation. It is a wonderful, paradigm-shifting moment of community reflecting each individual’s profound changes as they travel from one continent to another, experiencing the vibrant life of different culture as well as exploring the art and history of a fascinating set of civilizations.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK - 7TH GRADE
The outstanding environmental science program at NatureBridge compliments the 7th Grade’s study of Washington State history, geography, and science. Our 7th Graders set off to Olympic National Park to explore the natural world through corridors of old growth forests, glacially carved lakes, and along the stunning Pacific coastline. This incredible adventure sees our students return transformed with a new way of seeing the natural world after physical challenges, social/leadership challenges, an in-depth connection to 7th Grade Science and Social Studies programs where a national park becomes our classroom!
WASHINGTON, D.C. – 6TH GRADE
A two year study of U.S. history, geography, and culture culminates in a week long trip to Washington, D.C. for the 6th Grade. History comes to life as students explore Jamestown, Williamsburg, Monticello, Gettysburg, and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
ISLANDWOOD – 5TH GRADE
Located on Bainbridge Island, IslandWood is home to our students for four days in the opening weeks of the 5th Grade. The experience fosters teamwork, community, and a sense of civic responsibility.
Graduation is a unique experience at St. Thomas School. In a highly personalized ceremony, the graduates themselves - rather than visiting guest speakers - take center stage as they each deliver a personal reflection with passion and poise. We welcome the whole community to this special celebration, as it makes visible the magical journey that is St. Thomas School.
High School Placement Support
Our admissions experts work with graduating students and their families to determine the best-fit high school for their learning profile, interests, and goals. Private school, public school, or boarding school—wherever a student continues their journey after St. Thomas School, our team is an advocate for their successful transition. Each graduating student is provided with interview and school visitation preparation, application assistance, test preparation classes, and admissions essay review.
Middle School Blog Posts
- Preparing Eighth Graders for the Transition to High School
- Why Middle Schoolers Should Have a Voice in Curriculum Development
- How the Pre-K - 8 Model Benefits Middle Schoolers
- Why School Structure & Culture Matter for Middle Schoolers
- Tips for Surviving the Middle School Years