curriculum

The LWGMS curriculum is designed to cultivate intellectual curiosity and a drive to social action in each LWGMS student. In a safe and supportive environment that challenges each student to reach their potential, experienced teachers guide our students to develop the creative confidence to meet the many social, emotional, physical, and academic changes of early adolescence. The program is designed to be hands-on and experiential, with collaborative learning, projects, oral presentations, and class discussions used to ensure that every student strengthens their voice as they learn. At the heart of the curriculum is a commitment to social justice. 

21st century schools must prepare students to think on their feet, collaborate, and communicate ideas clearly. Lake Washington Girls Middle School offers robust public speaking, performance, and presentation strands throughout our curriculum, translating into seamless teaching of the 6C’s of 21st Century Skills: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, confidence, and compassion.

The curriculum at LWGMS is interdisciplinary where appropriate, and it concentrates on each subject individually by employing teachers who are experts in their subject areas. The core academic curriculum includes humanities, math, science, Spanish, and STEAM. The fine arts are considered a valuable essential; every LWGMS student takes at least 60 minutes of visual art per week as well as a full year STEAM course, which integrates the arts with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and introduces the process of Design Thinking. To cultivate confidence, collaboration, and strong voices, every LWGMS student performs in at least one full-scale drama production every year. Additionally, students can choose from enrichment classes that offer a breadth of experiences. Classes include Entrepreneurship, Guitar Making, Ukulele and Voice, Coding, Poetry as Performance, The Elle-Dub Blog, and stage crew.

Beginning in sixth grade, students develop skills to identify and interpret information, organize data, produce research projects, and evaluate their own final product. Using a wide variety of print and electronic sources, students conduct research in all disciplines. Computers become tools that all students know how to use with ease and confidence. Students reinforce basic computer skills as they apply them to authentic core curriculum activities. Skills reinforced include keyboarding and word processing; creating spreadsheets, charts, and graphic organizers; using the Internet effectively; creating digital media such as animation and film; graphic design, and working with robotics platforms.


Students at LWGMS engage in an academically challenging and engaging curriculum, including extensive research and writing, regular debates and oral presentations, individualized and collaborative math instruction, and real-world, experiential science. With our unique, creative curriculum that is integrated across disciplines, LWGMS prepares students to critically assess environments and events, to excel academically, and to exercise their voices. Our students graduate as confident, socially responsible, creative young people, who are well prepared for high school and beyond.

In all classes, LWGMS Students...

  • Use technology
  • Incorporate visual and dramatic arts
  • Conduct and synthesize research
  • Write for a variety of audiences in a variety of styles
  • Read and analyze integrated literature
  • Have the opportunity to explore their interests
  • Benefit from individualized instruction with high expectations
  • Use problem solving, critical thinking, and design thinking skills
  • Incorporate the Spanish language
  • Synthesize their learning into an oral, visual, and written presentation
  • Have a voice in the curriculum
  • Have fun as part of their learning

By the end of middle school, an LWGMS graduate will be able to...

  • View the world through multiple perspectives
  • Recognize instances of social injustice
  • Act as a responsible citizen who serves her community
  • Speak and debate effectively
  • Perform on stage in front of hundreds
  • Converse and write in Spanish
  • Apply the scientific process
  • Solve complicated problems
  • Write an MLA-style documented research paper
  • Write plays, narratives, and poetry
  • Express herself through visual arts
  • Express her opinions with confidence
  • Know her own learning style
  • Act as a mediator and work through conflict
  • Embrace individuality and learn from differences
  • Collaborate well with peers and adults
  • Enter high school prepared for honors and AP classes

SCIENCE

The science curriculum is intended to foster a sense of excitement and curiosity about the field of science and the ways in which it permeates every aspect of daily life. LWGMS students conduct experiments, explore connections between different scientific phenomena, carry out research, build models, and present their findings.

Science is integrated with other areas of study and highlighted as its own individual subject, so that students can both see the connections between science and the humanities and learn the processes and skills necessary for scientific experiential learning.  

The LWGMS science program incorporates Next Generation Science standards and Washington State standards into the curriculum. In sixth grade, the science curriculum targets our overall theme of “Parts of a Whole” by spending the majority of the year exploring Environmental Science units, which focus on classification, ecosystems, and animal behavior. In seventh grade, our theme of “Systems and Values” is targeted by learning about the human body and its systems. Students’ final year at LWGMS is centered on the theme of “Cause and Effect” emphasized in science by learning about forces and energy and by introducing eight graders to chemistry.

 

Math

Our math program uses a combination of traditional and project-based approaches. Students explore mathematical concepts and their applications through collaborative and individual learning experiences, including math labs and projects, skills and concepts problems, and evaluation exercises. Real-world math applications are designed to widen the scope of students’ mathematical thinking and to exercise problem-solving and communication skills. Students are required to write, in detail, their process for solving a problem and what the real-world applications of the problem are.

Most LWGMS graduates enter high school ready to take sophomore or junior level math classes, usually at the honors and AP levels.

Humanities

The Humanities curriculum includes the traditional integration of social studies and language arts, but ours is enriched with Writing Workshop classes in all three grades and a social justice course, Walls to Bridges, in seventh and eighth grade.

Humanities

This course integrates language arts with social studies and offers students a chance to see the  connections among history, literature, art, and culture. Students engage in traditional novel study and literary analysis while also actively connecting their reading to the narrative of their own lives and the world around them. Socratic seminars and oral performances allow students to explore the themes and issues raised in the text while building essential communication skills. As students gain practice in the mechanics and process of writing in Writing Workshop, they apply those skills to the analytic writing they do in Humanities classes. Sixth graders study human rights and social movements;  seventh graders study world cultures and systems of belief; and eighth graders study civics, US history, and Washington state history.

Writing Workshop

This is a writing skills class that teaches the conventions of written language and writing craft within a meaningful context: students’ own writing. Students use writing to discover more about themselves and communicate those understandings clearly and creatively to others. Through a combination of inquiry and direct instruction, students learn grammatical and mechanical rules and apply them to the writing they do in a writer’s notebook. Students make extensive use of the writing process, practicing revision and editing strategies that allow them to become independent editors. In sixth grade, students learn how to find meaning in their everyday lives by writing regularly in writer’s notebooks and sharing with their peers. In seventh grade, students develop their voices as essayists, blending narrative and expository styles to write personal essays that explore aspects of their identity. In eighth grade, students write spoken word poetry, memoir, and graduation speeches. They also submit their writing to magazines.

Walls to Bridges

Walls to Bridges is a social justice course that focuses on activism, leadership, and voice. Throughout the year, students participate in monthly workshops on issues like identity and ally-ship, as well as explorations of historical movements for social change. This year-long program, in conjunction with the Humanities curriculum, gives students the time and space to examine privilege and oppression, and to develop tools to become agents of change. In seventh grade, students are introduced to social justice themes through current events. In eighth grade, students engage in long-term projects, including social justice filmmaking and non-violent direct action campaigns.

Spanish

Spanish incorporates reading, speaking, and writing skills through the use of dialogues, textbooks, songs, literature, and cultural lessons. The goal is to introduce the language and develop a love for learning languages. By eighth grade, the students are able to write and present poetry, prose and research projects in Spanish.

All LWGMS graduates will enter high school with the skills to begin at least in Spanish II, while many will begin their freshman year with Spanish III.

STEAM

In each grade, L-Dub students take a year-long STEAM class that integrates the arts with science, technology, engineering, and math. The three year scope and sequence begins with shop safety and proper tool use. The sequence culminates in an individual project that demonstrates the ability to solve problems using STEAM skills.

The STEAM curriculum is designed to get our students excited about engineering, technology, science, and math while expanding their creative confidence. In STEAM, students regularly engage in problem-solving, risk-taking, and mistake-making which are necessary skills to practice, especially at the middle school level. Projects are regularly integrated with learning in other classes, so that the skills and knowledge are easily applicable and relevant across disciplines. 

Examples:
While eighth graders study physics in Science, they create a wind-powered vehicle and a ping pong blaster using combustibles in STEAM. While seventh graders study the human body, they create a human body Rube Goldberg machine. When sixth graders study ecology and the environment, they use design thinking to create a “Pollution Solution.”

In all classes – not just in the STEAM classes – there is an emphasis on the principles of STEAM and on Design Education as a way of fostering fluency in creative thinking skills to solve 21st century problems.

 

A Year in STEAM and Tech

Visual Arts

LWGMS believes that artistic expression is as important as academic rigor. The visual art program uses art to communicate emotions and ideas and to reflect on cultural and historic events. Our integrated program combines many elements to create an enriching experience that emphasizes process over product.

Recognizing that art cannot be separated from the study of history, language, culture, and other academic disciplines, a DBAE (Discipline-Based Art Education) approach is used throughout all art classes. This is a conceptual framework that includes:

Production: Creating or performing

History: Encountering the historical and cultural background of works of art

Aesthetics: Discovering the nature and philosophy of the arts

Criticism: Making informed judgments about the arts

Performing Arts

Through the Performing Arts program at LWGMS, students build strong voices, strong minds, and strong bodies. Through literary and historical analysis, interpretation, and memorization of the script and songs, students develop strong minds; by learning to perform with confidence, students develop strong voices; and finally, through learning to use physical movements and dance to express emotion and meaning, students develop strong bodies.

The Performing Arts program also provides opportunities for students to practice teamwork and leadership skills. As members of a cast and crew, students must learn to work together and be responsible as individuals as well as for the entire group. In addition to performing as actors and musicians, students take on leadership roles in stage management, lighting, sound, and set design, assisting the director, and choreographing musical numbers. Each year's productions rely on teamwork and peer support for success. The process of creating a show is filled with opportunities for social and emotional learning. Meeting challenges and taking appropriate risks in shows results in personal growth.  Altogether, the shows are all-school, cross-curricular lessons that involve every member of the student body.

As students become more confident in their performance skills from sixth grade to eighth grade, the role size and responsibility increases. In the Fall and Winter all school musical productions, sixth graders generally have smaller roles and seventh graders have larger roles and leads; every sixth and seventh grader has a speaking role. Eighth graders work as the crew, and perform as musicians. During the Spring term, seventh graders may apply to work as the stage crew for the eighth grade play. The eighth grade play reflects a culminating event for the drama program in that every eighth grader has a larger role, takes more creative control, and has more responsibility in this production.

Performance as Pedagogy

21st century schools must prepare students to think on their feet, collaborate, and communicate ideas clearly. Lake Washington Girls Middle School offers robust public speaking, performance, and presentation strands throughout our curriculum.

Our program requires every student to participate in speech and debate, mock trial, large-scale drama productions, and research presentations each year, resulting in every student becoming a confident presenter who speaks and performs in front of thousands during her middle school years.

While many of these opportunities occur during the regular school day, it is the school's belief that an authentic audience of families, friends, guest judges or experts, and community members better provides a venue for growing confidence. The importance of the authentic audience cannot be underestimated. When students know that people beyond their classmates and teachers will be present, they want to be ready. They work hard to memorize their poems, to learn their lines, to know every detail about the mock trial case they are arguing, and to be able to relay the entire process of their scientific research to a panel of experts.

To demonstrate what they have learned to an audience, students participate in approximately one evening or weekend event per month. Families are asked to make their best effort to incorporate these events into their calendars and ensure that students can attend.

 

Physical Education

The goals and objectives of the LWGMS Physical Education program are to help develop strong, self-confident, well-balanced young people. Students participate in a variety of physical education activities in order to provide them with a well-rounded experience.

Each student takes three terms of Physical Education each year: one term of martial arts, one term of health and fitness, and one term of yoga and dance movement.

+ MARTIAL ARTS

The Martial Arts program is taught by experienced instructors from Quantum Martial Arts. Students perform techniques alone, in partner drills, and with targets. Students are encouraged to explore and discuss body mechanics as they learn. They also regularly engage in discussions regarding the tenets of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. Each term culminates in a “test” where students perform what they have learned and advance to the next rank. These tests are not linked to technical proficiency, but rather are a celebration of the strengths gained by each individual.

+ OUTDOOR FITNESS

The LWGMS Outdoor Fitness class, taught by Mary Elder, P '12 focuses on students discovering the pure, unadulterated joy of working out in nature. Students head outside, to develop lifelong fitness skills, including balance, vitality, gratitude, strength, grit, agility, connection, confidence, peace, and good humor.

+ INDOOR FITNESS

Indoor Fitness, taught by Annie Barrett, P' 16 provides students the opportunity to participate in motor skills and health related physical fitness using teamwork, sportsmanship and an honest effort in different workouts. Students run, stretch, grain strength, play games, and develop a positive relationship with fitness training which increases their desire to participate in future activities.

+ DANCE MOVEMENT

Dance Movement, taught by Heather Harris P’12, ’15 gives students an opportunity to explore various dance styles, learn, and participate in choreography, learn holistic stretches and warm-ups, all the while enjoying movement and music. Dance Movement uses a variety of world music and explores many different styles of dance. During each session two guest artists will teach class. Each term dancers perform choreography at a school event.

+ YOGA AND BODY IMAGE

Yoga and Body Image, taught by Mary McGough, is a gentle class to develop a connection to the physical and energetic body while cultivating strength, balance, and relaxation. By focusing on yoga fundamentals yoga students work to develop body awareness, learn basic postures, focus on proper alignment, and practice coordinating the breath and movements gracefully together.

Enrichment

The Enrichment program’s goal is to provide students with skills and opportunities beyond the regular academic program, in keeping with the school’s philosophy of teaching the “whole student.”  Additionally, the Enrichment program is designed to give students opportunities to explore their individual interests and cultivate appropriate risk-taking. The Enrichment classes are generally project-based and therefore allow students to publish, perform, or display a product at the end of the term. LWGMS values the arts, and many of the Enrichment classes incorporate the arts, both visual and performing.

As with any class at LWGMS, diversity of perspectives and materials is incorporated into the design of the class. The content design of each course takes into consideration multiple and diverse perspectives on its subject.

Stay tuned for more info about 2017-18's enrichment offerings!

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Mindfulness

As a result of LWGMS’ increased enrollment over the past few years, the school’s Student Services Department has become more robust, adding several important elements. LWGMS has instituted a school wide mindfulness curriculum based on the Mindful Schools program. The entire school starts the day with mindfulness practice, and the majority of staff has completed professional development in this area. In addition to the daily practice at LWGMS, students participate in mini-mindfulness workshops during class and all-school meeting times. This commitment to the mind of each student is one of the most important aspects of the LWGMS mission, and the growth students have undergone through their mindfulness practice has been inspiring.

Mind, Body, Voice (MBV)

Student Services also provides all students with social-emotional health education through a class called Mind, Body, Voice (MBV). MBV was created in order to empower students with the knowledge of their own bodies so they can more knowledgeably navigate puberty, current and future relationships, and eating and exercise choices; In addition, students learn how different aspects of their identities impact these areas. The inclusion of MBV into the LWGMS curriculum allows students a safe and supportive environment to explore their physical identities and understand their bodies in a comprehensive, healthy way.

In MBV, students have the opportunity to reflect on their growth as individuals, to learn about their peers, and to understand how we have an impact on our community. This class is largely based on group discussion and relies upon critical thinking as the best tool for exploring the complex issues that make up an adolescent's world. At the foundation of this course, exploring one’s values highlights each student’s unique experience and individual contribution to this class and the larger school community. Because the content of Mind, Body, Voice is rooted in exploring and solidifying each individual student's values, identity, and development, much of the curriculum is responsive to the students’ concerns and issues. In sixth grade, students focus on understanding basic relationship skills, communication tools, and begin to explore identity; in seventh grade, students focus on understanding their values, puberty, and continue to develop their understanding of identity and self; and in eighth grade, the students focus on exploration of understanding social dynamics, sexuality, and growing up.

Fuel for Thought (FFT)

Fuel for Thought is a course designed to help students understand themselves as learners and community members. In this class, students gain an understanding of brain development and its impact on learning and social interactions. In addition to focusing on a variety of executive functioning skills such as organization, planning, prioritizing, and problem solving, units focus on empowering students to understand and embrace their own unique way of learning. At LWGMS we value self-awareness and social-emotional learning as a cornerstone of student development. In Fuel for Thought, students will learn the practice of Mindfulness and other strategies that promote productive interpersonal skills, self-regulation, and cognitive development. The curriculum is responsive and dictated in large part by the needs of the class as identified by their teachers. Due to this some of the units may not be covered in sixth grade.