Middle School Curriculum
Our teachers work to instill a feeling of self-worth and self-confidence in each student knowing that each child brings a variety of gifts to a classroom.
– Kathy Durham
For 25 years before becoming Director of Middle School, Kathy held many positions in the Canterbury community including administrative and teaching positions. Kathy holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kathy was the recepient of the Roselyn Tanner Orr Award of Teaching Excellence in 2021 and, along with husband Eugene, is the proud parent of two Cougar alumns, Keir '08 and Lauryn '13.
Schools today are (and should be) different from the schools that most adults attended. Brain-based research has provided a deeper understanding of how people learn, which in turn has provided insight on how we should teach. In addition, we know much more about adolescent development than ever before. A PreK-8th grade independent school is uniquely positioned to take advantage of all this knowledge and to incorporate the latest learning, technology, and practices while still paying attention to the developmental needs of adolescents. The Canterbury middle school curriculum is designed to help students develop critical-thinking, communication, and leadership skills -- the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly global society. We also recognize that while students must know how to get, process, and share information, they must also understand that interpersonal skills still matter.
Canterbury’s language arts curriculum is mapped from PreK to 8th grade so that students learn the fundamentals of grammar, spelling, and writing mechanics in a logical, age- and grade-appropriate progression. The curriculum emphasizes writing, different literacies (digital, computer, cultural, etc.), and the 21st century skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, and analysis that are necessary for success in high school and beyond.
All middle school students choose to take either Latin or Spanish, completing at least Latin I or Spanish I by the end of the 8th grade year. Some students will take an advanced level language, completing Level II Latin or Spanish by the end of 8th grade year.
Fifth graders use the Math in Focus: Singapore Math, a program developed in Singapore in the 1980s that is based on behavioral science and focused on problem solving rather than rote learning. Problem solving allows students to apply math knowledge to abstract concepts, making them more flexible math learners. Students in 6th-8th grades use the Connected Math program, which is an advanced research-based curriculum originally funded by the National Science Foundation. The program engages students in problem-solving and cooperative learning. Students develop a superior understanding of important mathematical concepts in all areas of mathematics up through Algebra I.
All Canterbury students will complete Algebra I in 8th grade. A small group will be on a track to complete Geometry in 8th grade. As a means of comparison, 100 percent of Canterbury students complete Algebra I, while local public and private schools typically have 50 percent of their 8th graders completing Algebra I.
Canterbury students consistently match or exceed the independent school norms on the math sections of the ERB CTP4 spring tests. Day to day, Canterbury students are actively engaged in exploring advanced math topics under the guidance of math teachers who have all been trained extensively at Michigan State University with the Connected Math Program authors and development team.
In physical and outdoor education, students acquire a life-long commitment to health and fitness. They participate in experiential education, team-building activities, and group initiatives.
Building on the students’ foundation of spiritual formation begun in grades K-4, Canterbury’s middle school theology program provides a more academic focus, beginning with an exploration of the Abrahamic faiths and concluding with an 8th grade sermon. An honest exploration of questions and ideas is encouraged.
The 2014 renovation of Canterbury’s Ketner Center into a state-of-the-art technology building gives us the space and equipment to fully embrace a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curriculum. STEM is an integrated learning environment that allows students to see how science can be applied to everyday life with a focus on real-world applications to problem solving. Students are deeply engaged in both the design-thinking process, as well as the scientific method through hands-on experiences in topics from robotics, programming, and coding to space science, physics, and the natural sciences.
The social studies program is designed to develop engaged citizens who are informed and active in civic affairs. Through critical reading and discussion, students develop a worldview and knowledge of significant historical events throughout the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
Technology is fully integrated into the learning experience at Canterbury. The goal is to help students become informed consumers of digital media as they compose effective search strings, begin to understand copyright and fair use, and learn how to evaluate content for accuracy, validity, and currency. Fifth grade students use school-owned Chromebooks in classrooms during the day only, while 6th-8th graders use lease-to-own Chromebooks that they take home at night.
A mobile MacBook cart in the middle school provides laptop computers for use with more robust, specialized applications such as robotics or 3-D printing. The Ketner Science & Technology Center has a state-of the art desktop Mac lab and a digital "Commons." All classrooms are equipped with either a SMARTBoard or interactive projection technology so that students can actively collaborate with digital media. Along with the school's Google Apps for Education suite, Canterbury's web-based learning management system enables teachers, students, and parents to access, share, and create assignments, information, and assessment.