Middle School

Halifax Independent School has a long history of academic excellence with an unwavering commitment to student engagement. We know that an integrated approach and a love of learning are the best ways to meet the complex needs of adolescents. Our programme provides a solid academic foundation in the core subjects, Math, Humanities and the Sciences, as well as Fine Arts. Students are expected to work hard and to develop a strong sense of ownership over their academic growth. They are encouraged to take risks and to support one another in all spheres of learning. A Halifax Independent School foundation bears fruit as our students become confident, socially adept and motivated learners – a gift that lasts a lifetime.

A sense of belonging ...
The Middle School years are marked by opportunities and challenges. Our inviting and dynamic programme offers students an engaging atmosphere, rich with possibilities for academic and social growth, personal challenge and creative expression. Staff and students develop meaningful relationships which provide the perfect foundation for their introduction to in-depth and increasingly independent academic endeavour, interacting with one another in ways that reflect respectful, caring community, and their own growing maturity.

Our place in the world
We take advantage of the many and rich resources that surround us. Our students benefit from relationships with local experts, universities, community groups and even an organic farm. We create first-hand learning opportunities through field trips, guest presentations, cross-cultural meetings and outdoor educational experiences. Some highlights have included: hosting visiting teacher trainers from Afghanistan; classifying native species in their natural environment with a local biologist; and visiting representatives of municipal, provincial and federal governments. Our emphasis on the importance of contributing energy and time through acts of service, coupled with these “real-world” learning opportunities, encourages our students to understand the significance of their active participation in the world - the school, their city, and beyond.

So much more than reading and writing
We know, from experience, that Middle School can be enjoyable as well as a valuable time in a student’s life, so our curriculum includes: weekly enriched Fine Arts and Fitness/Leisure programming, Band, Choir, Music Theory, Extended Core French, Theatre, volunteering, student-guided fund-raising, the Expériences Canada (French) Exchanges programme, Duke of Edinburgh Award Programme, after school clubs, extra-curricular social events and inter-school sporting events.*

Our staff members model this behaviour in all of their interactions with students as well as with parents. We are accessible and open to discussing any issue regarding a student's learning and well-being. We actively seek an open dialogue with parents, confident that this is an essential part of an excellent education. We work hard to encourage individuality tempered by a strong sense of citizenship and love of community. Students here feel a strong sense of belonging. The students understand that they have a place in the world, a role to play and a responsibility to do their best.

Halifax Independent Middle School has a distinct identity within a caring multi-age community. Students are encouraged to take on responsibilities within the elementary school, promoting a developing sense of themselves as leaders, mentors and nurturers.

*Halifax Independent School is a member of the Atlantic Conference of Independent Schools.

Class size is limited to 22 students in order to enable staff to spend time getting to know each student and to tailor instruction to meet individual needs. Small groups promote a more focused academic experience and make for a more settled, productive day. Small, multi-age classes also allow students to find social and work groupings based on characteristics other than age which act as a healthy and positive balance against the social challenges inherent in adolescence.

French

Core French instruction continues in Middle School, with an increasing focus on French conversation and grammar, preparing students for high school level Core French. Our Middle School French extension programme gives enthusiastic language students the opportunity to use French as a working language. This approach allows students to develop their language skills in an authentic context, beyond what is generally covered in a language class, and to learn the concepts central to the topic being explored. The programme helps students develop the facility to communicate comfortably in a wide variety of settings. We have a long association with Expériences Canada Exchanges (formerly "SEVEC", the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada). Our Grade 9 class is twinned with a group from a francophone area of Canada. Our group travels to their twins' home town to experience life there for a week, and then hosts those students, here.

In both the core French classes and the extension activities, content is covered in a way which is designed for second language learners: highly visual and hands-on, in a safe environment which allows students to progress no matter their starting point. Middle School students participate in a Fair presentation in French, in which they communicate to their parents what they have learned.

Music

Music is a core feature of Middle School. All students are expected to learn an instrument and play in one of the two Bands (beginner and advanced). In weekly choir classes, students sing for pleasure, and develop vocal technique and sight-reading skills. Music theory classes are a place for investigating the inner workings of music, including pitch, rhythm, harmony, form and more.

Social Studies

Social studies for Middle School focusses on developing interest in current events both local and global, and equipping students to study cultures and countries which they may or may not have experienced, personally. They move beyond news headlines to build an understanding of the geographical, historical and present context of current events. Students examine issues such as democracy (locally, nationally and globally), citizenship, equality and social justice, culture and diversity, and the environment. They are encouraged to formulate meaningful questions and evaluate sources of information, all key to becoming informed, empathetic and engaged world citizens. Coursework includes instruction and experience with the process of creating a research paper, including early work in thesis development, identifying and evaluating source material, presentation of material and the principles and ethics of academic writing. As with every area of school life, social studies offer myriad opportunities to hear and respond to the opinions and experiences of others, and teachers model and encourage open, respectful discussion.

Science

Science in our Middle School is inquiry-based, encouraging students to explore, ask, test, and research. A rich variety of assignments and labs fuel curiosity and enthusiasm for the scientific process. Students are involved in experiments, field research, model-making, problem-solving, research projects, and presentations. As with other all areas of our curriculum, students learn how to work independently and with collaborators. Our students are well prepared for high school science study, having gained a solid conceptual base as well as strong inquiry and research skills. 

Fine Arts

Our goal in the Fine Arts Programme is to expose students to the various branches of visual and performing arts and to encourage them to discover their artistic strengths. The Fine Arts programme offers a broad range of activities and opportunities for skill development.

Visual and performing arts are provided through the weekly enrichment programme. The drama programme culminates in a play or musical for each class. Professional actors coach the students and the plays are performed at one of the theatre venues in the HRM (e.g. Alderney Landing Theatre, the Sir James Dunn Theatre, Neptune’s Studio Theatre), supported by lighting and sound technicians that allow the students’ production to “shine”.

In concert with the drama classes, as part of the Art programme, we offer a Set Design unit. Each class works with a professional artist to create sets for their acting peers. They also rehearse and accompany one of the plays in the pit band. The students are exposed to other media such as portrait and life drawing, textiles, water colour painting and photography.

Dance is an exciting and dynamic aspect of our programme. Each year we offer a variety of opportunities for students to explore dance through such styles as African dance, hip hop, ballet, ballroom, jazz and modern.

Our days are full! To date, extracurricular activities such as ceramics, jazz choir, percussion ensemble, painting and a Renaissance club have provided even more opportunities for students to explore their artistic sides and to round out their experience of learning and loving it.

Language Arts

The goal of the Language Arts programme is to prepare the students for a lifetime of reading and writing. In high school and beyond the ability to read quickly and efficiently and to write with a sense of audience and purpose is essential in all subject areas.

Through poetry, essay-writing, creative writing, responding to fiction and expository texts, debating, discussion and presentation students develop their literacy skills and their capacity for critical thought. A thorough examination of the media and bias also leads them to a deeper understanding of "voice" and the value of clear goals and solid communication skills.

Writing is also seen as an invaluable tool for self-expression and exploration; students learn to enjoy the written word and take pride in their ability to express themselves, their ideas and their understandings with acuity, clarity and insight.

Math

In Middle School, students move from the concrete to the conceptual. Building on the student’s fundamental understanding of mathematical concepts, the Middle School mathematics programme is designed to lead students into more abstract mathematical thinking. This is accomplished through an interactive, problem-solving approach. Real life situations are used wherever possible and a variety of advanced manipulatives help with the introduction of even the most abstract concepts. (Math resource is available, as needed, for students who are new to the school.)

Phys ed

Middle School students have weekly gym classes covering a broad range of skill development. They are introduced to a wide variety of sports such as soccer, baseball, lacrosse, badminton, volleyball, floor hockey, gymnastics, dodgeball, football, track and field, and basketball. They also have the opportunity to participate in intramurals and Atlantic Conference of Independent Schools events (badminton tournaments, cross country runs, swim meets, field days etc). Clubs and the Enrichment Programme supplement Phys Ed by providing opportunities to expand the students’ experiences. Short courses such as Aikido, Dance, horseback riding, scuba diving and swimming are some examples of enrichment activities.

Enrichment

Set design, scuba diving, cooking, portrait drawing, Aikido, carpentry, hip hop, jazz...Each year a unique combination of learning opportunities are developed based on the interests expressed by the students. These enrichment classes draw on the expertise, skills and talents of members of the wider community. They extend and challenge students and engage dimensions of learners that may be otherwise unrealized. An enrichment unit may last between four and twenty hours.

The process of evaluation is thorough and ongoing throughout the Middle School years. Students are given direct and immediate feedback concerning their behaviour, work habits in and out of school, and the work that they produce. Our focus is on continual improvement. We help students develop an awareness of both their strengths and their weaknesses and help them use this understanding to develop in all areas. Each student is expected to work to the best of his/her ability.

All work is assessed, verbally or in the form of written comments. In the Middle School, poetry-writing, writing response work and small assignments are not graded. Unsatisfactory work is redone until it reaches the required standard. The teacher spends time with individual students discussing in detail what is required to improve each piece. They are expected to use written comments and verbal feedback to inform their future work. Larger or longer-term projects are graded. Students are given a detailed outline of what is expected and are given a mark based on this outline.

There are regular tests and quizzes in all subject areas. We teach the students how to approach various forms of test, explaining which strategies are useful and why tests are given. Two report cards are sent home during the year and teachers meet with parents formally, three times in each school year. In the first and third terms, conferences take the form of a team meeting, with all of the core teachers being present. The conferences in the second term are student-led, and include the student's parent(s) and one of the MS teachers.The three conferences are one part of ongoing communication between parents and teachers and all parents are strongly encouraged to participate.

Parents may also expect to receive regular phone calls regarding their child’s progress. We believe communication between home and school to be an essential part of any meaningful evaluation, and integral to a successful school career.