Finding a middle school program that is the right fit for your child is a challenging and important task. Our teachers understand human growth and development – how each new stage unfolds as children and youth grow – and we use this knowledge to design and create our classrooms and our curriculum. This commitment to developmentally responsive practice underlies all our work with children, and we consider it an integral part of a Breakwater education.

While the middle school years encompass distinct and unique stages of a child’s growth and development, those years also are critical for setting the stage for high school success and molding the beginnings of adulthood. As they experience the end of middle childhood, fifth and sixth, graders begin the transition to early adolescence. During young adolescence, children experience rapid and uneven changes in their physical, emotional, and cognitive development--more so than at any other time in their lives except for the period from birth to 18 months. At Breakwater, we understand the needs of students in middle childhood and the needs of young adolescents. We celebrate the enthusiasm and complexity of middle schoolers and embrace this stage in a young person’s life as an exciting and fertile time for growth.

Breakwater’s middle program offers an integrated, relevant curriculum and high academic expectations within a supportive and caring learning environment. We believe middle school students are highly capable, and we challenge them to achieve their best work. At the same time, we nurture students’ imaginations and help them develop the independence and confidence to be themselves and to explore their passions. Our small, innovative program also fosters close relationships between students and adults who understand both the emotional and the academic needs of middle schoolers. We believe children, parents, and teachers are active partners in the learning process and our approach reflects a strong focus on developing collaborative relationships with our students and their families.

When supported by a nurturing, challenging and engaging middle school program, students find their own voices, become creative and critical thinkers, and emerge as self-aware and self-confident individuals who are ready to meet the challenges of high school and beyond.

As you explore options for your child’s middle school experience, please come tour our classrooms, meet our students, parents, and teachers, and see our learning community in action. We look forward to meeting with you and your family.


Curriculum.

The middle school curriculum draws content from the Maine Learning Results as well as the Common Core and national benchmarks to ensure that students develop competencies in state-mandated standards and ultimately transition successfully to both public and independent high schools. However, rather than teaching to standards in isolated subject areas, we help students acquire and apply benchmark skills and knowledge by engaging them in an integrated, exploratory program that is both challenging and relevant to their lives. The teacher’s role is that of guide, instructor, and mentor, posing questions that promote problem-solving, imaginative thinking, decision-making, and active participation in the learning process.

Grades 7 - 8 

Seventh and eighth graders typically are well into young adolescence, and some may begin their transition to adolescence before leaving for ninth grade.  At Breakwater, the last two years of middle school build upon students’ prior knowledge, skills, and experiences to prepare them for the challenges of high school. By this point, students have mastered basic skills and are honing and further developing their analytical and critical thinking abilities while growing increasingly reflective about the world around them. These young adolescents have also developed a wide array of interests and are able to pursue them with increased autonomy. While the teacher’s role is to provide a framework for learning, students are encouraged to take increasing ownership of their own learning.

Grades 5 - 6 

Fifth and Sixth grade typically marks the end of middle childhood and the beginning of a transition to young adolescence.  At Breakwater, these years build upon students’ prior knowledge, skills, and experiences to prepare them for the challenges of seventh and eighth grade, and high school. By this point, students have mastered basic skills and are ready to hone their analytical and critical thinking abilities while growing more reflective about the world around them. Fifth and sixth graders have also developed a wide array of interests and are able to pursue them with increased autonomy. While the teacher’s role is to provide a framework for learning, students are encouraged to take increasing ownership of their own learning.


Assessment.

At the middle school level, we use a variety of assessments to guide our instruction and provide feedback to students. At the beginning, middle, and end of the school year, students complete formal assessments that are used to monitor their academic growth in language arts and mathematics. In addition, we regularly assess skill levels and concept knowledge in every curriculum area, review our findings with students, and guide them in setting their own learning goals, monitoring their progress, and reflecting on their efforts. 

Students also engage in an ongoing self-evaluation process by creating and working throughout the year on a portfolio, which they fill with pieces of work that best reflect their progress. Students share these portfolios with parents during student-led conferences at the end of the year. This combination of formal and informal, student-led and teacher-guided assessments provides a well-balanced picture of each student’s academic and developmental growth. 

If students require additional time or help to master a skill or concept, teachers provide small group and one-to-one support and work with parents to develop a supportive home program if additional work at home is indicated. Likewise, students who master material quickly are challenged to expand their understanding in small group and individual work with teachers, as well as through independent study. Our teachers communicate frequently with parents regarding each student’s strengths and challenges.

Although we do not give quarterly grades, we do evaluate and grade student work regularly. Students learn about different grading systems and criteria for assessing various levels of work. Rubrics accompany many assignments to clarify expectations and levels of performance. We give some work letter or number grades and increase this practice in seventh and eighth grade as students prepare to enter high school.