Middle School

Our Middle School builds on the academic, social, physical, and spiritual foundations laid in Lower School, focusing on development of the whole child. We recognize the significant physical, emotional, and intellectual growth that students experience at this age. Because Middle School students strive for independence and autonomy, we offer them increased responsibility and maintain high expectations within a supportive environment.

Curriculum

Curriculum at a Glance

To view a curriculum summary and appropriate contacts by grade level, please click the appropriate link below:

Fifth-Grade Curriculum at a Glance
Sixth-Grade Curriculum at a Glance
Seventh-Grade Curriculum at a Glance
Eighth-Grade Curriculum at a Glance

English

The Middle School English curriculum is underscored by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead’s assertion that “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” As people for others, St. Francis students will grow to see themselves as the vehicles for positive change in the world. To further this goal, they work toward mastery of 21st century skills: critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration in literacy-rich classrooms supported by technology. Students explore nonfiction, poetry, and a wide range of fiction. They demonstrate their understanding of these texts in both written and oral form in essays, debates, and artistic performances.

Math

The Middle School Mathematics Department strives to develop critical thinkers and problem solvers. Students grow in math skills, financial literacy (including participation in The Stock Market Game), and application of their knowledge to solve real-world problems using design thinking and engineering skills. Each grade level supplements textbook resources with computer-based programs. All students take Algebra I (a high school-level class) in eighth grade, and accelerated eighth graders will have the option to take Geometry.

History

At St. Francis, history is anything but past! Middle School history enables students to become better global citizens by learning and analyzing historical content and by focusing on 21st Century skills. Students create through multiple mediums that give them ownership over the material and skills they are refining. They are welcomed and taught using ranging levels of project-based learning that pull from modern and past theories of academic and social education.

Science

Middle School science encourages knowledge about the natural world through observation, inquiry, and experimentation. Students engage in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) using these 21st Century skills: scientific creativity, experimental design, and application of principles across disciplines. Classes are inquiry-based and help students develop questions after an initial exploration to solve real-world problems. These investigations include the study of micro and macro Earth systems and ways to become the problem solvers of the future.

Spanish

Spanish is taught at every grade level at St. Francis, beginning in the Primary School. Building upon their foundational instruction, Middle School students take Spanish as a core academic course, with special emphasis given to conversational usage, grammar, written composition, reading, listening comprehension, and culture. The National Spanish Exam is offered to seventh- and eighth-grade students. Many place into high school Spanish II and Spanish II Honors, and seventh graders may apply for the annual summer immersion trip to Costa Rica.

Visual and Performing Arts

The St. Francis Fine Arts Department exists to provide students with access to the arts through creation, performance, and study. We believe that to be successful in the 21st Century, students must sharpen their observational and critical-thinking skills, cultivate their visual literacy, and develop a range of means for self-expression. The arts offer a universal language, encompassing all forms of communication and enabling students to express a variety of viewpoints and ideas through the visual arts, music, and theatre.

Religion

In the Anglican tradition (the worldwide fellowship of churches having their roots in and communion with the Church of England), the Episcopal Church is grounded in what is called the three-legged stool of scripture, the openness of free rational inquiry, and tradition. At every grade level, students are engaged in a systematic study of the entire Bible as a piece of literature and are challenged to know God through a personal relationship of worship, love, and service. Middle School students take a religion class each year, with content based in Judeo-Christian history, but coverage includes various world religions as well.

Technology

Physical Education/Athletics

We offer a balanced physical education program that provides a laboratory within which children explore, meet both success and momentary failure, and learn about themselves and their capabilities. The Dynamic Physical Education (DPE) program offered to St. Francis Middle School students also emphasizes the values of health-related fitness. Students attend physical education class four times per week and enjoy a wide variety of activities presented in a well-structured manner.

Every sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade student who is interested in participating in athletics will be placed on teams. Students may sign up for three sports a year—one each in the fall, winter, and spring. St. Francis’s athletics programs comprise baseball, basketball, cross-country, field hockey, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling. The number of student-athletes registered for a sport determines the number of teams—with most sports consisting of a varsity team and a junior varsity team.

Electives

Middle School students may select from a variety of electives offerings, including studio art, musical theatre, theatre tech, drama, music, LEAD, and yearbook.

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Signature Programs

Spiritual Education

Middle School is the time when students are encouraged to ask questions and nurture a sense of ownership with regard to their faith. The teaching continues to be centered in the Bible, but students are now challenged to take what they have learned in Primary and Lower School and put them together into a coherent whole to determine how Christianity holds together, makes sense, and works as a faith that can help them live as people for others. Two weekly chapel services and one religion class help them do just this, while also providing many chances to interact with and lead peers.

Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning Approach

St. Francis faculty members are trained in the Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning (SEAL) methodology. This research-based approach to K–8 teaching focuses on the strong link between social-emotional skills and academic, personal, and civic success. Integrating SEAL into the St. Francis curriculum helps students develop four core competencies:

Self-awareness:

The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.

Self-management:

The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.

Social awareness:

The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures; to understand social and ethical norms for behavior; and to recognize family, school, and community resources and support.

Relationship skills:

The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.


Advisory

Our students meet their faculty advisor for Advisory three days a week, and they meet on a fourth day in Advisory for Silent Independent Reading time. Through our unique SEAL approach, advisors deliver content related to the school’s virtue for each month. Lessons are thoughtful and intentional, tailored to the social, emotional, academic, and spiritual needs of our pre-adolescent and adolescent students.


Art à la Carte

Art à la Carte, an innovative program designed to expand student appreciation of historically significant art and architecture, was founded by St. Francis parents in 1986 and has since been adopted by a number of schools nationwide. The program offers students in grades K–8 the opportunity to explore the visual arts—including notable artists, paintings, sculpture, and architecture—from prehistoric through modern times. Through trained parent docents, students learn to approach art as educated critics, building confidence and inspiring their own creativity. The Art à la Carte curriculum is a part of the school’s standard academic offering.

School of Music

The St. Francis School of Music is an instrumental and vocal program available to students in grades K–8. Students attend private or small-group lessons with professional musicians for in-depth study after school or during school enrichment periods.

Community Outreach and Service Learning

As part of St. Francis’s continuing effort to create leaders who are people for others and who know the importance of supporting and influencing the surrounding community, students are given opportunities to participate in age-appropriate service activities throughout the school year. Often incorporated into grade-level class trips, undertakings range from projects on campus to working citywide with various charitable organizations. Additionally, Middle School students are encouraged to become involved outside of school. This time is referred to as Service Hours. Students must take the initiative to discern a need, choose an activity to address, then arrange and execute their response.

Grade-Level Class Trips

Middle School students participate in day and overnight trips with their classes in order to team-build and learn more about nature, cityscapes, and culture. Our students often recount these trips as highlights of their St. Francis experience. Over the course of their Middle School years, our fifth graders fast-track it to The Outdoor School in Burton, Texas; sixth graders head to Carolina Creek Christian Camp in Huntsville, Texas; seventh graders trek to T Bar M Camp in New Braunfels, Texas; and eighth graders beeline for Boston, Massachusetts.

CHOICES Program

St. Francis partners with CHOICES, a non-profit organization that aims to reduce high-risk behavior in children through a comprehensive education and counseling program involving all members of the school community, including students, parents, and faculty. The partnership focuses on reducing risk by increasing the use of executive function skills and promoting healthy alternatives to risky behaviors.

Leadership Opportunities

At St. Francis, we believe that effective leadership requires interpersonal skills and competencies that must be learned through experience, practice, and the assessment of successes and failures. In other words, young people can only learn the skills of leadership if they are allowed to exercise it in meaningful ways. Students take on roles in their classes as leadership ambassadors and participate in service opportunities through ingatherings, conversation committees, and stewardship.

In grades 5–8, students enjoy numerous leadership opportunities, such as participating in our school’s council system as a member or an officer; leading prayers at lunch; serving in morning carpool; reading prayers and singing musical offerings in chapel; ushering during Eucharist; distributing and collecting chapel books; and serving as campus ambassadors to visiting teachers and students.

WEB Leaders

Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) is a Middle School transition program that connects fifth graders with eighth-grade WEB leaders. Selected eighth-grade WEB leaders attend an intensive in-school training session and lead an Opening Day assembly for incoming fifth- and new sixth-grade students. WEB leaders also mentor a small group of fifth-grade students throughout the year by initiating social and academic follow-up activities.

Student Ambassadors

Student Ambassadors are representatives from grades 5–8 who assist the Admissions Office by serving as tour guides for prospective students and representing the school at various functions. Students apply to and are selected by the administrative committee, and the council is sponsored by the Admissions Office and the head of Middle School.

Middle School Councils

The Middle School offers an array of student council leadership positions for students. The purpose of these councils is to provide meaningful venues through which students can influence the Middle School and exhibit authentic leadership. From the Athletics Council to the C.A.R.E.S., Fine Arts, and Wellness Councils, when students contribute to their environment, they maintain stronger relationships with the faculty, encourage activities for the better interest of the school, and raise the standards and ideals of the students themselves.

Alley Theatre Partnership

The Middle School’s English department partners with Houston’s renowned Alley Theatre to further enhance and enliven the curriculum throughout the year. Totaling 100 hours of classroom instruction and learning, grades 5–8 participate in different units of study, and each grade’s English class partners with a professional actor, poet, writer, or director for a unique learning experience.

National Junior Honor Society

The St. Francis Episcopal School Chapter of the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) recognizes outstanding Middle School students. The school's chapter is governed by the National Honor Society Constitution and local chapter bylaws. Qualified students are invited to seek membership in the school chapter in the fall of their seventh-grade year. The group sponsors three on-campus service projects for members and is sponsored by Middle School faculty.



We recognize the significant physical, emotional, and intellectual growth that students experience at this age.



FAQ's

When will my child attend chapel?

Educating a child’s spirit is as important to us as challenging the mind, and we strongly value our Episcopal identity. We are privileged to worship together as an entire Middle School community twice weekly.

How much homework do students have a night?

Homework varies for each child and at each grade level. On average, an eighth-grade student might study two hours per night. However, if a project is due, homework could require more time. There are two programs that assist in making homework manageable for our students. Our Middle School testing schedule is designed to prevent students from having more than two tests per day, and the implementation of a division-wide study hall four days per week greatly alleviates students’ homework load.

How will my child engage in community service?

Being people for others is an important component of our mission, and students participate in a variety of age-appropriate community service projects. In the past, these projects have included collecting backpacks for Iraqi students and working with organizations such as Ben Taub Hospital, the Holocaust Museum, Lord of the Streets, the SPCA, and the Ronald McDonald House.

Are all students eligible to play on an athletics team?

Yes. Students in grades 6–8 have the opportunity to play on an athletics team at St. Francis. Our athletics teams are leveled by ability. Fifth graders may choose to take part in athletics through the St. Francis Sports Association, a program of St. Francis Episcopal Church.

What difficulties does the incoming student who has never studied Spanish face?

Sometimes, Spanish for the new student can be challenging, so we suggest tutoring in the basics of the Spanish language before school starts. We often offer a summer Spanish tutorial camp as part of our academic JumpStart series, which is open to all Middle School students.

What honors classes are offered, and how is placement decided?

Honors English is offered in grades 6–8, and honors math is offered in grades 5–8. A student must apply to be placed in an honors class. Acceptance is based on standardized test scores, results of an in-house test in the subject area, grades in the subject area, teacher recommendations, and a writing sample (English only).

How many students are in each class?

We place 18–20 students in each class.

What are the teaching credentials of Middle School teachers?

All Middle School teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, and 43 percent have earned a master’s degree as well. Our teachers have years of teaching experience and are committed to lifelong learning and a growth mindset. Professional development is a major component of our faculty expectations.

Is St. Francis’s Middle School program accredited?

Yes. St. Francis's Middle School program is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) and the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools (SAES), and is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).

If we can help you in any way, please contact the Middle School Office (713.458.6140)