Middle School

About the School

The Marylhurst middle years provide children time to grow up, space to play, and rigorous inquiry-based instruction that challenges each student intellectually and socially. Curriculum in the 6th, 7th and 8th grade builds on the progressive philosophy tenants established in our primary programs: yearlong thematic studies, student directed learning, and mentor-apprentice relationships provide opportunities for leadership and support the quest of individual passions. We believe that adolescents are capable of abstract critical reasoning; that mistakes, recoveries and repairs foster healthy brain development and self-confidence; and that a balance of concrete skills and higher order thinking are prerequisites for lifelong learning.

6th - 8th Grade Blend

About the Program

Herons M – F 8:30 – 3:15

Herons Schedule

As the oldest students at Marylhurst, the Herons take their responsibility to be positive leaders very seriously.  Each 6th, 7th and 8th grader created their own solar oven this summer, and they have been busy testing, refining designs and cooking meals together for the community.  They created the games and built the oak cake ramp for our annual all-school Harvest Festival, have worked to integrate the kindergarten into weekly Community Meetings, spent time getting to know and mentoring their 2nd and 3rd grade buddies, cheered each other on during the Jog-a-thon, read books together, shared jokes and gathered in Advisory Groups to share stories such as “Seedfolk” by Paul Fleischmann and “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. They are each fully and completely immersed in the work of the middle school.

This year, our social studies theme is Inventions and Discoveries. We began the year with geography skills and an introduction to geographic terms. Now that students are familiar with these terms, we are able to apply our understanding to ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and China. Through the exploration of each of these civilizations, we will learn about the people and culture, cause-and-effect relationships, forms of government, inventions and discoveries, and their influence on the current world.As a culminating event, students will delve more deeply into an invention or discovery of their choosing. During their research process, they will explore the significant role that each of these civilizations plays in modern society.

Middle school students refine their writing skills through experimentation in their writer’s notebook. At times, students will select pieces from their notebooks to publish for a wider audience. With writing partners, they look at their piece more critically to revise and edit so that their piece demonstrates publishing quality. Children at this age are reading in order to learn, as opposed to learning to read. In addition, they are writing in order to demonstrate what they’ve learned so that they might share it with others. Research has shown that it’s not just how much students read that matters, but also what they read. As a result, children in the Herons class will be reading and analyzing books from a variety of genres. During class, students participate in book groups by discussing literary elements. Students analyze techniques that published authors use and are inspired by alternate styles in their own creative writing. They also read nonfiction texts to develop critical and analytical thinking. In the spring, students will choose a discovery or invention and research, analyze, critique, and finally, build on their existing knowledge of the topic. They will also be able to communicate their findings with others through expository papers and an oral presentation, as well as through art and other representations.

Arts elective offerings in studio, music and drama change each term, ultimately leading to an annual spring production.  This year students are working with clay, singing in a choir, exploring patterns on the loom with a fabric artist, and performing “A Midsummers Night Dream”.

Students started the year exploring the idea of observation and inferences and the role that both play in scientific endeavors. This year, a game of kickball in PE initiated our first scientific experiment. A student hypothesized that the length of children’s legs might have an impact on the speed of the runners, therefore, allowing one team to win. In groups, children designed a testable experiment, gathered data, analyzed it, and drew the conclusion based on their findings.This was a great way to learn about the scientific method and inquiry based experimentation. Throughout the remainder of the year, Herons will also be exploring astronomy, paleontology, geologic time, and properties of matter.

Coming soon.

Heron students have PE, Spanish, and Music classes in two-hour-long sessions per week. Our specialist classes integrate their content with the themes featured in homeroom class.

Mary Mahorney—Middle School Humanities Teacher

Mary believes “education is an active life-long endeavor and learning is founded in questioning, wondering and collaboration.” Mary has a Bachelor of Science from Oregon State University with a double major in History and Political Science, and a minor in Philosophy. After extensive traveling in Europe and Asia, she settled in Bend, OR. Mary returned to OSU and completed a degree in Secondary Social Science Education. She spent nine years teaching at The Lower School at The Catlin Gabel School in Portland and joined The Marylhurst School faculty in 2001. marym@themarylhurstschool.org

Emily Ramirez — Middle School Math & Science Teacher

Emily joined the Marylhurst community this fall as the middle school math and science teacher. Before beginning her teaching career, Emily spent eight years working as a scientist in a variety of settings, from the laboratory to the clinic. She completed a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a minor in Applied Mathematics from Pepperdine University and Master’s of Science in Neuroscience from the Mayo Clinic. Between undergrad and grad school, she taught middle school physics at a summer program for Native American students. Prior to joint Marylhurst, Emily spent two years teaching biology classes at the California State University, Bakersfield. She currently lives in Oregon City with her family. emilyr@themarylhurstschool.org


About the Program

After 40 years of excellence in early child­hood education, our expansion welcomed the inaugural primary-grade class in 2012, and our inaugural 8th grade will graduate in spring of 2018.

Marylhurst has defined itself as a progressive school that prides itself in developmentally appropriate practices. To that end, we believe that expansion through eighth grade fills a niche and conveys what we believe to be an inherent truth: childhood continues through eighth grade. The arbitrary separation of the middle years of childhood – 11, 12, and 13-year-olds, offers them no benefits regarding their development. Extensive research has been done to support a K-8 model and, in fact, it supports the development of children. When we looked at themes that define quality middle school programs, it became clear that 6-8th grade at Marylhurst was a natural extension of what our preschool through 5th grade exemplifies.

At Marylhurst, we exemplify this trait. Our motto – honoring the journey of each child, portrays this philosophy. Children must feel truly known – seen, understood, and observed with curiosity – to feel safe and honored in an educational environment. Children who have positive connections with teachers work toward higher expectations than those who do not. And, there is no factor more important than teachers’ perceptions of students when it comes to academic performance.

As Carol Dweck (national scholar on education) points out, effort on academics should be placed at a much higher value than the outcome. While there is a place for outcome measures (and many options of such), students who perceive that their effort is valued actually take more academic risks and exceed expectations compared to their peers whose outcomes are valued over effort. At Marylhurst, the middle school model provides multiple ways where opportunities for success are embedded into the curriculum.

Middle school students need some guidance due to continued brain growth and development, but they also need room to make choices. Because of the progressive educational atmosphere at Marylhurst, we are in a position to utilize a Ted Sizer model of the student as teacher and student as student – it allows for fluid movement between choice and structure.

Middle years must honor the creativity, spirit, and zest of young childhood while also honoring the need for autonomy, growth, and maturity of young adult learners. Who else has honored that balance better than Marylhurst? We have formed a primary school on this very basis – modeling our progressive primary model from an emergent preschool pedagogy. Marylhurst has a strong tradition of creating a community where both youth and maturity are honored.

Now more than ever, in a world where technology and culture push young people to have access to vast amounts of information, our culture needs young people who demonstrate leadership. The middle school model that we are proposing allows for seminars versus lecture that embraces critical thinking and problem-solving development. There will be an emphasis on leadership and self-management vs. adults managing children – middle schoolers will learn to regulate themselves. This will produce a higher level of accountability which leads to unique leadership. With this also comes a greater sense of self and ultimately, self-advocacy.

One developmental task that middle school children begin to explore is the task of “me and us” – who am I and where do I fit? This developmental task of finding a balance between the autonomous individual who is a problem solver and self-assured (having mastered another task of competence) with a community member invested in a larger circle, defines our developmental approach to learning.

Since Marylhurst touts itself in exemplifying a developmentally appropriate school starting at age 2, it is therefore, a logical progression to move through the developmental years that we still define as childhood.