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Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences

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5912 Jaguar Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87507

Phone (505) 438-8585

Fax (505) 438-0080


Middle School - Grades 7 & 8


To achieve academic excellence in an environment of respect, inclusion and diversity, utilizing Expeditionary Learning, global perspectives and a multicultural art and science enriched curriculum.


Middle School Curriculum

7th & 8th Grades

Middle School Philosophy

We believe that 12-14 year olds are at a pivotal stage in their academic and social development; they are neither “older elementary students” nor “younger high school students”. We value their growing ability to think more abstractly and conceptually about themselves and the world. Our Middle School program centers around an adolescent’s sense of wonderment and engages them in real life understanding that builds background knowledge and develops the skills needed for high school and life-long learning.

Expeditionary Learning

Expeditionary Learning schools are exemplified by project-based learning expeditions, where students engage in interdisciplinary, in-depth study of compelling topics with assessment coming through cumulative products, public presentations and portfolios. We emphasize high levels of student engagement, achievement and character development in real-life contexts. As an Expeditionary Learning school, we strive to have students operate as mathematicians, scientists, historians, readers, writers, and artists. Students learn to engage with their world as citizen scholars - applying their learning to engage with and change their world in positive ways.

Curriculum Philosophy

A curriculum describes what students should be learning throughout the grades. It gives clear statements of goals and objectives for courses. Our interdisciplinary curriculum is organized clearly and structured logically within and between subjects and from grade to grade. It gradually becomes more complex and difficult in terms of skills and objectives. We seek to stimulate intellectual curiosity and critical thinking in each of our students.

The Middle School curriculum at Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences is designed to support a cooperative learning environment that is sensitive to the individual strengths, interests, needs, and learning styles of students. The classroom is a community in which everyone works together to create a caring, safe environment where all of the students learn from one another, develop respect for each other, and foster an acceptance of individual differences. Our goal is to help each child develop a sense of responsibility toward each other, the environment, and for their local and global community.

The Middle School curriculum is robust and intellectually inspiring. Using a departmental structure, the curriculum includes courses in English, Mathematics, Humanities, Science, World and Classical Languages, Life Skills, and the Arts, as well as a Physical Education program.


The Middle School Math Program strives to provide all students with a dynamic mathematics education that balances a solid foundation of basic skills with a constructed understanding of concepts that challenges, supports and instills an excitement for math. The program emphasizes the exploration of ideas from numerical, algebraic, graphical, and computational perspectives.

Through a range of developmentally appropriate topics, students capitalize on the enormous growth that occurs during adolescence. By applying the belief, “every student in the right place at the right time,” each student is guided to realize his or her full potential.

Our goal is to have students leave the Middle School as curious and flexible thinkers who are confident in their individual mathematical abilities and prepared to meet the challenges of higher mathematics.

Foundations of Algebra

This course is designed to assist students as they make the transition between the concrete subject of arithmetic and more abstract subjects like algebra and geometry. This is accomplished by working with variables, variable expressions, equations, inequalities, formulas, and graphing. Subjects covered in earlier math courses such as fractions, ratios, percents, exponents, radicals, and probability are studied in greater depth for further mastery. The students also explore the geometry of polygons and similarity. In addition to the specific arithmetic, algebraic, and geometric skills and concepts mentioned above, this course begins to develop students’ ability to communicate mathematical knowledge through symbols.

Algebra I

This class covers the fundamental concepts of beginning algebra that are seen in a high school Algebra I course. Algebraic concepts are viewed from varied perspectives to help students develop their abilities with abstraction and generalization; application of knowledge is fundamental to each topic. This course includes real-world problems with relevant uses of elementary algebra, statistics, probability, and geometry. The content of the course focuses on the concept of variables; the four basic arithmetic operations from an algebraic perspective; linear equations and inequalities; the geometry of lines in the plane; and the concepts of distance, square roots, and absolute value. The course also studies the algebraic descriptions of lines in the plane, using slope-intercept and linear combination forms of lines. Other topics include exponents, compound interest, exponential growth and decay, operations with polynomials, linear systems and quadratics. The textbook for the course is McDougal-Littell’s Algebra 1.  8th grade students in Conceptual Algebra grapple with the same topics in depth through more complex inquiry.


The Middle School Science curriculum has three principal components: students operate as citizen scientists and participate in a long-term, statewide study of watershed health by collecting data in the Santa Fe River Watershed; our science class integrates with the Middle School expedition; and students are given a survey of science topics that will prepare them for high school science classes. Students gain a broad base in many scientific fields, but emphasis during middle school is placed on crosscutting concepts rather than specific disciplinary knowledge (i.e., this is Science class, not a Physics or a Biology course). Students engage in the scientific process: they observe natural phenomena, formulate questions, develop research skills, and test their hypotheses through experiments and data collection. At the Santa Fe River, students become geochemists, hydrologists, benthic entomologists, lotic ecologists, and more, investigating water quality. The class’s data is uploaded to, where scientists, policy makers, and other students access it -- during the year, students have a chance to meet with some of these interested parties. In our classroom lab, we learn about chemistry, learn to use microscopes, and investigate the nature of science. Using a multiple strategy approach, textbooks, vocabulary lists, and other standard reference are utilized to support students’ learning in lab and lectures. They achieve information and technology literacy by researching and preparing presentations about their scientific findings in our computer lab.

Monitoring water quality and collecting data for Riversource


Humanities is the examination of human culture. In this class students acquire and organize information about places, people, and culture in the United States and in the world. A primary goal is to educate the student’s whole being for a life of active, responsible citizenship. This course will enable the student to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for active participation in a democratic society. Students will be expected to question what being a “Citizen Scholar” truly means and how he or she can continue to grow into that role. Adolescents will gain knowledge and develop skills that will help with individual tenacity, group work dynamics, research, analytical thinking, interpretation of data, and communication through geography, historical primary and secondary sources, and field work.


Our English classes engage students in the careful reading, analysis, and writing of inspirational literature. Students read a variety of American literature, along with Shakespeare, Poe, Achebe, and others. Our survey of American literature provides students with an overview of writings from such authors as Jack London, George Orwell, Octavia Butler, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, and many others. Analysis of novels, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction articles and biographies allow students to experience the breadth of literary forms. Students themselves compose short pieces, poems, essays, and research papers, each addressing specific skills. While exploratory and informal writing opportunities abound in class, students solidify their foundation for writing by learning how to create clearly written, logically organized, grammatically correct papers, with their own original voice, through the formula of a five-paragraph essay, then moving into expository and analytical essays. Students begin to deeply understand how literature is written by honing in on their own form of writing artistry. A specific focus on vocabulary expands critical grade level vocabulary and improves reading comprehension for students.

World and Classical Languages

7th and 8th Grade Spanish

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has identified Global Awareness, Communication and Collaboration, and Social and Cross-Cultural Skills as key traits for students and job 

seekers in the twenty-first century. In Spanish class, students develop these skills while learning grammar and conversational Spanish. In middle school, topics covered include: regular and irregular verbs, adjective agreement, object pronouns, past tense verb conjugation, the imperative, and more. In 8th grade, we use the textbook En Español, Level 1 to support classroom instruction. 8th Grade Spanish culminates in an international Service Learning trip to Costa Rica, where students are immersed in the language and culture, and have opportunities to create meaningful and lasting connections with students at our sister school St. Paul’s College in Alajuela.

Life Skills

Our Middle School Life Skills program provides students with the information and skills necessary to take on the physical, emotional, and social changes that occur during the middle school years. Students develop strong advocacy skills and learn how to identify adult resources so they can take responsibility for their own learning inside and outside the classroom. This age and developmentally appropriate curriculum seeks to develop in students an understanding of how their choices impact themselves and others. Students learn about adolescent development and the types of challenges adolescents face during this time in their lives. They explore situations and decisions they may face in high school. There is a concentration on the skills required to negotiate these challenges, to obtain, interpret, and understand basic health information, products, and services, and make healthy decisions. Our program allows students to explore their own values and see how their personal choices allow them to live those values.

Fine Arts

Fine Arts courses are an integral part of our Middle School curriculum. Students take a Fine Arts course for the entire academic year. The goals in every art class include both objective skills and innovative design and craftsmanship. Group and individual projects are designed to foster delight, serious observation, introspection, and growth in design and skill. Projects include: paper crafts, printmaking, color work, painting, pastel drawings, and sculpture. Basic drawing lessons teach value, contrast, whole-page composition, contour, perspective, and observation. All students learn how to participate in constructive, compassionate critiques and are introduced to historical and contemporary art and artists.

Moving Images

Film is a powerful tool to convey one’s message. Learning how to create effective storytelling through digital media, and acquiring the technical skills to do so are the foci of this course. Students take on all the roles connected with modern film making through critiquing excerpts from films, “pitching ideas”, developing storyboards, casting, and filming and editing short films. All students in Moving Images courses learn how to use the professional editing program Final Cut Pro as part of their technical development as film makers. Our students enter their films in various film festivals and student competitions as a means of creating pieces that will be seen by larger audiences. This course supports the 21st Century Learning Skills of using technology in meaningful ways and collaboration.

Arts & Science Electives

In addition to Fine Arts, Moving Images, and Science, which all students take, every Middle School student chooses from a wide array of electives that span the liberal arts.

Arts Elective Courses

Performing Arts

Performing arts play an essential role in shaping the learning experience of Middle School students. Participation in the performing arts will engage students in content and skills that provide meaningful and successful life experiences. Performing Arts activities lead to performance opportunities where students build self-confidence and a sense of pride in their accomplishments.


Students develop acting skills through a study of technique, improvisation, theater games, mime, camera work, and scene study. In addition, theater history is introduced in a general survey, exposing the students to the themes, styles, and development of dramatic arts.

Portfolio and Audition Prep Classes

Some high schools, like New Mexico School for the Arts, have requirements such as interviews and auditions. We prepare our students for the portfolio/audition process. In addition to an after-school class for art portfolio prep, we strongly encourage those students who plan to apply to NMSA, or other schools that require auditions/portfolios, to sign up for a prep block during their weekly two-hour Arts & Sciences Elective Block during the first semester, within their focus area of Dance, Fine Arts, Music or Theater. We use that time to create portfolios, go over monologues, rehearse audition pieces and prepare applicants for the process. 8th graders may choose either an Art or Science elective in the second semester.

Forensic Rhetoric - Semester 2

An introduction to Public Speaking, Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication, and critical thinking for Extemporaneous/Impromptu Speaking, Persuasion, and Debate drive this course. Students also learn listening techniques for Debate and Interpersonal Communication.


Our Philosophy class is an introduction to the big questions that have had humans wondering since the dawn of time. Students encounter some of the greatest philosophers in history, such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, the Buddha, and Confucius. Drawing from a variety of philosophical writings, the class will wonder about justice, joy, how to live a good life, politics, as well as of others. Making connections with the great philosophers of the past and then connecting with the present – especially locating your own views, attitudes, and beliefs, is a goal for all students.

STEM Elective Courses

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is an exciting set of electives that allow students to apply their knowledge of these four subject areas through real world applications. Everything around us has been first conceived as an idea to solve a problem or a need. Then it was designed, then tested, then critiqued, then revised, then tested again. Eventually these concepts became toaster ovens, cameras, computers, bikes, airplanes, cars, space shuttles, etc…. Each of these inventions required ingenuity, passion, a commitment to improve the lives of others, dedication to an ideal, and practical understanding of science and math. Our STEM courses are designed to allow students to engage in these endeavors and learn to see solutions where others see problems.


We must all either "program or be programmed," and in the Coding elective, students learn how to be masters of their technology. Students will explore their coding and creative talents through a variety of programming languages and environments including Python, HTML, and Scratch. Students have the option of building a website, coding their own video game, or creating an animation as a final project for the class. Additionally, following the belief that the best way to learn something is to teach it, students will learn about the Hour of Code and help to spread knowledge of coding throughout our school.


The Robotics elective is an exploration of creativity, programming, and engineering. Students practice building and programming robots to complete specific tasks. They will learn about the design process and about how engineers and inventors develop new technologies. Students explore how robots are used in the world and what the future holds for robotic technologies.

Introduction to Auto Engineering and Mechanics

Did you ever wonder how a car works? This elective addresses basic engineering principles and technical skills for students interested in eventually developing, manufacturing and testing self-propelled ground vehicles and their systems. We look at how cars work and how to make simple repairs. Time-permitting, we also look at alternative energy sources.

Assessment & Evaluation

Assessment yields information that allows teachers to create curriculum that is challenging, age appropriate, and responds to the particular students in each class. It is a vehicle for students to demonstrate understanding of skills, concepts and ideas. Learning is not static, and assessment at SFSAS is on-going. Multiple means of developmentally appropriate assessments are used, such as formal and informal observations, dialogue with students, documentation of particular skills and concepts, projects, written work, tests, and quizzes.

As each grade moves students towards more autonomy and independence, students are encouraged and taught to lead their own learning and demonstrate knowledge to a variety of audiences. Student-led portfolio presentations, end of semester presentations, Expedition Museums, Science Symposiums, and publishing work in journals and newspaper are hallmarks of the SFSAS experience.

Student-centered assessment also yields data that is used to evaluate student growth, grade level skills and concepts. This data is presented to families at parent/teacher conferences and in written reports.


Portfolios are a central academic tradition at Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences from age three all the way through to the 8th grade.We strongly believe that students demonstrate their knowledge in authentic, developmentally appropriate ways. Portfolios involve students in the power of reflection, the critically challenging act of thinking about their learning, and constructing and communicating a sense of the learning experience as a coherent, unified, developmental process. Students discover, understand, and communicate what, how, when, and why they learn.

Each portfolio includes student reflections on their learning, documentation of skills and concepts through products and projects, and culminates in a student-led portfolio presentation at the end of the academic year. Student portfolios include authentic work, multiple drafts leading to well-executed products that are part of a process. Portfolios are an "organized documentation of growth and achievement that provides tangible evidence of the attainment of professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Each portfolio is goal-driven, original, and reflective." (Campbell, Melenyzer, Nettles, and Wyman 2000)

The student-led portfolio conference gives students the opportunity to reflect on and share their learning with an audience of their parents/guardians and teachers, which for the upper elementary grades and the middle school is much like a thesis or professional presentation. Student-led portfolio conferences are authentic opportunities for students to use presentation, communication, and critical thinking skills. Students gain a sense of pride and accomplishment through this experience, and through this process students develop a deeper understanding of an Expeditionary Learning Design Principle—responsibility for learning.

Student Presentations

Student presentations, such as our Wintercomes tradition, Museums, and Symposiums, give students the opportunity to share their learning with an audience outside their parents and teachers. Students gain confidence and courage as well as a sense of accomplishment as they prepare for and present high-quality work to a larger audience. Quality work, rooted in personal pride and craftsmanship, are hallmarks of Deeper Learning, in which students are the stewards of their work and understanding. Learning is not confined to academics; multiple disciplines and modalities are honored and required: movement/kinesthetic learning and the arts are integrated into learning principles.

Student presentations are opportunities for students to learn to develop oral language and presentation skills, in addition to academic knowledge. Culminating projects at presentations allow students to practice and acquire 21st Century skills such as working with groups, meeting deadlines, and social learning.

Parent/Teacher Conferences

Parents and caregivers are crucial partners with our school in each child’s growth and success. Parent/Teacher Conferences are avenues for communication and collaboration between home and school. Teachers use these meetings to develop rapport with families, gain knowledge about each student, as well as share information and collaboratively set goals for students. These are also opportunities to talk about student challenges and set up support to ensure that students have a plan for success.

We require parents/caregivers to attend formally scheduled conferences in the fall and have opportunities for conferences later in the year. Parents are encouraged to communicate with teachers about their student, and teachers and parents may schedule conferences throughout the year on an as-needed basis.

Written Reports/Report Cards

Evaluative, formal reports are written by teachers and given to parents/guardians at regular intervals throughout the year. Middle School students receive formal grades in all their classes. Middle School report cards are given to families each academic quarter. Grades are reported each quarter and a written narrative is given at the culmination of Quarter 1 and Quarter 3

100 Elk Outdoor Learning Trip: Each fall, our entire middle school travels to Adventure Unlimited's 100 Elk in Buena Vista, Colorado; an outdoor learning center that provides three days of challenging, team-building activities that create bonding, self-confidence and trust between peers. Our time at 100 Elk helps each student learn how to step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves. The lessons learned at 100 Elk continue to be helpful throughout the middle and high school years. Activities at 100 Elk include ropes course activities, horseback riding, rock climbing, canoeing and kayaking, archery, community service and nature-based science learning. Students learn the values of persistence, perseverence and

Service Learning: Service learning is an essential aspect of our Middle School curriculum.  All students engage in service learning projects, including our award-winning student-developed literacy program Hooked on Books.

SFSAS alumni students at an orphanage on an alumni Service Learning trip to India.

Character Building: We believe an education is more than just mastering academic knowledge. Recent educational research supports the notion that teaching character values and having grit and resilience dramatically increases a student's chance of success in high school and college. These character traits are strongly correlated with success later in life and with individual fulfillment. Our school character traits of respect, trust, courage, honesty, compassion and stewardship form the foundation of our educational program. Each character trait is discussed and defined on an ongoing basis and displayed in action every day. Our students learn how to be compassionate, kind citizens and to stand up for what they know is right, with integrity and honesty.  

Afterschool Programs: Our After School Enrichment Program offers classes in violin, piano, trumpet, guitar, cello, voice, recycled fashion, drama and improv, jewelry making, visual arts and more. We are constantly adding and diversifying our after school offerings.

High Schools:  SFSAS graduates are most often accepted to the high school of their choice, and have excelled at all high schools in Santa Fe, including Santa Fe Preparatory School, Desert Academy, Waldorf High School, New Mexico School for the Arts, Santa Fe High School, Academy for Technology and the Classics, Monte del Sol High School, St. Michael’s High School and Santa Fe Secondary School, as well as schools in Albuquerque, including Albuquerque Academy and Bosque School. Our graduates have also been accepted at prestigious boarding schools across the country, including Phillips Exeter Academy, George School and Idyllwild Arts Academy. Many of our students receive substantial scholarships when they are available.

Colleges: SFSAS graduates have been accepted to a wide variety of colleges and universities, including University of Arizona, College of the Atlantic. Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University, Brown University, Chapman University, Colorado College, Columbia College Chicago, Connecticut College, Cornish College of the Arts, Drew University, Eugene Lang Liberal Arts, Flagler College, Haverford College, Lewis and Clark College, University of Madison - Wisconsin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Naropa College, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Northern Michigan University, Ohio University, Parsons School of Design, Portland State University, Sarah Lawrence College, Savannah College of Art & Design, Skidmore College, University of New Mexico, New York University, Trinity College, Wesleyan University, Western Washington University

Scholarships, Honors and Awards: SFSAS graduates have been the proud recipients of many special scholarships, honors and awards, including the following: Presidential Scholarship, Bronze LANL Scholarship, William and Gertrude Scholarship, Frye Family Foundation Award, Sussman Miller Scholarship, Ohana Scholarship, National Honor Society Award, Century Bank Super Scholar Award, Denver School for the Arts Scholarship, Davis Scholarship, Gold Key Scholastic Art and Writing Award, Simons Scholarship, Santa Fe JIN Scholarship, New England Young Writers Workshop Acceptance, Silver Key Scholastic Art and Writing Award, Frances Sheng Prize for Excellence, Jessup Prize for Excellence in the Arts, Broadway Dance Center acceptance, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Golden Key International Honor Society, National Society of Collegiate Scholars Award.

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