Cougar Middle School
At Clariden, we believe in empowering our students to use their voice. It takes the right atmosphere with the right educators to help students love to learn and to feel empowered throughout their academic career. Our award-winning, project-based learning environment promotes creativity and academic excellence.
Students engage in a variety of projects throughout the school year and content time that meet and exceed state standards aligning with TEKS. Projects are supported through content time which promote an application of learning. Middle School content time includes concentrated classes in Math, Language Arts, Philosophy, History, Life Science, Earth Science & Physical Science, Theater, Foreign Language, Community Outreach, STEM, and College Prep. Projects are tied to real life issues which enable students to understand the significance of what they are learning. Projects are supported through instruction from teachers, mentors, experts, field study, and travel.
Projects bring all our learning together around a common question with a real-world application. Project-based learning also simulates the way problems are solved in the workforce: through team effort, exploration, testing, analysis, and conclusions. Middle School students engage in 6-7 projects per school year. Projects provide for the application of concepts taught and acquisition of skills such as collaboration, creativity, oral communication, and critical analysis. Each project comes with what we call the “Project 411.” This document outlines the goals, methods, lessons, timeline and assessments associated with the project. This method of teaching allows us to provide something above and beyond what traditional models of education typically provide.
- Driving Question — What Are We Looking to Solve?
- Learning Outcomes
- Concepts Introduced
- Technology Introduced
- Field Study
- Work Product / Assessment
- Competition (when applicable)
Project Example: What’s Inside
From the worm to a nurse shark, the inner workings of living things are a constant subject of exploration. Our students do a number of dissections in addition to their field study. Clariden middle school students are actively engaged in weekly labs, including dissections. This year, they traveled to the Florida Everglades to further extend their studies bringing them hands-on with the habitats they’ve studied.
Middle school students have daily “Content Time,” as we call it. This time is different than their project time. Content time gives the student focused time on single subjects like Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science. All of our curriculum in these areas meets and exceeds State standards, known as TEKS. Students delve into STEAM works to develop their Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math skills. They learn about civilizations and the customs, laws, and arts that define a society’s contribution to humanity. They study the detailed parts of our language that enable us to communicate effectively through spoken and written words.
The main difference in our approach is that our small class sizes enable us to go beyond the standard worksheet. Some lessons are given in group format, while others are given one-on-one with a student. The goal is to meet the student where they are and keep them constantly challenged. In our school, if a student quickly gains mastery of a lesson, they are encouraged to keep going to the next level — there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. When a student needs to stay with a lesson a little longer, we keep them fueled with a variety of ways of looking at the information: from visual, to hands-on, to reviewing face-to-face, because we know students have different learning styles.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies/History
- STEM, STEAM, & Technology
- Foreign Language: Independent Language Studies
- Health, Physical Education
- Art, Yearbook, Theater
- Communications Application
- College Prep: PSAT 8th grade
NASA Underwater Robotics ROV Competition
STEAM Project Example
NASA’s Marine Advanced Technology Education ROV Competition challenges “students from all over the world to design and build ROVs to tackle missions modeled after scenarios from the ocean workplace … The MATE competition requires students to think of themselves as ‘entrepreneurs’ and transform their teams into companies that manufacture, market, and sell products.”
Read more at robotics.nasa.gov
Team America Rocketry Challenge
STEAM Project Example
Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is an annual national competition. Clariden students work to build a rocket from scratch and have it complete a number of challenges laid out by the competition. Clariden’s results: 2017 National Finalist, 2015 National Finalist travelling to Washington D.C. to compete and earning 3rd Place in the Presentation Award. Read more
We do not teach to the test. The Clariden School is a private school and does not receive State funding. Therefore, our school is not required to take the State standardized tests and we do not build our days and weeks around testing. Instead, we leverage a number of other national assessment tools. We work to keep a relaxed atmosphere around standardized testing so the students learn healthy approaches to assessment.
At The Clariden School, we do not use one assessment tool to determine admissions. We are interested in knowing as much as we can about each student. It is our goal to create learning experiences and environments that promote the overall development of each student. Students receive report cards two times per year along with NWEA benchmark assessments to measure progress. This ensures grade level content is covered and mastered. Students also take the PSAT in 8th grade.