Students at CRCS are a part of an educational community where rigorous curriculum is made engaging and accessible. Our classrooms are places of excited collaboration and personal reflection. Students meet our high academic and behavioral expectations by being given the support they need and deserve. Our educational model addresses the individual needs of students and ensures that all students have the opportunity to meet their potential.
The middle school social studies curriculum builds on the K-5 Integrated Studies curriculum of expanding communities and developing deep historical thinking skills. Social Studies is taught through an inquiry-based approach emphasizing deep understanding above broad fact acquisition. 6th grade social studies focuses on Ancient Civilizations, 7th grade on United States history from colonialism through the Civil War, and 8th grade moves from the Industrial Revolution towards present day. Teachers integrate regular field work, reading and writing into social studies so that students are regularly acting as historians do – researching, analyzing and presenting their historical theories. Our 6th graders study Eastern Hemisphere to develop deep understanding the evolution of societies. In 7th grade, the study shifts back to the Western Hemisphere and to early United States History through the lens of power and government systems. In 8th grade, the curriculum focuses United States with a focus on economics.
English Language Arts
CRCS English Language Arts curriculum draws from the Common Core Literacy Standards in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Students build literacy and complex thinking skills through regular independent and collaborative reading and writing projects. Each year students are developing their close reading and academic writing skills, understanding of diverse perspectives through literature and informational texts, academic research and persuasive writing skills. Teachers integrate learning in Social Studies content with the ELA curriculum when possible including incorporating Mythology and literature from the Eastern Hemisphere and in 6th grade students; literature and informational texts on slavery in the United States in 7th Grade; and Vietnam and World War II in 8th grade.
During their middle school years, students complete 3 of 4 year-long multi-graded math courses. Students who have met all the standards the previous year and want to move at a faster pace may skip one of the three sequential pre-algebra courses and are provided with additional support after school during their acceleration year. These students are then are able to take Algebra I in 8th grade. Our pre-algebra courses are driven by the Connected Mathematics 3 (CMP3) curriculum and pedagogy. The program emphasizes student-centered and collaborative exploration of real-life math applications to support deep understanding of critical math concepts and skills. Students’ ability to problem-solve, reason and explain mathematical ideas is also integral to CMP3 and foundational to the Common Core Standards. While our curriculum follows CMP3’s units focusing on four strands – Numbers & Operations, Geometry, Data & Probability, and Algebra – it is also supplemented with additional resources. The Algebra I course is aligned to the Common Core and paced to prepare students for the Algebra I Common Core Regents Exam.
For the middle school science curriculum, Community Roots uses the Project-Based Inquiry Science (PBIS) program. PBIS is inquiry-based and uses challenging real-world questions to engage students in building scientific knowledge, skills, and understanding. The curriculum spirals the life, physical and earth sciences throughout all three middle school grades according to the PBIS scope and sequence for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. At each grade level, students design and conduct their own experiments and research. By the end of 8th grade, students have gained skills in reading and using traditional science texts, maintaining laboratory notebooks and writing lab reports to prepare them for advanced level high school Science courses.
Students take Spanish each year of middle school with a focus on using Spanish to meet survival, social, and academic needs. The curriculum emphasizes the National Standards for Foreign Language Education’s 5 C’s: Communication (listening, speaking, reading and writing); Culture (exploring similarities and differences among Spanish-speaking cultures); Connections (to other learning and students’ lives); Comparisons (between languages and cultures); and Communities (exploring and connecting with Spanish-speaking communities). By the end of 8th grade, successful students are prepared to pass New York City’s Spanish proficiency exam to receive high school credit and placement into an advanced Spanish class.
Visual and Performing Arts
At Community Roots, we feel strongly that the arts can and should be seen as enrichment as well as integrated across the curriculum in order to make learning experiences rich and accessible to different types of learners. The art curriculum has been designed to be both a discipline within itself with its own set of Exit Outcomes as well as to be integrated into other disciplines. For half the year, students take visual arts class twice a week, which emphasizes the creation of original two and three-dimensional projects, along with building a conceptual foundation for creating and interpreting art and exposing students to related aspects of art history. The other half of each year, students take performing arts class twice a week. Through performing arts classes, students learn to use their body, voice and objects to convey artistic message for a live audience
Physical education is a time for students to learn and practice gross motor skills, to learn how to actively participate in large group games and to develop habits that lead to staying physically fit. All students have P.E. at least twice weekly. The class includes a blend of health and fitness, cooperative challenges, and sports activities.
Supporting Students’ Academic Progress and Social- Emotional Development: Homeroom, Academic Advisors and Crew
All Community Roots Middle School students are members of a homeroom class that stays together for all core courses. Every morning and afternoon, homerooms meet to build community, share announcements, support one another and check-in on the day. Homeroom circles are lead by the Academic Advisors for that Homeroom.
Each student has an Academic Advisor whose role is to ensure that students have a strong school-based relationship with an adult who knows them well and can support their growth academically, socially, and emotionally. Subsequently, the advisor functions as the primary contact for communication with families. Advisors are the primary adult responsible for the progress and success of each advisee’s academic and character development and as such manage multiple responsibilities on behalf of each advisee (between 10-14 students). Knowing what is going on in our advisees’ lives, what kind of person they want to be, and supporting and following up with them on their progress and goals is integral to our role. Each student’s Advisor is responsible for providing support and structure for the student throughout the year through individual meetings twice a month. Advisors also establish and maintain close contact with their students’ families and teachers and communicate with every advisee’s family at least monthly with updates from teachers, advisee meetings, and Jumprope comments.
Each homeroom also meets as a Crew (“We are crew, not passengers”), for two periods a week. These Crew meetings serve as a space to support students social emotional and personal leadership and scholarship skills by building community, and framing/explicitly addressing the CRCS Habits of Work and Core Values. Crew explores the following Essential Questions and supports students in realizing their potential: What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of community do we want to be?
Other Middle School Programming
Students have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in unique areas for one week through non-traditional, hands-on learning experiences that include fieldwork, adventure, internships, service, and work with experts/professionals. Intensive week culminates with a presentation of learning during which each intensive group shares, with the rest of the community, documentation of their learning process and the final products of their work.
Each season, students who are interested in playing team sports have the opportunity to try out for a team that plays in the Charter School Athletic League. These teams are co-ed volleyball, girls’ and boys’ basketball, or co-ed soccer after school. Co-ed running is also offered.
In addition to Performing Arts classes for all students, Middle School students can audition for one of two school wide productions. There will be open auditions for students for our school play, which shows in the Fall, and our school musical, which shows in the Spring.
Clubs are elective activities led by Community Roots staff that occur Tuesday through Friday afternoons during the final period of the day. Clubs rotate each trimester to provide students with opportunities to pursue areas of interest and try new things. A wide variety of clubs are offered, including, yoga, flag football, robotics, cooking, art, and dance.
On Wednesday afternoons students participate in elective activities facilitated through partnerships with community organizations, outside experts, and Community Roots families. Twice a year, students have an opportunity to select a studio from many choices such as drumming, fencing, video art, or chorus.
Student-Led Conferences (SLCs) occur twice during the school year to instill student ownership of their learning and to strengthen school-family relationships. During SLCs, students and their families attend formal conferences during which students reflect on their academic and social-emotional progress and articulate their goals for moving forward. SLCs are attended by the student, parent/guardian(s), advisor, members of the student’s Crew, and other adult community members.