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Middle School Arts Curriculum

The Middle School arts program is designed to instill in all students an appreciation for and love of the arts. All students are exposed to each arts discipline — instrumental music, movement, theater, visual art, and vocal music — during their fifth- and sixth-grade years. Seventh- and eighth-graders have an opportunity to further develop and practice skills in a specific discipline for a yearlong course of study.

The arts during the middle school years are an opportunity for students to experiment, take risks, explore and expand their own artistic identities in a supportive space. The skills and habits that students develop, as well as their various projects and performances, help to prepare them for deeper study. Developmentally, an arts education during the middle school years is vital to the process of self-discovery.

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Students will be able to independently use their learning to:

  • Actively engage in the arts

  • Solve problems independently and collaboratively

  • Experiment and take risks to conceive, develop, and express artistic ideas

  • Communicate ideas about and respond authentically to art in an informed manner

  • Connect artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and/or historical contexts to deepen understanding of the human experience.

The arts have always served as the distinctive vehicle for discovering who we are. The arts are used by and have shaped every culture and individual on earth. They continue to infuse our lives on nearly all levels. The fact that the arts provide important touchstones confirms their value to the development of every human being. Nurturing our children, then, necessarily means that we must provide all of them — not just those identified as 'talented' — with a well-rounded education that includes the arts.

National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning, 2016  

Middle School Arts Course Offerings

Select Grade Level

Visual Arts Exploration 5–6

The visual arts component of the fine arts Explorations for fifth and sixth grades is a trimester study of the elements of art and principles of design, including a look at how other artists use these concepts in their art.

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Band Exploration 5–6

Fifth- and sixth-grade students participate in a 12-week beginning band experience. Each student is assigned a wind instrument. The curriculum includes elements of instrument technique and care, rehearsal and performance etiquette, music literacy, and ensemble performance. At the end of each 12-week rotation, students perform an evening program for parents.

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Percussion Ensemble Concentration 7–8

This concentration allows aspiring percussionists to explore concepts of music theory, composition, technology and performance with an emphasis on percussion. Students will learn drumming, mallet and auxiliary percussion technique, and will perform both independently and in conjunction with the other band classes.

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Wind Ensemble 7–8

This concentration enables woodwind and brass instrumentalists to hone their technique, expand their knowledge of music theory concepts, dive into music composition and improvisation, experiment with music technology, rehearse and perform music literature (from a variety of styles and genres), and perform for the school community and beyond.

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Chorus Exploration 5–6

Fifth- and sixth-graders are introduced to chorus at the Middle School level for one trimester. The main focus of the class is to get students comfortable with their singing voices and to introduce concepts that will start them on the path to reading music for singing.

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Vocal Ensemble Concentration 7–8

In this concentration, students will be active music makers exploring the power and joy of song in an ensemble setting. Students will work on the physical and artistic aspects of singing: breath control, vocal tuning, tone, projection, agility and interpretation, while singing in parts and learning music in a variety of genres for at least two concerts during the year, with optional solo opportunities.

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Theatre Exploration 5–6

The Durham Academy Middle School theatre program aims to instill a love of theatre by providing every student with the opportunity to engage in the many facets of the playmaking and theatre production process. 

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Theatre Concentration 7–8

This concentration aims to instill an appreciation and love of theatre by providing every student with the opportunity to engage in the many facets of playmaking and the theatre production process. Students engage fully in the theatrical process by deepening their understanding of the fundamentals of acting that they learned in their fifth- and sixth-grade exploration. The class culminates in a full-scale production for peers and families. In addition to serving as actors on stage, students also step into the roles of lighting/sound designers and technicians, stage managers, costume designers, prop managers and backstage crew, resulting in a completely student-led performance!

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Movement Exploration 5–6

Middle School Movement Exploration begins with an introduction to the body moving in space and emphasizes proper body alignment, increasing strength, balance and extending flexibility. Students will learn the language of choreography, improvisation, and composition while developing self-awareness and respect for others. Group problem solving skills are developed through movement games and weekly group choreography tasks. Exploration in Movement culminates with a final choreography project that is group-based and is performed for the class and sometimes shared with other Explorations classes.

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Musical Theatre Concentration 7–8

This concentration provides the opportunity for students to engage in learning about and performing musical theatre. In this dynamic and high-energy class, students develop their vocal techniques, refine their ability to act through song, and develop confidence as dancers. The Musical Theatre concentration culminates in a spring showcase performance for the entire DA community.

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Movement Concentration 7–8

Movement 7–8 provides an emotional, artistic and physical balance to the academic rigors of a Middle School day. Activities include improvisational movement games, outdoor campus walks and stretch and strength techniques to partner with adolescent growth and to avoid injuries that are often experienced in athletics.

Read More about Movement Concentration 7–8