Middle School Arts
The Middle School arts program is designed to instill in all students an appreciation and love of the arts. All students are exposed to each arts discipline — visual art, theater, chorus, band and movement — during their fifth- and sixth-grade years. Sixth- and seventh-graders have an opportunity to take deeper dives into the disciplines of their choice.
All fifth- and sixth-graders take a 12-week studio course that includes an emphasis on the principles and elements of design (art). Drawing, painting and pottery projects are presented to increase technical skills and foster imagination. Student are encouraged to rely on their creativity to incorporate this information into uniquely expressive works of art.
Seventh- and eighth-grade art students build on their experience in studio courses (semester-long for seventh-graders and year-long for eighth-graders) in which students are given the opportunity to investigate, explore and practice art skills using a variety of media and techniques.
Assignments are designed to encourage creative thinking, problem-solving skills and development of an art vocabulary. Students examine the work of historical and contemporary artist to provoke new ideas and gain new perspectives. Student’s self-assess through a digital portfolio, which includes photographs of their work and an artist statement with thoughts about their efforts. Assessment also include responsibilities in the classroom, productivity, and the ability to communicate and collaborate in a group art making setting. A traditional portfolio of their art documents the year.
Band class for fifth- and sixth-graders is a 12-week hands-on experience in which each student chooses a band instrument and learns the fundamentals of playing it. The curriculum focuses on learning notes, tone quality, rhythm and musicality. At the end of each 12-week rotation, fifth- and sixth-grade band students perform an evening program for parents.
For seventh- and eighth-grade band students, class is a full-year course, with the bands meeting five out of seven rotational days. Each band works on age-appropriate selections, as students continue to build upon already-learned musical skills including tone, balance, blend, rhythm, dynamics and articulation.
We also begin to expand key centers through the use of scale exercises. Both bands perform three evening concerts during the year, as well as two assemblies for classmates. Selections are chosen from numerous genres, including classical, jazz, popular, folk, contemporary and marches.
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.
For the first part of that trimester, the class functions as a general music class with an emphasis on singing and the basics of music literacy. The latter part of the class functions as a more traditional rehearsal model during which students learn more about how to use their voices effectively in an ensemble and work on two-part pieces to be presented at the end-of-rotation concert.
Seventh grade chorus (a one-semester class) and eighth grade chorus (an all-year class) are intended for students interested in developing their voices by being part of an artistic ensemble and learning more about the elements of music.
Goals of the course include the experience of making music in an ensemble, developing vocal technique, building sight-singing skills, gaining a basic understanding of music theory and vocabulary and developing an appreciation for the many styles of music. Students work on vocal relaxation, technique and stamina through warm-ups, and practice their skills by learning three-part repertoire from a variety of musical genres.
Students perform at a school assembly and an evening concert near the end of each semester, with the opportunity for an additional performance outside of school; in recent years, students have performed in the community at venues such as retirement homes, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and Duke women's basketball games. Repertoire may include contemporary, jazz, classical, popular, folk, seasonal and musical theater genres.
In the fifth and sixth grades, students are introduced to acting and improvisation and work together to produce a short scripted or original play, which they share with their peers. In this final piece of theatre, all students step into the role of costume designer, set designer, and sound and light technicians.
Seventh- and eighth-graders build on their existing skill-set and work together to produce a larger scale production, which requires increased technical and artistic responsibilities for each student. The nature of the productions at all grade levels are based on the group’s interests with an emphasis on creating original theatrical work that is socially relevant and artistically sophisticated.
The Middle School's Musical Theatre course provides the opportunity for select seventh- and eighth-grade students to engage in learning about and performing musical theater. Students — who are placed in the course by audition — develop their vocal techniques and refine their ability to act through song. The Musical Theatre course culminates in a spring showcase performance for the entire DA community. This course is co-taught by our theatre and chorus teachers.
Middle School movement begins in fifth grade with an introduction to the body moving in space. Students learn components of choreography and improvisation, develop self-awareness and respect for others, and develop group problem-solving skills. Sixth-grade movement emphasizes proper body alignment, increasing strength, balance and extending flexibility as students are introduced to longer choreography and more sophisticated dance techniques, and discover literal and abstract interpretations of dance as an art form.
Seventh and eighth grade movement classes are year-long courses.
Seventh-graders focus on the artistry and physicality of dance as an expressive art form. A daily warmup is designed to stretch and strengthen the major muscle groups and to relieve tension and to correct improper body alignment, often due to prolonged sitting. Outdoor activities provide cardio conditioning, site-based Parkour influenced choreography and a break from indoor focus. Guided visualization/relaxation/breathing techniques provide a wellness component. Performance opportunities at the end of each semester are offered and center around cultural and student-driven themes and collaborations with other seventh-grade fine arts classes.
Movement 8 is a year-long course that provides an emotional, artistic and physical balance to the academic rigors of a middle school day. Activities include improvisational movement games, stretching to enhance athletic ability and to avoid injury, campus walks to interact and connect with classmates, dabbling in the many techniques of dance including contemporary, jazz, ballet, social, international and street, collaborating and creating group choreography with classmates, all to honor a middle school student’s curiosity and need for personal and artistic expression. There is flexibility in the curriculum, designed to reflect student-driven themes that resonate with their social and emotional development. From these activities develops a sense of ensemble and a collaborative spirit that further supports performance opportunities. Performances may include a Halloween-inspired dance for classmates, a mid-year celebration of personal and cultural diversity and collaborations with the other eighth-grade fine arts classes.