Character & Community

As students navigate the social and academic landscape that comes with the pre-teen and early-teen years, the guidance of the adult role models on our faculty is one reason why Durham Academy Middle Schoolers look forward to coming to school each day. At a developmentally significant stage in their lives, Middle Schoolers are embraced for who they are and stretched to grow as students and people of strong character.

Advisory Programming

Each student is assigned to an advisory group, comprising 10–12 students of the same grade level and a faculty advisor. Groups meet several times daily and work through a curriculum that focuses on topics like building positive friendships, listening effectively and setting goals. In the fifth and sixth grade intramural sports program, advisory groups compete in friendly volleyball and kickball games. The advisory system aims to provide students an opportunity to grow — in their sense of self, interpersonal skills and appreciation of the differences among others.

Middle school advisory

Trips & Start-of-Year Experiences

Early in the school year, fifth-, sixth- and eighth-grade students go on overnight trips that are designed to promote advisory bonding. During that time, seventh-grade students launch their advisory program with activities in Durham. The seventh grade visits Washington, D.C., in February. Eighth-grade students go to the coast in April as part of their study of barrier islands. The school also offers international trips over spring break and during the summer.

Sixth Grade Class Trip: Camp Cheerio 2018

Service Learning

Working with people and organizations outside the Durham Academy community not only broadens a student’s perspective and capacity for empathy, but service-learning projects and collaborations enhance class curricula by providing context and purpose for learning. Advisory groups participate in service projects at least two school days each year. Faculty make community engagement more meaningful by providing students an opportunity for thoughtful preparation and reflection during the process.

Middle School Community Service

The eighth-grade Durham Challenge is a months-long deep dive that culminates in the creation and implementation of community-oriented projects. All 8th-grade students start the process by examining the UN Sustainable Development Goals and choosing a goal to which they want to contribute. Then, they identify and learn about a local issue that aligns with their UN Goal. They use the design thinking process to imagine, plan, revise, and implement ideas that address their chosen issue in a positive, sustainable way. They also interview, and sometimes partner with, community organizations and stakeholders that are already involved and doing the work. Projects have ranged from the creation of a new type of water filter to the development of a social-justice oriented curriculum for elementary students. The Durham Challenge encourages students to seek purpose, while creating positive change in their communities. Students learn new processes, while practicing skills in a real-life, meaningful setting.

Community Meeting

Once a week, the entire Middle School community gathers for Community Meeting. These gatherings center around presentations by students and faculty on topics of their choosing. Community Meeting is also the setting for the Our DA Service Awards; these are (anonymously submitted by faculty) acknowledgements of students' acts of kindness toward others, typically performed without expectation of recognition.

middle schoolers

Bullying Prevention

Durham Academy Middle School strives to maintain an environment in which all students can learn and develop to their fullest potential. To that end, we have adopted the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which is regarded as the world's most researched and widely implemented bullying prevention program.

Middle Schoolers