Middle School Units

Finding our Place in Pepperell: Analyzing Language, Nature, and History to determine what makes Pepperell Unique

Kristen Hall, 2015
Nissitissit Middle School
Pepperell, MA
Language Arts, Grade 7

In this unit, students will delve into nature, literature, and history and ideally learn about where they come from and why the place that many of them seem to want to flee from as soon as possible could truly be invaluable in their growth.

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You Are Here: A Vernal Sense of Place

Cheryl Shea and Elizabeth Stockwood, 2013
Concord Middle School
Concord MA
Art and Library, Grade 6

This interdisciplinary unit is designed to introduce 6th graders to a specific area (a vernal pool and its immediate vicinity) which is located near our school property. Looking ahead, they will experience this vernal pool in 7th grade Life Science, and this unit will give them the opportunity to connect with the place in a unique fashion before they conduct their scientific investigations the following year. We are combining a diverse combination of processes in this unit: the introduction of basic research skills, artistic expression, and response to provide an opportunity to get to know this place dimensionally and personally.

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Sense of Place: A Descriptive Writing Unit

Erica LeBow, 2012
Coolidge Middle School
Reading, MA
English, Grades 7 and 8

In this unit designed for middle school, students will deepen their understanding of sense of place through description. They will look closely at the world around them, see things they have not seen before, use all of their senses to enrich their experience, notice specific details that capture a place’s essence, and recognize the feeling or mood a place evokes. They will describe topics that are near and dear to them – nature, their surroundings, themselves, where they come from, and their favorite place – thereby increasing their motivation to write. By progressing from very short poems (haiku) to longer poems and eventually to prose, students will have repeated opportunities to practice incorporating new descriptive techniques into their writing (i.e., imagery, sensory language, specific detail, and mood). Moreover, by examining samples of professional writing throughout the unit, students will see exemplary description in action and be able to emulate these models in their own work.

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Approaching Worthington

Joanna Stubenrauch, 2011
McCord Middle School
Columbus, OH
Enriched Language Arts, Grade 8

The purpose of this unit is to help students become more connected to their surroundings and community through investigating Worthington's history and exploring our natural surroundings.  During class time, the students will read American essays on which which to model their own nature and place-based writing assignments.  We will take one day to go on a field trip to Highbanks Metro Park to hear from guest speakers about Central Ohio's settlement by American Indians and by the Scioto Company during the Westward Expansion period of the early 1800's.  During the unit, the students will produce observational journals and finally choose an independent study topic on an aspect of Worthington in order to create a multi-genre presentation that will include interviews, an excursion, a visual presentation, and a personal essay.

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Thoreauvian Nature Activities

Toni Littlestone, 2010
Schofield Magnet High School
Stamford, CT
Science

These activities were inspired by Henry Thoreau and the Walden Pond Project. Students will utilize observation skills, notebook practice, and journaling to learn more about their environment in these activities. Worksheets for each day’s activities are provided. Each student will, hopefully, become more conscious of the natural environment around them and play an active role in protecting it.

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Trees and Climate Change

Mary Blewitt, 2010
Austin Preparatory School
Reading, MA
Life Science, Grade 7

In the first semester of school, I do two projects with my 7th graders. I do a project with Harvard Forest called “Buds, Leaves and Global Warming”, in which students label trees and perform weekly phenology studies to determine the time of autumn leaf color and leaf drop on their trees. At the close of 1st semester, I also run a global climate change forum, in which students learn to express their own opinions and listen to the opinions of others on what the course of action should be to limit climate change. The lessons I have planned using information learned through Approaching Walden will serve to link these two previously separate units.

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Through the Eyes of a Transcendentalist

Joanne Draper, 2008
Dover-Sherborn Middle School
Dover, MA
English, Grade 7

This unit will give students an overview of American Transcendentalism and two of its most prominent contributors; Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It will begin with some basic information, followed by critical thinking on the students’ part regarding the authors’ theories and belief system. Students will take a day trip to Farm Pond in Dover to rediscover an appreciation for nature and get into the mindset of Thoreau and Emerson to generate ideas for a poem that they will be required to write from one or both authors’ perspectives.

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