All students in the Middle School take classes in Studio Art, Drama, and Choral and Instrumental Music during 5th, 6th, and 7th grade. Eighth graders begin to choose arts classes to specialize in and may take advanced arts options in several areas if their schedule permits. All fifth and sixth graders sing in the Chorus, and fifth and sixth graders may audition for orchestra and handchime choir. Seventh and eighth graders may participate in instrumental ensembles, choral ensembles, a fall play and a spring musical, and, for eighth graders, a Playback Theater Troupe called Vertical Voices.
The 5/6 Studio Art program is designed to give students the opportunity to develop and express their ideas clearly through various art materials. Students use and explore a wide variety of materials and techniques in their creation of drawings, paintings, collages and ceramics. Through the creative process, students also become increasingly familiar with the qualities and limitations of these different art materials and techniques. The class includes a study of art history and incorporates interdisciplinary projects. Students' interdisciplinary art projects are designed to complement Sidwell's broader academic curriculum.
The fifth and sixth grade Drama program provides hands-on learning experiences that draw upon students’ inner resources, including the mind, body, voice, and imagination. In the fifth grade, students use role playing, drama scenes, and drama exercises to explore their creativity. Students create scripts that are adaptations of folk stories from around the world and develop, produce, and present shadow puppet performances. In the sixth grade, students take on the roles of player, playmaker, and audience as they write their own scenes and then perform scenes that other students have written. Overall, the program emphasizes interpersonal communication skills for personal development and discovery.
Students attend two different Music classes in 5th and 6th grades. In these classes, students learn vocal and hand chime technique and performance as they sing and perform music of diverse cultures. They receive instruction in reading, writing, sight-singing, ear-training, basic musical forms, music technology, music history, and music theory. Instruments from all of the major families are presented, and students use Noteflight software in the music lab. Membership in the 5th or 6th grade Chorus is required. Any student may also audition for the Orchestra and Handchime Choir.
Seventh Grade Studio Art instruction is based around periods in American art which are reflected in the seventh grade English and History curricula. The Hudson River School, the Harlem Renaissance, and themes in contemporary art are examples of American art periods which we explore. Drawing, painting, clay sculpture, and collage are worked with in conjunction with questions and ideas generated by study of themes discovered in these periods.
Eighth grade instruction includes drawing, watercolor and acrylic painting, working with clay, architectural design, and printmaking. Also included in the course are art history, art criticism and aesthetics. Assignments such as designing a house and having a house designed for you by another student combine drawing skills, design skills, discussions about aesthetics, math skills, and a sensitivity to and appreciation of advertising. Digital design is addressed in a photo self-portrait assignment in which the students manipulate a digital photograph of themselves using the application Photoshop. Students in the advanced Studio Art class participate in all of the activities listed above, but they also have a more intense study of drawing and complete individual projects.
The seventh grade Drama class is called Quakerism and the Arts. This class provides an opportunity for seventh grade students to reflect on their own ethical and spiritual beliefs or disbeliefs while learning about some of the guiding testimonies and practices of the Religious Society of Friends. Personal stories are the theme of this class, and Playback Theater is the central method taught and used for reflecting on individual stories.
In 8th grade Drama, students are exposed to the fundamental aspects of the actor’s art and craft while creating, performing and responding to theatre. We explore the creative process through theater games and improvisations, readings, lectures, group projects and discussions.
The Vocal Music program includes instruction in music theory, sight reading, and vocal technique that is specifically designed to meet the needs of the young singer. In seventh and eighth grades, students participate in more advanced vocal music classes and can elect to join one of three performing groups: 7/8 chorus, Boys Ensemble, or Girls Ensemble. These groups participate in two formal concerts during the school year.
Seventh and eighth grade Instrumental Music teaches students how to read, write, play, listen to, and write about music. Students learn notation, solfege, transcription, theory, and analysis, and performance techniques. Technology is integrated into the composition lessons through the use of FINALE music notation and Essentials of Music Theory software. No previous musical experience is required. Students may audition for the Pit Band, Concert Band, Jazz/Rock Band, String Ensemble, Handbell Choir, and Drum Circle. These groups perform in two formal concerts during the school year. Eighth graders who are proficient on an instrument may take an advanced Instrumental Music class.