Kirby Hall is a safe environment where students develop a depth of character that shapes their adult values rather than focusing on the superficial. In a time of disequilibrium, filled with physical, intellectual, and emotional changes, middle school students define themselves and how they fit into the social world around them. At Kirby Hall we seize this growth opportunity by employing strategies to encourage higher-order thinking skills where nothing is learned by rote. Here it is okay to be smart, to ask questions, to want more intellectually. As one teacher said, “Kirby Hall is kindness, love and rigor”—just the right environment to make middle school years happy and successful.
Literary studies build empathy, understanding, and compassion for others, exposing them to life experiences and cultures different from their own. Pre-AP close reading and annotation strategies provide the framework for engaged discourse. In Socratic seminars, students voice their interpretations of the text, literary devices used, author’s intent, and more. The hero’s quest and what defines a heroic life are themes for sixth-grade literary studies.Coming of age and civil rights are the seventh grade literary themes. Eighth grade readings investigate the capacity for the individual to experience freedom in relation to society.
Effective communication is essential to a successful career, across all fields. The writing program at Kirby Hall is exceptional. Writing is taught as a process, with individual guidance from thesis statement to final draft. Because our average class size is twelve students, our faculty can give in-depth feedback, individually motivating students to improve their content, structure, and grammar. Thus, students learn the value of a thoughtful approach to writing and the importance of allocating the time necessary to produce quality work. Such time management skills prepare students for their extended research project. Research is conducted at The University of Texas’s main library for a multi-draft paper and multi-media presentation.
Grammar instruction is fifty minutes a day for sixth and seventh grades. All too often explicit grammar instruction is neglected, with students’ speech and writing skills suffering the consequences. Eighth grade maintains and sharpens students’ skill sets through weekly targeted grammar lessons. Our program gives them a toolbox to grasp the interplay of words and phrases. When students understand how the English language works, they wield it masterfully. A knowledge rich vocabulary supports their writing, their ability to analyze texts, and their verbal acumen. Teaching a year above grade level, we continue Wordly Wise. Weekly exercises require students use higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and inferential thinking.
We continue to utilize the Saxon Math Program, teaching a year above grade level. Truly gifted math students advance yet another year in grade and take either Algebra I or Geometry for high school credit. This math program stays with our students through Algebra II. It is a spiral-based curriculum, meaning that concepts are introduced in their most elementary fashion and constantly re-enforced. In middle school, approximately fifty percent of the math curriculum comes from sources outside of Saxon, including Khan Academy, number sense, or a number of websites that allow students to compete with others from across the world. When our second through eighth grade students compete academically, they typically sweep the math competition placing first, second, and third across all grade levels.
Tapping into the innate curiosity of students, we approach science as hands-on learning. Children roll their sleeves up, explore, experiment and recognize that there is as much to be learned from the failed experiment as the successful one. Students are taught across four disciplinary core ideas: physical sciences; life sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and applications of science. Life science topics may include molecular structures and processes; DNA and heredity; biological evolution; and the interactions, energy, and dynamic relationships in ecosystems. Physical science may explore matter and its interactions, motion and stability, energy, and waves and their applications in technologies for information transfer. Learning about the earth’s place in the universe, its systems, and human activity may be part of earth science studies. In our Maker Spaces students apply math, science, and engineering concepts with project-based learning. Here we encourage them to take risks, be creative, and collaborate as they develop their inquiry and process skills. Science, engineering, and technology permeate nearly every facet of modern life and are an integral part of 21st century learning.
Teaching history as an experience, with field trips and hands-on projects, actively engaging the kinesthetic learner. A visit to Fredericksburg’s War in the Pacific Museum brings alive the clash of Imperial Japan and the Western allied forces for sixth grade students studying the Eastern Hemisphere. Seventh grade culminates its Texas history studies with a week-long trip to the beautiful Davis Mountains, seeing one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars’ frontier military post. Eighth grade students visit both the LBJ Ranch and the Presidential Library as part of their survey of U.S. history. Just as in their English classes, research is conducted at The University of Texas’ main library.
Kirby Hall creates truly bilingual students. Because we begin Spanish instruction at age four, by seventh and eighth grade, students are earning high school credit. Our Spanish instruction is more than the acquisition of a foreign language; it is also an immersion into the culture and history of the Spanish-speaking world. The rigor and strength of this program would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. Students who graduate from Kirby Hall typically are placing in second or third year college-level Spanish.
We inspire students to see the positive side of being physically active. Students learn traditional and non-traditional sports through engaging in activities that promote cognitive development. Our program builds gross and fine motor skills, teaches safe behaviors, and fosters awareness of personal space. Structured physical activities are an excellent avenue for the development of social skills.
By creating productions, students gain a knowledge base of necessary theatrical elements, including costuming, stage lighting, stage craft, acting, directing, and vocal patterns. They experience the world of the playwright by writing and creating their own plays, with original characters and story lines. We also select, rehearse, and perform a class play for the families and the student body.
Students continue to expand their knowledge of music history and music theory. They will develop a deep knowledge of many composers throughout the world, both past and present.
Guided art lessons foster self-expression, while building confidence in creative abilities. Students also take a more in depth look at the history of art and at local and global contemporary art. Class critiques, field trips to museums, research papers, and class discussions give students the opportunity to contextualize both the art they create and the art they study. The combination of research-based art history lessons with a hands-on multimedia art practice provides students with a better understanding of art itself and a stronger sense of their own creative nature.
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We would love to get to know you better and discuss the future of your child. Come visit Kirby Hall and see what makes our environment special for yourself!