Ensuring Each Student is Abundantly Prepared for What Lies Ahead
During the middle school years, the habits and skills your child has acquired during previous grades come to fruition. It is during these crucial years the values and habits that form the foundation of your child’s adult character begin to take shape. In the right environment, students forge relationships and lasting bonds that will serve them for a lifetime. It is at this important stage of their educational and spiritual journey that an ICS education is nothing short of invaluable.
ICS nurtures and develops the skills needed for high school in an atmosphere that supports, teaches and demands individual responsibility, critical thinking and self-discipline. The combination of a balanced and academically challenging curriculum, taught in a caring Christian environment, helps prepare students for a demanding college-prep high school program.
The ICS Middle School produces graduates who are thoroughly prepared for the rigors of area private and public high schools. Our typical eighth grader is accepted to multiple high schools, and most often to their first-choice school. Many of our students are offered scholarships or accepted into honors programs, but we feel most proud that our students leave ICS as confident learners armed with an array of study skills and background knowledge that can propel them to achieve their maximum potential at the next level of their education.
At ICS, we are extremely proud of our high school acceptance record. As many have said, ICS students are abundantly prepared for what lies ahead.
Logistically, our middle school operates very differently than our elementary school, while providing continuity of curriculum for our advancing elementary students. We operate on a five-letter-day system, with middle school students receiving daily instruction in language art, mathematics, science and social studies. Three times within the rotation the students attend religion and Spanish classes and meet once within each cycle with specials area teachers for instruction in music, art, technology and physical education. Our STREAM teaching philosophy is evident throughout – our middle schoolers are accustomed to inquiry and collaboration and direct lecture teaching is the exception, not the rule.
We maintain three homerooms per grade, capped at twenty-four students per homeroom. For math and language arts classes, students are segmented into four class sections, so instructional groups become even smaller. They also meet for extended class periods, offering a thorough immersion in these core subject areas. Advanced classes are offered in both ELA and math.
The English/Language Arts curriculum encompasses reading, grammar, oral language, writing, vocabulary, spelling and penmanship. Students access a great variety of texts including fiction, nonfiction and poetry and study multiple novels each school year. Our vocabulary program is based on Greek and Latin roots, and teachers in other content areas strive to reinforce those vocabulary principles within their classes as they arise. A visit to our ELA classrooms would feature seating arrangements that encourage class discussions, peer review, and sharing of ideas. Students can expect daily ELA homework or assigned reading, and proper writing conventions are expected to be utilized by our students in all of their classes.
Our math program continues with the Saxon curriculum. In the sixth grade, there are two math levels, grade-level and advanced. The advanced class uses a seventh grade Saxon text. Students complete nightly homework assignments which are cumulative and draw on course material from any prior lesson in the year, while emphasizing more recent content. This ensures that students continue to practice previously learned skills so that they are prepared to keep applying those skills at higher and higher levels and is a hallmark of the Saxon curriculum. Tests are administered after every block of five lessons, and those tests are also cumulative. Calculator use is extremely limited until the algebra level so that students fully internalize computational algorithms needed for middle school math competency. In the seventh grade, we offer three levels of study, grade-level, advanced (using an eighth grade text) and algebra for highly advanced and self-motivated math students. In the eighth grade, we again offer a grade-level course, as well as algebra and geometry. Our math program is rigorous and highly successful as evidenced by our standardized testing scores. We are also proud to boast winning teams and winning individual students at an annual math competition for AoB middle schools.
Our science classes meet in one of two state-of-the-art spacious science labs in which students have access to a great variety of lab equipment and opportunities for detailed study. Our iPad program enables the use of digital microscopes. Our partnership with NorthBay Adventures culminates in the sixth grade with a week-long trip to the NorthBay property where classes are taught by NorthBay educators and a true immersion experience in environmental education is offered to our students. Students in all grades study the range of science disciplines including life science, physical science, earth science and foundations of chemistry, and our eighth graders engage in the SeaPerch underwater robotics program.
Social Studies classes focus on world history in the sixth grade, United States and world geography in the seventh grade, and United States History in the eighth grade. Classes meet daily and engage in robust discussions and illustrative activities that bring alive the course content. Reading and writing skills are reinforced throughout our Social Studies program. Seventh and eighth grade students participate in the National History Day competition each year, in which we have had students progress to the state and national levels! Within this program students choose a historical event, movement, or person through which they would like to explore a given annual theme (the 2020 theme was Breaking Barriers). They may choose to work individually or in a small group and may choose to present their topic in a variety of formats, including a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website. Projects are judged on the criteria of historical quality, relation to theme, and clarity of presentation.
Religion classes meet three times within each five-day cycle of classes and blends the study of Scripture and theology with faith-sharing and discussion of ethical issues and perspectives. Though the majority of our students are Catholic, respect for other faith traditions is paramount and sharing of a variety of religious views is always encouraged. This course of study is enhanced with observations of Catholic liturgical seasons and holy days and highlighting of Catholic Social Teaching principles through service initiatives.
Instruction in Spanish occurs three times per class cycle for all middle grade levels. Over the three years of middle school, the goal is that students master the body of introductory Spanish and are thus prepared for more advanced Spanish study when entering high school. Alternatively, we believe that they are empowered with the basics of foreign language study that will serve them well if they choose to study a different language moving forward. Essential vocabulary and grammar are emphasized, along with reading and of course speaking and pronunciation.
1:1 Device Program
Our middle school includes a 1:1 device program for all students. For the 2021-2022 school year, we began a transition from iPads to Chromebooks for this program, issuing Chromebooks to our 6th graders while maintaining the previous iPad technology for our 7th and 8th graders. We will continue the conversion to full Chromebook use in our middle school by the 2023-2024 school year. Parents purchase the student device from ICS when their student enters middle school, and the device is maintained and monitored through our IT Department. When devices are issued they are pre-loaded with e-books, instructional software, and security features that are consistent for all students. An orientation program is held for parents and students prior to the start of the school year to acclimate them to the device and to acceptable use policies, and ongoing support is available to parents and students for software issues, security concerns, and even loaner devices when needed.
The goal of our 1:1 device program is to allow students the opportunity to utilize the benefits that technology can offer in terms of research, organization of information (note-taking and storage), and multimedia access to course content that brings information alive in a way that traditional teaching tools cannot always do. Additionally, we feel that it is important that students have the opportunity to learn about appropriate technology usage and balance. Though we instruct our students in how to use a note-taking app, they are welcome to take notes in binders or notebooks if they prefer. They can also exercise choice in whether to access an e-book or physical textbook in certain subjects. Our faculty strives to strike the appropriate balance of traditional and technology-enhanced instruction so that students learn how to utilize technology responsibly.
Highlights and Extracurriculars
At ICS, we know that the students’ experiences outside of the classroom are also an important part of their education. To that end, we offer a great variety of extracurricular clubs and activities and we encourage students to explore the breadth of options available to them from athletics to performing arts, and from academic clubs to service organizations.
We offer five athletics programs for middle school students: boys and girls soccer and boys and girls basketball both offered through the ICAA, as well as ICS sponsored teams for cross country, track and field, and boys and girls lacrosse.
Our award-winning Instrumental Band Program features weekly instrument specific small-group lessons held in our auditorium with additional full-band rehearsals after school once weekly. The band performs at our Christmas and spring performing arts events, as well as at various competitions and performance venues throughout the school year. The ICS Theater Program meets year-round to offer instruction in stage performance and culminates in a large-scale spring musical that is offered to the school and to the public. Extensive stage crew opportunities are also available including coordinating and executing lighting and sound for the production! We also offer a middle school choir and a senior dance company.
ICS is honored to have both Student Council and National Junior Honor Society organizations available for our students. Not only do these groups provide valuable volunteer service and programming for our school community, they foster leadership and civic responsibility values among their members. Our Campus Ministry Club enables students to create and execute schoolwide and community-wide service projects and initiatives in keeping with our Catholic values and our Student Ambassadors Program fosters public speaking and hospitality skills as these students represent our school to prospective families or visiting parents or grandparents.
There is truly something for every interest, and a willingness to create new extracurricular activities if a group of students is so inclined. Currently in operation are an Art Club, a Creative Writing Club, Academic Competition Teams, Business Club and Robotics Club. We also have a Yearbook Committee that produces our annual publication and a dedicated team of students who prepare and deliver our daily video announcements from our fully equipped TV studio.
Eighth graders enjoy a variety of special events and activities to recognize their status as school leaders. They collaborate to create a class theme and t-shirt that they can wear throughout the school year. The annual volleyball game versus the faculty is a huge highlight and a beloved tradition. In the fall, these students prepare resumes and work on skills to help them prepare for high school shadow days and interviews, and also receive guidance in their preparation for the High School Placement Test. In the spring, we celebrate our eighth graders at a High School Acceptance Luncheon at which they debut their high school spirit wear. The end of the year is capped with a trip to Hershey Park, an eighth grade luncheon and yearbook-signing event, a Tribute breakfast and awards ceremony and of course a beautiful graduation Mass and reception, complete with caps and gowns.
All grade levels are represented at the STREAM Fair and the ICS Fine Arts Night – parents are invited to view student projects and artwork. Please see the Extracurriculars page under the Student Life tab for a comprehensive list of our special events.
Several support structures are in place at ICS to enhance the academic, physical and emotional well-being of our students. We employ two reading specialists who offer small group instruction in language arts for students with identified learning needs, as well as a math resource teacher for remediation and support and an executive function coach available to meet the needs of students who need assistance with organization and study strategies.
Our Inclusion Coordinator oversees development and administration of accommodations for students with special learning needs and documented learning support plans such as IEPs and 504s.
Two professional counselors engage in a wide range of student support activities while also administering guidance programming in the classrooms. Additionally, they oversee the Friendzy program, a social-emotional learning program offering instruction specially designed to engage elementary and middle school students. The overarching goal of Friendzy is to deepen student connection to others and to equip students with the tools needed to develop healthy relationships which in turns helps them to maximize their academic performance.
Our support staff includes two Registered Nurses so that our Health Office is professionally staffed whenever school is in session.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
PBIS is a nationwide program created to enhance the culture of our school by establishing positive supports focusing on prevention rather than punishment. Our motto: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Kind – Because Christ Matters guides all that we do. At ICS, we follow schoolwide procedures and processes so that everyone – students, teachers, staff, parents and administration – understand behavior expectations, which in turn creates a safe, consistent and productive learning environment for all.