Middle School Academic life

The Middle School at SPA is a place where students experience the transition from childhood to young adulthood safely and surrounded by adults who care. The curriculum emphasizes wide-ranging exploration and skill development in specific disciplines, taught by teachers who understand and genuinely enjoy students at this age.  Organization and accountability are emphasized, and students learn to take responsibility for managing their work.

In the Middle School accountable classroom, students are challenged to embrace new ideas and think independently. The classroom experience is based on increased academic rigor combined with increased freedom of choice; support for the social/emotional needs of young adolescents using Developmental Designs for Middle School; and use of an advisory system to set clear standards and expectations for individual behavior and community norms.

  • The Middle School follows an academically rigorous curriculum that also offers students some choice in their areas of focus.  All students take core courses in English/language arts, social studies, math, science, and physical education; students also study a world language of their choice (Spanish, French, German, or Chinese) and choose to play a musical instrument or sing in the choir. Middle School students rotate through trimester-long courses in art, drama, wellness, and technology. Learn more about the curriculum in Grade 6, Grade 7, and Grade 8.
  • Developmental Designs for Middle School (DDMS) is used throughout the Middle School to promote social, emotional, and academic growth. Because student success at this age relies on a blend of good relationships, social skills, and engagement with learning, the practices inherent in DDMS integrate social and academic learning. All Middle School faculty at SPA are trained in the DDMS approach, which is designed to meet adolescents' needs for autonomy, competence, relationship, and fun, so that Middle School students genuinely enjoy school and learning. Learn more about Developmental Designs for Middle School.
  • The advisory system is a fundamental element of the Middle School experience, both in and out of the classroom. Advisories are groups of 10-12 students and a faculty advisor; advisories meet each morning for check-in and each afternoon for a work-study period, providing opportunities for students to interact socially under the guidance and support of an adult who knows them well. Advisors are the primary contact for families, since they know the students best. Advisors serve as advocates for the student, facilitate student-teacher meetings as needed, explore how individual students learn best, and help students set goals. Learn more about advisory.
  • Experiential learning opportunities are a fundamental piece of the curriculum and take place at every Middle School grade level. Some of these opportunities take the form of off-campus retreats, such as the week-long Grade 7 trip to Camp Widjiwagan in northern Minnesota; others take place at school but in different spaces and formats than the regular school day. These experiences are often the moments that students remember the most from Grades 6-8, because they involve intensive, hands-on learning and engaging interactions with teachers and peers.  Learn more about experiential learning opportunities.

By the time they enter the Upper School, Middle School students are prepared academically for the rigors of advanced study. They have learned to manage their time, make good choices, and advocate for themselves and their ideas.

Dr. Jill Romans has served as SPA's Middle School Principal since 2004, connecting her dedication to understanding and working with adolescents with her academic expertise in developmental neuropsychology: Jill holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Neuropsychology from Drexel University; and a B.A in neuroscience from Williams College, where she completed an honors thesis focused on learning and memory assessment in children. From 1995-2003, she worked in pediatric neuropsychology settings working collaboratively with schools to implement best practices for educational programming with her patients. She began her educational career in 2002, teaching Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies, English, and Wellness. She also participated in research in the areas of learning and memory and social/emotional functioning with a focus on adolescence.  Her clinical experience was integral to her transition into a school setting:  “My motivation for moving into education and out of a clinical practice setting was to be more involved in the direct delivery of teaching strategies and knowledge about how students best learn,” she says.  The most gratifying elements of Jill's work at SPA are providing ongoing parent education about adolescents; shaping the significant and vast changes happening over the course of a student's middle school years through education; and working with teachers on the best practices in education as they relate to current brain research and how the brain learns. Email Jill.
1150 Goodrich Avenue, St. Paul MN 55105
Main school line: 651-698-2451
Goodrich front desk: 651-696-1560 
Goodrich attendance line: 651-696-1414
1712 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul MN 55105
Main school line: 651-698-2451
Randolph attendance line: 651-696-1410
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