Our Middle School Program
Our Middle School Program
(Grades 6th - 8th) has a unique blend of farm, art, and forest concepts infused into a developmentally appropriate academic curriculum designed specifically for our 12 - 14-year-old students. Our mission in the Woodson Branch Middle School is to nurture the whole student to be confident, joyful, prepared human beings! We support our students' growth through discovery, hands-on learning, creativity, play, and problem-solving.
Focus & Skills
A deep awareness and appreciation of the great outdoors
A whole body knowledge of art (in a variety of forms)
Awareness of where their food comes from, how it relates to the Earth, and how it fuels their bodies
An understanding of real-world applications for math and science and the ability to apply that knowledge to a range of situations
A deeper understanding of the natural world through various hands-on Science topics and discovery-learning opportunities, including hands-on engineering projects in the WBNS STEAM Lab.
A comprehensive understanding of and appreciation for the English language, including writing, reading, grammar, and speaking skills
A growing excitement and readiness for the greater world beyond the WBNS campus, including high school and early college readiness, time management, financial management, and communication skills.
Students move forward through the grade levels as they demonstrate their readiness for the next set of grade-level skills
English Language Arts
Unstructured Forest Time
Garden & Animal Care
Physical Education Class
(Cooking, Special crafts, Eco-Explore, Yoga, Detective, Survival Skills, Beacon of Hope, Ukulele, Cooking, Fishing, etc.)
*8th grade only
DESCRIPTION OF SUBJECTS
The curriculum at WBNS is a hybrid design constructed and implemented through the creativity of the individual teachers by the teaching teams for each program. *See the About Us page to view the Teacher profiles.
Our English Language Arts Program
(Literature, Writing, and Reading)
WBNS implements our version of the Units of Study for Reading and Writing Program, by Lucy Calkins and her Teachers College Reading and Writing Project coauthors from Columbia University. With this program as a guide, in addition to leveled phonics and formal grammar instruction, we aim to prepare students for any reading and writing task they will face and inspire life-long, confident readers and writers who display agency and independence. WBNS elementary students engage in daily journaling and writing projects that they learn to edit and prepare for joyful celebrations of either performance or publishing.
Our Agriculture Program
Our Agriculture Program incorporates the world of plants and animals in harmony. At WBNS we are a "teach" and "feed" site designed to guide students in the art of learning to feed oneself as a means to feed the entire community. We learn all about where our food comes from, how to grow it in a wide variety of spaces, how to harvest and prepare it for consumption, and share the bounty with our neighbors in need. WBNS currently contributes 80% of the produce we grow onsite to Beacon of Hope, our local food bank. There are several gardens at WBNS: the pumpkin patch, the school garden, and the student garden plots, with more to come! As a means to help students learn more about who they are, each student manages their own garden plot using personal choice from design, to planting, to daily maintenance, to harvest, to market, trade, and preservation. The animals we focus on in the middle school grades are the goats!
Our Arts Program
In the spirit of the STEAM education approach and our deep commitment to preserving the culture of this Appalachian mountain region, our Arts Program complements all subjects through the practice of establishing pathways in creativity for solving real-world problems. Additionally, our students learn a plethora of techniques as part of their daily studies including various painting forms, pottery, yarn and needlework, sculpture, paper-making, beading, collage, mosaic, theater and more. Our weekly arts class sessions rotate with traditional hand-work in the fall, 2-dimensional drawing and painting in the spring, then 3-dimensional sculpture, theater production, and building in our summer block. You will find that the arts are embedded throughout the entire curriculum as hands-on creation and processing is the essential thread that brings it all together!
Our Mathematics Program
For the middle grades, WBNS has adopted Engage NY which prides itself in preparing students to become lifelong learners and thinkers, as well as active participants in civil, community and professional endeavors. This is a well developed program designed by the state of New York, that serves as an online library of supportive, accumulative materials for teachers to use. Our teachers reference these guides as they develop fresh lessons for their current students. These concepts lend themselves perfectly to our continued hands-on group learning lessons in and out of doors.
Our Outdoor Education Program
Our Outdoor Education Program incorporates the concepts of environmentalism and conscious communing with the natural world. We engage our students in thoughtful weekly activities ( often derived from Project Wild and Coyotes Guide to Connecting with Nature, as well as concepts from the Leopold Project ) that happen throughout the "back 20" wooded campus acres that border the Pisgah National Forest and at various local trail, river, and camping sites in and around Madison County. WBNS teaches the Leave No Trace methods and commits to its practices, on and off campus. Middle School students progressively learn skills that allow them to experience hiking, overnight camping, river rafting, rock wall and ropes courses.
Our Science Program
Our Middle School General Science program includes daily grade level lessons with engaging hands-on learning activities (based on the benchmarks for each of the grade levels). They explore exciting concepts including outer space, earth science, chemistry, human anatomy, biology, and more!
Our Physical Education Program
Students are taught a variety of sports such as Disc Golf, Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, Cross-Country, Dodge-ball, and the ever-popular Thunder-ball! Students are introduced to the fine art of creating games to broaden any subject. We team up and hold tournaments at the end of most units where students learn the art of setting goals for themselves through friendly competition where good sportsmanship is the central guiding force.
Through daily "Centering", communing with nature throughout this lush property, reflections time at the close of the day, and topics in Conflict Resolution as a means to address typical behavior issues, students learn and practice matters of the social/emotional realm developing their character as individuals and as members of the learning community.
Students establish character and practice responsibility by managing themselves through doing daily chores and earning “school dollars”. Students earn “school dollars” for special class participation and for chores well done and they lose money when they make poor choices. Then, they get to choose how they spend their earnings > during the week at the school store and/or at the end of the season blocks they can participate in the culminating activity such as: “Buy, Sale, Trade Market” & Silent Auction, a special class field trip, a school dance, etc. The students love this and it has been a very effective way to help them experience consequences in a safe space and the power of creating their own futures!
Unstructured Forest Time
Aside from being outdoors as much as possible for our core curriculum subjects, and traversing the property throughout the day, students experience 1-1.5 hours each day of unstructured (but not unsupervised!) time in our woods, fields, trails, and creeks. Here they build natural shelters, create games, construct dams in the creek, and check in on various habitats of the bugs, insects, birds, and wild animals who reside at Woodson Branch Nature School. Some choose quieter independent activities like reading a book, writing in their journals, or drawing under a tree or umbrella when its raining. The value and benefits of this daily practice are immeasurable, but evident in the level of creativity and success with projects during focus times. Time in nature is a gift that we take very seriously at WBNS!
8th Grade Legacy Project
WBNS students engage in focused in and out of classroom work throughout the week Monday - Thursday, where they learn why and the mechanics of how to perform the conceptual skills that they are building in their ELA, Math, and Science classes. Then on Friday, students that have completed all of the week's assignments have the opportunity to choose a fun "Club" offering, such as yoga, ukulele, fishing, survival skills, culture, detective, geocaching, dog training, "break out!", cooking, etc. The clubs sessions last 5 weeks then change up. We base our club offerings on the students expressed interests. So much fun!!
Much like, and in preparation for doing a Senior Project at the end of high school, our 8th graders design and build a year-long personal project that reflects their character and talents, to be visible on the WBNS Campus for years to come. This project is the culmination of a year-long 8th grade only class dedicated to the design where each student is given the opportunity to create a project that reflects their own personal interest, to grow in that interest through guidance from an adult mentor, that will be of service to their school, and will allow us to remember them forever!