Middle School Program

At Thaden, we approach the middle school years as a time to nurture agile minds and hearts through play, discovery, compassion, and trust. Early adolescents have unique intellectual, social, and emotional needs as they navigate the critically important years between elementary and high school. Designed with a deep understanding of these needs, Thaden’s middle school curriculum will ignite students’ curiosity and passion for discovery while building the skills and habits they will need to thrive in our upper school program. We will also offer a broad range of co-curricular programs that help younger students build confidence and develop as leaders, artists, and community volunteers.

List of 7 items.

  • Curriculum

    The middle school curriculum will provide a balanced foundation in the traditional disciplines: Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, English, World Languages, and the Arts. Each year, students will take an average of five core courses plus an elective. Each course will meet three times per week. While emphasizing skills development, our faculty will approach each of these subjects in innovative and highly integrated ways that allow students to grapple with challenging questions well beyond the classroom walls. Middle school students will also have the opportunity to integrate their studies across the disciplines through each of our three signature programs (Wheels, Reels, and Meals).
  • Grade 7

    We provide below a sample curriculum and illustrative course descriptions for students entering Grade 7. Our faculty will be hired this winter and will work closely with our division heads to design and develop these courses during the spring and summer of 2017.

    Sample Curriculum for Grade 7
    MathVariables, Patterns, and FormulasLinear and Nonlinear EquationsApplied Algebra
    ScienceWater for LifeFood from LandAir and Flight
    Social Studies

    Cultural Lenses on the World

    Geopolical Lenses on the World
    (Maps, Forms of Government,
    and International Relations)
    (Types of Economies, Trade,
    and Cultural Exchange

    Poetry and Form

    Stories, Perspective,
    and Personal Narrative
    Drama and
    Persuasive Writing
    World LanguagesSpanishMandarinLatin
    Visual and
    Performing Arts
    Composition and Design

    Video Production

    Drama/Musical Theater

    Signature ProgramsThe WheelFarm and TableSocial Media

    Illustrative Course Descriptions for Grade 7

    We will determine students’ math level by giving a placement test at the beginning of the year. Our Pre-Algebra and Algebra courses emphasize problem-solving and critical thinking, and they deepen students’ understanding of key mathematical concepts and techniques. Students will be introduced to function notation and graphing as tools they can use in, for example, pricing projections, distance measurements, and recipe ingredient proportions. In one possible unit, students might use their algebra skills to plan a class meal to be prepared in a teaching kitchen. Students will work in groups to propose a timeline, division of labor, and, more mathematically, a detailed shopping list and budget. They might consider their work in Science and Social Studies and determine how best to limit water waste in preparing their meal.


    Our science courses will introduce students to fundamental questions and methods in this discipline and give them hands-on opportunities to develop their skills in the field. Their scientific investigations will also be invigorated with other modes of inquiry to reveal and illuminate grand networks of interconnected questions in other disciplines. For example, students might spend several days camping on the Buffalo National River with science, history, and humanities educators, generating and exploring questions about water and how its proximity, quality, and availability shape the health, culture, and economy of the region’s communities.

    Social Studies

    Our social studies courses will explore historical and current case studies through several lenses. Students will employ cultural, geopolitical, and economic lenses to consider, for example, the Roman Empire, Indian Ocean trade, the Syrian refugee crisis, or national and global droughts. This course will not only develop students’ awareness and understanding of bygone and pressing global realities but also give them hands-on opportunities to address their local manifestations through community-based projects. For example, students might work with local Congress members, ecologists, conservation organizations, and regional utilities departments to gain a greater understanding of the political and economic ramifications of drought in the US — from California to the South — and develop a replicable, small-scale conservation plan for the Thaden School community and Northwest Arkansas.


    Our English courses will focus on the development of writing skills and the exploration of personal and regional identity. Students might read, for example, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Both authors hailed from Missouri and wrote about childhood, community, and coming of age in the South. Students would learn how to approach and appreciate these texts not only as works of art but also as historical objects through which they can gain insight into the cultural, economic, social, and scientific dimensions of the era. Equally important, students will experience literature as a point of departure for self-examination: they will learn how to reflect on their own stories by spending time with those of others.

    World Languages

    Our World Languages program will require all entering middle school students to study Spanish, Mandarin, and Latin for one trimester each. During each trimester, they will learn some basic vocabulary and grammar, explore the culture and history of the language, and otherwise gain exposure to the logic and nature of each language. This three-term “sampler” approach will not only enable students to consider their options more carefully before settling on the particular course of language study that will extend into their high school years, but also provide them with a valuable foundation for understanding and comparing different language systems.

    Visual and Performing Arts

    Our arts program will link for students creative and academic pursuits. Arts — the “A” in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) — will be in conversation with all other core disciplines. For the founding year, we have developed partnerships with institutions such as Compton Gardens, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Trike Theater, Brightwater Culinary Institute, TheaterSquared and Storybrook Strings. The arts are a critical way to help foster empathy and design thinking in students’ approaches to engaging with their world. For example, in the first trimester students might study Hokusai’s famous color woodblock “The Great Wave off Kanegawa,” while studying water in their science course and the political, economic, and cultural effects of Japan’s access and exposure to water. Students might then proceed to develop their own depictions — through a medium of their choice — of nature’s formidable forces.

    Wheels, Reels, and Meals

    Our signature programs — Wheels, Reels, and Meals — will give middle school students unique opportunities to apply and integrate their studies across the core disciplines. They will hone their grasp of scientific and mathematical principles by assembling and repairing bikes; consider how film and social media can be used as a tool through which to better understand their world and its diversity; and taste and explore the food and ecosystems of Northwest Arkansas.
  • Feedback and Advising

    We believe that the middle school years should be exciting and ignite in students a passion for learning and discovery. At the same time, we know that academic growth also requires hard work, tough questions, and constructive feedback. Our small class sizes (averaging no more than 15 students) will allow our faculty to provide thoughtful and timely evaluation of student work. Essays and projects will be marked carefully and judiciously, tests and quizzes will be graded promptly, and words of praise and encouragement will be shared generously. At the end of each trimester, students and their families will receive grade reports from each teacher that are supported with written evaluations and suggestions for improvement.

    Middle school students will be assigned to advisors in groups of approximately twelve. Each middle school advisory will meet regularly to discuss matters of school life and otherwise provide students with informal opportunities to enjoy snacks and decompress during the day. The advisor will be an advocate to whom students (and their families) can turn for guidance. Each year students will lead a conversation with their advisor and their parents or guardians in which they reflect on their progress in and out the classroom.
  • Athletics and Co-Curricular Programs

    Critical to the balance of our education program are the co-curricular programs that provide students with opportunities to challenge themselves, collaborate with one another, and advance their capacities to learn in several modes.

    In the founding years, we intend to field one interscholastic athletic team each season that includes both boys and girls, is flexible in terms of number of student participants needed in order to compete, and that promotes individual leadership as well as teamwork. In selecting our initial athletic offerings, we will balance our desire to be distinctive with the need for a critical mass of regional teams against which to compete.

    Students in the founding years will also have the opportunity to establish and lead a number of clubs and other organizations.
  • Faculty

    The quality of our educational program will reside in the expertise of our teaching staff. All of our educators, recruited from the region, state, and across the country, will bring to our campus a passion for and mastery of the subjects they teach and demonstrated ability to inspire and mentor young people, both inside and outside of the classroom. This commitment to students and to the classroom experience, coupled with ongoing opportunities for professional development, will be a distinguishing feature of the Thaden faculty.
  • Calendar

    Thaden’s academic calendar will run on a trimester rather than a semester system. Twelve-week trimesters allow middle and upper school students to take a greater number of courses in a given year, enabling them to explore more disciplines and subjects. Our trimester calendar also gives teachers more opportunities to diversify their offerings and innovate with new subjects and teaching methods. Of course, a subject that cannot be effectively covered within a single trimester can still be offered across multiple trimesters in much the same way that certain subjects are offered for two consecutive semesters.

    For one week at the end of the second and third trimesters, Thaden students will alter their routine to work with faculty, fellow students, and community members (artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, etc.) to apply what they’ve learned to various projects of local and global significance. For example, a history teacher might partner with an environmental scientist to design an immersive study of the Battle of Pea Ridge. What would soldiers have relied on for sustenance in the field? What landscape features and weather conditions might have influenced the staging of the battle? The possibilities for collaboration and immersive learning in Northwest Arkansas are endless, and these capstone projects – what we are calling Intensives — will allow teachers to model the investigative habits of mind essential to critical thinking.

    Although the trimester system has not been widely adopted in the region, our academic calendar will begin on or near the same date as most public and charter schools in Northwest Arkansas and will be aligned with sports seasons, national holidays, and traditional breaks. The Thaden year will have two-week winter and spring breaks, celebrate special occasions such as Louise Thaden Day, and culminate with a multi-day Independent Work Fair (IWF) in May during which students will have opportunities to present their own work around town and learn more about the work of their peers.

    See the Thaden School Calendar
  • Daily Schedule

    The school day will run from 8:10 am to 3:15 pm and follow a block schedule. Classes will generally meet for 75-minute periods (as opposed to the 50-minute periods that are standard among many high schools). A block schedule better supports intensive, problem-based inquiry as well as community-based and experimental work that takes place outside of the classroom or off campus.

    The lunch period at Thaden will be one of the most important and enjoyable parts of the day. It will last a full hour and be designed to underscore the lessons of our signature meals program. Students will also participate in the preparation of school lunches, often made with produce from our teaching gardens, as well as busing and composting at the end of the meal.

    Each academic day will begin and end with 30-minute periods that can be used for a variety of purposes (advising, grade-level meetings, and student-teacher consultations).

    Athletic practices and co-curricular activities will typically take place during the day for middle school students. Some activities, including interscholastic competitions, will take place after the academic day and conclude in the late afternoon.

Thaden School

| 410 SE Staggerwing Lane | Bentonville, AR 72712 |