Middle School Humanities

Open Window school utilizes an integrated humanities approach to language arts and social studies.

Fifth Grade: Ancient Civilizations

Fifth grade humanities covers classical ancient civilizations and world geography, focusing on the question: To what extent can we determine what were the “major turning points” of history? After a quick look at the Paleolithic and Neolithic Eras, students examine the formation of early civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China and Greece. While investigating all regions of the world, students make connections between the development of societies, migration, the arts, the rights of women and other disenfranchised groups, economics, and war.
The language arts component of the course emphasizes writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills. A major focus of the curriculum is understanding and utilizing the Six Traits of Writing. Each trait is taught specifically in an individual unit, with daily writing and larger projects centering on that trait. Larger projects include expository essays and creative writing pieces, which demonstrate how students are able to incorporate all Six Traits into their writing. Students assess their own work, revising and editing to create a final product. Additionally, students will read and discuss novels, short stories, poetry and plays. Vocabulary lessons are also a major part of the curriculum at this level.
Course Materials:
  • History Alive! The Ancient World,   
  • Vocabulary Workshop
  • Six Traits Writing
  • Wonder by R.J Palacio 

Seventh Grade: World Cultures & Contemporary World Problems

The goal of Seventh-Grade Humanities is to better prepare students for work and life. To that end, the content – political, physical and human geography of Africa, Asia, Europe and South America – is the vehicle through which skills are honed and overarching concepts are grasped. This curriculum, which was designed specifically for Open Window students, is rooted in language arts and emphasizes to what extent one’s grammar, vocabulary and expression (whether written or verbal) affect how one’s message is received. Writing focuses on the Six Traits writing skills. The course provides a multi-faceted platform where every student can access the material, capitalize on their strengths, and explore what it means to be a citizen in a “diverse and changing world.” While all of the work is inter-connected and cumulative, the concepts and skills are generally grouped as follows:
Integrity: What are your principles? What does a principle-centered life look like for you?
Materials: Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, Mindfulness Activities and TED Talks such as Susan Cain’s Power of Introverts.
Discernment: What is true? How do we know what’s true? What is your truth?
Materials: Global Lives Project, community excursions, guest speakers, global Skypes, historic speeches, periodicals, academic articles, TED Talks such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Danger of a Single Story and work by authors including : Kashmira Seth, William Shakespeare, Rachida el-Charni, Chinua Achebe, Aminatta Forna, Ifeoma Okoye, Prajwal Parajuly, Anita Desai, R. K. Narayan, Zhang Xinxin, Xu Zechen, A Yi and Jorge Luis Borges.
Expression: Why is your truth valuable? How can you convey your truth?
Materials: extemporaneous speeches, group presentations, performance (and backstage work) of Shakespearean play (The Tempest, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), literary analysis, creative writing, personal narratives and solutions to contemporary problems.
Listening: How can you hear the truths of others and why is it important?
Materials & Activities: Socratic Seminars, group projects and TED Talks such as Celeste Headlee’s 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation.


(Practical and Critical Knowledge)
In an innovative effort to address the disparate needs of students, the humanities department has designed a program wherein the instruction and application of grammar in the classroom is augmented by work more tailored to individual needs and capacities.  PACKs are organized across grade levels, providing teachers a better opportunity to tailor teaching to student needs and providing students the opportunity to interact across grade levels.
PACK is divided into two semester-long components. The first places middle school students into two sections, one of which focuses on the writing trait of Conventions, including parts of speech, punctuation and capitalization. For students who are stronger writers and make fewer conventional errors, the other section concentrates on the writing trait of Sentence Fluency. Using the Sentence Composing Approach, teachers work with students on the application of conventions and the crafting of language.
While each year of PACK includes a semester of grammar, the other semester varies depending on where the humanities department sees the greatest need across the student body. Since it’s conception, PACKs have concentrated on the following:
YEAR 1: Vocabulary Expansion through Journalism, Literature, Etymology and Oration
YEAR 2: Research Skills – Finding, Verifying, Extracting, Paraphrasing, Synthesizing and Citing Information
YEAR 3: Writing - Poetry, Literary Analysis, Personal Narratives, Persuasive Speeches and Creative Writing

Sixth Grade: Early American Studies, Colonization to Pre-Civil War

In sixth grade, students begin their study of American history with the settlement and colonization of North America. The course focuses on the concepts of freedom and the balance between liberty and security. After discussing various philosophies of government, students examine the perils and rewards of the American colonial experience, which are brought to life through in-class simulations where students work in colony groups to prepare for the journey to the "New World." Once settlement is attained, students investigate life in colonial America, from a variety of perspectives, for example as northern and southern colonists. From the Boston Tea Party to the Battle of Yorktown, students investigate the causes and events of the American Revolutionary Era. They learn what it was like to enlist in the rebel army, the history of our Constitution, the origin and workings of our three branches of government, the system of checks and balances, and the Bill of Rights. Sixth graders examine federalism and limiting governmental power, comparing forms of government from democracy to communism to totalitarianism.
Sixth grade students develop as readers and writers through vocabulary study, reading and discussing three novels, writing prompts, writing a creative novel for National Novel Writing Month, a research project for National History Day, debate speeches and formal five-paragraph essays, all structured on the Six Traits of Writing.
In addition, students end the year by learning about U.S. elections, including the voting process, first amendment rights, current issues, party differences, campaigning, and the importance of voting. Students plan their own campaigns, create their own presidential candidates and participate in an extensive debate. 
Course Materials:
  • History Alive! The United States Through Industrialism, TCI Publications
  • A Young People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
  • A History of US: Making the Thirteen Colonies by Joy Hakim
  • A History of US: From Colonies to Country by Joy Hakim
  • Novels: The Giver or The Messenger by Lois Lowry, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Six Traits Writing
  • Vocabulary Workshop, New Edition, William H. Sadlier, Inc. © 2005

Eighth Grade: American History through the Lens of Washington State

Building on their knowledge of contemporary world problems and global solutions, as well as their collaboration and communication skills, eighth graders conduct an in-depth study of American History through the lens of Washington State. Students commence their study with a review of American governmental systems: federalism and the checks and balances between local, state, federal and tribal governments. They conduct a study of Washington State's government, following a bill traveling through the legislature from start to finish. They then examine how in times of political and economic trial, constitutional values have been both challenged and strengthened. By looking at these issues through the lens of the Washington State experience, students learn how global and national events affect them locally. Students will develop their sense of citizenship and how they can make an impact in the world.
The language arts component of the course emphasizes analytical and creative reading and writing skills. Daily writing focuses on the Six Traits writing skills. In writing, students will explore different styles of writing: persuasive and expository essays, short stories, personal narrative, poetry and a research paper. The literature the students read ties into the curriculum either chronologically or thematically. Additionally, through monthly guided studies, the students will develop their vocabulary and integrate this knowledge into their speaking and writing.  
The course culminates in a research paper where students design a product that improves their local community. They choose a reformer from the 20th Century and use modern technology to further the reformer's vision in today's world. This culminating project allows students to combine their technology studies with the studies of citizenship, economics and government.
Course Materials:
  • Building an Enriched Vocabulary, Sadlier-Oxford Publishing.
  • Six Traits Writing
  • History Alive! Pursuing American Ideals, Teachers Curriculum Institute, 2016.
  • Novels, including but not limited to: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Free Boy by Lorraine McConaghy and Judith Bentley.