Middle School 5/6 Grades

11 and 12 Year Olds

Our oldest students are on the threshold of a significant new stage of development- adolescence. Dramatic physical changes reflect major shifts in cognitive, social and emotional development. The intellect is awakened, demonstrated by the individual’s emerging ability to engage in more complex thinking processes involving symbolic ideas and abstract concepts. Children exercise newfound abilities as they begin to reason, consider diverse perspectives, and imagine a multitude of possibilities. Individuals approaching adolescence have a need to understand and engage in the ‘real world.’ 

The Class Teacher conducts classes in Language Arts, History and Science.  Subject teachers teach Math, Foreign Language, Music and PE units. When possible, these studies are integrated with art, project-based learning, and writing. For instance, the 5/6th grade study of the Age of Discovery complements their science study of Water. As they travel with early explorers, circumnavigating the globe and mapping the known world, they discover new cultures and learn about intercultural trade and exchange. At the same time, 5/6 graders explore their own world, investigating Nantucket's harbor, fishery and wetlands, learning about the water cycle, and discovering the ecological importance of clean water. Lighthouse Middle School students visit the Rugged Road campus to join younger students for Reading Buddies and All School Meetings as well as special events.

Experiential and project-based studies exercise ‘real life’ problem solving abilities and provide meaningful contexts for the acquisition of new concepts and skills. For the socially oriented pre-adolescent, cooperative and interactive learning supports academic instruction and cultivates a sense of community. A pre-adolescent is defining, testing, and transforming his/her perception of self and seeks to be understood and valued by others. They challenge assumptions and values they once adopted without question.  Our program honors this vital process, providing new intellectual challenges while supporting the emotional and social challenges inherent to growing up.

School Day: 8:00 a.m. - 2:15 p.m. with the option of Extended Day through 5:10 p.m. Middle School students are encouraged to join the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club for after school options such as Homework Club and sports.

Language Arts and Spanish

Creative and expository writing; self-editing; grammar and spelling; poetry- reading, memorizing, reciting and writing; researching, organizing, writing reports and documenting sources; reading- individual and assigned; exploring a variety of genres; reading for information and understanding; communicating honestly and respectfully.

Spanish: Conversing, reading short passages, writing sentences, applying grammatical structures, exploring Spanish cultures.


5/6 th grade students have gained greater fluency and are guided in the significant transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ as they develop effective reading and writing skills and strategies. Research projects stemming from history and science studies exercise this new capacity. Daily reading includes individual reading choices as well as assigned readings which encompass an increasingly broad range of genres and topics. There is an emphasis on vocabulary development in conjunction with spelling and grammar lessons. Freed from the need to focus solely on decoding text, students are asked to consider a text not only literally but also figuratively. Through group discussions, expository writing exercises, and Literature Circle activities, each students endeavors to deepen and express his/her understanding of a text.

Class reading focuses upon themes related to cross-curricular studies, as well as those which speak to the emerging of the individual and his/her relationship with others.  Through thoughtful and relevant conversations, students are encouraged to ask and reflect upon questions, think critically and creatively, develop empathy, and consider diverse points of view. Literature is utilized as a vehicle for exercising the imagination and developing the capacity for empathy.


Whether working on creative or expository writing tasks, students work to use descriptive language, organize their thoughts, express themselves clearly, and refine their use of writing mechanics. Writing and self-editing skills are taught throughout subject areas as students practice summarizing and expressing information and ideas effectively and coherently. Reading experience is actively drawn upon to inform writing work. Students focus upon constructing interesting and informative sentences while identifying parts of speech.  Grammar is taught both through direct instruction as well as in the context of daily reading and writing practice. Spelling instruction and vocabulary study is adapted to meet individual needs. Resources, such as the dictionary, Thesaurus, and word processing applications, serve to assist students in the writing, drafting, and editing process. Students receive and offer constructive feedback in conference with teachers and their peers.


Language emerges from the need to communicate. Therefore, in order to learn and master a new language, students are presented with situations and tasks that require them to apply the vocabulary and grammatical constructions they acquire in order to and communicate in diverse contexts. 

Initially, emphasis is placed on vocabulary acquisition and conversational experimentation. Students generate their own vocabulary lists generated through the hands-on activities and scenarios in which they are required to communicate in Spanish. As they gain experience, students will be expected to speak in grammatically correct and complete sentences

Our complete Language Arts and Spanish curriculum:

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Developing creative problem solving skills; expressing thinking and solutions clearly and comprehensively in writing; maintaining neat and organized notes; mastering concepts and mechanics of arithmetic with whole numbers; working with fractions, decimals and percents;  exponents and factoring- prime and square numbers; learning about negative numbers; identifying points, lines, shapes, triangles and polygons; measuring circles/angles/triangles;graphing, coordinates probability and averages; integers, probability, ratios and averages; expressing and interpreting data.

5/6th grade students begin to build the bridge from the concrete to the abstract. They are challenged to apply the mathematical concepts and basic computational skills they have learned regarding the counting, calculating and measuring of physical objects to that of more abstract quantities and ideas. As in all areas, this challenge is preceded by review and practice of familiar skills and concepts so that students experience a sense of growing competency and success in their mathematical endeavors. They work to solidify individual mastery of arithmetical operations with whole numbers before tackling equations involving the more abstract values represented by decimals, fractions and mixed numbers. They build upon their understanding of multiplication and division to consider factors and multiples, and to distinguish between prime and composite numbers. In geometry, students learn to define and find perimeter and area. Problem solving skills are practiced and applied in the context of conventional equations, word problems, mathematical projects, science studies, and ‘real life’ applications.

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Alternating Years

Year A: Ancient Civilizations – studying ancient cultures through the mythology, architecture, and artistic achievements of ancient peoples and individuals - Pythagoras, Socrates, Pericles and Alexander the Great with pertinent projects, writing tasks, field trips and end-of-year project.

Year B: Age of Discovery - the explosion of exploration;  world geography; mapping the known and unknown worlds- cartography and navigation;ships and life at sea; global exchange of cultures, plants, animals, and disease; impact on indigenous cultures  stories of great explorers with focus on those of North and South America.

5/6th grade students venture into studies of long ago to uncover the roots of our civilization and the evolution of human understanding of our cultural and physical world.

The study of Ancient Civilizations and Mythology explores the early documentation of human history, which is found in art, story, and architecture. The creation stories, mythology and artistic forms of ancient peoples provide insight into the daily life, history, architecture, philosophy, science and mathematics which, in turn, informs our understanding of contemporary culture.

On alternate years, the study of the Age of Discovery reflects the desire of the older child to venture out and investigate the larger world while establishing an identity in the context of a social world. In this study, students survey the ongoing efforts of humans to investigate, explore, and map their world while forging the cultural interchange of goods, ideas, and beliefs.

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Alternating Years

Year A
Botany: Life cycle of flowering plant; anatomy and function of parts, pollination, photosynthesis,  mushrooms (fungus, spores), flower gardening and composting, Nantucket wildflowers
The Solar System: the Night Sky- stars and constellations, phases of the Moon, planets; orbits, rotation, gravity; Maria Mitchell

Year B
Water: The water cycle; water quality- Nantucket Harbor; watersheds; wetlands- habitat, nursery, Earth’s sponge; water conservation; water collection; distribution of oceans, seas, continents, and mountain masses - as part of world geography
Geology: The mineral world; structure of the earth, erosion; formation of an island - Nantucket; metals; gems and crystals

Science studies inform a student’s understanding about his/her world while cultivating a sense of wonder, respect and stewardship. By employing observation, measurement, and experimentation as well as generating and testing hypotheses, students learn how to investigate natural phenomena given their emerging capacity for objectivity. In conjunction with relevant social studies themes and projects, students explore the science of the earth, including its florae, geology and geography as well as its oceans, ponds and wetlands. The class utilizes Nantucket’s unique environment and employs its many experts and resources, including those of the Egan Institute, the Maria Mitchell Association and  UMass Audubon.

They engage in hands-on activities and experiments while practicing skills of observing, describing, hypothesizing, analyzing, comparing and contrasting, inferring and evaluating. In the spirit of authentic scientific inquiry, study will be inspired by the learning process itself, incorporating student ideas, questions, and hypotheses.


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Arts, Music and Handwork

Felting; stitching; drawing; painting; knitting-more complex patterns and multi-step projects; creating a practical object; form drawing; presenting scripted performance; choral singing; reading musical notation; melody and harmony; rhythm and deconstruction of percussion parts; discussion of keys and basic chord progressions along with basic ear training.

Art is a primary means of expression. Creating art and crafting requires ‘thinking’ with the hands while exercising the imagination, and fostering creative thinking skills. Thus, it is integrated throughout the Lighthouse curriculum. Projects are often extensions of studies in other subjects and provide firsthand experience in the subject matter.  Students accomplish projects which often involve multi-step processes and a variety of mediums and techniques. They take part in weekly Music classes which involve both choral singing and instrumental lessons.

Students explore the elements of melody, harmony and rhythm through the singing of multi-part songs from the American repertoire. They are introduced to the historical context of songs through story to uncover the relationship between music and history. They engage in complex rhythm games which require the deconstruction and performance of various percussion parts. Ongoing discussions provide instruction regarding keys and basic chord progressions as each individual works to train his/her ‘ear’ through exercises. Basic Solfege instruction is illustrated using instrumental passages from traditional and popular music. Through simple instrumental instruction, students are introduced to basic musical notation.

Our complete Arts, Music and Handwork curriculum:

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Physical Education

PE Units have included Fitness, Sailing, Ice Skating, Soccer and Hip Hop Dance.

Through the physical and outdoor education component of the Middle School program, individuals are challenged to develop strength and physical skill through outdoor adventures and team sports. They engage in physical education units which introduce athletic skills and foster physical fitness while exercising both teamwork and leadership skills.

On weekly field trips, students venture out to explore the island’s various places and meet the diverse group of people that call Nantucket home. Students take part in field trips, outings, physical activities, and visits which familiarize them with their natural and cultural home.  

Our complete Physical Education curriculum:

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Utilizing the computer as a tool - keyboarding skills, word processing, using web as research source; online safety and ethics.

5/6th grade students utilize computers to practice keyboarding skills, do research, and utilize word processing programs. They learn to create documents and presentations and save files of ongoing writing projects. Students learn to utilize the editing capabilities of those programs. They use the Internet to research information in addition to utilizing printed reference materials and texts. Students learn about Internet safety and critically examine the effects, ethics, and appropriate uses of technology, with a special focus on the uses and abuses of social networking. 

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Individual and Community

Work with younger Lighthouse students; learn from and interact with adults in the Nantucket community on field trips, in unit studies and apprenticeships; learn about relevant physical, emotional and social development as human beings come of age; participate in teambuilding and leadership activities; engage in athletic and outdoor challenges; contribute to the community through group and individual initiatives.

The process of establishing a healthy concept of self, while negotiating the social arena of peer relationships, is challenging and essential work. This challenge is often expressed in a heightened self-consciousness, a need to assert and express the individual self, and an absorption in peer relationships. We honor and support this vital and personal process while fostering a spirit of empathy and community as students explore the relationship between freedom and responsibility. Within the context of a small and thoughtful community, individuals learn to acknowledge each other’s strengths and talents, respect and negotiate their differences, and recognize the extraordinary things they can accomplish by working together.

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