Middle School Learning Community
Grades 7 and 8
Adolescence is a time of great change for girls as they move from childhood toward their teenage years.
Sometimes adolescents are very independent, mature and seem older than their age. At other times the same person can behave much younger than their years. Montessori curriculum and methods support this variability in growth and independence with individualized instruction, a flexible learning pace, emphasis on both academic and social development, and time and resources for students to pursue their unique academic interests.
The Middle School Learning Community provides opportunities for girls to make life-long friends in a community that’s a supportive safe, and fun environment. The two year age grouping from grades 7 to 8, allows teachers, girls, and their families to really get to know each other - something so important with all the changes girls are going through in early adolescence. The two year age grouping also provides for more continuity and a smoother “back-to-school” time as 50% of the girls know what to expect and can show their leadership in helping new girls become part of the community.
To prepare for Secondary School, and to provide flexibility for students who may have to miss school for mental health reasons, mathematics, science, language arts, geography/history, and visual arts are online. Like all French classes, students take one DELF Junior (teen) French course per term taught by experienced Alliance-Français teachers. One course per term is through Virtual Elementary School, and Health Sciences is supported via online course
KEY ENGAGING LEARNING TOOLS & CURRICULUM FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL
Interactive Notebooks Make Science & Humanities Fun
Instead of reading a textbook and copying notes, students create their own “popup book” style Interactive Notebooks (INB) in Science and Social Science, and Interactive Sketchbooks (ISB) in Visual Arts…
Students create their own interactive notebooks
Our grades7/8 science curriculum is Dr. Erica Colón's @nittygrittyscience - including the awesome interactive notebooks (INB)! Every left hand page (student output) has a different interactive "popup book" style activity. The right hand side (teacher input) has colour coded notes.
INBs are a student’s personal science textbook. They include all vocabulary words, essential questions pertaining to the specific unit of study, images, illustrations, observations, recordings, processes, and beyond!
Dr. Erica Colón's curriculum includes THREE science courses: Earth Science & Astronomy, Life Science, & Physical Science, providing a great breadth of interactive science topics. Each unit is self-contained with INBs, labs, demonstrations, and assessments. Amazingly every single student page has a different type of interactive! Each unit has demonstrations, powerpoint, suggestions for labs, mini-quizzes to check understanding, and a final test. Activities use multiple learning styles.
No unit is a prerequisite for another. This is awesome because (with the exception of math & language) all middle school courses at OHS are two years long. (Our classes are multi-grade 7/8 ones with 6-10 students/class.) Students can start grade 7 in Year A or Year B, because Year A units are not a prerequisite for ones in Year B.
Odyssey Heights's Middle School students also do field labs on Friday POGO (Project Or Going Out) days - giving them even more hands-on experience.
Click here to read more about Nitty Gritty Science and Interactive Notebooks.
(Interactive Sketchbooks are used in visual art to learn about the elements of art (e.g. colour wheel, shading, perspective, …)
Hands-On, Fieldwork Based Science & Geography
Engaging, relevant, fun, experiential, enriched, and immersive curriculum...
Hands-on, real world science & social science
The photo collage above shows Fall 2018 fieldwork, including one of Odyssey Heights students learning about stereographic aerial photographs and topographic maps at the McMaster University Map Library fall '18. Using a stereoscope with a pair of stereo photographs makes the landforms 3D! (You can even learn to measure the heights of trees and buildings!)
Our new Middle School grades 7 and *curriculum Geography & Science curriculum has hands on field labs on POGO (Project Or Going Out) Fridays. (Every Friday is a POGO field trip Friday at Odyssey Heights.)
With the exception of math & language, all middle school courses at OHS are two years long. (Our classes are multi-grade 7/8 ones with 6-10 students/class.) Students can start grade 7 in Year A or Year B, because Year A units are not a prerequisite for ones in Year B. Middle School Social Science has geography in Year A and History in Year B.
Our grades7/8 science curriculum is Dr. Erica Colón's ‘Nitty Gritty Science’. Interactive Notebooks from The History Addict are the foundation for our new Middle School Geography curriculum. All three science courses (Earth Science & Astronomy, Life Science, and Physical Science), and Social Sciences (Geography & History) have added cross-disciplnary fieldwork labs like the one to McMaster Map Library and Dundas Valley Waterfall day hiking.
Field work labs teach our students to take risks, and that they have to figure out the answer. Unlike classroom/science labs work, there's not "perfect" answer in fieldwork. Learning technical skills like using stereo aerial photograph pairs is the first step in learning GIS.
Thank you to Gord at the map library for the wonderful lesson!
The Harkness discussion method, combined with a flipped classroom model provides greater interaction between classmates, and between teachers and students…
~Odyssey Heights is one of only two girls schools in the GTHA to use this time proven method of student centred and student driven learning. (The other school is Havergal College.)
An engaging student-centred Teaching and Learning Model
At Odyssey Heights, we combine the ‘flipped classroom’ model with Harkness discussions. In a tradtional classroom model, students listen to the teacher and take notes in class, then work independently on higher level tasks (eg homework questions). In a flipped classroom, students work on preparing for class by doing readings, watching videos, and doing their own research. Class time is dedicated to working on higher level thought tasks such as assignments, discussions, writing, and group work.
learning takes place through discussions held around a circular table, or tables set up in a circle/square with no student in a corner. Sitting at the table, all members of the class must question, contribute, and contemplate in order to learn and succeed.
It teaches students how to learn, and, at the same time how to communicate respectfully with others. The Harkness discussion method was named after the philanthropist Edward Harkness who, in the 1930s, informed Exeter School in New Hampshire that he would make a sizeable donation if the school could create a student-centred teaching & learning model and use it in all their classes. Exter school still uses the Harkness discussion method and is one of the top private schools in the U.S..
Harkenss discussions are very organized, student driven, and respectful.
The Harkness class lessens students’ ability to simply “parrot” information. As members of the learning group, students must engage with the class by asking questions and contributing their own thoughts. … This is a process in which they must involve themselves to a much greater degree than they may normally be required: students may not simply write down what teachers say. They must search for the ideas and information and then wrestle with that which they find. Students who engage themselves with the Harkness class will finish with a greater sense of autonomy and empowerment, knowing that they know how to learn. They will also finish the class with an increased ability to verbally articulate their questions and opinions in discussions.
It is particularly relevant for gifted students as they get to share their own thoughts, and learn to respect and encourage their peers.
Odyssey Heights School for Girls/École pour filles Odyssey Heights is one of only two girls schools in the GTHA to use this time proven method of student centred and student driven learning. (The other school is Havergal.)
View the TEDx Talk below to learn more.
(Quotes in this section are from Katherine Cadwell’s detailed article entitled “What is the Harkness Method?”
A State of the Art Learning Management System
An Online Learning Management System That Goes Way Beyond Just Google Classroom…
A Digital Classroom that Allows Students to Work at Their Own Pace, but Still Interact With Their Peers
Given the flexible pacing needs of Odyssey Heights students having a true Learning Management System/Content Management System (LMS/CMS), that:
guides students though an organized learning roadmap,
facilitates teachers creating carefully curated content,
provides rich assessment data for both students and teachers,
doesn’t make money from tracking, storing, and selling students’ online history,
Integrates apps (YouTube, Quizlet, Khan Academy) so students don’t get distracted using multiple apps and windows.
allows team teaching
lets teachers copy and export their courses easily
all at a price that doesn’t add to tuition fees.
Canvas is the one LMS/CMS that meets all these requirements. While the yearly fee for large schools is over $5K US, the free teacher account for small schools has all the features (and more) that Odyssey Heights students and staff need.
Book your tour and information system to see how examples of Middle School courses on Canvas.
MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE
Middle School Science follows a two year alternating schedule of units in each of the three science courses:
Earth Science, and
Physical Science (physics & chemistry)
As the focus of Middle School science is on breadth, students don’t have to complete Year A of any of the science courses before doing Year B. Students are exposed to a wide variety of topics in each science course that prepare them for strands in grades 9 and 10 Ontario credit courses, and provide a solid foundation of science thinking and study skills for success in high grades, post-secondary studies, and being active and knowledgeable citizens. Each term students take one of the three science courses allowing them to focus on particular topics and interests
Science courses are offered in a blended learning and “flipped classroom” format. Reading, research, and video watching assignments are posted on students’ Canvas accounts for them to complete before class. This allows more group time for the class round table discussions, and working together on their individual interactive notebooks.
Over two years students in Life Science cover topics ranging from micro-biology, genetics, evolution, plant and animal classification & ecology.
Over two years in Physical Science students cover topics including: atomic structure & the periodic table, electricity & magnetism, optics, and mechanics.
The focus in Year A Earth Science is plate tectonics & geomorphology, while in Year B it is water, weather, climate, oceans, & earth’s atmosphere.
MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH & LANGUAGE
21st Century Team teaching means there’s…
A maximum student to teacher ratio of 5:1 in math and language
A teaching & learning model that:
allows each student to progress at a pace that is right for her - while working alongside her peers
greatly lowers the student to teacher ratio
facilitates students developing study, organizational, and executive functioning skills,
prepares students for Secondary School at Odyssey Heights as all Ontario Secondary School credit courses are team taught with online Independent Learning Centre teachers, and Odyssey Heights classroom teachers.
Grades 7 and 8 Math & Language at Odyssey Heights follow the Ontario curriculum. These key subjects are team taught - each student has two teachers for math and language. OCT certified Virtual Elementary School teachers focus on WHAT students are learning. Odyssey Heights teachers focus on teaching students HOW to learn. Students have one designated work period per week, and work with their classroom teacher to plan a work schedule during the open work periods. (Read more about the weekly schedule in the February 22nd OHS Newsletter.)
With a maximum class size at Odyssey Heights of 10 students, having an online teacher and an in-person classroom teacher means that the maximum student to teacher ratio for math and language is 5:1. With 6-8 students being the preferred class size at OHS, students will mostly likely have a 3:1 or 4:1 student to teacher ratio in math and language. (This low student to teacher ratio is also the case for Secondary School.)
A Virtual Elementary School Ontario Certified Teacher, organizes the course, communicates with students in online discussions, supports students and is available to answer questions, mark assignments, and report on student achievement online.
Odyssey Heights teachers are academic coaches, teaching students study, organizational, and time management skills. As academic coaches, Odyssey Heights teachers can guide each student to learning resources that work best for her learning styles and interests. This student-paced learning model allows our gifted students to work at an accelerated pace, and provides opportunities for students with dyslexia, or ADHD with reading issues, to work at their own pace with more individual teacher attention.
Coming for 2020…
To provide consistency with our partnership with Blyth Academy Online for Secondary School, Odyssey Heights will be offering grades 7 & 8 math and language Blyth Academy Online courses as soon as their new middle school courses are launched in 2019-2020.
Why partner with an online school, and why Blyth Academy Online?
As a small school with students who need a very low student to teacher ratio it would be impossible for Odyssey Heights to have specialist teachers for every subject and to offer a wide range of Ontario Secondary School credit courses. Partnering with a well respected and well established independent online school allows OHS student to have OCT certified specialist teachers in all their credit courses, to select from over 100 credit course options, and to have two teachers for every course - one online, and one in person guiding and supporting them in their unique learning needs.
Blyth Academy Online is an academically respected private online high school in Ontario offering more than 100 online Ontario Secondary School credit courses. Their comprehensive curriculum and engaging content, combined with their empathetic teaching and guidance staff ensure that their student success rate is unsurpassed.
Reach Ahead Secondary School Credits for Middle School.
Partnering with Blyth Academy Online also allows our Middle School students to take Reach Ahead secondary school credit courses in grade 8 - based on their achievement in grade 7. We are currently discussing having OHS students, who have good performance in grade 7, take Grade 10 Visual Arts: Fashion and Textiles, and Grade 9 English in grade 8. Francophone or DELF B.1/B.2 level French students may also be able to take their Grade 9 Academic French credit in grade 8. Highly gifted/advanced grade 7s may also be allowed to take Reach Ahead credits based on the approval of the BAO principal.
Over 100 Awesome Credit Courses to Choose From
In addition to the core subjects such as math, science, English, French, Blyth Academy Online has a wide range of engaging credit courses that even some large independent schools don’t offer. Some of the awesome credit courses that BAO offers include:
Grade 10 Visual Arts: Fashion & Textile Design (Can be taken in grade 9)
Grade 10 Media Arts (Can be taken in grade 9)
Grade 9 Open Level Core French - This allows students with dyslexia and language based IEP needs to get their required French credit course for their Secondary School Diploma.
Students at OHS must choose one of the Native Studies courses as part of the Secondary II Humanities seminars.
AP exam prep courses
Team Teaching & Staff Leadership
Partnering with a respected, established online school also allows 21st Century team teaching. Blyth teachers design each Secondary School credit course in accordance with Ministry of Education requirements, provide subject specific feedback, do all the marking, and schedule exams. This frees up OHS teachers to academic coach each student individually and small groups. Odyssey Heights and Blyth teachers communicate via phone and email throughout the school year - making this a true team teaching environment.
Partnering with Blyth Academy Online also allows our principal to focus on our students unique needs, and running our wonderful active OE3 program of trips and school-wide equestrian program - instead of the mountains of Ministry of Education paperwork required to offer each Ontario Secondary School credit course.
Two Secondary School Diplomas
Much like some older independent secondary schools (e.g Appleby College), Odyssey Heights graduates receive two high school diplomas - their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), and either the Odyssey Heights Secondary School Diploma or the Honours OHS Diploma. The OSSD is awarded by Blyth Academy Online, and the OHS Diploma or Honours OHS Diploma is granted by Odyssey Heights School for Girls/École pour filles Odyssey Heights
Why the potential switch from Virtual Elementary School to Blyth Academy Online’s new grade 7 & 8 math and language courses?
While not publicly announced yet, Blyth Academy Online is launching grades 7 & 8 math and language courses in 2019 and 2020. To ensure a smooth transition from grade 8 to grade 9, Odyssey Heights students will be enrolled in BAO grade 7 & 8 math if the courses are launched in fall 2019, and grades 7 & 8 language if the courses are launched in January 2020.
MIDDLE SCHOOL FRENCH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
French ministry of education fsl curriculum that greatly facilitates students becoming bilingual.
All students take the international recognized DELF Junior French program from France’s Ministry of Education, designed specifically for teens. DELF French corresponds to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Three hours each week of DELF Junior classes taught by engaging Alliance-Français teacher. The small classes of just 4-8 students that grouped by fluency level means that with good attendance and participation girls can achieve at least two of the four DELF levels every 3 years.
MIDDLE SCHOOL HUMANITIES:
ARTS & SOCIAL SCIENCES
A two year Journey though human culture and creative expression…
The engaging humanities curriculum in Middle School at OHS takes girls on a two year journey though hundreds of years of human culture, human interactions with physical environments, and human creative expression - at time when, as they are entering early adolescence, they are beginning to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world.
All humanities courses explore human culture and creative expression though multiple perspectives: Indigenous, Global/multicultural, English, and French.
Social Sciences: Geography
Part of the two year course in Social Science, Middle School geography focuses on Canadian physical geography, and world cultural geography. Girls create interactive notebooks, and a major fieldwork study. They also ‘Explore the World’ in weekly travel video assignments. Girls learn hands-on about navigation, and topographic maps on their overnight and day trips. Geography is offered in Fall Term of Year A Social Science.
(Photo: Dundas Valley Conservation Area trail map showing the Main Loop Trail and the Bruce Trail. Dundas Valley is one of the three fall day hikes for Middle School Geography and Earth Science, and Secondary I Agriculture and the Environment courses.
Social Sciences: History
Middle School History prepares girls for the OSSD credit course in Canadian History, by taking Middle School students on a journey starting from Indigenous people then from when the Vikings, then the Acadians - the first permanent European Settlers until 1914. Indigenous peoples history is integrated throughout. Students connect to world, and 20thC history though weekly Harkness discussions based on the curated “Time Machine” video playlist created just for Odyssey Heights Middle School Social Science. History is taken in Fall Term of Year B Social Science.
(Photo: Acadian Flag, creative commons)
Visual & Fibre Arts
During their two year course girls: take “Art History With Art” (online, with in-class Harkness discussions), explore Indigenous arts & artists of Canada, and create Interactive Sketchbooks (ISBs) to learn the the Elements of Art (Year A) and the Principals of Design (Year B), and compete studio work in visual & fibre arts. Studio work includes: drawing (coloured pencil, graphite, watercolour pencil), weaving (rigid heddle loom*, and Metis finger weaving), patchwork & quilting, and calligraphy. Indigenous art includes both contemporary and historic art of the Inuit (Year A), First Nations (Year B), & the Metis (Year B).
Workshops on knitting, crocheting, spinning, yarn dyeing (chemistry) and watercolour painting are held on overnight & day trips - including sketching horses at stables! Students can work towards learning how to knit their own school uniform horse pattern sweaters. Indigenous arts include beading, carving, and printmaking. Students can also connect art to their Peace Education Peace project by making clothing and blankets for charity, and/or cat mats and cat toys for Annex Cat Rescue.
(Photo: Cricket rigid heddle weaving loom. Students learn weaving in Year A, and can continue to take their loom on overnight and day trips though out their years at Odyssey Heights.)
Note: The rigid heddle weaving kit fee is approximately $500, and is due February 1st, 2020 (2019-2020 is Year A). Typically the prices quoted in YouTube weaving videos are in US dollars, and don’t include HST, accessories, carry bag, project materials, additional tools (eg boat shuttle), or shipping costs. Weaving & spinning tools are very susceptible to price fluctuations in international markets (including gas/shipping costs), thus the exact fee will be calculated in late fall term 2019.
Film Making, Photography & Graphic Design
With all the film-making resources (facilities, equipment, and people) in the Bloor Street Cultural Corridor, a film program (including acting, producing, special effects, digital editing, directing…) is a likely possibility. As our enrolment grows OHS will offer different choices for Middle School Arts - as school subjects and/or as co-curriculars
(Photo: Audio & Video recording studio in the Digital Innovation Hub at the Toronto Reference Library.)
With our location in the Bloor Street Cultural Corridor, there are numerous opportunities for students to take music lessons after school, and students are strongly encouraged to do so. The Student Council can also vote to create a band, choir, musical theatre, or other co-curricular music club.
MIDDLE SCHOOL HEALTH & HUMAN BODY SYSTEMS
The three things that parents want most for their children are for them to be safe, healthy, and happy.
At Odyssey Heights School, girls develop life-long healthy living habits though both hands-on experiences and academic studies. Students cook on the overnight trips, and are increasingly responsible for the planning meals and shopping for the food for trips. They learn how to keep themselves safe, and develop skills to continue to learn more about their physical, mental health and wellness.
Girls in grades 7 and 8 take a two year long, Health & Human Body Systems course specially developed for students in the Odyssey Heights Middle School Community.
In addition to the Health and Health for Life OSSD credit course, Secondary I students participate in a mandatory a co-curricular Health & Wellness program that includes guest speakers, workshops/discussions, and assignments. All the content for the co-curricular Health & Wellness program is posted in each students’ Canvas account so even if they miss school, they still have access to important information.
MIDDLE SCHOOL MONTESSORI ENRICHMENT COURSES
Students take three, 2-year Montessori enrichment courses at Odyssey Heights. Click on the green links below to view each course’s dedicated page.
Big History: 13.7 Billion years of history from the Big Bang to the future. Big History provides a big picture look at the world and the universe and helps students to develop a mental framework to organize what they are learning both in and out of school.
Agriculture & the Environment: Equestrian program, overnight trips, environmental fieldwork, sustainable agricultural ecosystems, farm operations (management, marketing, machinery - including how cars and trucks work),
Peace Education: Girls participate in the Nobel Prize nominate PeaceJam program learn about Indigenous peoples, organize peace & environmental projects, cultivate inner peace though mindfulness & yoga, and learn to care for their community with respect, compassion, thoughtfulness, and responsibility.