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Academics

Our middle-school program is designed to prepare students for success in high school, in college, and in life. The statement of our school-wide student outcomes—or our “Graduate at Graduation” statement—forms the basis for our daily work:

With college as our focus, Nativity students

Take school seriously (academic)
Are respectful (social)
Dignify their bodies (physical)
Love God and others (spiritual), and
Have a positive attitude (emotional)

Our day-to-day emphasis in and out of the classroom focuses on our students’ development as middle schoolers and on their preparedness as they look ahead to high school and to college. We integrate all components of our students’ growth as young men and women—the academic, the social, the physical, the spiritual, and the emotional—for each and every academic class and program. We also consider our non-graded elective classes and support programs integral parts of our curriculum as well.

Our core curriculums in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies for all three grades are based on the content standards for California. Teachers utilize core-curriculum adoptions to offer challenging opportunities for students to work in collaborative student groups, to solve real-world problems, to utilize their critical-thinking skills, and to apply their learning to their own lives and interests.

All students in all grades are responsible for seven (7) graded subjects each week, including art, religion, and physical education. The core academic subjects meet every day. Students are responsible for completing homework assignments each night, for an average cumulative daily homework load of between one and a half and two hours. Students with password-protected access to our online grading software can check their academic standing in any and all graded content areas by linking to Teacher Ease.

Because the majority of our students are second-language learners who enter our school, on average, a year to two years behind in reading and language in English, we focus to different degrees in all content-areas on strengthening students’ basic academic skills in these areas.

We invite you to read more about our specific content-area curriculums:

Language Arts

Our integrated language arts curriculum introduces students in all three grades to the basics of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Integrated language arts classes in all three grades are divided into two discrete segments—Readers’ Workshop and Writers’ Workshop. During Readers’ Workshop, our students read novels chosen by teachers and students and chosen from the grade-level Prentice-Hall Literature series, both of which provide exposure to a variety of genres (e.g., poetry, drama, short story, realistic fiction, science fiction, fantasy, etc.). As the students read, teachers guide them in developing their critical-thinking skills through whole-class and small-group discussions about the characters and events in the books. When students read independently, they have an opportunity to share their interests and reflections through discussion, through their writing pieces, and by making presentations to their classmates.

During Writers’ Workshop, students are able to develop their ideas into standards-aligned writing pieces that they share with their classmates. The students generate a list of topics of interest and write stories, narratives, poems, songs, etc. Not only do students write about their interests, but they also are expected to learn to write a poem, a persuasive essay, an autobiographical profile, a descriptive essay, a narrative, a compare-contrast essay, and a literary response. Within each learning unit, for each formal writing assignment, teachers incorporate lessons from the grade-level grammar texts for instruction in standard, conventional English.

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Mathematics

Our mathematics curriculum in all three grades focuses on developing students’ basic computational and estimation skills, their problem-solving skills, and their capacity to connect the practical and conceptual sides of mathematics to real-life situations. The sixth-grade curriculum works from the California-aligned McGraw-Hill 6th Grade Mathematics textbook, while the seventh and eighth grades use the California-aligned Prentice Hall Pre-Algebra textbook.

Real-world applications challenge our students to learn computation and to understand the strategies, concepts, and applications of math beyond the textbook. In addition, our mathematics teachers coordinate an annual school-wide Math Field Day, in which mixed-grade teams engage in a series of math-related problem-solving competitions.

The sixth-grade basic-skills curriculum works towards building greater core competency from the elementary grades. Students work to strengthen their number sense, their understanding of measurement and geometry, statistics, data analysis, probability, mathematical reasoning—all of these leading to algebraic reasoning and expressions. The specific topics covered are decimals, perimeter and area, volume, geometry, fractions, percentage, finances, economics, statistics, number theory, equations and inequalities, data-interpretation, problem-solving, and the basics of accounting.

Our seventh- and eight-grade curriculums focus exclusively on pre-algebra, split in equal parts over this two-year span. Our seventh-grade curriculum focuses on algebraic expressions, integers, one-step equations, decimals, factors, exponents, operations with fractions, ratios, proportions, percents, and solving equations and inequalities; and the eighth-grade curriculum focuses on linear functions and graphing, spatial thinking, area and volume, right triangles and algebra, data-analysis and probability, non-linear functions and polynomials, and algebra and geometry.

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Sciences

Our science curriculum is divided into three separate areas of concentration: earth science in sixth grade, life science in seventh grade, and physical science in eighth grade. Each of the science curriculums follows the California state standards and includes a combination of scientific study and hands-on activities. The sixth-grade earth science curriculum focuses on three main topics, which include a number of sub-units: the structure and importance of water; the atmosphere and weather; and the structure and parts of the Earth. The seventh-grade life science curriculum is divided into four main units: cell biology, human biology, evolution and genetics, and the six kingdoms. Eighth-grade physical science focuses on astronomy, physics, and chemistry.

In addition to developing understanding in each content area, the science curriculum focuses on developing skills of inquiry, investigation, and critical thinking. As sixth-graders, students will familiarize themselves with the science lab–including lab safety and procedures–and applying the scientific method. Seventh-graders will build upon this foundation by deepening their understanding of the biological sciences through a series of dissection labs. In their final year, students will be expected to collect data, analyze evidence, and reach conclusions through real-world engineering-based projects.  Furthermore, eighth-graders are expected to read and intelligently discuss scientific articles found in current publications.

Class is structured in a way such that students are able to work at their own pace, allowing for differentiation and individualized attention. Classes typically include a brief period of direct instruction, followed by a work period in which students complete a series of assignments aligned with specific learning objectives. Many assignments have multiple options allowing for students to have choice and ownership in their learning. Through the use of a wikispace (www.npasciencedepartment.wikispaces.com) and computer-based assessments, technology is incorporated in class daily, where students can access assignments, assessments, and discussions.

Additionally, each class plans for and participates in an overnight trip, designed as a way for students to understand more authentically the concepts and content they study in class by seeing and exploring the unique and varied natural environment of California. During the sixth-grade earth science camping trip to the Anza-Borrego Desert and the Salton Sea, students receive the “Bachelor’s in Camping.” With a “Bachelor’s,” students have prepared themselves successfully, demonstrated proper safety while at camp, and maintained appropriate campsite behavior. The seventh-grade life science trip to Mount Laguna focuses on obtaining a “Master’s in Camping.” A “Master’s” focuses on advancing the knowledge gained in sixth grade, as well as preparing meals and deepening their appreciation of and respect for the natural environment. The eighth-grade physical science trip to Yosemite National Park aims at a “Doctorate in Camping.” With a Ph.D. in camping from Nativity Prep Academy, students have ideally become self-sufficient campers, able to prepare, sustain, and reflect on a successful camping experience.

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Social Studies

Our social studies curriculum focuses on developing within each student a deeper understanding of world history, U.S. history, and current events. Students are challenged beyond the memorization of historical facts by being called upon to express how and why the course of history has taken place. Through the study of all grade-level social studies curricula, teachers incorporate geography skills and frequent map use. Additionally, the building blocks for social science research are built upon year-to-year, and connections are made linking the past to current worldwide, national, and community events.

Two major themes are expressed within the sixth-grade social studies curriculum. Throughout the first theme, students learn how human beings have adapted and survived in their changing environments by studying the development of humankind, beginning with early hominid species and extending to the development of culture; by studying societal organization; and by studying the settling of human beings. The second theme concentrates on the major achievements of ancient civilizations, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Greece, and Rome.

The seventh-grade curriculum connects chronologically with sixth grade, beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire. Units dedicated to the Islamic Empire, Africa, China, and Japan expose students to diverse cultures and alternate worldviews. A concluding unit on pre-Columbian American civilizations and the New World Encounter continue the ongoing theme of diversity and differing views of the world.

The eighth-grade curriculum focuses on the foundation and development of the United States, its government, and its culture. Through the course of study, students learn the ideals and values upon which the country’s democracy was founded and the events, both domestic and international, that have shaped the nation in its contemporary state. This year, a special emphasis was placed on the presidential election, the candidates, and their campaigns.

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Religion

Our religion focuses on instilling in each student a foundational knowledge of Catholicism and Christianity, as well as enhancing our students’ critical-thinking skills in order to build a healthy curiosity about their personal faith and an abiding respect for other faiths. The sixth- and seventh-grade curricula focus on the Old Testament and the New Testament, respectively, familiarizing the students with the various books, people, and stories found in each. The eighth-grade curriculum introduces the students to the major world religions, including Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. Religion teachers incorporate a wide variety of activities and projects to help students achieve a mastery of biblical stories and lessons.

A major focus of the religion curriculum includes a study of the Catholic faith, specifically focusing on the parts of the Mass and the Sacraments. The entire school attends and participates in Mass twice each month, and students spend time in class preparing by studying and reflecting on the readings and preparing Prayers of the Faithful.

In addition to the religion curriculum taught in the classroom, each grade participates in monthly community service. The sixth-grade class is dedicated to community improvement—specifically, cleaning, painting, trash pick-up, and graffiti-eradication at Martin Luther King Recreation Center. The seventh-grade students serve as reading buddies and tutors to kindergarten students at a local elementary school, Oak Park Elementary. And our eighth graders help to serve lunch at the St. Vincent de Paul Village homeless shelter in downtown San Diego. Each class also participates in either a one-day or two-day retreat experience each year to reflect on their families, their faith and their future, and to build relationships with their classmates.

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Art

Our art curriculum introduces students in all three grades to the basics of the visual arts, with an emphasis on developing students’ technical abilities in drawing and sketching, watercolor painting, and mosaic. Within each learning unit, each student is expected to produce a variety of finished works of art for public display, both at school and on Artsonia, an internet site for student artwork. Artsoniais a publicly accessed internet-based gallery for student artwork, through which students and teachers can archive their work for display.

We also supplement our art curriculum in all three grades through partnerships with outside volunteers and non-profit organizations. During the second half of the academic year and with the help of professional artist and teachers, our sixth-grade students dedicate an entire semester to photography and literacy through Outside the Lens, a local arts-education non-profit, and showcase their written and visual work in a formal gallery exhibition in the spring. With the help of a part-time volunteer, our seventh-grade students participate in a year-long supplementary curriculum in art history and art appreciation, which includes visits to the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and the Timken Museum at Balboa Park. And our eighth-grade students this year are working with a group of high school students from the Grauer School (Encinitas, CA) for a semester-long unit in photography, which will culminate with a formal showing of their work at the Grauer School in the spring.

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Physical Education

Our physical education curriculum introduces students to the basic rules and strategies of a variety of sports and activities, with a special focus on enhancing the fitness and health of each student and furthering each student’s ability to self-motivate. In addition to popular team sports (e.g., football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc.), students are also introduced to other games and activities (e.g., whiffleball, line-dancing, etc.). The fitness and health components place a significant emphasis on the cardiovascular aspect of exercise, including, but not limited to, the Presidential Fitness Challenge.

The principle of self-motivation is encouraged through a mixture of athletic activities that allow students to compete not only with one another, but ultimately against their own previous individual accomplishments. Apart from the purely physical components of the curriculum, each student is expected to complete quarterly in-class writings and a formal essay at the close of each semester. Most of our school-wide learning outcomes are, in some way, integrated through the PE curriculum—most notably, the development of our students towards becoming physically sound.

We consider Interscholastic Athletics an integral part of our curriculum for physical development. While student participation in interscholastic sports is voluntary, it nonetheless provides an intensive, corollary component to our physical-education program. Students who choose to participate, and who maintain academic eligibility to participate, can do so for three sports each year. Boys’ sports include football, basketball, and soccer; and girls’ sports include volleyball, soccer, and basketball, respectively, from the fall through the spring. Official games for the Parochial Sports League generally scheduled for weekends, with practices held on-site each week for the students during afternoon study hall.

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Electives

All students participate weekly in non-graded elective courses, offerings for which change in each of the two academic semesters. Among the more common choices for student electives are student government (ASB), yearbook, drama, science Olympiad, art, event planning, chess, running and fitness, film studies, soccer, guitar, basketball, student newspaper, and San Diego culture. These clubs allow the students to engage with one another during the school day in a non-academic setting and provide students with learning enrichment beyond their graded classes.

Students who are elected to serve in student government and students who choose to join the editorial staff for the school yearbook are committed to those electives for the entire year.

Our student government, or Associate Student Body (ASB), is responsible for planning a variety of events throughout the year, including Spirit Week, two student dances, a talent show, food fundraising sales, Christmas- and Valentine-grams, a girls’ overnight retreat, and a boys’ sports day.

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  • “Sacred Heart,” Class of 2010, graphite portrait, 14”x 18”
  • “Sunset Highway,” Class of 2011, colored two-point perspective, 9”x 12”
  • “Blue Star,” Class of 2010, paper mosaic, 8”x 10”
  • “Purple Posies,” Class of 2008, watercolor, 6”x 9”
  • “Labyrinth,” Class of 2010, paper mosaic, 8.5”x 11”
  • “Quilted Star,” Class of 2010, paper mosaic, 8”x 10”
  • “Geoshapes,” Class of 2010, watercolor, 11”x 14”
  • “Las Frutas,” Class of 2010, colored-pencil still-life, 9” x 12”