Hillbrook’s Middle School students are confident collaborators who find excitement and challenge in our Integrated Studies curriculum in an environment that offers choices, structure, support, and never-ending opportunities for intellectual inquiry.
Integrated Studies in the Middle School is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that interweaves subjects and facilitates deeper connections between classes and with learning beyond school. Our Middle School curriculum is designed to sharpen a student’s ability to make inferences, draw conclusions, understand cause and effect, and think critically from a variety of perspectives. Essential partnerships between students and teachers underlie this challenging program and give students both the encouragement to stretch and the guarantee of support. Classes involve animated discussions and active learning–our students have opinions. They speak up, they respectfully disagree, and they learn from their teachers and from one another. It’s a process that builds confidence in their thinking as they discover who they want to be beyond Hillbrook.
The Middle School Learning Experience
Our students thrive in a supportive and inclusive environment where they are inspired to think flexibly, critically, and creatively. Hillbrook’s educational experience blends core academics with experiential learning, problem-solving, social impact, design thinking, and creative expression. There is an intentional emphasis on student choice and engagement which helps students find their voices and develop their passions. Our exceptional teachers work together across the curriculum, connecting literacy, science, the arts, mathematics, music, and more in meaningful lessons that deepen understanding. Hillbrook’s integrated learning experiences are enhanced by our small class sizes, innovative classrooms, and expansive outdoor learning spaces. Our middle school students have the confidence and curiosity to ask big questions and possess the tools to find the answers.
Freedom and Opportunities to Choose
At Hillbrook, we believe in the power of choice as students grow and mature. Our expansive elective offerings—from coding to woodworking, rock band and photography provide a wide variety of opportunities for students to explore areas of interest. Hillbrook’s approach to learning empowers students to take ownership of how they learn, while providing varied ways to demonstrate understanding and mastery. Our schedule for middle school students is intentionally designed to include longer, integrated studies blocks which engage students in history/science lessons and projects that interweave with skills learned in English, math, and world language.
Hillbrook’s pioneering 1:1 iPad program places technology as a powerful learning tool into the hands of each student in the middle school. Learners are also offered a chance to choose their foreign language - either Mandarin or Spanish - and can participate in deep-dive social impact research opportunities including Reach Beyond Week in 5th-8th grade and Capstone Project in 8th Grade. After school, our middle school students can participate in athletic teams including basketball, cross-country, volleyball, flag football, and more.
As children mature, their social and emotional needs change as well. Hillbrook helps students navigate this period of growth by building a community that emphasizes kindness and mutual respect. Daily Advisory meetings provide space for students to build community, and practice empathy, cooperation and communication skills.
Reaching Beyond Hillbrook
Our Middle School students are encouraged to live our school’s vision and reach beyond the Hillbrook campus to make a difference in the world. Through specially designed programs like our weekly “Reach Beyond Block” activities, annual “Reach Beyond Week,” and 8th grade Capstone Project, Hillbrook students have regular opportunities to engage, explore and problem-solve with the community beyond campus. Whether restoring creek habitats, working with special needs students, meeting with high-tech executives or supporting global micro-finance efforts, these experiences help students figure out what matters to them and what they’re going to do about it.
The Hillbrook Way
The Hillbrook Way is the approach that our community, from our youngest students to our most experienced educators, takes towards everything we do: from planning a math lesson in October, to trying to make a tiny boat that will float down our creek, to designing a bold new schedule for student learning. At the center of The Hillbrook Way is student choice and engagement. We know that very little meaningful growth happens if we try to make learning happen to students. When students have agency and ownership in their learning then engagement and growth are natural byproducts. The Hillbrook Way begins with curiosity. We ask questions to understand the person, problem, opportunity or challenge in front of us. And then….we start. We have a bias towards action. We don’t get stuck waiting for the process to be perfect before we make progress. We collaborate—we work together recognizing that more minds means a greater diversity of perspectives and ideas. And we show - we share our work with one another and with the community beyond our campus, as we collect feedback and move through this iterative process.
In this six-week Reach Beyond cycle devoted to social impact, biology, and other sciences, students set up three aquaponic mini-systems and learn about the social impact and possible future uses of this resilient form of food production. Aquaponics is a sustainable method of agriculture that combines raising fish in tanks with soilless plant culture, resulting in the growth of substantially more food with less water, land, and labor than traditional agriculture.
This middle school integrated studies unit focuses on the nature of observation– that what we see often depends on how we see it. Our 7th graders are challenged with the task of investigating the biodiverse offerings in our own Ross Creek, as well as the Guadalupe River, from different vantage points and then expressing, both scientifically and creatively, what they have seen.