Middle School
MS Curriculum

Visual Arts

The Middle School art program offers students a rich artistic experience by cultivating visual and perceptual awareness, developing technical proficiency in a range of media and disciplines, and nurturing an appreciation and enjoyment of art and the creative process.
As looking and seeing are at the core of any studio activity, students in the MS art program learn the value and importance of careful and thoughtful observation as an essential part of the creative process. And, as drawing is at the root of all art making, MS artists are encouraged to deepen their understanding of the formal drawing issues introduced to them in our Lower School program. Level-appropriate projects and exercises reinforce these issues and allow students opportunities for personal interpretation and to explore their own solutions to visual problems.

Using an assortment of materials from pencil, pen, charcoal and pastel, to paint and sculptural media, students will gain confidence in their ability to make creative decisions as they tackle both figurative and abstract challenges. Middle School artists will also further develop the critical thinking skills essential for real progress in the visual arts. Analyzing, critiquing and discussing art, inside and outside the Middle School studio, are important elements of the curriculum. The history of art, both past and present, is linked to many of the projects in all four grades so that students understand and appreciate the important role art has played in society through the ages.

In seventh and eighth grades, students who elect to major in art shall participate in three different trimester-long offerings. “Explorations in Sculpture,” “The Illusion of Volume: Exploring the Methods of the Renaissance Masters” and “Digital Photography” are possible trimester offerings available to Middle School art majors.

Visual Arts Courses

List of 5 items.

  • Studio Art 5

    The fifth grade art curriculum focuses initially on helping students transition from our Lower School program to the Middle School studio and teaches our new Middle School artists appropriate studio behavior and practices. Fifth graders will become responsible for their own setup at the start of class and cleanup at the end of each class, and they will be encouraged to work and focus in the studio as they would in any other classroom in the Middle School.

    The 5th grade curriculum strives to build on the interest and enthusiasm for art generated in our Lower School program, while reinforcing central concepts and fundamental techniques. Projects during the year are designed to develop drawing, design and perceptual skills, as well as to encourage creative thinking and growth.
  • Studio Art 6

    The sixth grade art curriculum builds on the knowledge and skills learned in fifth grade by presenting students with more challenging projects and visual problems, as well as greater freedom to solve them. Growing confidence and independence are fostered through expanded projects that emphasize the importance of careful observation and perceptual drawing. In the fifth grade, color theory is introduced, and craftsmanship is discussed as an essential component of the art making process.
  • Studio Art 7 (Minor)

    The seventh grade art minor challenges students to create works with more sophisticated thinking and techniques. The course emphasizes the importance of thoughtful mark making as an essential descriptive tool and instructs students how to convincingly create the illusion of three-dimensional form on the flat surface of a drawing page. Seventh graders will have the opportunity to experiment during the year with painting, printmaking and sculpture.
  • Studio Art 8 (Minor)

    The eighth grade art minor engages students with a series of in-depth projects that emphasize the human figure as a subject. Students will approach the figure with a variety of exercises and projects ranging from faster, intuitive gesture sketches to more developed analytical drawings. Projects will continue to focus on learning how to represent the illusion of form and volume on the drawing page, and a more complex understanding of color theory will be addressed and encouraged. At the end of the year, students will have the tools, knowledge and confidence to matriculate confidently into our Upper School Foundation Art program.
  • Studio Art 7 & 8 Major

    Conceived and designed to provide a broad range of experiences to the serious and passionate Middle School artist, the 7/8 grade Studio Art major program rotates students through three different, fun and challenging trimester mini-classes over the course of the year. A few of the possible trimester mini-classes are described below:
    • Explorations in Sculpture
      “Where the Wild Things Are”
      Artists throughout time have explored the theme of animals in art to express a wide range of themes and emotions. Pre-Columbian potters modeled exquisite Moche pottery depicting domesticated animals, including humorous depictions of pet dogs, as well as the animals that represent their spirit world, such as the fierce jaguar. Contemporary sculptors are grappling with the theme of climate crisis and the issue of the endangered species in their art works.

      We will study animals that live in the Hackley woods, as well as animal sculptures in historical and contemporary art. Students will hone their skills in drawing as they study the gesture, anatomy and proportions of a variety of animals. They will learn first to model and carve their animal sculptures in clay. Students will learn to use a variety of woodworking tools as they construct wood scenes for their clay creations. Additional projects will include the design and construction of a container using patterns and slabs of clay. Students will also challenge themselves as they learn the fundamental skills of throwing forms on the pottery wheel. Creative Art Majors will have the opportunity to exhibit their work in The Arrow, as well as in the Middle School Art Show in May.
    • Drawing and Painting: Realism to Surrealism
      The class introduces students to the concepts and techniques put forth by the surrealist artists of the early 20th century. such as André Breton, Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning, Salvador Dali and Max Ernst. A variety of observational and experimental approaches to drawing and painting will be presented, and the fundamentals of composition and design will be reinforced as each student produces their own surrealist-inspired painting from conception to finish.
    • The Illusion of Volume: Exploring the Methods of the Renaissance Masters
      During the European Renaissance, artists made groundbreaking moves toward capturing the volume and depth of the real, three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface. Students will learn a number of “classical” drawing techniques, including tonal range and chiaroscuro. The class will study the paintings of masters of these techniques, namely the works of Caravaggio, Artemesia Gentileschi, Peter Paul Rubens and Vermeer. Students will work with a range of art materials, including ink and charcoal, and will finish the trimester with an “Incognito Self-Portrait” in acrylic on canvas.
    • Printmaking: Repetition & Impact
      Printmaking technique and its connection to observing and translating the world has been crucial to the visual arts since the late European Renaissance. Its impact on contemporary art and activism is undeniable. In this course, students will learn three basic printmaking techniques: the collagraph, block printing and dry point etching. Along with their production of original works of art, students will study pieces by artists who mastered printmaking techniques in their own practice, including Belkis Ayón, Max Ernst, Elizabeth Catlett and Albrecht Dürer. By the end of the trimester, students will have completed three main printmaking projects with a focus on the use of line, texture and repetition.

    • Digital Photography and Design
      In this course, students will learn the basics of operating a digital camera, how to make accurate exposures, and how to edit their images in Adobe Photoshop. Starting with nature as their subject, students will learn about composition by creating Cyanotypes before moving into other contemporary and historical means of photography, like portraits and landscape. Through class projects, students will learn to use the camera effectively to express their personal visual ideas and will connect those ideas to basic design concepts. Final projects will combine design and photography principles with a poster design, book cover or original album cover.