Catholic Middle Schools Must Offer a Competitive Academic Curriculum While Building Character, Promoting Virtue and Deepening Faith

Article excerpt

Programs that a NOLL» students to grow intellectually while witnessing the intertwined threads of Faith and truth will sustain Catholic middle schools into the Future

Catholic education provides students with an opportunity to grow and mature within a cohesive learning community from preschool through college. Our schools provide forward thinking, premier educational experiences. We combine hundreds of years of tradition with contemporary innovation that inspires and develops young minds with Gospel values that encourage them to embrace the future God intends.

The community element of Catholic education sets us apart from our public and private school counterparts. Our students come to us as toddlers, in awe of the older students who walk the halls with them, and leave as young adults, aware of their Christian obligation to lead with the example of Christ.

However, by middle-school years, students have reached a level of maturity in which they assert independence and break away from childhood activities. In most public school systems, middle school is a right of passage as students graduate from their elementary days and move to a bigger school with taller lockers, larger desks and hundreds of other adolescents, in Catholic schools, however, students ordinarily do not have this experience of graduating into a more mature educational setting. This becomes the time in Catholic education in which enrollment tends to fluctuate. New families are touring, looking for a safe, secure atmosphere for their children to learn during their adolescent years. Current families begin to consider public schools, where they find a wide variety of advanced classes, électives and extra curricular activities. Additionally, our students live in a digital world outside of school. They have greater access to information than any previous generation and they know innately how to obtain it.

In order to compete in this middle school educational climate, Catholic schools have to offer a competitive academic curriculum as well as a variety of extracurricular experiences. However, since our "charter" is Catholic identity, this curriculum must be global, relevant and justice-oriented. These extracurricular experiences should stimulate each student intellectually, but also build character, promote virtue and deepen faith. The implementation of technology must promote collaboration, cooperation and responsibility. Schools must use the resources available to provide the most advanced learning experience for students.

Catholic Identity

Discipleship stands as the underlying value of a Catholic education; it is what sets us apart from other educational systems. Parents send their children to Catholic schools to be brought up as followers of Christ, living and serving in accordance with the message of the Gospels and the teachings of the church. By middle school, students have reached the age of reason and the natural progression of their faith leaves them with new spiritual needs. Students want to encounter Jesus- active, alive and present.

At Our Lady of Lourdes School in Dunedin, Florida, we structure our middle school curriculum in a way where faith-based service learning is something that is "caught," not "taught." As part of a Pre-K through 8 educational community, our students naturally fall into roles of leadership and service. As they mature, they develop a desire to look after younger students and to be an example to them in discipline and behavior.

Character development class, attended weekly by mixed classes of sixth, seventh and eighth graders, gives students the opportunity to reflect upon their daily experiences and witness their own growth and maturation. Students not only see Christ in one another, but also in themselves.

Curriculum

Cross-curricular and extracurricular learning experiences empower creativity and allow students to see the relevance and applicability of content. …