Students at CRCS Middle School are a part of an educational community where rigorous curriculum is made engaging and accessible. Our classrooms are places of enthusiastic collaboration and personal reflection. Students meet our high academic and behavioral expectations by being given the support they need and deserve. Our educational model addresses the individual needs of students and ensures that all students have the opportunity to meet their potential.
Core Academic Program
At Community Roots, we integrate Social Studies and English Language Arts into one class called Humanities. The Humanities structure creates opportunities for authentic connections between skills and content traditionally taught separately in the ELA and Social Studies classroom. We believe this leads to deeper understanding for students in both skills and content.
A key component of the Humanities classrooms is the development of the independent reading life of each student. It is essential that all students read as much as possible, especially books of their choosing. We believe that reading for pleasure is important, as well as reading both in and out of school. We emphasize independent reading in every classroom, individual teacher conferencing with each student so that all students are known by their teachers as readers, and hold our students accountable for numbers of books read. Our goal is for every student to read a book within two weeks, and to have read between 30 – 50 books over the course of the year. We teach reading strategies through mini-lessons that are then followed up on in individual conferencing, shared class texts, or student book clubs, focusing on skills as opposed to texts. These structures insure that every student continues to develop as a reader and is prepared for high school.
We also know that practice in fiction and non-fiction writing is critical to students’ development. We want students to write frequently. We want them to write on demand. And we want them to write polished pieces that they work on for a period of time. Throughout 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, students write informational, argumentative and creative pieces. With each major writing project students go through the writing process (drafting, revising, editing and publishing) and learn crafting strategies specific to the genre in which they are writing.
Historical content is taught with an inquiry-based approach, emphasizing deep understanding above broad fact acquisition. 6th grade social studies contains the following four units: Introduction to Geography, Early Humans, Belief Systems, and Social Issues. 7th grade focuses on Westward Expansion, Industrialization, and Gender and Power. The 8th grade year contains two units, one on World War 2 and the other on Labor Movements.
Eighth grade Humanities ends with an independent research project that is a culmination of the Humanities education at Community Roots. Students design their own research question that connects to a modern societal challenge, conduct their own investigation into that question, and present their findings.
The CRCS Math Department operates under a philosophy that math is a coherent system that invites wonder, is illuminated through connections, and is eminently knowable. Children and adults find these connections by working in a community in which they communicate their ideas, hear the ideas of others, and have the time and space to reflect on both. Our math courses are guided by the Illustrative Math Curriculum. The program emphasizes student-centered collaborative exploration of real-life math applications to support deep understanding of critical math concepts and skills.
In 6th grade, students will learn how to independently problem solve, perform all of the basic mathematical operations, use math manipulatives to solve complex problems, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, as well as be exposed to real-life math problems that have relevant meaning to their daily lives.
In 7th grade, students work to gain fluency using the four operations with integers and rational numbers. Students are asked to make comparisons of quantitative information (using ratios, fractions, decimals, rates, unit rates, and percents) and to use quantitative comparison information to make larger or smaller scale models of given situations or to scale rates and ratios up and down as needed. Students will also identify and generate equivalent algebraic expressions and solve two-step linear equations and inequalities.
In 8th Grade, students are introduced to the concept of mathematical models and applications in problem solving. Some Algebra is used to model real situations and answer questions. This use of algebra requires the ability to represent data using tables, pictures, graphs, equations or inequalities, and rules. Students will be exposed to scientific notation, simplifying expressions and performing operations. Students also begin to develop an understanding of congruence and similarity of geometric figures, and the mathematical techniques for finding and applying those relationships of shapes. Students will write and interpret equivalent expressions, combine expressions to form new expressions, predict patterns of change represented by an equation or expression, and solve equations. This manipulation of symbolic expressions is explored using the properties of equality and the Distributive and Commutative Properties.
Algebra I is offered as an elective in 8th grade and is aligned to the Common Core Standards to prepare students for the Algebra I Common Core Regents Exam.
The CRMS science curriculum spirals the life, physical and earth sciences throughout all three middle school grades. At each grade level, students design and conduct experiments, research and write lab reports. By the end of 8th grade, students have gained skills in reading and using traditional science texts, developing and executing science investigations, maintaining laboratory notebooks and writing lab reports and scientific explanations to prepare them for high school Science courses.
6th grade science is comprised of the following units: The Science of Me, Machines, Weather, and Water Ecology. In The Science of Me unit, students learn the basics of brain structure and function. Students also learn how outside factors, such as food and sleep affect the brain and body. In the Machines unit, students investigate simple machines (inclined planes, levers, and pulleys) and work collaboratively to create a Rube Goldberg Machine. During the Weather unit, students explore what weather is and how it is measured, along with climate change and humans’ impact on global warming. In the Water Ecology unit, through a series of case studies, students learn about the importance of water quality for all living things.
7th grade science is comprised of the following units: Animal Behavior, Germs, Geology, and Air Quality. In the Animal Behavior unit, students make observations and interpretations of animal behaviors. They learn the role of ethologists and how to use ethograms in data collection. The Germ unit helps students understand disease transmission, communicable and noncommunicable disease. Students explore bacteria, their structure, life processes, and how they can be helpful or harmful. During the Geology unit, students investigate the unique geology of specific Earth structures and explore the processes that shaped these and other structures through models, data collection, analysis and information sharing. In the Air Quality unit, students investigate the composition of air through diving into atomic theory, the parts of an atom, models of atoms forming molecules, particulate matter, combustion and pollutants.
8th grade science is comprised of the following units: Drugs, Vehicles in Motion, Energy and Genetics. The year begins with the Drug unit. In this unit, students explore short term and long term effects of drugs on the adolescent brain. Topics covered include the science of adolescent brain development, neurotransmission, drug classifications, effects of specific drugs, and addiction. In the Vehicles unit, students build and test model cars as a way to explore Newton’s Laws of Motion. In the Energy unit, students explore various forms of energy, how to measure energy and its effects on matter. Students then explore the electromagnetic spectrum and its relationship to photosynthesis, chemical and thermal energy, magnets, light and sound. In the Genetics unit, students learn how organisms express traits and how these traits are passed from one generation to the next. Students also learn about the mechanisms of biological information storage including genes, chromosomes and DNA.
All CRMS students take Spanish in the 7th grade. The curriculum emphasizes the National Standards for Foreign Language Education’s 5 C’s: Communication (listening, speaking, reading and writing); Culture (exploring similarities and differences among Spanish-speaking cultures); Connections (to other learning and students’ lives); Comparisons (between languages and cultures); and Communities (exploring and connecting with Spanish-speaking communities). In the 8th grade, students who would like to continue Spanish may do so in a year long elective, which culminates with the option to take the New York City’s Spanish Proficiency Exam to receive high school credit and placement into an advanced Spanish class.
Visual and Performing Arts
At Community Roots, the art curriculum has been designed to be both a discipline within itself with its own set of learning targets as well as to be integrated into other disciplines. In both 6th and 7th grade, students take a visual arts class for ½ the year, which emphasizes the creation of original two and three-dimensional projects, builds a conceptual foundation for creating and interpreting art and exposes students to related aspects of art history. The other half of each year, students take a performing arts class. Through performing arts classes, students learn to use their body, voice and objects to convey artistic message for a live audience. In 8th grade, students have the option of selecting visual arts and performing arts as electives, with the fall classes focused on preparing students for high school auditions.
The Physical Education program provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to form healthy lifelong habits. Students have fun while learning a wide range of fitness exercises, athletic skills, team, and individual sports. Throughout the three year physical education sequence, classes emphasize the importance of sportsmanship while students learn to balance competition with cooperation. Physical education is also a time for students to learn and practice gross motor skills, to learn how to actively participate in large group games and to develop habits that lead to staying physically fit. The class includes a blend of health and fitness, cooperative challenges, and sports activities. All students have physical education at least twice weekly.
At CRCS, every 8th grade student takes a 12 week long course called Sexual Health and Relationships. The course includes four units: healthy relationships, adolescence and identity, sex and contraception and sexually-transmitted diseases/infections. Students learn, practice and reflect on steps to making healthy decisions around their sexual health and relationships. This course was designed collaboratively by CRCS faculty and our social work team, with the support of materials from Planned Parenthood.
In the 6th and 7th grade, students participate in a series of Health Initiative lessons during Crew. The lessons cover puberty, healthy friendships and relationships, boundaries, consent, and health decision making around high risk behaviors.
Crew and Academic Advisors: “We are crew, not passengers.”
Each student is a member of a Crew of 12 – 15 students led by two staff members. These Crews meet each morning to create a space to create community and to support students’ social emotional development. In addition, each student has an Academic Advisor whose role is to ensure that students have a strong school-based relationship with an adult who knows them well and can support their growth academically, socially, and emotionally. Advisors meet with advisees individually at least twice a month. They also establish and maintain close contact with their advisees families, updating them regularly on academic progress, attendance, and general life at school.
Student-Led Conferences (SLCs)
Student-Led Conferences occur twice during the school year to instill student ownership of their learning and to strengthen school-family relationships. During SLCs, students and their families attend formal conferences with students academic advisors. Students facilitate the meeting. They present their SLC portfolios, which is a collection of their major assessments to date. They reflect on their academic and social-emotional progress and articulate their goals for moving forward.
All students have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in unique content for one week through non-traditional, hands-on learning experiences that include fieldwork, adventure, internships, service, and work with experts/professionals. Intensive Week culminates with a presentation of learning where each Intensive group shares, with the rest of the community, highlights from the learning experience and the final products of their work. Past intensives have included: cooking, photography, camping, fitness and textile arts.
Brooklyn College at Community Roots After School Program
In association with the New York City Department of Youth and Development, Brooklyn College at Community Roots is an after school program offered five days a week from 4:00pm-6:00pm. Students have the opportunity to eat snack, complete homework and participate in a variety of enrichment activities, including Jazz Band, Yoga, STEM club, Literary Magazine and more!
Community Roots offers competitive team sports to all students. We currently have volleyball, basketball, running and soccer teams. Each sport includes a tryout, practices and competitive games against teams in the Charter School Athletic League .
In addition to Performing Arts classes for all students, Middle School students can audition for one of two school wide productions. There are open auditions for students for our school play, which shows in the Fall, and our school musical, which shows in the Spring. Students may also be part of these productions off stage by joining our stagecraft /stage crew club.
Student Leadership Opportunities
Morning Read Interns
Students have the chance to intern in Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms during the Morning Read session twice a week. Middle School students commit to participating for a six-week period. The program is aimed at encouraging our Middle School students to build relationships with their younger community counterparts and develop leadership skills.
MS Ambassador Program
Members of the Ambassador Program act as liaisons between the school and visitors to the school. They help to facilitate tours for families, new students and visitors. They also participate in new student orientations and represent our school in a variety of ways.