Students at Trillium move through their day in a block schedule, engaging in mixed-aged thematic instruction in social studies, language arts, foreign language, art, physical education, science, mathematics, and more. Trillium also features a unique mixed-aged advisory and grade level cohort system designed build community and support students social and emotional goals.
Advising classes in the middle school are multi-age (6-7-8) environments where the students focus on community awareness, service projects, team building, and literacy projects of many different varieties. It is the heart of our relationship-building model. It is a place for students to practice and participate in democracy through regular class meetings and all middle school meetings. It is a time to engage in community building as well as development of and feedback on school policy. Advising provides a flexible space to meet a variety of student needs including: modified academic support, goal setting, scheduling, service learning, advocacy, field trips and advising fun days.
Democratic Education at Trillium means that teachers build and maintain and environment that is inclusive and responsive and honors all voices. Through a variety of routines such as meetings, peaceful conflict resolution (including mediations) teachers and students develop the essential skill of listening to one another and maintaining healthy relationships.
Habits of Mind
Every unit, theme and project in the middle school evokes use of the five habits of mind. The goal is that whenever students think about a topic, in school or out, they should consider the following:
- Viewpoint – From whose perspective is the information being presented?
- Relevance – Why is it important?
- Evidence – How do you know what you know?
- Conjecture – How could it be different?
- Connections – How is this connected with other structures, forces or facts?
Mixed Age & Project-Based Classes
All classes at Trillium Middle School are a mixture of 6-7-8th grade students. This promotes stronger relationships within the school and allows students to work at a pace that is best for them. Classes are project-based and thematic which allows students to go deeply into each topic. Students find this more satisfying and motivational than traditional methods.
Service learning provides our students an opportunity to connect with their community both outside the school and within the school’s walls. With the support of their advisor, students explore service learning while developing skills that promote self-advocacy, relationships, empathy and independence. Their community interactions allow them to both have a positive impact on the world around them as well as bring the outside world into the school’s classrooms for all to learn from. Each advising group chooses a theme for the year and explores how they can play a role in improving the lives of others. Themes may include homelessness, the environment, food security and international development.
Students are assessed on their ability to show mastery in essential skills through a variety of measures and opportunties. Through proficiency-based assessment teachers can find new ways to challenge students and expand their learning opportunities without repetitive content overlap or busywork. Proficiency grading also removes the tendency to grade based on behavior rather than academic skill.
Proficiency assessment allows students to work at their own levels. Students who need more support can get it and move at their own pace, while students who need more challenge can get the rigor they need.
Throughout the year teachers collaborate on integrating curriculum between classes. A pair of classes may explore the same theme, such as a social studies class that explore limited government while a language arts class ready dystopian novels. The whole middle school may also integrate curriculum, such as the study of the Renaissance period. Integrating curriculum allows students to see natural connections in the content, and approach coursework from multiple perspectives.
Cohort Projects and Portfolios
On every other Friday, each grade will meet as a cohort having a different goal. Sixth grade will work on transitioning to middle school and academic/organizational skills. It is also a time for them to receive academic support. Seventh grade will focus on leadership in their community. Eighth grade will take on an independent research project on a topic of their choosing, which will serve as a capstone for advancing to the high school.
Each student will keep a portfolio of their work throughout their time at Trillium. It is a way to track their proficiency in different classes as well as have a record of their learning.