University School of Milwaukee is unique among area schools, with Middle School starting in 5th grade, and these students benefit from a transitional year where they begin to foster independence and work on developing habits of mind to be successful learners, in Middle School and beyond.
Our 5th grade faculty work closely with one another to ensure a successful first year in the Middle School, where students change classes, have multiple teachers for their core subjects, and use lockers for the first time. Advising is also a key part of the 5th grade experience at USM, with all students both starting and ending every school day in their advisory groups. For the first time, 5th graders have regular nightly homework to complete, and teachers are available outside of class at various times throughout the day to help with assignments or talk through problems. Given all the transitional pieces in 5th grade, community is also a very important part of this initial journey into Middle School life, with the introduction of new clubs and activities and formalized athletic and intramural offerings.
The 5th grade curriculum in USM’s Middle School focuses heavily on student inquiry, problem solving, critical thinking, and fostering empathy for others by examining different points of view and perspectives.
Subject-area outcomes are an important part of how our curriculum is developed and how our students are evaluated. The following list of courses provides some examples of student outcomes for the end of the 5th grade year. An asterisk (*) indicates a performance elective. All 5th grade students choose one performance elective for the school year.
Each year, 5th grade students, along with members of their families, participate in the annual Milwaukee Riverkeeper Spring Cleanup events in April, learning about and also raising awareness of pollution and its effect on our water systems, as they work to clean up our area waterways. Our 5th graders also attend a one-day retreat at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Bayside, and a one-day kindness retreat conducted by Youth Frontiers, an organization that partners with schools to build communities in which students thrive socially, emotionally, and academically. Along with the 6th graders, our 5th grade students also enjoy an annual WinterFest event when they take a break from their regular class schedules to sled, build snow forts, play games, and skate in the on-campus Uihlein Ice Arena. Another popular event is the Ofrenda Night at the Latino Arts Inc. gallery at the United Community Center in Milwaukee, where they are able to present their ofrendas, or offerings, honoring individuals in their lives who have passed away.