The leaders of University School of Milwaukee’s Middle School student body are its 8th graders. The 8th grade stairs in the Middle School lobby, connecting the first and second floors of the Middle School, are a visual reminder of both the privileges and responsibilities that come with students’ elevated status in their last year of Middle School.
The 8th grade faculty focus heavily on the three key components of the Portrait of a USM Graduate—how their students are developing as learners, leaders, and citizens ahead of their move to the Upper School. As 8th grade students begin to more independently balance their academics with their extracurricular and social responsibilities, they also gain additional accountability and responsibility. They are supported by a caring community of their teachers and peers, and when they reach the special 8th Grade Closing Ceremony, they are well-prepared to take on the new challenges and opportunities that await them in high school.
As the final grade level in Middle School, USM’s 8th grade includes a unique capstone experience, the Tower Project. As one of the only capstone experiences of its kind in the entire country for this age level, students create artifacts with maker tools or select their own passions to investigate. Tower Project students have the freedom to investigate topics or identify problems. Whether experimenting, performing, or undertaking other endeavors that require them to take action, create a prototype or an artifact, execute a design, or construct something, this is a time for students to assess their own work, adapting and developing it to suit their own goals and objectives. Students are also able to lead service projects to serve their communities and actively contribute to them.
As 8th graders enter their final year in USM's Middle School, their curriculum expands and becomes more diversified. Subject-area outcomes are an important part of how our curriculum is developed and how our students are evaluated. The following list of core subject courses offers a glimpse at the strong academic programming offered in 8th grade. In addition, 8th grade students are able to take elective courses for the first time, and a current list of those courses can be found in the section below.
A single asterisk (*) indicates an elective course in the core subjects, while a double asterisk (**) indicates a course that also offers an Honors option.
All 8th grade students are encourage to follow their passions or try learning about something new through elective courses, offered for the first time at USM in this grade level.
Unique elective courses may change each year to match student interests. Electives currently available to 8th grade students include:
- Algebra Support
- Controversial Conversation/Debate
- Lego Robotics
- Introduction to Robotics
- Outdoor Education
- Rube Goldberg
- Speak Up!
- Take Action!
- Tower Project
- What's the Big Idea?
There are two transformational projects which serve as key rallying points in USM’s 8th grade, the science symposium and National History Day demonstration of learning. In addition, all 8th graders participate in the class trip to Washington, D.C., with five highly scheduled days of hands-on learning. This event, which takes place in April each year, brings to life USM’s spiraling curriculum in our nation’s capital, culminating in some of the final development pieces for leaders, learners, and citizens who are ready for 9th grade. Our 8th grade students also take the lead in planning and coordinating the annual, school-wide March to the Memorials event, when the USM community joins together to walk the equivalent number of miles between Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. to raise money for veterans and veteran programming. Students also raise money on Veterans Day each year to send veterans on Honor Flights to visit the memorials in Washington, D.C.