Catholic, Independent Elementary Schools Serving Chicago's Children Since 1876


Middle School:  Grades 6-8

Letter from Dan Gargano, Head of Middle School

The philosophy of the Middle School at Sacred Heart, both Hardey and the Academy, emanates from the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Education. It directs that our mission is to educate the whole child: spiritually, intellectually, physically, socially and morally. As such, the Middle School is structured to meet the unique needs of young adolescents in a variety of ways.

Through daily prayer, weekly chapels and assemblies, liturgies and prayer services, sacramental preparation, and a diverse but Catholic-centered Christian religion curriculum, the students are encouraged, regardless of their faith expression, to recognize the spiritual dimension of their personality and to grow in a personal and active faith in God that is relevant in today's world.

By way of a challenging and appropriate curriculum, Middle School students strengthen their basic skills, while being guided into more complex and higher levels of investigation. This provides students with a strong foundation for their continuing education in secondary school and beyond. Throughout the curriculum, the focus on developing a love of learning and applying knowledge to moral, intellectual, and social questions is maintained.

In order to more fully foster the understanding that we are members of an interdependent world, the community service program in the Middle School also is given the attention and importance it so clearly deserves. Students are participants in an ongoing program of involvement in our neighboring community, serving the needs of the elderly, the very young, and the disadvantaged. A process of discussion and reflection helps to develop and maintain the desire to make a difference in our world.

The Middle School advisory program is structured to provide further opportunities for Middle School students to grow in self-understanding in light of the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Schools. This program provides for one-on-one meetings between a student and a faculty advisor, as well as small group advisory meetings. For the students, the program fosters courage and confidence, and nurtures, guides, and facilitates communication between the student, faculty, and parents.

Across the spectrum of experiences, the Middle School program focuses on each student as an individual with unique academic, social and emotional needs. Our goal is to honor each individual student's needs and to best assist her or him in growing into a young woman or man of the Sacred Heart.



Middle School Curriculum


Middle School art is an extension of concepts taught in Lower School with an emphasis on skill development and greater expression of the individual, as students are learning how to define themselves. Media include hand-building with clay, portraiture, icon painting, collage, and knitting.


The Middle School mathematics curriculum uses an approach of experience before formality, thereby helping students connect mathematics to the real world and gain a deeper understanding of concepts. Lessons feature tasks that engage students in mathematical problem solving, reasoning, and sense-making as core instructional activities. Students develop habits of mind that enable them to make conjectures, discuss, and explain using the language of mathematics.



Sixth-grade students focus on mathematical proficiency and precision in preparation for moving into algebra. The topics covered in this course are operations with and uses of fractions, decimals, integers, rates, ratios, and proportions. In addition, students strengthen geometric concepts and are introduced to solving equations.


In the 7th grade, as mathematical concepts become more abstract, the focus of this year is on students developing a greater level of perseverance in their work. The course extends student understanding of ratios and percents, linear relationships, equation-solving, three-dimensional geometry, probability and data analysis, and other foundational algebraic concepts.


The focus of the 8th-grade year is to develop students’ independence in preparation for high school. Students are exposed to a traditional Algebra 1 content in a discovery-based, experiential classroom environment. Topics covered include solving linear and quadratic equations; applications of linear, quadratic, and exponential functions; and number theory. Students are given the opportunity to enhance their problem-solving skills and gain a greater level of independence through exposure to math-oriented games, logic puzzles, and real-world applications.


The Middle School Science Department is committed to developing responsible scientific inquiry skills through problem-based learning. Scientific methodology is used throughout the science curriculum to develop students’ abilities to interpret and observe their present surroundings as they comprehend the true definition of science research and exploration. Students are often challenged to develop their own experimental designs with an understanding that in science, there are no failed experiments.



Sixth grade introduces the beginning units of the spiraled Middle School science curriculum. Students use inquiry and hands-on activities to aid in their understanding of science and experimental design. Topics include earth’s climate, cell biology, traits and reproduction, and simple machines.


Seventh grade continues the spiraling curriculum by delving deeper into topics via problem-based labs and inquiry activities. Units of study include force and motion, chemistry, water, and evolution.


In 8th grade, students solidify their understanding of the scientific method through experimental design, inquiry labs, and hands-on experiments. Topics include astronomy, sustainability, alternative energy, and organic chemistry.

Language Arts/Humanities

A key goal of Middle School English and humanities is for students to consider multiple perspectives as they build an understanding of their own identity and the world around them. They continue their development as learners and critical thinkers by taking healthy risks in a safe environment where questions are as valued as answers. Students discuss and analyze historical events while reading and studying complementary literature in order to further develop critical reading and writing skills. Students will also practice "historical thinking" through class discussions, debates, presentations, and individual and group projects.



The 6th grade language arts curriculum focuses on building specific reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in a workshop format. Students read approximately one novel per month and are assessed on their reading and writing skills. Students write a variety of papers (narrative, persuasive, informational) as well as create original projects to demonstrate their knowledge and academic growth throughout the year. Students study several genres of literature through the course texts, as well as explore character, theme, and setting in each of these readings.


Students in 7th and 8th grade take a humanities course in which the language arts processes of reading, writing, listening, and speaking are taught in an integrated and interrelated manner alongside the social studies curriculum. Course components include the study of rich and varied literature including expository texts; writing in narrative, persuasive, and informational genres, responses to literature and summaries of reading materials; direct instruction in language arts skills and strategies; a balance of oral and written language activities; and ongoing diagnosis and assessment. Many novels will correlate with the social studies curriculum, enabling the best learning and knowledge retention for students.

In 7th grade, students begin a two-year study of U.S. history using both a chronological and thematic approach. Units studied are pre-history, the first Americans, the making of the 13 colonies, from colonies to country, the new nation, liberty for all, and the Civil War.


This course combines the study of American history and literature relevant to, and complementary of, the particular history taught. Students discuss and analyze historical events and relevant and complementary literature; they develop critical reading and writing skills. The expectation is that students will gain sound factual knowledge of American history and become effective analytical thinkers and writers. Beyond complementing the history taught, the literature will at times also be relevant to and complement the subject matter in religion and science classes. Literature chosen varies each year.

Social Studies

Social studies looks at human behavior within a social and environmental context. As such, it encompasses several disciplines, including history, geography, economics, and civics. The social studies program at Sacred Heart assists students in establishing habits of careful inquiry, supported by a sound knowledge base and a firm commitment to personal responsibility through good citizenship. Students grow in their appreciation of the diversity of human experience, culture, and values.



Sixth grade social studies focuses on the history of the United States from the first Native populations through the colonial period and the creation of the American nation.


The music program nurtures the natural creative impulse in each child through a wide range of vocal and instrumental activities. The program consists of three primary activities: singing, instrument playing, and musical academics. Singing is taught as a form of personal expression for enjoyment  and as a form of prayer. Instrument playing accompanies singing and is used as a practical expression of other music skills, such as keeping time and music reading. In the academic portion of class, students explore the history of Western music, orchestral music, American folk music, and African American spirituals. Children learn to enjoy music and to participate with confidence. Children at all grade levels participate in performances.



Students in Middle School continue building on six years of prior exposure studying the basics of music. This includes performance, theory, composition, improvisation, history, and cultural relevance in an effort to create interest and develop lifelong music appreciation. Students also learn about improvisation and composition, and are introduced to the role that music has played throughout history, influencing society and culture. They engage in learning the music of specific cultures and historical periods as well as explore those given cultures and time periods and where music has intersected.

Physical Education

The intent of physical education is to motivate students to create, improve, and maintain their personal health and fitness. Physical well-being is directly linked with academic learning. The healthy, physically active child is more likely to be intellectually motivated and alert. Physical education promotes the social skills that are increasingly viewed as essential for success in school. Physical education at Sacred Heart offers activities that allow students to make developmental transitions from childhood to adolescence. Games and sport are viewed as a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Competition is put into proper perspective. Students are encouraged to develop a positive outlook to personal fitness and relate to others in encouraging ways. The program helps students develop an age-appropriate level of fitness, a broad spectrum of physical skills, and the enjoyment, understanding and self-confidence needed to motivate a lifetime of active participation.



Students participate in and learn about cardiovascular endurance, strength training, and balance training through practicing various sports and games. Team-building skills are emphasized. Health and wellness units embedded in the program support mental, emotional, and physical well-being.


As students developmentally mature and begin to take more ownership of their faith and academic success, they begin to question many things, among them the authenticity of their faith. As students mature and explore questions that are meaningful to them in their relationship with God, parents and religious educators can help them by combining an atmosphere of acceptance with new opportunities for the discovery of their ever-expanding faith journey.

Children from other faiths or denominations are educated about the sacraments at the same time as the Catholic students and are invited to witness and participate in their classmates’ celebration of the sacraments.



In 6th grade, students explore the lessons of the Hebrew scriptures and selected Christian scriptures. Students learn to read and understand scripture so that the messages of the Bible might become more relevant to their lives. Students also study the lives and lessons of the early prophets. Throughout the liturgical year, classes participate in the Church seasons and prepare for and observe each holiday.


Seventh grade students explore world religions. The course informs students of the development of various religious traditions; it familiarizes students with the people, dimensions, and religious principles of the world’s major religions such as Primal, Eastern, Western, and religions in the modern world. Students explore foundational principles and topics in relationship to Catholic religious perspectives.

The 7th grade religion curriculum also includes preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation.


Eighth grade students explore morality from the perspective of the Roman Catholic ethical tradition. Students begin to develop the critical skills necessary to develop a moral decision-making process for making ethical choices. Students identify various factors involved in the formation of conscience and living a values-centered life. They engage with the Gospel message of Jesus in the areas of justice, personal integrity, and life issues.

World Languages

The Middle School world language curriculum fosters cultural understanding, mastery of basic language skills, and development of competence in comprehending and communicating in the target language. Both the French and Spanish programs strive to develop oral fluency and oral comprehension. Particular emphasis is placed on grammar, pronunciation and written expression during the Middle School years. Study of French and Spanish history and culture is explored through special projects each year. By the end of Middle School, students are prepared for the more advanced language study they will encounter in high school.



Sixth grade language immerses the students in either Spanish or French language and culture. The students will build a strong vocabulary, helping form a foundation for practical and meaningful communication. The students explore elements of grammar and continue to practice reading, speaking, and writing in their chosen language. Students are exposed to culture by celebrating holidays, learning songs, reciting poems, and exploring the rich histories of Spanish or French speaking countries.


Seventh grade language continues to immerse the students in the Spanish or French language and culture through speaking, writing, and reading. Students deepen their understanding of the structures of language through the study of prose, verse, grammar, syntax, and idiomatic expressions. Through oral, written, and pictorial presentations the students encounter typical aspects of the life, activities, and surroundings of Spanish- or French-speaking cultures. Students carry on conversations, create skits, recite poems and verses, sing songs, read short narrations, and write and re-tell stories.


In 8th grade, students refine their understanding of French or Spanish and delve deeper into the language and culture. Students become more aware of the advanced structures of language through the study of prose, verse, grammar, syntax, and idiomatic expressions. Grammar provides a framework within which students can express themselves in past, present, and near future tense. The curriculum is developed through the use of verses, poems, plays, songs, history, biographies, geography, cultural readings, and dialogues. By the end of 8th grade, the committed language  student will have developed the necessary language learning tools to succeed in future world language studies at the high school level.


Nat Wilburn
Head of Schools

Dan Gargano
Head of Middle School

Marjie Murphy
Director of Curriculum and Instruction