Academic Growth, Student Agency, Post-Secondary Success
Creating pathways to college, careers, and representation in positions of leadership, power, and service requires effort and teamwork among everyone — students, staff, families and our wider community — and everything we do counts.
Advisory is a cornerstone of our program through which students create and discover strong, positive relationships with their peers, advisors, and our school community. One teacher-advisor mentors a group of 12-15 students throughout the year, and they work together to build social and organizational skills, support reading goals, and partner more closely with families as we all navigate the successes and challenges of middle school.
5th graders learn about their new school and our GUIDES values, how to make friends and problem-solve, and how they can contribute to their school. 6th graders develop their team-building skills as they examine their own and their peers’ strengths, ultimately collaborating on shared missions and promoting shared interests. 7th graders focus on developing healthy relationships with self, peers, and adults, and then ask how they are leveraging their healthy relationships in order to build the community they want. 8th graders explore their unique strengths through building a professional resume, completing at least one rigorous application for school, internship, or service, and applying to and selecting their best-fit high school.
Reading is a big part of life at Rainier Prep, and we see reading as a building block for learning in all other disciplines. Reading classes are organized by students’ reading levels to afford students the most targeted instruction at their level. Students who are significantly behind grade level in reading receive focused small group instruction (typically 6 students or fewer in a group). Students who are near, at, or above grade work together in literature circles or on non-fiction reading, with a focus on discussion and analysis.
English Language Arts
Literacy is essential to our mission of preparing students for college access and to be leaders in their communities. Our ELA classes integrate both reading and writing instruction each day, with some units focusing on literature and novels, and other units examining non-fiction. Discussion (pair, small group, and whole class) is a major part of our work within each ELA class, as it allows students to formulate ideas with their peers, express themselves, and refine their points-of-view. We emphasize using evidence to prove a claim both in writing and in discussion. All of this work culminates in a cross-curricular project in 8th grade with Social Studies, in which each student examines a social issue of concern through a research paper and a presentation to the community.
Math instruction at Rainier Prep begins with learning and practicing a growth mindset, and builds skills in both fact fluency and conceptual understanding. We provide targeted instruction through small groups in each class, and we promote a specific emphasis on math talk, where teachers provide direct instruction in both vocabulary and language structures that support math understanding. Math is critical for college access, and so we strive to ensure that all students have a solid foundation to be successful in honors-level math classes in high school.
Physical Education / Health
We believe in the interconnectivity between the mind and the body. In this class, students work hard to improve their physical health and to develop their communication and collaboration skills. Our 5th and 6th grade students participate in Physical Education / Health three days per week, while our 7th and 8th graders participate two days per week. Our classes are organized by student-identified gender to give students more focused opportunities to develop their athletic potential, body awareness, and team mindset, as well as being able to explore health topics more comfortably in groups.
Students explore science daily through labs and experimentation. Essential topics in Earth, Life, and Physical Sciences assist students in becoming life-long learners who discover and grow in their understanding of the natural world. Students learn how to refine their thinking with the addition of new scientific evidence via experimentation and data gathering. Students also learn the engineering design cycle and complete engineering challenges.
Students ponder how the past may provide us with solutions to the problems we see in the present. They consistently engage with the five themes of Social Studies – history, geography, economics, civics and government, and culture – and build upon that foundation from 5th to 8th grade. Project-based learning, primary source analysis, and interactive notebooks are all strategies through which students explore history through a critical lens. All of this work culminates in a cross-curricular project in 8th grade, where students are asked to research a social issue of personal concern and formulate actionable solutions to present to the community.
Enrichment activities take place at the end of our school day. They are designed to allow students to explore new areas of study, discover new passions, and develop parts of themselves that go beyond the academic classroom. All students rotate between two different afternoon activities each quarter, and they are able to choose their classes based on their interests in sports, dance, music, languages, media, the arts, and other topics.
Our College Success program builds on Rainier Prep’s rigorous academic preparation with authentic experiences that prepare students with the skills and knowledge to navigate and access college and career opportunities. Our 8th graders lead the way on these tasks. They take responsibility for filling out the applications, calling/emailing schools and program officers to ask questions, and completing the following:
Personal narrative essay articulating an important anecdote from their life and what they learned from it
Resume highlighting their leadership experience to date, including family responsibilities, community service, support of family businesses, interpretation, school leadership, and other extracurriculars
Attending high school open houses to explore options in their community
Application(s) to a high school, job shadow, or community organization of their choice that requires an essay or cover letter
Detailed career exploration to identify careers and the qualities of a career that interest them
High School and Beyond Plan with clear post-high school educational goals as well as a clear plan for high school classes, advanced programing, and extracurriculars
Culminating portfolio presentation that outlines students’ detailed research on a social issue of choice, its history, avenues for change, including community advocates and organizations, and the ways students have personally taken action on the issue