Welcome to Upper School

Grades 5 - 8

“Our learning is centered around big concepts that inspire thought and action with a focus on intellectual, emotional and social growth.”

Your child's learning journey culminates in our Upper School which is made up of four separate grade levels - 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade.

art-classes-whitby-school.jpgYour child will spend their day moving from classroom to classroom, learning from multiple teachers who are passionate about their unique subject areas. Behind the scenes, our team of educators work together to find synergies between the subjects to create an interdisciplinary, coherent and challenging curriculum.

Our learning is centered around big concepts that inspire thought and action with a focus on intellectual, emotional and social growth. The approach in Upper School is guided by a desire to honor our students' need for independence by empowering them to be their own advocates, to engage with teachers directly, to take ownership in their academic work, to solve their own problems, to provide support to each other, to transition between rooms and buildings on their own and to choose their own cocurricular classes.

A hallmark of our program is the emphasis we place on teaching students how to learn. We focus on teaching students the skills and strategies that promote growth and competence. When our Upper Schoolers move on to their respective Secondary Schools after Grade 8, they are not only recognized for their academic work, but they are praised for their mature emotional intelligence. Our students are organized, articulate and they advocate for themselves - exactly what they need to navigate the high school years and beyond.


Upper School Highlights

  • Our Upper School curriculum is built on the highly-regarded International Baccalaureate's Middle Years Program which provides the underlying structure of themes and concepts for teaching and learning.
  • Community Service at Whitby provides your child real-world experience through mentoring younger students in the Primary Buddies Program as well as volunteering their time both locally and abroad at orphanages, schools, clinics, community centers and nursing homes.
  • 4 teachers, 4 days a week with 4 levels of language learning proficiency means your child will learn Spanish well enough to engage with native speakers during their service trip to a Spanish speaking country in 7th and 8th grade.
  • Our "hands-on minds-on" approach to Math instruction takes complex math concepts and applies them to real-world situations to increase engagement and help students find joy in problem solving.
  • If your child is outgoing then they'll love our popular Student Ambassador Program where they'll give tours to prospective parents and students who visit the school.
  • Students learn to be self-advocates in our Advisory Program where they're matched with "best-fit" teachers who know them well enough to provide meaningful support in learning to solve their own problems.
  • Our graduates are successful in high school because our Secondary School Counseling Program excels at preparing them for the application process and our students shine in their interviews because they know themselves so well as both learners and individuals.
  • From collaboration in musical theater and art installation to competition in Math Counts and First Lego League, we offer so many impressive cocurricular classes that your child will be challenged to choose between them.
  • In the same way that our curriculum supports students in making connections across the subject areas, our use of technology supports them in making these connections come alive. Our 1:1 laptop program is complemented with ongoing conversations on Digital Citizenship for both students and parents.
  • Student-Parent-Teacher conferences provide your child an opportunity to show how they know themselves as a learner as they take you through their successes and challenges.

Academics

In Grades 5-8, Whitby students fully embrace an academically rigorous IB curriculum called the Middle Years Program (MYP) which includes Science, Mathematics, Design, Language and Literature, Individuals and Societies, Spanish, Physical and Health Education, Theater, Music and Visual Arts. Our Upper School provides a framework of academic challenge that encourages students to explore real-world concepts and issues, challenge assumptions, think critically and acquire skills that they will need to apply throughout their educational and future professional journeys.

The strength of our program stems from the belief that learning is more meaningful when students are provided opportunities to explore concepts through the lens of different subject areas. This is called interdisciplinary learning and it is a hallmark of our approach. It is also the key to teasing out our students' innate creativity by providing them multiple avenues to approach problem-solving. We teach for understanding of real life concepts rather than the simple regurgitation of knowledge.

Interdisciplinary Learning in Action: The Science of Waveforms Interdisciplinary Learning in Action: The Science of Waveforms

You may be wondering what interdisciplinary learning looks like in the classroom. You can see a great example of it in action in our 6th grade unit on the science of sound waves. During this unit, our students explored sound through the framework of three different subjects: Science, Music and Design. They considered how different instruments make different sounds in Music class and then how sound vibrations transfer energy through the air to vibrate ear drums in Science class. The design challenge was to synthesize their knowledge and understanding from the two subjects to create a simple instrument that could change pitch.

 

Another strength of the academic program in our Upper School is that teaching extends far beyond the content and concepts in a given subject area. We invest time to integrate the teaching of key skills that help our students become better learners as well as better people. The IB MYP Program calls these Approaches to Learning (ATLs) and they include critical-thinking skills, reflection skills, organization skills, collaboration skills, affective skills, information literacy and media literacy skills. ATLs facilitate student learning in a variety of areas such as how they manage time and tasks effectively, how they work with others, how they manage their state of mind and how they use language to communicate. These ATLs also help students become more aware of the learning process and understand their strengths and challenges as learners.

In addition to the core academic classes of the MYP, your child will benefit greatly from our Life Skills program where they are provided time once a week to discuss topics relevant to navigating adolescence. We value the development of the whole child and want to ensure that students lead balanced lives in and out of school, so students are provided time to learn about the importance of healthy relationships and personal wellness.

Assessment

Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning at Whitby. The word assessment stems from the latin word "assidere" which means "to sit beside." We view assessment as an opportunity "to sit beside" your child to help them understand where they are at in their progression of learning.

The use of rubrics is one way we help students assess themselves as learners. Rubrics are also used to guide teachers in their planning for learning engagements in addition to formal assessments. Students are provided rubrics at the beginning of each unit so they know what they're working towards and what "good" should look like. With this knowledge and understanding, they're empowered to achieve their goals.


Cocurriculars

We know that learning is more meaningful when students can make connections across subject areas so we've structured our cocurricular classes to complement the programming of our academic day. We also recognize that camaraderie and being part of a team are both important parts of a middle schooler's life so we've purposely designed this program in a way that celebrates students’ diverse interests and encourages new friendships.

Each trimester, your child will be required to choose from a selection of interscholastic team sports that meet twice a week while having the freedom to participate in Musical Theater, Art Installation, Art Studio, Band, Math Counts, Model UN or Lego Robotics for the remaining three days of the week.

Each of these activities are enriching experiences that bring real-life meaning to their learning, and are a great opportunity for our students to explore new interests or develop existing ones.

The best part of our cocurricular program is that our teachers are the instructors. This is a huge win for the students because it helps them feel more comfortable as they take risks in new areas. It also provides teachers an opportunity to see students in a different context outside the classroom. Our athletics and cocurricular offerings reflect our commitment to whole child development and are another vehicle used to help students develop a passion for learning.


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Technology

We provide access to a variety of cutting-edge technologies in the Upper School to extend, enhance and ultimately transform the learning. From a 6th grade Math class using Scratch programming language to introduce integers on an x y coordinate plane before a unit on negative numbers to an 8th grade visual arts class using iPads on stands to make time-lapse videos of their process for creating artwork, teachers and students alike spend much of their day leveraging technology as a tool for creation, exploration and productivity. The use of technology in our Upper School is constantly evolving as teachers take creative risks to keep the learning engaging and to inspire the students themselves to explore and take risks.

We know the challenges of parenting children in a technology-rich world so we also make explicit instruction in digital citizenship a key part of our support strategy. We regularly engage students on core topics related to Digital Citizenship including internet safety, privacy and security, information literacy, cyberbullying, copyright and technology usage. In addition, Upper School parents and students are required to attend digital citizenship workshops at the beginning of each year before laptops are distributed. Through our one-to-one laptop program combined with various digital citizenship initiatives, we develop proficient, critical and ethical users of technology.


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Secondary School Counseling

The goal of our Secondary School Counseling Program at Whitby School is to help each individual student to find the "best fit" in his or her next academic environment. Our objective is to help students find environments where they will learn effectively, enjoy and contribute to their communities, and reach their full potential.

Consistent with the overall approach to education at Whitby, Secondary School Counseling is highly individualized. The school works in close partnership with students and their parents to explore each student's academic and extracurricular interests and optimal school community, size, and location. Parents and students are encouraged to ask questions, share ideas, and concerns with the Director of Secondary School Placement as well as with teachers, advisors and administrators.

Students are advised at each step of the process, such as writing essays, preparing for interviews, and completing applications. The low student-teacher ratio at Whitby means the teachers are able to write very personal and knowledgeable letters of recommendation which are an invaluable component of a student's application packet. Whitby also prepares its students for the admissions process through practice interviews and preparation courses for standardized admissions tests.

“Allow your child a voice, their four year experience is their own. The students know themselves better than anyone, and they want to be at a place where they feel happiest. Focusing on academics is first and foremost, but families shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of the school’s culture, extracurricular programs and how the student fits in.”

Jacquie Quigley

Director of Secondary School Placement

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Community Service

An integral part of our Upper School program is our students' commitment to community service. Dedicating time to serving others both inside and outside the Whitby community helps students expand their view of themselves and the world, develop empathy, humility and leadership skills, and come to understand that through their individual actions they can improve the lives of others.

Our goal is to empower students to affect change and discover the impact they can have on our campus, within the local community, and beyond.

Here are some ways our students get involved:

Grade 5 Campus Project

During this year-long project, our students explore single-stream recycling and brainstorm ways to improve our school's current process. The students start the year as researchers and learners, and eventually become educators who will share their recycling strategies throughout the school community.

Grade 6 Primary Buddies Program

Students take on a mentor role with Primary students multiple times during the year as they form a special bond through engaging activities such as writing and illustrating poetry, making venn diagrams to highlight their similarities and differences, and helping students with creative math problem solving. This program builds community across divisions, enhances leadership skills, and engages students through creative, hands-on activities.

Community Service Abroad

An exciting highlight for all our 7th and 8th grade students is the year-end service trip to a Spanish-speaking country. Using the language skills they have developed during their time at Whitby, students are empowered to step outside their comfort zones and serve others whose lives may differ greatly from their own.

Local Community Service in Grades 7 and 8

Once students reach Grade 7, they begin to volunteer their time at local Partner Organizations of their choosing. Students document and reflect on their unique experiences, and are often inspired to give their time above and beyond the required 15 hours of service.

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