Middle School Arts

The Middle School offers students a structured and sequential studio and performing arts program to develop each student’s creativity and appreciation of the arts. Every year, students rotate through a trimester each of music, studio art, and drama. Arts classes meet three times in a six-day rotation.

In Middle School, we have...​


of our students participating in the arts program


instrumental ensembles


different arts courses spanning the visual and performing arts


vocal performing group


private instrumental and vocal lessons offered during the school day on campus


annual floor-to-ceiling Student Art Show in Thayer Gallery


annual music, dance, and theatrical performances


faculty members in the arts department


Grade 5

The 5th grade drama curriculum will be an Introduction to Improvisation Class. Improvisational theatre is a fantastic tool in the drama classroom and one many students enjoy. It helps children learn to react and respond to unexpected situations, and builds confidence and creative abilities. The main goal of this class will be to get students excited about improvisation through theater games. Drama games are an important part of any drama curriculum because they can teach valuable theatre skills while allowing students to have fun, build confidence, stretch their imagination, and grow as an ensemble. On-the-spot improvisation is a dynamic, fun and often very comedic type of theatre and a low-pressure introduction to improvisation. Fifth grade students will learn the basics of improvisational theater together while fostering a supportive, encouraging, and safe environment. Treating each other positively, on- and off-stage, is the goal for each student.

Grade 6

In 6th grade drama classes, students are introduced to improvisational acting techniques, basic staging elements, and methods for developing vocal performance abilities. Activities are designed to break down insecurities and encourage collaborative work. In September, students explore their own natural abilities by bringing creative ideas to life and building on emerging plots and characters. The remainder of the term is spent working on a Greek play unit, designed to reinforce content from other areas of the 6th grade curriculum. Students make masks, costumes, props, and set pieces for each of their productions. The term ends with a festival day when students perform their final scenes.

Grade 7

Seventh grade students discover theater through participation in a full-scale, one-act production. Course activities stimulate the imagination, develop problem-solving skills, and encourage group interaction. The overall goal is to provide an environment where students can:

  • Be themselves among their peers
  • Get up in front of a group and share an idea
  • Accept an idea offered by another, and offer appropriate feedback

The objective is for students to develop an appreciation for theater as both performers and audience members.

Grade 8

In 8th grade, students again explore theater through participation in a full-scale, one-act production, where the emphasis is on stimulating the imagination, developing problem-solving skills, and encouraging group interaction. Throughout the trimester, students learn the following:

  • Audition skills
  • Script break-down and analysis
  • Techniques for learning lines, beyond pure memorization
  • Character development
  • Performance focus
  • Care and cultivation of their acting instruments: voice, body, mind, imagination
  • The value of ensemble work
  • How to conquer stage fright
  • The technical aspects of theater production

This theater arts program offers students the chance to create and perform a high-quality, polished production that will be enjoyed by their peers.


In addition to the required music curriculum, students also have the opportunity to sing in Chorus or play in the Instrumental Ensemble. Private music lessons are also available for piano, voice, guitar, bass, and for wind and stringed instruments.

Grade 5

In 5th grade students will explore a history of music from the Classics to Jazz incorporating specialized listening skills for form and instrumentation.

Students will create their own musical instruments in the Collaborative Design Lab and have an opportunity to compose their own music with music software.

Grade 6

The 6th grade music curriculum is based on the discovery and exploration of the ten basic elements found in all styles of music: melody, harmony, pitch, dynamics, tempo, plan (form), texture, tone, color, and instrumentation. Students learn these concepts by listening to music of varied styles, by participating in class discussions about music, and by composing music with music software (MusicAce). Using this program on their laptops, students develop basic compositional techniques including: creating patterns of notes, creating repetition of those patterns, and then organizing those patterns into a variety of commonly used plans in music (i.e. ABA form, theme and variations, or layering). Students have the opportunity in class to listen to many styles of music that are examples of these plans and then apply them to their own compositions.

Grade 7

Seventh grade music is about creating music, listening to and discussing music, and researching past and present pop music. During "Listening Days," students share, listen to, and discuss many styles of music. Students also create their own music using GarageBand software on their laptops as their final project. Students discuss and listen to the development of pop/rock music from 1950s rock and roll to 1970s British Invasion.

Grade 8

Eighth grade music classes learn about music by playing the acoustic guitar. Each student is given a guitar to use in the classroom. Students learn the six string names, how to tune them, how to interpret chord diagrams (tablature) and chord progressions, and how to play various strumming patterns with the rhythm of the music. Students apply all these skills by playing many musical styles. At the end of the trimester, students have the opportunity to perform as a group.

Studio Art

Grade 5

Fifth grade is a joyful time to work with new art materials, methods, and ideas. Students learn about color, shape and form, line, depth, texture, light & shadow and other elements of art while working with clay pottery and clay sculpture, watercolor and acrylic paints, 3D perspective drawings and creating dynamic self-portraits while learning about Picasso and Van Gogh.

Additionally, students are encouraged to use their imagination, take artistic risks, show pride in their accomplishments and to respect the works and ideas of their classmates. Students also learn how to take care of art materials, tools, and their artworks-in-progress.

Grade 6

Students study line, color, shape, texture, and composition through experiences with new materials, tools, and methods. In the context of their own personal expression and creativity, they explore the following:

  • Collage and mixed media
  • Drawing
  • Acrylic painting on canvas board
  • Ceramics- handbuilding pinch and coil pots

Grade 7

Students continue the exploration of a variety of media with emphasis on individual expression. Projects include:

  • Creating stained glass panels and studying the architecture of medieval cathedrals
  • Developing drawing skills--the ability to add shape, shadows and line to create 3D effects on portrait drawings
  • Studying the masters of the Renaissance and apply the principles and 3D illusions of linear and atmospheric perspective to acrylic paintings on canvas; experimentation with materials and methods is encouraged
  • Creating clay sculpture

Grade 8

Students develop their creative style through work on longer-term projects:

  • Each 8th grader produces a personal 6" x 6" ceramic tile to be permanently displayed on a wall in the Middle School. (This is more than just a project. It is a gift to the school and a veritable rite of passage for the student. It is a way of saying goodbye to the middle school years and marking the transition into Upper School and beyond. Thayer students have built a tradition of coming back as Upper School and college students to revisit their tiles and remember what they accomplished as Middle Schoolers.)
  • Additionally, students are exposed to mask-making from diverse cultures around the world, and they plaster-cast their own decorative masks.
  • Students also paint on canvas using the dream world of surrealism as a starting point. Open-mindedness and risk-taking are encouraged.