Avonworth Middle School Curriculum As a New Tech Middle School, courses at Avonworth Middle School are designed to engage students in content but does so through deep, rigorous instruction and project-based learning. Students take on challenging content while they also build skills in collaboration, communication, and advocacy. Through projects, students are able to apply learning to real-world situations. Students often share what they have learned in showcases for their peers, parents, and the community.
Learning Through Literature
Teachers in both the middle school and high school have worked hard to create a diverse literary canon (books, narratives, texts) across all courses. It is important to share that literature is read by Avonworth students across all core courses and not only in our reading/English courses. For a list of the literature that Avonworth students are exposed to across core courses, please use the following link.
Our 7th-grade reading course is an example of a course Dr. Generett provided consultation regarding the development of this course. Dr. Generett is a Professor and currently the Dean of the School of Education. Dr. Generett is also the Director of the UCEA Center for Educational Leadership and Social Justice. As Mrs. Amanda White embarked on rewriting her course in 2018, she asked if she could consult with Dr. Generett regarding the course's learning objectives and the literature that should be used to reach these learning objectives. Through a series of meetings, Dr. Generett met with Mrs. White to shape the objectives for the course and to select the literature while also ensuring alignment to the PA Standards.
Citizenship & Immigration
In the eighth grade English Language Arts/Civics course, students learn about citizenship and immigration. Through funding from Film Pittsburgh's Teen Screen program, students visited the Southside Works Theater to view the documentary Salam Neighbor, which brings viewers into the life of a Syrian refugee. Following the viewing of this film, numerous guest speakers were brought into the classroom to share a variety of perspectives and experiences with the students. Sloane Davidson, the CEO, and Founder of Hello Neighbor spoke with the students about her organization's work with refugees in the Pittsburgh Area. Siraji Hassan, a former refugee from Somalia, shared the remarkable story that led him to Pittsburgh and the work he is now doing with the AmeriCorps. Leigh Culley, an Avonworth resident, shared her first-hand experience as an immigrant to the United States who has recently completed the naturalization process to become a U.S. Citizen. Retired Sergeant First Class Eber Tripp, a veteran of both the Vietnam and Iraq Wars, talked with students about the meaning of citizenship and his military service. Monica Ruiz, the Executive Director of Casa San Jose, shared her experience and work with undocumented immigrants living and working in Western Pennsylvania. Ms. Ruiz was awarded the Thomas Merton Center's recognition for New Person of the Year due to her work in the Latino Community of Pittsburgh. Feyisola Alibi, Special Initiatives Manager for Mayor Bill Peduto, shared her work as the manager of the city's Welcoming Pittsburgh Program, as well as her personal experience as an immigrant to the United States.
Studying Holocaust Themes / Learning from History
Eighth-grade students share their analysis of Holocaust literature themes with the community. This project was a challenge from the Executive Director and founder of Classrooms Without Borders to help with the organization's mission of teaching the public about the importance of learning from history. After reading Holocaust literature fiction and nonfiction books and diaries, students meet with Project Advisors from Jewish organizations such as Classrooms Without Borders, The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, and Film Pittsburgh/Teen Screen to review their project proposals and get advice. Students showcase their final analysis of how the themes were relevant to present times at their Holocaust Literature Themes Exhibit through works of art ranging from poetry to paintings.
Night at the Museum
Throughout the month of February, eighth-grade students in our integrated English Language Arts/Civics class prepare projects for their Night at the Museum. The focus of these projects has varied from studying influential African Americans and learning about slavery to freedom to overcoming adversity. In 2020, Avonworth teachers Mr. Smith and Mr. Warren collaborated to co-teach a lesson about racial inequality in the 21st Century to help students understand different life experiences that can shape a citizen's personal and political views in preparation for their projects. These projects always culminate in a night at the Heinz History Center where students present their projects to visitors.
Black History Month - Learning from & Celebrating Pittsburgh's History
In 7th-grade reading class during Black History Month, students focus on the rich history that our own city holds. Students explore an interactive map through the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that allows them to see the buildings in Pittsburgh that served as stops on the Underground Railroad and the landmarks that had national significance before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement. The map also shows the birthplaces of many important African American historical figures. Students learn about the lives of three important Pittsburgh African American artists: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, founder of the National Negro Opera Company Mary Cardwell Dawson, and prolific photojournalist Charles "Teenie" Harris.
Engineers Without Borders
The Carnegie Mellon University chapter of Engineers Without Borders has worked with our 7th-grade students to give feedback on their engineering proposals, projects, and models that address the United Nations Sustainable Development goals for the continent of Africa. These projects focus on South Sudan, Malawi, and Zimbabwe through the reading of one of three books. Through reading and research, students tackle the question, “How can we support communities in modern Africa?” Several special guests have also visited during this project including a former Peace Corps volunteer from Sudan and a volunteer from Malawi to help provide students with necessary background information for their project proposals.