In fifth grade, students are in three self-contained homerooms of 18-20 students. Approximately 18-20 students join the school in sixth grade, increasing the class to 72. Sixth through eighth grades follow a departmental structure, with academic classes of 10-18 students and advisory groups of 11-13.
Upper School offers a challenging curriculum with a mixture of traditional and progressive approaches to teaching and learning. Classrooms are highly interactive. Learning to be an effective learner is an integral part of all courses and assessment.
Upper School students take English, Spanish or Mandarin, history, mathematics, science, art, music, drama, and physical education. In addition, we offer an optional, but very popular after-school athletic program for grades 6-8.
The Upper School curriculum includes drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs, health and human body education, including sex education, AIDS prevention, internet safety and media literacy.
The Upper School also offers a number of optional activities and clubs , including Community Council, Environmental Council, Campus Council, Chorus, Math Club, Girls' Rock Bands, World Beat Band, A Cappella Group, the Fall Play, and the Winter Musical.
Outdoor education is an integral part of the MCDS experience. Trips at each grade level enhance our program and extend learning to offsite locations: Fifth graders have a one-night overnight trip that includes a ropes course; sixth graders spend 5 days and 4 nights in Yosemite National Park; seventh graders challenge themselves with a week-long backpacking trip at Joshua Tree National Monument; past eighth grade excurscions have included spending up to 4 days at Donner Pass or Point Reyes National Seashore.
A capstone experience to the MCDS career, eighth graders participate in three-week long experiential learning projects. The projects can vary from year to year but have included: producing an original play (as an MCDS tradition, the play is always offered as a year-end project), intensive field oceanography studies, culinary studies, film-making, studio art work, and design. By providing the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member in depth on a topic of interest, these project weeks are often transformational ones for eighth graders.
An Upper School course description can be found here (pdf).
Service learning projects are integrated with classroom learning so that students build their understanding on the importance of learning about oneself and others through service. Eighth graders participate in service learning off campus throughout the year. The student-run Community Council has worked on issues involving homelessness, hunger, AIDS, aging, and the environment. The council provides students with hands-on service learning opportunities. Sixth through eighth graders can also volunteer at after-school day care centers in San Rafael's Canal neighborhood.
The departmental structure for our older students assures high quality curriculum development, implementation and coordination and is personalized by highly effective teams who serve both as advisors and teachers.
Upper School teachers have a strong commitment to helping students take to heart and practice the school's core values of respect, responsibility and compassion.