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In 6th grade, students build community and grow as independent, self-directed learners. We see 6th grade as a crucial juncture for young people, and the 6th grade program is distinct from all others grades at Burke.

For many students, 6th grade is the first time that they are moving among different classrooms. Burke's program helps them navigate that key transition, tackle long-term projects, and become responsible for their learning – while maintaining an innate curiosity and creativity through the whole of middle school.

Curriculum Overview

Let's ask, "Where Am I?" – in my new school, in Washington, DC, in the Chesapeake Bay region, in the United States, and in the universe. 

6th grade "Core" is a year-long literature, history, and humanities course, focused on the DC region and its cultural and natural resources. Students will learn how to read and interpret novels and short stories, examine and analyze historical periods from the ancient world to the modern day, and explore their lives and communities to create a better society – culminating in a three-day capstone trip to New York City. Reading is central to Core, and students read at last seven novels a year, as well as shorter works. Students write frequently and creatively, do an intensive study of grammar, and complete a full-year research project of their own design. 

Math 6 helps students develop number sense and connect math to science and the wider world. Students also begin to practice algebraic thinking through "Hands-on Equations." In Earth Science, students explore the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere of the Chesapeake Bay region, with frequent outdoor classes at Rock Creek Park's trails and streams.

6th graders choose between French and Spanish, both of which are beginning language courses, building towards conversational ability. Students also study the cultures and customs of the French and Spanish-speaking worlds.

A year-long Visual Arts course, Art Explorations 6 includes one trimester each of drawing, ceramics, and mixed media. Also a year-long course, Diving In 6 spans instrumental music, vocal music, and ensemble acting. All 6th graders have PE five out of every eight days.

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  • 6th Grade Trip

    New York City
    This multi-day capstone trip explores the cultural, literary, historical, and financial life of the United States, including our shared history of immigration.

Middle School FAQs

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  • How big are 6th-8th grades?

    6th Grade

    We cap this grade at 24-26 students. Students divide into two sections of 12-13 for most classes, but all share one homeroom. By keeping the class small, every student will know their peers and their teachers very well – which, in turns, helps them became strong self-advocates.

    7th Grade
    In recent years, we have welcomed an average of 7-8 new students annually in 7th grade, expanding social opportunities, while maintaining a close-knit group.

    8th Grade
    While not a typical entry year, we frequently have several new students join for 8th grade as well. Our most recent 8th grade (Class of 2027) was 33 students.
  • Do students come from specific elementary schools?

    On average, 70% come from public and charter elementary schools and 30% from private, parochial, international schools and homeschooling.

    In the last three years, incoming 6th graders have come from 53 different elementary schools. Incoming 7th and 8th graders have come from 32 different middle schools.
  • Do students receive letter grades?

    6th-8th grade receive numerical (0-100 scale) grades on assignments, including tests, essays, and projects.

    Report Cards
    6th grade report cards are narrative and do not include formal letter grades – giving students more time to build intrinsic motivation and to explore academically on their own terms. 7th graders receive narrative comments and Pass/Fail grades only, while 8th graders begin the transition to letter grades along with narratives.
  • Does the middle school have advanced coursework?

    Throughout Burke, and certainly in middle school, many classes are project-based – so students have the freedom to read, write, and create in ways that challenge them personally and that tie into their own interests.

    In 6th grade, all students take the same Humanities, Math, and Science courses and either French or Spanish. We introduce different pathways for Math and World Language in 7th grade, so students who are ready for a fast-paced class can have that opportunity.
  • Does middle school have electives?

    In 7th and 8th grade, students have significant choice among visual and performing arts electives. 6th graders sample a broad range of arts courses to help inform their future selections.
  • Can students have phones?

    The middle school is a 100% phone-free space. Students who bring a phone to school must leave it in the Head of Middle School's office.

    All middle schoolers are all issued an iPad through our 1:1 program, but iPads "sleep" at school overnight and students only use them in a guided classroom context.
  • Does middle school have recess?

    Students have a mid-morning "break" when they have access to common spaces and the 4th floor terrace, which also has a climbing wall. During lunch period, they have access to the Gym when they've finished eating.

    6th-8th graders have PE on five days out of the 8-day "cycle," including one 90-minute class.
  • Where do students gather?

    6th grade has two large, dedicated classrooms on the 4th floor, which include open lockers and are home to our 6th Grade Dean. Students have most "Core" (English and History), Math, and World Language classes in a cluster of 4th floor classrooms, while moving to other areas in the middle school for Math and Performing & Visual Arts and to the Gym for PE.

    In 7th and 8th grade, students meet both with their grade as a whole and with their advisory groups (5-7 students and one faculty advisor) at set times during the week. The 7th grade has lockers and gathering space on the 4th floor, while the 3rd floor lockers and Commons are the domain of the 8th grade.
Co-ed, progressive, college prep school in Washington, DC featuring a challenging curriculum in an inclusive environment for grades 6-12.