Welcome to Middle School

A welcome letter from Lower & Middle School Director Zanita Kelly, Ed.D.

Our program addresses the diverse developmental needs of students in the 7th and 8th grades as it bridges the transition from childhood into adolescence. The program provides the skills necessary for continuing academic success and enables students to enter the Upper School as confident, articulate, self-motivated learners.

The Middle School is a warm and vibrant community, and our teachers are inspired, effective professionals who love working with and learning from early adolescents. We emphasize an interdisciplinary curriculum grounded in the skills necessary for academic achievement, intellectual growth, and social, emotional, and physical wellness.

Students learn how to research, ask original questions, weigh evidence, analyze cause and effect, synthesize information, apply knowledge to new situations, read critically, and formulate and substantiate a thesis. By working collaboratively and considering diverse perspectives, our students think deeply about the world around them and are compelled to contribute constructively.

At Westridge, our focus on personal responsibility and accountability underscores every interaction we have. Whether helping a girl reflect on the impact of her actions with a friend, co-creating a plan to better organize her backpack, or connecting her with a teacher to ensure she gets the help she needs, we coach girls to become their own advocates, identifying their own needs and the steps they can take to fulfill them. We value process and outcome, and embrace mistakes and subsequent learning as much as a correct answer. Above all, Middle School students learn that with practice and effort, they can achieve success. 

Middle School students work on a robot

We value process and outcome, and we embrace mistakes and subsequent learning as much as a correct answer. Above all, Middle School students learn that with practice and effort, they can achieve success. 

Explore Our Middle School Program


Students participating in a literature discussion

The 7th Grade Cultural Studies program encourages girls to examine and to make connections between history and the choices they make in their own lives. Girls explore the literature, geography, anthropology, and history of various global communities. Utilizing technology and design-based thinking, girls pursue essential questions through Socratic discussion, research, hands-on projects, and writing. Working independently, collaborating, and reflecting, students consider how their decisions can carry both global and local implications and how their own actions can make a difference.

The 8th Grade American Studies program examines the political, economic, and social history of the United States, exploring issues of equity, social justice, and citizenship through interdisciplinary study of key time periods and literary texts. By using innovative learning approaches such as portfolios, video writing, conferencing, and performance-based assessments, students hone their critical thinking and creative problem solving skills while becoming thoughtful collaborators and confident risk takers.


Girls working on an in-class assignment in math class

The 7th Grade Pre-Algebra course supports and solidifies the foundational knowledge needed to be successful in Algebra 1. With an emphasis on mathematical reasoning, students build skills through analytical problem solving, conceptually relevant projects, and real-world inquiries. There are substantial opportunities for reinforcing skills and providing extension.

In 8th Grade Algebra 1, students continue building upon skills necessary for success in higher-level math curricula. This course enriches girls’ understanding of mathematical processes and operations and offers a range of differentiated teaching techniques in order to best meet individuals’ needs.

In addition, we offer Accelerated Algebra classes for students who have demonstrated the ability to grapple with challenging content independently and who can persevere when it comes to applying theoretical concepts in order to solve complex problems. Accelerated Algebra courses are available to both 7th and 8th Grade students.


Middle School student works on a lab in the STEAM Projects class

In the 7th Grade Life Science course, students explore our natural world, from the inner life of the cell to the complex relationships that make up the biosphere. We place emphasis on developing investigative skills through frequent hands-on labs, experimental design projects, and creative expressions of scientific ideas.

In the 8th Grade Concepts in Earth and Physical Science (CEPS) course, students discover the principles behind the geologic and astrophysical forces in our universe through a variety of labs and technology-based investigations. Students will marvel at observing the heavens with our telescopes, and will find the intersection of physics and biology through a bovine eye dissection.

Students also have the opportunity to take the STEAM Projects elective, in which they delve into the science of photography, explore the world of sound and musical instruments through mathematics and physics, and develop a fundamental understanding of electricity. Students utilize our STEAMWork Design Studio to build and test a variety of machines they create to explore the concepts of aerodynamics, forces, and energy.


Middle schoolers in a Spanish class

Seventh grade students choose Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, or Latin to study for their two years of Middle School. In each course, girls learn the foundation of the target language and the associated culture. In the modern spoken languages, students practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing, while for Latin, girls focus on reading comprehension. For all the languages, we focus on developing analytical skills.


Students creating their own drought-tolerant garden during the Soil Unit

Middle School girls engage in three separate interdisciplinary units on water, soil, and climate change. During these units, the girls experience firsthand how they as life-long learners can use their subject-area knowledge and skills in an interconnected way to explore real-world topics. Our English, history, math, science, and service learning faculty have created units that allow the girls to discover the ways that different disciplines can join together to address problems that single disciplines cannot.

The Water Unit focuses on the global issue of access to safe drinking water. Students research the factors that contribute to water scarcity, record and analyze water usage, understand dehydration and water-borne microorganisms, read fiction and poetry about the absence of water and a journey to a water source, explore how communities can work together to ensure sufficient access to clear water, and identify potential solutions to critical problems. A student-created club, the Water Warriors, helps students deepen their impact by raising awareness and supporting the building of wells and sanitation systems for schools in the developing world.

The Soil Unit focuses on the importance of the soil under our feet. Students take soil samples to study the soil ecosystem, explore decomposition and nutrient cycling, write poetry and nonfiction about the life cycle, study Victory gardens, understand the golden ratio, and explore how communities can work together to keep our soils and food supplies healthy. They help restore habitat in local canyons, install and maintain drought tolerant gardens on our campus with a master gardener, and create a soil e-zine that captures what they’ve learned and what they advocate.

The Climate Change unit focuses on exploring the causes of our rapidly warming world and ways to take action to create a more sustainable future. Students study the impact of climate change on food, water and animals in these areas, calculate personal carbon footprints, write persuasive letters to share ideas for solutions, debate the Key Stone Pipeline, analyze data about energy sources and their use, and discover existing and proposed legislation at the local, state and national level. They explore climate change at the California Science Museum, tour a local power plant, and create videos to propose positive change.


Student musicians rehearsing in orchestra

Middle School students are required to take two years of visual arts courses. In 7th Grade, students establish a foundation in two-dimensional art, engaging with both traditional and digital media. They study drawing, painting, and photography, learning about concepts such as line, space, perspective, and more through a series of hands-on projects. In 8th Grade Visual Arts, students begin to explore sculpture, experimenting with various materials to create 3D shapes and forms, and examining the meaning and purpose of sculptural forms in their daily lives.

Students may choose between participating in Middle School Orchestra or Middle School Choir. These music ensemble courses are designed to help students build invaluable listening and collaboration skills, and gain a fundamental understanding of the art forms through theory, technique, and performance.

Our Orchestra class provides a supportive environment for a wide range of experience levels; beginning students have the opportunity to learn and play a variety of string instruments, and advanced students may choose to continue with their string instrument or play another instrument, such as woodwinds, brass, percussion, or keyboard. All students participate in class discussions, rehearsals, and public performances.

In Choir, students learn to read choral scores and sing in two- and three-part harmony in various genres. The class provides students with a deeper understanding of vocal technique, phrasing and musical interpretation, and music analysis. Occasional leadership opportunities are available in both classes for students as section leaders or assistant conductors.

Theatre courses are offered as electives (see more details under "Electives" below).


Students taking part in a "coding scavenger hunt" during a Computer Science class

Our Middle School Computer Science courses are designed to equip students with essential technical skills and tools they'll need for future academic success.

In 7th grade, students focus on creative engagement with and personal connections to computing by drawing upon creativity, imagination, and individual interests. Students build and program robots to solve a series of challenges, practice fundamental coding concepts in several languages, and explore engineering concepts in a 3D design and printing challenge.

In 8th grade, the students examine the foundations of computer science with a focus on how computing powers the world. The 8th grade Computer Science course is organized around five big ideas that are essential to studying computer science: creativity, data & information, coding, the Internet, and the global impact of computing on our society.


Middle School actively engages girls in a comprehensive program which includes team sports, fitness and recreational activities, dance, and yoga. Building on a solid Lower School program, girls hone motor and movement skills with a thematic emphasis placed on the importance of cardiovascular fitness. The program works to instill enthusiasm and motivation for lifelong participation in physical activity as well as to prepare students for interscholastic competition in Middle and Upper School.


Seventh graders working at a local charity

Service Learning encourages Middle School students to understand and embrace their responsibilities of global citizenship. Through the service learning program, girls discuss issues of community concern and participate in service learning projects at the school, in the Pasadena area, and across the globe.

The 7th Grade course connects students with environmental responsibility on a personal level. They’re exposed to a range of environmental issues and projects through field trips, guest speakers, and hands-on experience, and provided with tools to lead more eco-friendly lives.

In the 8th Grade program, students broaden their understanding of social issues at local and global levels. It addresses issues such as domestic and international poverty, animal rights, children’s welfare, and environmentalism, and culminates in small-group student service projects exploring selected issues.


Students test out boats they designed and 3D printed in the STEAMWorks Design Studio

We offer a diverse selection of Middle School electives designed to help build students' skills in communication, research, design, and more. All electives are available to both 7th and 8th graders.

This course introduces students to the world of competitive speech and debate, teaching students the skills of basic communication and persuasion. Students also learn how to conduct research using databases and think tanks from around the globe, how to organize and formulate arguments, and how to argue effectively for any ideas which they are given to defend. Additionally, debaters travel to tournaments throughout the year to compete against fellow debaters from around the nation; Westridge Debate boasts several State Championships and our Middle School team ranks in the top 15 in the nation.

Semester-long courses offered in both 7th and 8th grades provide Middle Schoolers with an introduction to theatre arts. Students build a trusting and supportive ensemble through collaboration exercises and theatre games, and they have the opportunity to participate in almost every aspect of the art form including acting, analysis, and critique. Our hands-on theatrical production curriculum also exposes students to stage management and scenic, properties, and costume design.

Our Coding & Game Design course empowers students to become creators and not just consumers of technology. With a focus on core programming concepts, the design process, and common game mechanics, students learn to design games, apps, and art projects using graphical and text-based programming language and robotics kits.

This course introduces students to the hands-on process of model rocketry. Starting from scratch, students work together as a team to design and build model rockets using equipment in the STEAMWork Design Studio (including 3D printers and the laser cutter), and assemble the parts using math, physics, and engineering concepts. Students test their completed rockets at the Santa Fe Dam on weekend field trips, and will ultimately have the opportunity to compete with their rocket in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) and, with qualifying scores, can attend the National Flyoffs in Washington DC in May.

In our STEAM Projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) elective, students delve into the science of photography, explore the world of sound and musical instruments through mathematics and physics, and develop a fundamental understanding of electricity. Students utilize our STEAMWork Design Studio to build and test a variety of machines they create to explore the concepts of aerodynamics, forces, and energy.


Practicing stillness

Human Development gives girls at both grade levels the opportunity to learn about issues that impact their social, emotional, and physical lives, in and out of school. Through conversations and activities, girls are empowered with accurate information while exploring their own values and beliefs. Parents are encouraged to participate in these conversations by engaging their daughters in discussions about their own family values, a focus that is continually emphasized.

In 7th Grade, students explore the transition to Middle School, personal respect, the importance and complexity of friendships, and emotional and physical well-being, as well as comprehensive information about the developing bodies of adolescents and an introduction to human sexuality.

In 8th Grade, students discuss effective communication and decision making, health and wellness, media literacy, assertiveness and personal safety, cultural identity, reproduction and sexuality, stress relievers, and identifying and coping with pressures typically associated with adolescence.


Seventh graders kayaking along the California coastline

Our Middle School curriculum gives students the opportunity to explore topics outside the classroom setting, with various class trips providing an emphasis on outdoor education. The program is designed to have students act as stewards of the natural world, explore their creative expression and artistic intelligence, develop global awareness, and grow intellectually and emotionally as they pursue new interests and passions.

Preceding spring break, 7th and 8th graders take part in Discovery Week - a transformative, week-long program that takes experiential learning to the next level. Recent offerings include learning about ecology and geology at Yosemite National Park, exploring U.S. history in Washington D.C., whitewater rafting on the Kern River, rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, exploring the California coastline, and more.


Westridge Tigers' celebrate their Middle School Independent League (MSIL) Championship victory

Participating in Middle School Athletics is fun! Because we believe in the educational value of athletics, Westridge strives to be a "no cut" school; every girl who wishes to try a sport will be on a team, which means any girl can play any sport. The Tigers have competitive A Teams for 8th graders with previous experience, as well as B Teams and tournament teams for 7th graders who are developing fundamental skills and looking to participate in interscholastic competition.

Westridge competes in the Middle School Independent League in basketball, flag football, golf, soccer, track & field, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, and volleyball. Middle School girls also compete on the high school equestrian team. For more details about our program, please visit the Athletics section.


The Westridge After School Program is run by the Child Educational Center (CEC), a long-time leader in early childhood education based in La Cañada Flintridge. CEC staff members have been onsite at Westridge for more than 10 years and know our children, parents, and school exceptionally well.

Our After School Program is designed to build community, provide homework support, and engage students in fun activities. The program can be used on school days as often or as little as needed; parents may pick their daughter up at any time from school before 6 pm.

The cost of the After School Program for the 2019-2020 school year is $1000. Families may pay the full amount of $1,000 at once or opt for two installments of $500 (the first due August 16, and the second due December 2).

Enrollment and payment for the 2019-2020 school year closes August 16, 2019, whether you choose to pay in full or in two installments. Click here to enroll online.

Questions? Contact Demi Duenes at dduenes@westridge.org.


View the 2019-2020 Catalogue of Courses for Middle School.

An independent, forward-thinking
day school for girls, grades 4–12

324 Madeline Drive
Pasadena, California 91105
Phone: 626-799-1153
Fax: 626-799-9236

Westridge School admits students of any race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, tuition assistance programs, athletic, and other school-administered programs.

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