Curriculum Overview

Core Teachers, Specialists, + Grade Teams

Like most middle schools, teachers are hired to teach the content of one or more disciplines for one or more grades. Unlike many middle schools, we take holistic learning seriously and, as a result, we expect a high degree of coordination and collaboration among all of the teachers of a particular grade. The curriculum and classroom teaching of an individual teacher derives its context from the larger curriculum of a grade and adapts to the experiences of students in other classes. Teacher collaboration extends beyond simple schedules and logistics as the team must coordinate how they unfold the integrating themes, how they develop the core skills and meta-skills of leadership and social justice, how they orchestrate culminating projects, and how they address emergent challenges with individuals and groups of students.

Grade-Level Themes

Throughout the year, students continually encounter their grade-level theme which shapes their curriculum and integrates learning across disciplines.

List of 4 items.

  • 5th Grade: Digging Deeper

    Students create a community of courageous leaders who champion change across each academic subject. Critical thinking, community building, and problem solving are cornerstones of our program. We ask challenging questions, analyze diverse perspectives, and think independently. Digging deeper into the past helps us understand our present and build bridges to a future of equity, justice, and possibility for all.

    A few highlights in 5th grade include:
    • First Peoples project: Students study the history of Celilo Falls.
    • Toy Study project: Students examine cultural and gender stereotyping in toys and marketing.
    • Bridge project: Students learn about the science and engineering behind strong bridges and explore how we can build strong bridges to connect people.
  • 6th Grade: Development Identity & Progress

    Sixth grade at SGS focuses on identity. Who are we today? What journeys have brought us here? What cultural influences have shaped our identity? Where are we headed? Students are asked to challenge their notions of who they are and what they are capable of. Students learn to take ownership of their learning.

    A few highlights of 6th grade include:
    • Journey project: In teams during orientation, students engineer a cart to go through an obstacle course representing the successes and challenges they will face in the 6th grade year.
    • Avatar project: Students integrate visual, performance, and media arts to represent themselves in future form based on core values.
    • SGS Medical Board Exams and Poetry Performance: Students study human body systems and present a medical specialty to a panel of local physicians and experts. Students write and perform original poems, and explore and perform inspirational mentor poems.
    • Community Meeting leadership: Students lead one all-school meeting during the school year and present on a topic of their choice.
  • 7th Grade: Roots of Positive Change

    Seventh grade students consider who they are in their community and how they can become agents of change, not just in the future, but now. They explore questions like, "How has American society both lived up to and fallen short of the ideas set forth in our founding documents?" They conduct independent research on curent socially relevant topics of their choosing, learning to synthesize information and take a stand to advocate for themselves and others.

    A few highlights of 7th grade include:
    • Running for Student Council: Students learn and practice how to respond to student voices, build cross-grade bonding, and grow the SGS community.
    • SGS Law School: Students participate in a mock trial at the King County Courthouse after studying the Constitution.
    • Pay It Forward project: Students explore the root causes of an issue they want to see changed and educate others through their project.
  • 8th Grade: Alone we go fast, together we go far

    Eighth grade is a time of tremendous transition. Our students are deeply immersed in the fun and challenge of their final year, with one eye toward high school and the world beyond. They continue developing their broad perspective on the world and their own place in it, ready to expect big things from themselves and the people around them.

    A few highlights of 8th grade include:
    • Idea Incubator project: Students make plans for inventions that help solve a problem, develop a prototype, and present their ideas to a panel of female entrepreneurs and engineers.
    • Simulated Space Mission: Students study rocket science, physics, and space science, becoming SGS astronauts. They participate in a simulated mission to the International Space Station.
    • Video Production: Students create films, making creative and technical decisions together by consensus.


Intensives, which happen in the two weeks leading up to winter break, are courses designed to encourage growth mindset, build communication skills, enhance problem solving skills, and practice community-building and inclusion. Half the day, students focus on grade-specific projects that build on their grade-level themes. The other half of the day, they get to build relationships with each other across grades.

List of 8 items.

  • 7th Grade Mock Trial

    Our 7th graders experience a demanding and highly engaging two-week "Law School" intensive, learning the steps in a trial, analyzing facts and witness statements, coming up with a theory of the case and working collaboratively on a prosecution or defense team. At the end, they present their cases before a real judge and live jury of parent volunteers!
  • 8th Grade Filmmaking Challenges

    In preparation for their spring “Production” project–a unit within Performance and Media Arts (PMA) where students learn foundational movie-making skills and practice collaboration–during Intensives, 8th graders dive into the world of videography. They are challenged to learn specific filming and editing skills to create short films within limited time constraints.
  • El Desafío

    Every student, regardless of grade, gets to participate in this 30-minute Intensive, twice daily! The multi-grade teams face challenges that focus on teamwork, collaboration, effort, y español.
  • Illuminations

    In this immersive course, students across grades learn digital design and build an illuminated creation, learning about prototyping, circuitry, laser cutting, and assemblage.
  • Narrative Game Design

    Students work together to build worlds in which board games can be played. With partners and in groups, these SGS game designers write settings and characters, and design clear rules for gameplay.
  • Sweet, Sweet Science

    One of our most popular intensives, students learn and apply the science of crystals, smell/taste, and polymers to make beautiful--and delicious--candy!
  • Urban Market Quest

    Students explore questions around urban planning; specifically, how does urban planning impact the people who live in cities? By analyzing data, designing urban planning strategies, and building world simulations, students come up with their own solutions.
  • Utopia Village

    Utopia Village challenges students to think about how to create supportive communities. Through this, they explore principles such as universal design building, green building, and community design.


Informed by Standards, Not Driven by Them

The SGS educational experience is rich and nuanced, and so is our approach to assessing and reporting student progress. While teachers often use quantifiable measures like geography quizzes and math assessments to provide basic checkpoints, they also consider assessment to be an essential part of the authentic work teachers and students do together each day.
For each study and major project, our faculty takes great care in articulating the skills, understandings, and outcomes they expect of their students, guided by a deep familiarity with nationally considered standards, and of child and adolescent development. Teachers provide varied ways of both supporting those outcomes and assessing them. They closely observe students in the process of working, and carefully analyze their products, often with the help of rubrics designed to support students as they move toward the highest of expectations.

At SGS, we have never used letter grades. Our in-depth progress reports, sent home three times a year, provide a rich picture of our students’ strengths as well as their challenges. These comprehensive reports are supplemented by less formal assessment communications throughout the year, and ongoing feedback for students. We also work hard to develop each student’s capacity for honest and productive self-assessment, with adult support.

Twice a year, each student leads their parents and advisor through a personalized “Learning Team Meeting,” where students share important pieces of work and reflect on their progress toward self-chosen goals. LTMs put middle school girls right where they need to be: at the center of the conversation regarding their academic and social/emotional development.

Caitlin Gaylord, SGS Alum, Class of 2010

Some of my favorite memories of SGS are...being able to get learning out of an experience—not just learning for a test or learning something so you can be quizzed on it and then totally forget it, which is how a lot of schools are. I think a lot of the information I learned at SGS really stuck with me because there was so much real-life application and it wasn’t just a multiple-choice test.

Being There Experiences

One of the hallmarks of a Seattle Girls’ School education is the opportunity to engage in being-there experiences that not only facilitate but also cement learning. These experiences are not the exception, but the norm for teaching at SGS.
Located in the Central District, Seattle Girls' School is an independent school for girls and gender nonconforming students in grades 5-8. Our mission is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.