Our Curriculum

Core Academics

What do highly capable learners need to thrive?

Over the past three decades, we’ve kept this question at the center of everything we do, especially when it comes to the backbone of our program: our core academics. Core classes at NOVA draw on our collective wisdom in the field of gifted education, best practices and protocols, emerging research, and the thousands of interactions and experiences we’ve had with highly capable and twice-exceptional students through the years.

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Language Arts

The NOVA Language Arts program helps students become skilled communicators as part of a strong literary community of readers and writers.

Through personal expression and literary experiences, students get a well-balanced, thorough background in the four strands of literacy: writing, reading, speaking, and listening.

High School Transition: Graduating NOVA students are prepared to enroll in ninth-grade Honors English.

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Math

Deep conceptual understanding of the language of mathematics provides the strongest foundation for students' varied future pursuits.

Our math program focuses on helping students develop solid skills in Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and—for some—Geometry. Each student progresses at a rate that challenges them while also ensuring deep understanding.

High School Transition: NOVA students earn Algebra I high school credit. Students who follow an accelerated path also earn high school credit in Geometry.

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Science

Developing scientific thinking skills occurs through hands-on practice, a high level of scientific dialogue, and inquiry.

Over three years, students study Earth and Space Science, Biology, and Physical Science in a curriculum that’s responsive to current events and grounded in Next Generation Science Standards. Students develop scientific thinking skills through dialogue and inquiry along with lab work, data evaluation, and the use of various technologies.

High School Credit: NOVA students are prepared for Physical Science in ninth grade.

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Social Studies

A deep understanding of our larger social, political, and historical context is necessary in order to understand the changing world we live in.

Our History and Geography programs prepare students by improving their research capabilities, note-taking skills, ability to read and retain content, and capacity to interpret both data and cultural context. NOVA students learn to understand and defend various perspectives, recognize bias, and acquire the skills necessary to be informed, analytical citizens.

High School Credit: Students graduate with credit for Washington State History and develop an understanding of local First Nations people through the Since Time Immemorial curriculum.

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Spanish

In our Spanish program, students practice self-expression, study the varied cultural contexts of Spanish, and learn foundational grammar and vocabulary.

Our goal, beyond increased Spanish proficiency, is to create a strong foundation for future language study and to provide a healthy opportunity for kids to engage with this essential 21st-century skill.

High School Credit: NOVA students earn high school credit for Spanish I. Those who continue with Spanish studies in ninth grade enroll in Spanish II.

Beyond Core

What do highly capable students need to grow—as students and as people?

A healthy school experience is about more than traditional academics. That’s why we incorporate a number of classes beyond the core curriculum into our program. Every student at NOVA will take these classes over their three years with us because we — and modern research — believe they are essential for young adolescents to be balanced, happy, and healthy.

Visual Arts

Our Visual Arts program helps students build artistic skills and practice creative problem-solving through experienced instruction, access to professional tools and materials, and guidance that helps them foster creativity.

Through a mix of 2-D and 3-D projects over their three years at NOVA, the curriculum helps students use art as a means of expression and communication, as an exploration of human thought and emotion, and as a path to deepening compassion for themselves and for other people.

Enrichments

Our robust afternoon Enrichment program gives students the opportunity to explore a variety of topics based on their interests.

Each trimester, students choose from a list of several dozen classes, with titles such as French, Songwriting, Robotics, Cartography, Photo Manipulation, Crocheting, Mystery Theater, Chess, and many more. Teachers are continually creating new classes based on their emerging interests and student suggestions.

Exploratory Program

Our Exploratory program guides seventh- and eighth-grade students through a Restorative Practices model.

In weekly Exploratory circles, students talk about topics such as healthy school culture, healthy relationships, emotional awareness and management, bullying, neurodiversity, and digital wellbeing. Our goals for these experiences are to help students navigate the complex social and emotional landscapes of their adolescence and to make connections between everyday life and citizenship in a world that’s interconnected and rapidly changing

Grade-Level Seminars

Throughout their time at NOVA, students also receive grade-appropriate support through seminars that meet weekly in grade-level groups to help them prepare for future success.

In sixth grade, we focus on study skills to help them increase their educational independence and autonomy. Seventh graders study and participate in various forms of service throughout the year. In eighth grade, students take on a yearlong independent project designed to help them practice skills they’ll need for long-term independent learning.

Physical Education

NOVA's Physical Education program is varied, playful, and non-traditional.

We believe all students can gain confidence through physical activity and have the capacity to lead. In the fall and the spring, classes are on campus and consist of games that focus on teamwork, self-refereeing skills, and positive participation. In the winter, classes move off-site to various community locations. Choices change based on availability and student interest but some recent examples include rock climbing, bowling, racquetball, Zumba, swimming, and golf.

Advisory Cohorts

Twice a week, students meet in small groups we call cohorts.

On Tuesdays, teachers check in individually with students to go over their grades, talk about any missing work, come up with strategies, and check in on overall progress and well-being. They also help students prepare for new classes and conferences. During these check-ins, other students have extra work time. On Thursdays, cohorts challenge each other in games like Pictionary or Codenames.

SoEmo Health

Our Social-Emotional (“SoEmo”) program includes classes that meet weekly throughout a student’s time at NOVA and is woven throughout our entire curriculum.

Classes focus on emotional wellness and personal development and cover a wide range of important topics including communication, transitioning from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school, and navigating students’ growing independence.

Technology

All students take a NOVA Tech class that introduces them to the systems and software we use on campus.

From there, students can choose from various Enrichment classes in technology that help them become nimble and confident in an ever-changing digital world. Our technology classes serve students at all levels, whether they enter middle school with very little exposure to technology or have already clocked many hours exploring coding languages.

Beyond the Classroom

What do middle school students need to feel like they’re part of a community?

Extracurricular student experiences at NOVA are designed to round out and fit in with the goals of our core academics and other required classes. Spending time with other students who enjoy similar pastimes builds community and gives students even more opportunities to experience our core values of connection, commitment, intention, and joy.

Athletics

Team sports build confidence and skills.

NOVA's sports teams are inclusive and fun, offering any students who wish to participate an opportunity to try out something new, build confidence and skills, and compete. Many team sports are offered in partnership with the South Sound YMCA. Recent offerings include basketball, volleyball, and cross country.

Clubs

After-school clubs are an energizing way for students to connect with peers.

After-school clubs shift and change every year, based on student interests, but they’re all relaxed, fun ways for kids to connect with each other outside the classroom. Any student can start a club. Periodically, teachers host clubs at NOVA. Adventure Club, for instance — hosted by our advanced science teacher — gets students busy with hands-on projects and experiments.

Elementary School Mentoring

Becoming a mentor is a great way for middle schoolers to stretch their wings.

NOVA has a history of partnering with local elementary schools to give our students an opportunity to work with elementary school-aged children and learn firsthand how to be leaders in a classroom.  

Expeditions

Off-campus trips bookend our school year and is an important time for students and staff to bond. 

We begin and end the school year with our signature expeditions, where we enjoy time together and learn about each other away from campus. In the fall, we spend a few days at Camp Colman, a longstanding tradition where we spend time together in nature, take on group and individual challenges, and indulge in some silly fun. This is an important time for new students to get to know their peers and for returning students to settle into their new roles.

In the spring, eighth graders celebrate the culmination of their years together with a trip to the San Juan Islands. The sixth and seventh graders mark the end of the school year by visiting either Portland or Port Townsend, where they spend time together and set intentions for the following school year.

Music

Music is a tradition on our campus and a crucial part of many students’ NOVA experience.

Though music is not a requirement, many NOVA students participate in music throughout their time at the school. We offer orchestra, band, and choir regularly. Students in these groups perform in concerts and at school events throughout the year. For students who want to learn more, we offer Enrichment classes on topics such as songwriting or music history.

Theater Arts

Theater helps students become more confident and creative and nurture friendships.

Through our Enrichment program and after-school activities, NOVA students can participate in theater, a great way to become more confident and creative and to nurture friendships. We offer multiple Enrichment classes, including the ever-popular Improv class. In the winter, students rehearse, produce, and perform one show as an after-school activity. Shows have included musicals, dramas, comedies, and one-act plays.

Belonging at NOVA

Our goal is for our school culture to be one of inclusion and belonging for every member of the NOVA community.

Our Culture

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