Middle School

At The Riviera Ridge School, our excellent and experienced faculty and staff recognize the importance of understanding the middle school mind. We are prepared to support all students during the formative pre-teen and teen years where students ask questions like: Who am I? What matters to me most? Where do I see myself in the future? Do I have the skills to get there? The Riviera Ridge School creates a safe, nurturing environment to help students answer those questions.

A Day In The Life

With the future in mind, The Riviera Ridge School prepares students each day as they enter the very important middle school years by diving into the heart of 21st Century education. Students are empowered and gain confidence with opportunities to blend core content with project-based learning, allowing for real-world applications and cross-curricular programming. As students graduate 8th grade and prepare to enter High School, they leave The Riviera Ridge School with the following skills:

List of 4 items.

  • A Living Kaleidoscope

    The curriculum is inclusive, reflecting a multitude of
    cultures, communities, and beliefs. It is designed to guide
    students toward making conscious and aware contributions
    to society.
  • Celebrate Everyday Amazing

    It’s the “aha” moments where the real magic happens.
    We recognize and celebrate those moments of
    realization that unlock future potential through new
    knowledge, skills, and awareness. This is the alignment
    of emotional intelligence with academic excellence.
  • Critical Curiosity

    As life is iterative, so should learning be. We nurture
    students to develop their own critical thinking skills to
    grow into independent lifelong learners with a hunger that
    continues long after formal education ends.
  • Future Proofed

    Academic excellence is about ensuring students can
    meet the needs of tomorrow through the development
    of their values, subject knowledge, and life skills.

Curriculum Overview

List of 6 items.

  • History

    Our history curriculum fosters global awareness and strengthens interconnectedness through a balance of historical inquiry, innovative projects, and field trips. Students study ancient cultures and world civilizations, the early modern era, and United States history. Students learn to examine the past to inform the present and make predictions for the future; utilize multiple sources to build contextualization and corroboration to evaluate validity; and, engage in textual analysis to identify an author’s argument and bias.
  • Language Arts

    Woven throughout the language arts curriculum, students learn to, connect themes across contexts and time, explore multiple viewpoints to engender empathy and deepen understanding, and hone verbal and written communication skills to target specific audiences. In Middle School English classes, students are compelled to participate in analytical and subjective discussions about contemporary issues; read critically; support written and spoken ideas with evidence from history, literature, and experience; and develop greater understanding and respect for others’ perspectives. Literary works are chosen for their thematic concerns, namely themes that invite the reader to consider his or her own experience or society and historical context. Opportunities abound to further develop creative expression through poetry and prose and to deepen understanding of the writing process.  
  • Math

    We don’t believe there are “math people” and “non-math people”. Instead, we believe that all students are capable of excelling in mathematics by harnessing a growth mindset. We are creating a world where learners know, use, and enjoy mathematics. Our students learn math through an integrated problem-solving approach. Combining skills for algebra, geometry, and statistics we teach that the world’s problems require a variety of maths. We teach calculation skills and critical thinking so students can excel in analyzing mathematical problems, and communicating multiple solutions. Our robust curriculum prepares students for Algebra Honors or Algebra II/Trigonometry their freshman year. 
    Mathematics 6
    How can you double or triple a recipe? How do you find the surface of a room and calculate the paint needed? If you’re traveling at x rate and a friend is traveling at y rate, how long will it take for you to meet? Our sixth graders master the four basic operations and apply math to their world. By mid-year, they solve pre-algebra word problems and study linear equations. Their final unit on data analysis is the foundation for 7th-grade statistics.
    Mathematics 7
    How can you create a blueprint for a house? What percent is taken for taxes or a tip?  If you add x to this batch and then y to this batch, will they ever have the same amount? Our seventh graders master pre-algebra and learn the basics of geometry and algebra. By mid-year, they focus on linear algebra and inequalities. In their final unit, they focus on probability and statistics. 
    Mathematics 8
    Is that score an outlier? Two kinds of tickets to an outdoor concert were sold, one for x price and the other for y. The venue wants to make $100,000. What combinations of tickets can they sell? Our eighth-grade students master algebra by working with linear equations, functions, and quadratics. They also master data science and two-variable statistics. Our students graduate ready to excel in Algebra I Honors or Algebra II/Trigonometry in their freshman year. 
    Middle School Math Intensive (Honors)
    Beyond our required math courses, our math-intensive meets three times a week during an early morning block. Our Math Intensive Honors combines skills in high school algebra I & II, geometry, probability, and statistics. Students are engaged in complex problem solving that requires them to access their knowledge of linear and nonlinear relationships, exponential functions, geometric design and proofs, and statistical analysis. Taught at an honors level, this course moves at a quick pace. Weekly homework and a final exam are required.
  • Sciences & the Center for Creative Design and Engineering

    As students enter 6th grade, the curriculum continues to emphasize experiential learning and problem-solving that develop a creative innovator mindset where every student feels empowered to reach a goal or solve a problem with the confidence utilizing engineering design and design thinking processes. Beyond the science curriculum, students enhance and develop skills such as adaptability, collaboration, creativity, and innovation. 
    Opened in 2016, the CDEC is a space where students delve deeper into hands-on learning projects in the areas of design thinking, engineering, and science. Students use innovative tools such as laser cutters and 3D printers to transform their ideas into physical prototypes. Design thinking teaches students empathy and requires effective communication and constructive collaboration between peers. The flexibility of the open space allows teachers and students to be creative and collaborative.
  • Service Learning, Ethics, and Comparative Religion Studies

    Unique to our middle school course work in service-learning, ethics and the study of comparative religions. Beginning in 6th grade, we emphasize the importance of connecting with our community to build understanding, empathy, and awareness. These courses are designed to deepen students’ knowledge of self to better understand their impact on family, peers, and the world at large while fostering notions of moral and ethical responsibility.
  • Spanish

    We offer Spanish instruction from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Spanish instruction blends conversational, multimedia, and project-based learning to ignite student fluency and understanding of cultural traditions from Spain and Latin America.  Students develop language proficiency in real-world situations; utilize global partnerships to build global awareness; foster cultural curiosity, and engender a love of language learning. Middle school students often matriculate to High School Spanish 2 or Spanish 3 levels upon graduating from The Riviera Ridge School.

Co-Curricular Offerings

List of 3 items.

  • Electives

    STEAMM Electives
    Students in 6th-8th grade have the opportunity to enhance their rigorous secondary-prep curriculum with a variety of STEAMM (science, tech/engineering, arts, mathematics, and movement) elective courses. Through academic excellence, we ensure that our students are future-proof by developing values, subject knowledge, and life skills. We believe that life and learning are iterative processes and that developing a critical curiosity is a benchmark of lifelong learning. Our STEAMM elective program is a merger of academic excellence and emotional intelligence and allows students to develop choice and diversity within the liberal arts. 

    Our aim is that our students would make conscious contributions to society and find their personal passion in science, technology, engineering, the arts, mathematics, movement (STEAMM), or all! All of our classes are interdisciplinary in approach which allows students to gain a deeper understanding of a variety of topics at a young age. Interdisciplinary teaching allows students to develop into innovators at a young age (Wagner, 2012). Secondly, we incorporate movement into our curriculum through field trips, projects, and hands-on activities since movement increases brain health, creativity, and innovation (Opezzo & Schwartz, 2014).

    Our middle school students will have the opportunity to take three elective STEAMM classes per year. Students rate their courses through an online survey at the beginning of each year. Eighth-grade students are placed in their courses first, then seventh grade, and then sixth graders. Each student enrolls in a total of nine courses during their middle school experience at Riviera Ridge.

    Over the course of three years, students have the opportunity to earn STEAMM certificates in areas of their greatest interest. Students that are enrolled from 6th-8th need a total of 4 credits from each certificate area and earn a passing grade to receive a certificate. Students that join us in 7th grade (and are enrolled in 7th-8th) need a total of 3 credits from each certificate area and earn a passing grade to receive a certificate. 

    The liberal arts certificate which is an interdisciplinary certificate requires students to take one STEM, one art, and one FREE choice course per year. Students that were enrolled in the Extensions program for 2020-2021 will automatically receive a liberal arts certificate for their well-rounded education in STEAMM.

    Certificates Include:
    • Science
    • Technology/Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Performing Arts
    • Visual Arts
    • Liberal Arts
    • Service and Leadership`
    To inspire students to live with a purpose beyond self, the design of our elective course offerings fosters social responsibility and leadership, through independent projects that benefit or empower our community. Community is defined as our school community, the City of Santa Barbara, the state of California, the United States, or the world at large. Each course offers at least one-trimester field trip that immerses our students in community issues. By the end of the trimester, most courses offer an opportunity to innovate solutions to build a better tomorrow through service and leadership. 

    In the 2021-2022 school year we are offering the following courses. 
    • LED Circuits & Programming
    • Pop Art
    • Surfing 
    • Level Up, Agility & Movement
    • Chess
    • Intro to Theater 
    • Service Brigade
    • Materials Science 
    • Yoga and mindfulness
    • Podcasts
    • "Stay Wild" Tropical Ecology 
    • Landscape Art 
    • School of Rock
    • Disc Dynamics
    • MVP: Sports & Stats 
    • Cooking and Culture
    • Shake up Shakespeare 
    • SB Culture Blog 
    • Robotics I
    • Robotics II
    • Native American Studies 
    • Food! The Farm to Table Movement
    • Set Design & Woodworking 
    • Musical
    • Fishing & Sustainable Seafood 
    • Government and Model UN 
    • C-STEM Accelerated Mathematics
  • Advisory

    • Each week, Middle School students have the opportunity to meet with their faculty advisor and their grade-level advisory group. 
    • With both Academic and Social Excellence in mind, the Middle School advisory program is purposefully led and designed to promote thoughtful communication,  intellectual development, and empowering students to confidently navigate the everyday challenges of adolescence with joy and resiliency.
    • The goal of the Riviera Ridge advisory program is to build trust and community, strong interpersonal relationships, and knowledge of self.
  • Middle School Success Seminar

    • A signature program of the Riviera Ridge Middle School Program, Success Seminar is a universal learning support program to build individual capacities for lifelong learning through a student-centered curriculum.
    • Success Seminar, led and taught by Middle School Division Coordinator, Rebecca Ryser, provides all Middle School scholars, 6th-8th Grade,  the unique opportunity to develop and implement excellent individualized study skills, and learn about their developing brain within an academic context. 
    • Together, students will explore the various functions and strengths of the adolescent brain to better understand how each of them individually learns. All students have the opportunity to embrace their individual learning strengths and build the vital executive function skills needed to achieve personal academic success through regularly practiced strategies.

    Rebecca Ryser, MS Division Coordinator & Success Seminar Teacher
    After completing her Master’s degree in Popular and nonformal Education, Rebecca pursued further education in brain development and obtained an Executive Function Coaching Certification from Landmark College in 2014 as well as a Harvard Graduate Institute Certificate in School Leadership and Management in 2021. Rebecca is in her 11th year of teaching and joined the Riviera Ridge family in January 2016 as an instructional support aide, this is her 5th official school year. Committed to student success inside of the classroom and in life, Rebecca puts her creative energy into supporting neurodiverse learners through Middle School Success Seminar, a universal learning support program unique to Riviera Ridge. She has a passion for community service, travel, nature, yoga, family, meaningful connections, and lifelong learning. 

School Trips

Designed to facilitate peer bonding and connect to the curriculum outside of the classroom, Middle School educational trips provide students with life-changing moments. 

List of 3 items.

  • Catalina Island Marine Institute, Whale Watching & The Getty Villa (6th Grade)

    6th grade students travel to the Catalina Island Marine Institute where they camp for five days while snorkeling and kayaking in the clear waters of the Pacific to learn about California marine life. On a separate adventure, students take an all-day whale watching trip leaving from the Santa Barbara Harbor.
  • Northern CA STEAM Study Tour (San Francisco & Monterey), (7th Grade)

    This itinerary is designed to incorporate all elements of STEM learning. 
    • Visit CA Academy of the Sciences: one of the 10 largest natural history museums in the world 
    • Exploratorium: world-famous interactive science museum with over 650 hands-on exhibits
    • San Francisco: Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, and dinner in Chinatown 
    • Marine Mammal Center and Monterey Bay Aquarium 
    • Redwoods State Park and Yosemite
  • Alaska STEAM & Wilderness Trip (8th Grade)

    8th grade students will explore the vast wilderness and natural beauty of Alaska, discover its rich culture and traditions, and experience incomparable learning moments. Students will return home excited to tell you about:
    • Exploring Denali National Park in search of grizzly bear, moose, and caribou. 
    • Standing on the edge of the Exit Glacier or walking alongside the Harding Icefield.
    • Watching whales breach on the surface of the water on a boat tour of Resurrection Bay.