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Middle School

Middle School is a unique time of change for your child. We recognize that all students have their own learning styles, so we focus on individual needs. Within each classroom, teachers exercise creative approaches in teaching to ensure every student learns how to learn effectively. Through our small classes, distinctive teacher/student relationships, and genuine concern for each student, we emphasize social/emotional growth through personal relationships, academic excellence through critical thinking, and commitment to community through leadership and extra-curricular opportunities.
Classes use a wide range of pedagogical techniques, including: seminar-style discussions, note-taking, or assigning and supervising collaborative, and internet-based/independent study projects. Using this diverse approach to education students are provided a strong foundation that will support their continued success.
Middle School also requires each student to be an effective and proficient user of technology. Saklan has successfully adopted a 1:1 laptop program allowing our students to expand their world through the opportunities of technology. Each class integrates the use of technology for activities such as note-taking, study skills, organization, presentations, and much more.
Ultimately, Middle School is a time to discover. Our students are provided with opportunities to learn who they are, what makes them stand out, and most importantly, who they want to become. Each day is purposely blended with academic challenges and personal growth experiences to keep the teachers motivated and the students focused on reaching their personal best.

Communication and Partnership with Families

The Saklan School Middle School prides itself on effective parent-teacher-student communication and family-friendly environment. Twice a year, parent teacher conferences are held to apprise families of student progress and to build teamwork for that purpose; student attendance is strongly encouraged at these conferences. Each trimester our comprehensive report cards provide both letter grades and detailed comments; mid-trimester progress is reported in writing as well. Our faculty has a commitment to communicate with parents by phone, email, or in person if a student’s average falls below 80% in any class.

Field Trips

Field Trips extend lessons beyond the classroom and truly embrace lifelong learning. Students experience a multitude of day trips each year whereby a cross-curricular approach emphasizes learning by doing.

Experiential Education

Experiential Education is a student-centered exploration of discovering the answer on your own. It’s more than a week long field trip. Experiential Education places a student in a more direct relationship with the material, allowing them the opportunity to answer their own questions and make discoveries.


Experiential Education trips include:

  • Annual Middle School Advance - 6th-8th grades
  • Yosemite Institute - 6th grade
  • Oahu, Hawaii - 7th grade
  • Washington, DC - 8th grade


Saklan Middle School students thrive with a trusted advisor to support them on their journey of personal, academic and social-emotional growth throughout their middle school years. Advisory groups meet four times per week and enjoy both one-on-one student-advisor conversations and also group-wide shared time for student issues and concerns. Students form a special bond with their Advisor and a strong sense of group identity with their fellow advisory members. The Advisor also serves as the key contact for parents concerning their student’s needs and progress.

Learning Period

Learning Period is another way in which we provide support for students at the end of their day. Students can start their homework, take a missed quiz or test, work one-on-one with a teacher, or participate in tutoring.


The Elective Program is designed to go in depth with certain subject matter, as well as to allow students to make decisions regarding their own education. These electives are focused in the areas of the Visual and Performing Arts and Physical Education, and include mixed classes with students from 6th, 7th and 8th grade.  During the first and third trimesters, students meet for a 90 minute block each week to actively explore areas that interest them. Past offerings have included: Basketball, Weaving, Shakespearean Actors Workshop, Cross-Country, Textile Art, Jazz Band, Stagecraft, Beginning Dance, Sculpture, Volleyball, and Intermediate Musical theater.

Service Learning

Developing compassion within the students is a critical component of the total Saklan educational experience. Recognizing the importance of cultivating values such as responsibility, compassion, and generosity in our students, we seek to involve them in hands-on service learning activities. The students of Saklan will understand the significance their contribution makes to not only a specific organization, but a community, and an individual.

Core Curriculum Approach


All Middle School Math classes use the inquiry based College Preparatory Math (CPM) Curriculum. Students explore mathematical ideas in ways that maintain their enjoyment of and curiosity about mathematics, help them develop depth of understanding, and reflect real-world applications. To become good problem solvers, students need many opportunities to create and solve problems in both mathematical and real-world contexts. They also need to develop and build upon a strong number sense. This involves posing questions, defining problems, considering different strategies, and finding appropriate solutions. Working together in teams and groups enhances mathematical learning, helps students communicate effectively, and develops social and mathematical skills.

Language Arts

The Language Arts curriculum is focused on developing mature and confident communicators. Students are continually challenged to be critical and creative thinkers, powerful writers, and self-assured speakers. Throughout middle school, students take part in a variety of public speaking activities, including class presentations, role-playing projects, all-school assemblies, and musical performances. These opportunities culminate in heartfelt graduation speeches presented to family, friends, and faculty -- a truly magical Saklan moment!


Middle School Humanities thrives on collaborative, multimedia, inquiry- and project-based learning experiences to bring history, geography, and cultural studies to life. Classes include critical analysis of film, music, literature, photographs, paintings, artifacts, primary source materials, and contemporary media. The program seeks to develop a respect and understanding of human history and world cultures, while helping students come to their own conclusions about their rights and responsibilities in the 21st century.


Science goes beyond the textbook with our state-of-the art science lab. Hands-on discovery and experimentation encourage students to develop skills in observation, description, and investigation. Two of our three middle school experiential travel programs are developed from the Science curriculum.

Enrichments and Specialist Subjects

In addition to core subjects, we also offer Spanish, Music, Visual Arts, Physical Education, and Library, all enhance your middle school student’s ability to discover more about themselves and the world around them.
Spanish is a middle school core subject, classes are provided daily. Through multi-modal approaches, students learn to communicate in various contexts such as greetings, time and weather, family, friends, and relationships. As vocabulary and grammatical structures become increasingly complex, students learn to navigate their way through real-life situations including money and shopping, school and education, restaurants and museums, and family life. Students are prepared with the background necessary to be successful in high school Spanish courses.
The Middle School Spanish program has integrated the block schedule to provide a sequential language learning experience to all students, and to ensure they feel comfortable and willing to participate in the classroom. The Spanish program makes foreign language learning a cultural adventure. The program overall goal is to provide the communicative competence of students in the Spanish language by means of cultural-awareness activities to focus on the gradual development of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in each level to foster a positive attitude toward language learning. Students in the classroom are exposed to a variety of activities in which they engage to access the content. When possible, tiered activities are provided to allow students to work at the same content but with different level of support. Moreover, the Middle School Spanish program integrates technology to allow students to experience the concepts and content of the program in a digital form in order to provide opportunities for students to work independently in the practice and to reinforce of the four language domains. At the end of each unit, students are given a summative end-of-unit assessment to show students’ performance and growth within the context of learning Spanish. The outcome of the Middle School Spanish program is to enable students to continue studying other languages in high school, and beyond.
The Saklan Middle School Music Program is based around three mixed grade ensembles that meet three times each week. They are organized with appropriate challenge levels, as well as student preference in mind. Engaging options in choir, band, or orchestra provide our students with a solid understanding and appreciation for music theory, history, and performance.

The Visual Arts department at Saklan offers a truly unique, challenging and contemporary arts curriculum. We believe that the arts are best expressed through one’s own voice, imagination, and eventually his/her mark. At Saklan, we believe the knowledge of art tools; techniques and theories can and must be applied across all disciplines. The goal of the art classes is to help develop creative, confident and independent learners.
Scientific studies show that sustained vigorous movement is essential for optimal brain development. To promote student movement, time for recess is provided daily, and physical education class meets several times a week. The Saklan School is a small school campus. The outdoor space is divided into several yards. Behind the school there is a public trail. Physical education classes use the hard surface area the turf space, the trail, and the climbing structure. Physical Education provides our middle school students a chance to explore the relationship between practice (routine, repetition, and intensity), and motor skill acquisition. Students learn how to learn by helping each other. They practice how to organize and cooperate for healthy competition. If conflict arises, students experience how to resolve issues in a constructive manner. Emotions surrounding games and attitudes towards facing challenges are discussed. Every student has the right to feel comfortable in order to learn at their own pace and accept new challenges. In middle school, the underlying theme of Physical Education is bigger, faster, and stronger. The physiological changes resulting from physical activity are discussed in more detail, and how those changes relate to skill mastery. The concept of practice makes permanent is experienced and understood. Students discuss the role of sports in society and practice leadership skills while organising recess games and participating in interscholastic sport events. The focus for physical education is as follows. Sustained motion such as run/walk a mile. Practice manipulation of objects such as: balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, bean bags, parachute, tug 'o' war rope, sticks and bats. Experience in playing as a group (collaboration and sportsmanship). Experience outside especially weather conditions and seasons. The practice of the sports basketball, soccer, floor hockey, volleyball and other large group games. Field experience while walking and running on the trail. Opportunities to participate in intramural sports such as: a hopscotch tournament, a hula hoop contest, lunch time soccer tournament, floor hockey tournament, and wiffle ball games. The opportunity to participate in the after school sports of cross country, basketball, volleyball, and soccer, against other schools.

Your child’s learning at Saklan, by grade

Sixth grade

Sixth grade is a period of self-assertion and curiosity, when students are becoming more socially expansive and aware. At the Saklan School, we support your child through their transition into adolescence by gently encourage them to develop their personal interests and abilities, and allowing a safe environment to develop excellent interpersonal skills.

Students grow their Math skills through many topics in this first year of Pre-Algebra, with each area is connected in a logical manner to enhance student learning. Some of what they are exposed to include patterns, proportional relationships, comparisons, data collection and analysis, equivalent fractions, writing expressions with variables, probability, volume, area, prisms, dividing fractions, percent applications, and coordinate graphing.
Focusing on intensive analysis of language at its roots, sixth graders are challenged to read closely and ask how/why questions to better understand both text and subtext. They practice a wide range of writing and revision processes and learn to dissect sentences to understand them on a microscopic level. How do stories work? How do they convey information and ideas? How do sentences work? How do they convey clarity and power? What's a simple sentence versus a complex sentence? What are the roles of the various parts of speech and punctuation? How do words in a sentence "talk to each other"? What’s the best word choice for maximum clarity and creativity? Our student-fueled, inquiry-based, practical approach to analyzing stories, grammar, and sentence structure is dynamic and fun.
Humanities is a combined exploration of the history, geography, and literature of specific time periods. Students learn the overarching trends from the dawn of human history through the fall of the Roman Empire. Regional emphasis includes the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome. Students hone their critical thinking skills as they gather and analyze evidence while searching for alternative perspectives. This course also explores how the above-mentioned timeless themes relate to contemporary issues.
Sixth grade focuses on the principles of geology and environmental systems. Classes are a mixture of exploratory activities, collaborative activities, long-term research, lectures, and in-depth labs. Weekly labs expand upon and reinforce the information covered in class.
In the sixth grade Visual Arts program, students will apply design principles, techniques and problem solving skills using a variety of media to communicate meaning and intent in original works of art. Learning one and two point perspective, demonstrating craftsmanship in use of materials when drawing, painting and sculpting, and understanding how meaning is conveyed through symbols, text, and form. They will analyze past and present cultures throughout the world, expanding each student’s understanding of human diversity along with an appreciation of the arts in society today.
Physical education is extended in the sixth grade through intramural and after school sports opportunities.

Seventh Grade

Seventh graders are building their sense of individual identity as they continue to build independence. At the Saklan School, we reinforce their growing desire for autonomy by encouraging critical thinking, while providing your child with a caring environment and classroom community..

Students continue to grow in their Math skills by reinforcing concepts introduced in the first year of Pre-Algebra, while they fine tune their skills and go further in depth during this year. New topics include the Pythagorean Theorem, solving inequalities, linear and exponential growth, scientific notation, interest, slopes, solving equations, exponent rules, cones and pyramids, scale factor, circles, solving complex word problems, and transformations.


Language Arts in seventh grade expands on sixth grade's reading, writing, revising, and grammar skill-building. Students learn to read even more closely, ask thought-provoking questions, identify themes in stories and novels, and write authoritatively to prove arguments with examples from the text. Literature examples range from Shaun Tan’s Lost & Found to Aesop’s Fables to contemporary and classic multigenre books of their own choosing.


Seventh grade social studies is designed to help students understand the overarching trends in world history that occurred between 300 C.E. and 1700 C.E. They explore the role of government, spiritual life, and cultural identity to analyze the progress of different civilizations. Regional emphasis include the Middle East, the Sub-Saharan Africa, medieval societies of Japan and Europe, the Americas, and the Renaissance. Significant attention will be placed on the development of Islam, the growth of Christianity, and the interaction between the two.

Science learning is designed to give students a systematic introduction to the processes and categories of life, students learn to hone their observational skills by recognizing specific traits in organisms and by using these traits as criteria for classification and inference. They expand their lab skills through work with compound microscopes, slides, stains, and dissection. Students improve their understanding of the scientific process through independently designed experiments that isolate experimental and control conditions.


Physical education is extended in the seventh grade through intramural and after school sports opportunities.

Eighth Grade

Eighth graders are transitioning into adolescence and developing foundational skills that will last them throughout their lives. At the Saklan School, we help your eighth grader to thrive through continual encouragement of creative thinking and problem solving skills within an inviting and safe atmosphere.

Saklan Eighth graders take a course in Algebra. This course is a thorough introduction to algebraic techniques and their applications. Basic algebraic skills will be emphasized, with some use of the graphing calculator. Topics include linear, exponential, and quadratic functions, along with polynomials, factoring and radicals.


Advanced eighth graders have the option of a geometry course. This high school level geometry class involves rigorous proofs, properties and relationships of plane figures, and trigonometric ratios taught in a challenging manner. The course is structured around problems and investigations that build spatial visualization skills, conceptual understanding of geometry topics, and an awareness of connections between different ideas. Students are encouraged to investigate, conjecture, and then prove to develop their reasoning skills.


In Language Arts, students take everything they previously learned about crafting strong sentences, paragraphs, and arguments, and put their skills into action in a variety of Humanities contexts, from personal reflections on class activities, to speeches and presentations related to contemporary issues, to mature analysis of news, social media, historical documents, literature, music, and visual art. Engaging literary works are explored, including Orwell’s “Animal Farm”; Civil War fiction by Ambrose Bierce and poems by Henry Timrod; Harlem Renaissance texts by Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen; Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”; and Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.”


Saklan eighth graders explore the concept of United States history as a continuum, from the founders to the latest news, through the lens of “Democracy in Action” (i.e., the interconnections of democracy, freedom, capitalism, and consumerism across the social, cultural, economic, and political spectra). The following are the primary points of inquiry:


  • What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States?
  • What is the American Dream?
  • What is United States culture?

After an introductory project on our nation’s cultural geography, the “Democracy in Action” framework is examined within the context of four in-depth units on constitutional rights, race, gender, and class. A key component of the curriculum is a week-long, investigative field trip to Washington, D.C. A multiple-perspective approach is used throughout the year to ensure a balanced understanding.


Eighth grade Science focuses on introducing students to the principles of chemistry and physics. During the first half of the year students master the fundamental principles of matter including atoms, molecules, the periodic table, and molecular interactions including displacement, acid-base, and combustion. The second half of the year focuses on the principles of basic physics including Newton's Laws of Motion, the forces on our planet, and how we use those in our everyday lives.


Physical education is extended in the eighth grade through intramural and after school sports opportunities.

Middle School Educators

In addition to core subjects, we also offer Spanish, Music, Visual Arts, Physical Education, and Library, all enhance your middle school student’s ability to discover more about themselves and the world around them.

Kim Parks
Middle School Dean/ Humanities

• B.A. and Teaching CRED, San Francisco State University


Kim Parks was born and raised in Pinole, California. Since the fifth grade, she was involved in Student Government and Leadership activities culminating in becoming the senior class president. After graduating from Pinole Valley High in 1994, Kim moved down to La Jolla, CA to attend U.C.San Diego. After one year, she realized that U.C.S.D. was not a good fit, so she returned to the Bay Area. Eventually, Kim found the perfect school in San Francisco State University. She graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Sociology, as well as earning a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential.


At the end of her time at S.F.S.U., Kim was hired at Tara Hills Elementary School to teach second grade. In the next four years, she taught fourth and fifth grade. During these years during summer, Kim always was an employee of The Saklan School either teaching or managing summer camp. Finally in 2004, she caught a lucky break and was offered a full time position at Saklan. Kim has done many different jobs at Saklan over the years. Here are a few: Summer Camp Director, Extended Day Director, Learning  Specialist, Interim E.C.E. Director, Student Services Director, Fifth Grade Teacher, Language Arts Teacher, Humanities Teacher, Leadership Teacher, Advisor and Middle School Dean. Kim prides herself on being adaptable, a cooperative team player, fair, loving, and firm. She is interested and continues to study brain research and student learning, learning differences, and the importance of social-emotional learning in an educational environment through Project Happiness.


Sam Prestianni
Middle School Humanities/ Language Arts

• B.A. English/Writing, University of Maryland – cum laude


Sam Prestianni has been teaching middle school Humanities and Language Arts at The Saklan School since 1998. Prior to Saklan, he taught at Archway School and Frago, a special-education facility for boys. He worked for many years as a freelance music and arts critic/journalist, and his writing has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, including SFWeekly, New York Press, and Jazziz. He has written two novels, edited a few books (fiction and non-fiction), and published short fiction and poetry in a number of literary magazines. He holds a B.A. cum laude in English and Creative Writing from University of Maryland, which he attended on a poetry scholarship. He plays guitar and banjo in a 21st-century string band, and in his spare time... he runs Free Range Flower Winery with his partner.

Saul Zippin
Middle School Math

• B.A. UC Berkeley


Saul Zippin started at The Saklan School in 2012 and has taught middle school math since 2002. He received his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley where he won a rowing national championship. He has continued his education all over the Bay Area, earning continuing education credits in CPM teaching and becoming an EMT.

Saul is a father of three, one girl and two boys, and is married to the Director of Admissions, Melissa. He enjoys spending time outdoors, doing crossfit, watching sports, and playing fantasy football.

Vickie Obenchain
Middle School Science Teacher/ Science Specialist

B.S. Elon University

M.A. Montclair State University


Since joining The Saklan School in 2007, Vickie has made science her passion with a BS and an MA in Environmental Education. She wants to allow every student to ask questions about the world around them, see the relevance of what they are learning in their life and find science fun! In the science lab, Vickie works with students in grades K-4 as their Science Specialist. K-4 students visit the lab twice a year, fall and spring, for a 3-week unit each time. Students engage in activities that require them to work collaboratively, think independently, experiment, and problem-solve. The 5th grade students transition to visiting the science lab for their entire science curriculum and continue to enjoy the challenging and interactive activities and labs. In middle school, she sees the students 5 times a week, and incorporates labs, lecture, simulations, hands on activities, research, field trips and other activities to bring concepts to life.  Students are also put face to face with the concepts they are learning by attending experiential field trips (Marin Headlands in 5th, Yosemite in 6th, Hawaii in 7th, and Great America: Physics Day in 8th).


Vickie started teaching while in college as a lab assistant and later at environmental education centers, teaching how the environment works and how people play a role in the health of their surroundings. She not only teaches at The Saklan School, but also shares her love of science with others during the summer. For the past four summers she has taught for Sallie Ride Summer Camp and A+ Middle School at Stanford University and UC Berkeley, teaching such topics as: Forensics, Engineering, Robotics, Marine Biology and Astronomy.

Christian Crabtree
Physical Education Specialist

A.A. in General Education, Las Positas College

B.S. in Kinesiology, CSU Hayward


Mr. Crabtree is a Bay Area native and his family has lived in California for many generations. His mother inspired him to love aquatics and dance. His father gave him a sense for self-improvement and sportsmanship. As a child, Mr. Crabtree loved to be outdoors and went on his first backpacking trip when he was six years old. While growing up he played many sports, such as baseball, bowling, soccer, swimming, wrestling and taekwondo. Christian has been a Physical Education specialist since 1999 and joined The Saklan School in 2011.

When he is not on the sports court, he is busy helping his brother fix up the small family homestead. To relax, Mr. Crabtree enjoys sitting on the patio sipping lemonade.

Ivonne Padilla
Spanish Specialist, Grades 4-8

M.T.E. Master in Technology Education, University of British Columbia


Ivonne is thrilled to be teaching Spanish language and culture at The Saklan School. She believes in and encourages a nurturing environment which allows students to feel comfortable learning the language to the best of their abilities. Also, she would like her students to experience a sense of satisfaction that it will consequently enhance their overall language skill.

Ivonne started teaching Spanish in Mexico in 1993 after receiving her graduate degree in Instituto Tecnológico y Estudios Superiores de Monterrey joint program at The University of British Columbia. In 2007, she started teaching Spanish to non-native speakers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies-SILP in Monterey. She also taught Spanish at the Bishop O’Dowd High School for two years. When Ivonne is not teaching, she enjoys hiking, reading and cooking. But best of all, she rejoices in helping students learn about Mexican culture and encourages them to take risks in their language learning journeys.