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Upper School

(Grades 5-8)

At Marin Horizon, the Upper School years are a time of exploration and development, both academically, socially, and as a citizen of the world. It’s a time of extraordinary learning and growth. 

 

Students are encouraged to work on self-advocacy and academic resilience as they develop critical thinking skills. And they are encouraged to celebrate differences and share their perspectives in an expanding community.

 

Every morning, students gather in homeroom groups, grounding their experience with an advisor and a group of peers. Longer advisory meetings happen weekly and create a sense of belonging within the larger community. Our student-led Middle School Meeting is a gathering time to feel a sense of commonality while also celebrating the unique talents and interests of the student presenters.

 

Above all, the Upper School endeavors to help students take ownership of their own education and graduate with a strong sense of self and a desire to contribute positively to the world.

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Ben Fussiner

Director, Upper School

Ben joined Marin Horizon in 2019. Prior to his arrival, he served in a number of school leadership roles including as Head of Middle School at Friends Seminary in New York, Assistant Head of School at Turning Point in Los Angeles, and as Assistant Director of Elementary School at Wildwood School in Los Angeles. Ben began his career as a teacher, first at Foote School in New Haven, CT, and then at Wildwood School in Los Angeles.

Ben earned a B.S. in Liberal Studies from Southern Connecticut State University, and an Ed.M. in Education from Harvard University. 

Program Highlights

Our curriculum challenges students to achieve their academic potential during a time of extraordinary growth.

From concrete thinking into the abstract. 

At the culmination of our program, seventh and eighth grades focus on developing the ability to engage in abstract thinking and synthesize and analyze complex issues. Students build on the beginning research skills they have acquired and apply them to long-term projects in science and the humanities. 

Inquiry-based curriculum develops confident voices. 

The Upper School curriculum is inquiry-based, and Essential Questions are introduced throughout the students’ experience. Major projects, based on these questions, help students become skilled and confident public speakers.

Differentiation supports learning styles.

All classes offer some level of differentiation, depending on the range of skills of the students in the classroom. The curriculum is designed to help students develop new skills as they work towards mastering content.

Visual arts, music, and drama foster self-expression.

Students engage in all of the arts offerings in 5th and 6th grades and are then offered choices to pursue in the arts for 7th and 8th grades.

A project-based approach fosters deeper learning.

The Upper School program is strongly project-based, with a focus on integrated, hands-on learning. There are also many touchpoints for integrating the curriculum across disciplines.

Mixed grade groupings expand collaborative learning. 

Science and Social Studies classes are taught in mixed grade groupings, opening up opportunities for academic interactions with a larger number of students and providing deeper levels of collaborative learning experiences.

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Social & Emotional Learning

When families visit Marin Horizon, they often comment, “It feels so friendly and warm.” 

 

At Marin Horizon School, social and emotional learning is part of the fabric of our school. In addition to an academic focus, our faculty and staff work with students – intentionally and proactively – to cultivate self awareness, self management, healthy relationships, and accountability to one another. 

 

Our teaching teams subscribe to both the Responsive Classrooms program and restorative justice practices to create an environment for these human to human interactions to thrive. In addition, both Lower School and Upper School teaching teams meet regularly to discuss the mood and pulse of each classroom, as well as individual students, with the intent of providing support where needed, often in collaboration with families.   

 

“We prioritize the size and composition of our classes and intentionally design our campus layout to create conditions for kids to grow into amazing young people!” says Anna Varnay-Truong, Director, Curriculum & Instruction.

Learning and thriving outside of the classroom.

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Our Outdoor/Experiential Education program is a hallmark of the Marin Horizon experience. We're located in the heart of Mill Valley, at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, surrounded by open spaces, trails, and towering redwoods. Students will explore the wonder of the natural world during class outings, day trips, and overnight adventures. They practice skills to interact safely with wild spaces, and learn about environmental stewardship.

 

In addition, opt-in student clubs allow for participation in student leadership, environmental stewardship, service learning, and more. And school sports give interested students a chance to participate on athletic teams.

More Program Highlights

The Upper School Program is undoubtedly a comprehensive academic program, as demonstrated by students who graduate into the high schools of their choice. What makes the program truly stand out - is when one observes the students in action, beyond the classroom. The program is experiential by design, where students learn as part of "experiencing" the lessons. They build catapults and Rube Goldberg models to learn Physics, debate passionately on topics like student's right to free speech within the confines of the school boundaries in Humanities, or bring out their inner divas in Performing Arts. It is in these environments that one gets to see the knowledge, confidence, and articulation skills, and how developing a confident voice has prepared the students for a life of compassionate leadership.

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Catapult Launch

A tradition for 7th and 8th graders, the Catapult Launch is the way they learn about Newton's Laws of Motion. Working in small teams, they design, construct, fail, and recover - competing for bragging rights in this Olympic-styled event, cheered on by the entire school. 

"The biggest lesson I learn is that failure is just a stepping stone to success."

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Debates

A 2-month exercise in Social Studies and Language Arts, students work to research a controversial topic relevant to them. They construct arguments for and against the motion, and debate it out with teams with opposing views. It's a spectacle, attended by the entire community. 

"I feel like a politician - can passionately debate either side."

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Musical & Play

Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Wizard of Oz, or A Midsummer Night's Dream - students get to use their voice, with different accents, and have a blast doing it. Each year, the school is talking about the breakout star who no one knew possessed such a talent for the stage.

"The 6th grader who plays Nick Bottom - belongs at the Globe Theatre in London."

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Track Meets

The school may not have a track, but you wouldn't know it when you see the upper school students compete in regional events. The Physical and Outdoor Education programs leverage the surrounding natural trails to hone their running skills, on road and on trails. 

"Every upper school student participates in the track meet - we value courage."

Upper School Faculty

Student Voices

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