Nichols’ Middle School Performing and Visual Arts Curriculum encourages students to observe, envision, reflect, express, stretch and explore the myriad ways they interpret and understand the world we live in and their place within it. We explore how the arts link us to our past and present as well as how the arts are a powerful means for communication and personal expression.

The Middle School arts curriculum is as unique as it is diverse. Students are introduced to a myriad of topics categorized into four units: general music and chorus, visual arts, theatre and computer technology. Each grade level participates in all four units throughout the year, maximizing their familiarity with the subjects.

A wide range of projects and activities are designed to allow students the opportunity to develop their critical and creative thinking and craft in a safe environment that fosters risk-taking and experimentation. Numerous hands-on activities and interactive presentations/discussions about art and artists in the studio, local galleries, museums, and theaters, provide opportunities for students to become truly engaged in learning about art.

A rotating exhibit of students’ process and product grace the halls of our building year round and the year culminates to a Middle School Exhibition showcasing work by the entire student body. Additionally, students have an opportunity to join Art Club for further explorations.

Grade 5 Visual Arts

Initially, the students will be introduced to the elements of art and the principles of design. Subsequently, they will be expected to participate in a series of visual art lessons progressively developed to enhance and integrate several areas of academic studies in grade five. In particular, the students will be encouraged to make visual connections through art inspired by medieval and contemporary life. Some examples of projects include simulated stained glass, clay gargoyles, print making, and pastel drawings.

Grade 6 Visual Arts

This course has been designed to provide a variety of learning experiences involving the visual arts. Areas of study will include: art production, art history, art criticism and aesthetics. Initially, the students are introduced to the elements of art and the principles of design. Subsequently, the students are expected to participate in a series of lessons progressively developed to enhance and integrate several areas of academic studies in sixth grade. Class projects will encourage hands‑on experiences in drawing, painting, printmaking and collage. Concepts explored will include universal shapes, symbols and design formats, visual movement, and drawing from the imagination.

Grade 7 Visual Arts

This course provides learning experiences in art production, art history, art criticism and aesthetics. The students explore the elements and principles of design, the illusion of depth, animal sculptures from around the world, Ancient Greek and Classical stylization, and architectural concepts throughout the ages. These explorations engage the students in drawing, painting, sculpture, metal tooling, collage and design.

Grade 8 Visual Arts

In Visual Arts, students explore color theory, drawing within a grid system and acrylic painting. The major project is painting a self‑portrait on canvas. This requires students to apply the skills they have learned as they stretch canvas and create a line drawing that demonstrates an understanding of the proportions and placement of their facial features. The finished product must also exhibit a firm grasp of color relationships.



Course Description: This is a basic course in digital photography designed to offer experiences with a point-and-shoot camera. Various camera settings will be learned to offer greater creative and technical control. This course builds the foundation for visual literacy regarding both form and content of photographic images. The elements and principles of design are studied as they relate to photographic composition are emphasized through the photography process. Students learn framing within the viewfinder and explore various compositional principles. Students will also learn to examine images critically through critiques of master photographers and their own work. Digital processing techniques are introduced using photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Pixlr.


Course Description: This course aims to build a strong, practical branch of visual art focused on the techniques and processes of three-dimension art such additive, subtractive, assemblage, and clay sculpture. Students will complete sculptural projects that demonstrate how of the elements and principles of art can create an aesthetically pleasing design for a piece of art. Students will examine the work of master sculptors and builders, using these ideas and techniques to influence their own work, while working to gain an understanding of three- dimensional art processes.


Course Description: This course is designed to introduce the basic elements of drawing and painting. Students will work with acrylic and watercolor paints, exploring the many ways paint can be handled. Instruction and specific exercises will be given so that students will explore color, light, texture, transparency, and composition. Drawing and painting exercises will become more complex as students work from initial sketches to more developed pieces. While working to gain an understanding of the painting medium the student is challenged to translate concepts into visual images that work. At the end of the course students will write a proposal for their final painting, citing specific art influences and historical context. Students will need a sketchbook for this course.

Arts Faculty

Kari Achatz

Titles: MS Visual Arts

Amanda Besl

Titles: US Visual Arts

Jessica Block

Titles: Choir Director, Upper School Music Teacher

Bryan Eckenrode

Titles: MS Orchestra

Elaine Gardner

Titles: US/MS Dance

Kristen Kelley

Titles: US Theatre

Andrea Mancuso

Titles: US Visual Arts, Department Chair

Mary Kate Morrow

Titles: MS Music

Kate Olena

Titles: MS Theatre

Cory Shelton

Titles: Middle School Instrumental Music Teacher, Upper School Instrumental Music Teacher

Curt Steinzor

Titles: Technical Director, Flickinger Performing Arts Center