Middle School

Our curriculum goals for Aurora Middle School and how these relate to other curricular systems 

For Senior Primary and Middle School, we follow the New Zealand curriculum goals more closely. The New Zealand National Curriculum is internationally acclaimed due to its holistic approach and focus on deep and rich learning experiences which engage the children and allow them to develop a broad skills base. This is a broad and inclusive curriculum, so we are able to align our learning outcomes for all subject areas, including our modules of inquiry guided by the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC) framework, with the New Zealand achievement objectives. These achievement objectives are organized by levels which span more than one academic year, allowing teachers to support and challenge each individual learner by meeting them where they are and offering what they need to progress and succeed. The New Zealand objectives, while notably holistic and inclusive, do broadly align with other common national curriculum goals such as those of the UK, US common core and Australian state curricula. The process, and particularly the assessment, are true to the Aurora culture, but the content and skills are transferable should learners be moving between the New Zealand and other curricula. 

Vision of the New Zealand National Curriculum 

The vision is for young people to be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.  

Values of the New Zealand National Curriculum 

Students are encouraged to value:  

  • excellence, by aiming high and by persevering in the face of difficulties  
  • innovation, inquiry, and curiosity, by thinking critically, creatively, and reflectively  
  • diversity, as found in our different cultures, languages, and heritages  
  • equity, through fairness and social justice  
  • community and participation for the common good 
  • ecological sustainability, which includes care for the environment  
  • integrity, which involves being honest, responsible, and accountable and acting ethically
  • to respect themselves, others and human rights 

Key competencies  

Competencies are abilities and capabilities that people use to live, learn, work and contribute as active members of their communities.  The New Zealand Curriculum identifies 5 key competencies that it has a focus on children developing throughout their time at school:  

  • Thinking – is about using thinking processes to make sense of information, experiences and ideas.  
  • Using language, symbols, and texts – working with, being able to understand, and making sense of the codes (languages and symbols) in which knowledge is expressed.  
  • Managing self – having self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and seeing oneself as a capable learner.  
  • Relating to others – is about interacting effectively with a range of different people in a range of different situations, including things like being able to listen well, recognise different points of view, and share ideas.  
  • Participating and contributing – being involved in communities, such as family or school, and be able to contribute and make connections with other people. 

Learning areas

There are 8 learning areas (or subject areas) in The New Zealand Curriculum:  

  • English  
  • The arts  
  • Health and physical education  
  • Learning languages  
  • Mathematics and statistics  
  • Science  
  • Social sciences/humanities  
  • Technology 

The values and competencies in the New Zealand Curriculum are woven into these learning areas. They are designed to encourage enjoyment of learning and the ability to think critically, manage oneself, set goals, overcome obstacles and get along with others – the attributes learners need to succeed as adults. 

English Language Arts 

Learners in Senior Primary and Middle School have broadly progressed from the initial skill-building of learning to read, to the authentic application of reading to learn. Reading is a core tenet of our school culture with book fairs and book exchanges organized at different points throughout the year, and the Aurora Book House initiative allowing learners and families to take books from the mini outdoor libraries and donate books from home. In class, learners read every day including individual research, reading novels in break time, and our shared reading which is always a favourite. We explore texts deeply and invite learners to delve into the stories with explorations of characters, discussions of theme, and lively debates about the plot. This connects to other areas of Language Arts as learners apply the techniques, vocabulary, and imagery from the texts we read to create their own. Book creation is a popular activity throughout the school, and in Senior Primary and Middle School, learners eagerly express themselves through writing in a variety of forms, including hand drawn, printed, and digital texts. Sharing their writing fosters community and provides opportunity for the development of their communication skills. The exchange of feedback allows learners to support one another in their learning and to view their writing through each other’s eyes. This not only supports literacy development through editing skills and application of spelling and grammar rules, but also empathy and connection. 

The Middle School English programme is designed to specifically foster the learners’:  

  • Reading skills – including fluency, accuracy, comprehension, inference, comparison, analysis, and critical response;
  • Writing skills – including basic transcription, form and style choice, composition, narrative, and consideration of the audience;
  • Speaking skills – including discussion, debate, respectful communication, vocabulary building, and clarity;
  • Viewing – including media and digital literacies, analysis, interpretation, note taking, and being a responsive audience;
  • Presenting – including confidence, clarity, voice projection, eye contact, the use of visual aids and dual coding, and consideration of audience;
  • Listening – including focusing, interpreting, reflecting, questioning, paraphrasing, note taking, consideration of multiple perspectives, and respectful response.

Course Outline 

Language Arts Learning takes core shared texts as the thread that connects this learning to other subjects. Throughout the year, learners read and share a variety of texts from a range of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. While exploring these texts learners are supported in researching, planning, drafting, editing, redrafting, and publishing their own texts. This is done through written and digital methods. Learners are supported in responsible use of AI in order that they develop skills to utilize this technology to enhance their research and editing, but do not become over reliant upon it. The writing should always be from each individual learner to express their ideas, convey their understanding, and be expressed in their unique voice. Core texts are selected with consideration of learners’ interests but also in alignment with our modules of inquiry. 


Mathematics has been described as a universal language, and it is integral to all aspects of our learning and our daily lives. Throughout Primary, learners develop a core base of knowledge and basic mathematical skills, but also an appreciation for the variety of branches of mathematics. In Middle school, the learning is designed to build upon this foundation and provide opportunities for the learners to apply their knowledge and skills authentically to solve problems and work on independent and group projects. This is balanced with discrete teaching of new concepts such as algebraic equations, Pythagorean theory, proportional relationships, and statistical probability. As with English Language Arts, mathematics is taught both as a stand-alone subject in Middle School, and also a cross curricular component of other learning. Outside of the timetabled maths lessons, the knowledge and skills are embedded in science, humanities, art and other subject learning, and particularly in long term projects. 

Course Outline  

Students cover all the expectations for a Middle School student that allows them to build on knowledge and understanding gained in Primary. 

Units covered are:  

  • Number (whole number / fractions, decimals, percentages) including number sense and calculation;
  • Algebra including solving and devising algebraic expressions and equations for given problems;
  • Measurement including converting between standard units and applying knowledge to design and engineering projects;
  • Geometry including shape knowledge and transformation, the use of coordinates, Pythagorean theory, and design;
  • Statistics including collecting, interpreting, presenting, and critically analyzing data, including in support of independent research.


Science is a way of investigating, understanding, and explaining our natural, physical world and the wider universe. It involves generating and testing ideas, gathering evidence – including by making observations, carrying out investigations and modelling, and communicating and debating with others – in order to develop scientific knowledge, understanding, and explanations. Scientific progress comes from logical, systematic work and from creative insight, built on a foundation of respect for evidence. Different cultures and periods of history have contributed to the development of science. In Middle School, various branches of science are explored and learners are guided using the scientific method to plan, set up, and carry out investigations, recording their results and reflecting upon them. Research forms a large part of science learning, and technology is an integral tool in the learning process. 

Course Outline  

  • Physics: This field focuses on the physical world and the forces which shape and act upon objects and people.  
  • Biology: This strand allows the learners to explore the world of living things. It encompasses botany – the study of plants – and also the biological processes of humans and non-human animals. 
  • Earth Science: This branch relates to the physical geography of our planet and how it has changed over time to shape the Earth we know today. 
  • Chemistry: In Middle School, the learners begin to consider materials at a molecular level and to investigate how the make-up of materials influences their response to forces to create physical and chemical changes. 

Social Sciences/Humanities 

Social Science offers our learners in Middle School the opportunity to develop inquiry skills through critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. Social Science is about how societies work and how people can participate as critical, active, informed and responsible citizens. Contexts are drawn from past, present and future, and from places local, national, and global. Learners are supported to develop the knowledge and skills to enable them to: better understand, participate in, and contribute to the local, national, and global communities in which they live and learn.  

As well as aligning with the New Zealand Curricular Achievement Objectives, our Social Science learning is informed by the modules of inquiry designed by the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC). Aurora has worked closely with the founders of the CGC to train our teachers to deliver meaningful modules of inquiry that engage and challenge the learners, spurring their explorations, discussions, debates and independent research. 

What is the CGC?

The Common Ground Collaborative is a non-profit organization founded to work in partnership with schools to support them in developing meaningful inquiries for primary and middle school curricula. We have been working closely with them over the past few years to align their investigative research modules with our school approaches and the New Zealand curricular goals. Aurora teachers throughout primary and middle school interpret their modules of inquiry and use them to design meaningful learning experiences that follow the principles of discovery learning. As well as subject specific knowledge, the learners have the chance to develop their 21st century skills such as collaboration and communication, cultural sensitivity and celebration of difference, critical thinking and problem solving, and media and information literacy. These skills are increasingly in demand from schools, universities and employers. In order to equip our learners with the skills they need to thrive in this rapidly changing world, we need to consider the increasing interconnectedness of the global economy. The skills they develop through the investigative research modules will allow them to participate fully in society on local, national and global levels. These aims align with those of comparable inquiry-based curricula such as the IPC and IB. Upon consideration of these options, Aurora has selected the CGC modules because these support the crucial skill development while enabling teachers to tailor the learning to the needs and interests of our learners, a core tenet of our school philosophy. 

Course Outline  

These modules from the CGC guide learners to explore: 

  • Purpose and Balance 
  • Patterns and Principles 
  • Individuals and Groups 
  • Sustainability and Systems 
  • Imagination and Creativity 
  • Stories and Signals 

These six broad commonalities align with the four core conceptual areas of the New Zealand Social Science curriculum:  

Identity, Culture, and Organisation – Students learn about society and communities and how they function. They also learn about the diverse cultures and identities of people within those communities and about the effects of these on the participation of groups and individuals. 

Place and Environment – Students learn about how people perceive, represent, interpret, and interact with places and environments. They come to understand the relationships that exist between people and the environment.

Continuity and Change – Students learn about past events, experiences, and actions and the changing ways in which these have been interpreted over time. This helps them to understand the past and the present and to imagine possible futures. 

The Economic World – Students learn about the ways in which people participate in economic activities and about the consumption, production, and distribution of goods and services. They develop an understanding of their role in the economy and of how economic decisions affect individuals and communities. 


The New Zealand Curriculum focuses on the learning, skills and values of students. This includes equipping Aurora learners to be ‘global citizens’, who communicate and interact with and within other cultures, as well as their own. Studying a language and learning about its culture is a vital part of this education. In order to give our learners a more diverse language experience learners in Middle School learn two or three languages, depending upon their heritage language. All learners are offered Spanish as a second or additional language lessons. Vietnamese and Japanese speaking learners participate in mother tongue language lessons throughout the week. Speakers of other languages hone their English literacy and self-study additional languages of their choice with teacher guidance during these periods. 


As the second-most widely spoken language in the world, Spanish numbers in excess of 400 million native speakers, and has official status in 21 countries, spanning South, Central and North America, as well as Africa and Europe. The beginners’ course is grounded in culture and students gain an overview of the geography and culture of those countries and explore Latinx traditions and festivals. The linguistic focus centres on learning to communicate in a variety of situations through the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and, to a lesser degree, writing. We study Spanish pronunciation and cover topics related to everyday life such as greetings and introductions, numbers and age, family and hobbies, and food and drink, so that our learners can communicate with young Spanish speakers around the world. 


We emphasize learner-centered, project-based learning styles that encourage learners to explore and learn through hands-on explorations during their Vietnamese lessons Aurora. Learners are supported in developing all four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing through themed lessons in a friendly communicative and interactive environment. Our Vietnamese programme is supported by our teachers’ professional development sessions with local specialists to align our standards with those of the Ministry of Education and Training. 

Throughout the year, learners practice speaking Vietnamese in a variety of contexts, including conversations, discussions, quizzes, and presentations. They familiarize themselves with appropriate vocabulary and grammar, and they learn to communicate effectively with others. Learners are encouraged to listen actively and attentively to spoken Vietnamese, including stories, poems, and conversations. They gain experience identifying key words and phrases and understanding the meaning of what is being said. 

Learners are introduced to a range of Vietnamese texts for shared and independent reading, including stories, poems, and informational texts. They collaborate to read aloud or read to themselves with fluency and expression. In either case, a key goal is thorough and deep comprehension of what they are reading. In writing, learners shape Vietnamese characters and words, using a variety of materials and techniques. They also compose pieces of writing, using correct grammar and spelling to communicate clearly and effectively.  


The Middle School Japanese programme is a continuation of the programme introduced in Prep and continued throughout Primary. The focus is on Japanese as a living language which has the purpose of self-expression and communication in a variety of situations. Learners continue learning the four key skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing, but in greater depth. As the learners are more mature and possess significant prior knowledge, they are supported in expressing themselves in more complex and sophisticated ways both in their spoken and written Japanese. Knowledge of an increasing breadth of kanji and vocabulary supports this expression and also allows the Middle School Japanese learners to read more widely and research more independently. As with other areas of the curriculum, inquiry remains at the core of the learning and learners’ engagement is fostered by relevant themes and explorations of culture, history, geography and other fields of interest. 

Physical and Health Education and Swimming 

Physical Education and Health is structured around the four strands of the New Zealand Physical Education and Health Curriculum: Personal Health, Physical Development, Movement Concepts and Motor Skills, Relationships with Other People, Healthy Communities and Environments. The focus is on the well-being of the learners themselves, of other people, and of society through learning in health and movement related contexts. Physical Education aims to build confidence and capability through active involvement and participation. The guiding principles in Physical Education at Aurora International Middle School are built around:  

  • Participation in sport and physical activity by learners provides positive benefits for the individual, the school and the community. Learners participate in both PE and swimming lessons each week.
  • Providing a variety of activities and opportunities which enable and encourage learners’ participation in the sporting life of the school – for example through sports day and extracurricular activities as well as core PE and swimming lessons. 
  • Connecting physical health to mental and emotional health as part of a comprehensive wellbeing programme.

Course Outline  

The course is a selection of physical skills in aquatics (swimming), basketball, football (soccer), , badminton, dance and athletics. Throughout these physical activities, interpersonal skills, teamwork, leadership, game strategies and tactics, officiating, goal setting and responding to new challenges will be explicitly taught. Each unit lasts approximately 4-6 weeks. During this time, learners are given the opportunity to learn or build on their sporting skills in a variety of contexts both familiar and unfamiliar. On occasion, we work with outside sporting organisations to provide further opportunities for learning. 

In class PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) lessons, learners explore other aspects of physical health and wellbeing such as maintaining a balanced diet, developing healthy habits and sleep schedules, staying safe both on and offline, forming and maintaining healthy relationships, and how to navigate the changes and challenges of puberty. 

The Arts 

Visual Arts are fundamental to all stages of learning at Aurora due to their ability to support learners’ communication, self-expression, and other aspects of their social and emotional development as well as their fine motor skills. In Middle School, learners build upon the broad foundation of approaches and materials they have encountered in Primary and begin to apply these in a more sophisticated and considered way. The artistic process is still of crucial importance, but this begins to be applied towards the creation of pieces and learners begin to consider aspects like line, light, and composition in more intentional ways. The learners develop their art appreciation through exposure to a wide variety of artforms from diverse cultures and time periods and are encouraged to discuss these critically and consider different aspects of each. Building their vocabulary and their awareness of artistic movements and prominent individuals and works allows them to participate in discussions in greater depth.