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Middle Schoolers Sitting Around A Table Discussing Something
Middle Schoolers Sitting Around A Table Discussing Something
Middle Schoolers Working On A Writing Assignment
Middle Schoolers Sitting On A Rock Reading
Middle Schoolers Reading Books

Middle School at Renaissance

A young man sawing a piece of wood

Project-based Learning

Ren’s K-8 curriculum builds skills and knowledge through project-based learning experiences, community involvement, and field studies. Research on motivation shows that individuals eagerly attend to skills that allow them to tackle questions or solve problems that are meaningful to them. This means faculty must know their scholars, help draw out their interests, and skillfully craft learning opportunities that engage scholars’ interests and develop the skills they’ll need to succeed in future educational environments and in life.

Our middle school scholars work with a small team of faculty who hold masters or doctorates in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Sciences, and Foreign Languages. The capstone on a Renaissance education is the Elder Project, a multi-dimensional study that draws together multiple disciplines to explore and express aspects of a broad-based question in an attempt to uncover new learning. They learn to curate knowledge, problem solve, manage their time, interact with a range of adults, and present their work in meaningful ways. See examples of our Scholar’s projects below.

Independent Learning with Experts

Middle School Scholars participate in the life of our city – its people and its places – as a way of embedding personal relevance and a sense of community responsibility. We have relationships with theater groups, dance studios, community organizations, authors, scientists, and other experts who provide opportunities for our scholars in stewardship and service. Those relationships and resources fuel investigations and create support and encouragement essential for growing minds. We scaffold shadow positions and mentorships, opportunities to define and solve problems, and forums for sharing thoughtful voices about those things that concern and inspire us most. This effort bonds children to adults in the community and opens doors that they may not know exist.

Young people learning outdoors
A younger child hugging an older child

Leadership in a Multi-Aged Community

Some parents may wonder about the benefits of placing or keeping a youngster in a smaller environment for the years that are traditionally housed in a middle school. Research points to an environment of “extended family,” a focus on developing responsibility and leadership, and a more integrated form of academic learning to fit the needs of the developing mind. Smaller environments offer an ethos of “safety” (psychological and physical), relationships based on being known well, and consistent and sustained interactions with adults.

Widening the social group as a child matures is part of a healthy lifestyle. At school, the focus is on personal responsibility and learning in the peer group. After-school classes, camps, sports organizations, and neighborhoods address the need for broader interaction, child-specific interests, diversity, and the development of long-term relationships that may continue past the school years based on meaningful common-ground.

At Ren, we invest time in developing collaboration, offer support to identify and extend individual aspirations to make civic contributions, create bonds with the community and its resources, and are present for families and youngsters grappling with changing social-scapes as the peer group ages. We provide timely expert consultation in human sexuality, personal development, and constructive peer mediation.

A young man relaxing against a rock holding a walking stick

Transition to High School

Teens who experience Ren’s instructional model, with its expanding circles of support, become self-confident learners who enter the broader world of schooling and community with grace, self-reflection, inner-strength and intrinsic motivation. Ren’s graduates, returning from high school, have reported feeling more prepared than peers from other settings with academic and study skills. They appear to easily engage in the larger environment, self-confident and assured of their individual power to advocate for themselves, navigate the social maze, and make a difference. Our graduates thrive at a range of public and private high schools.


Salmon: Raising and Environmental Restoration

By Tom and Bella

We are working on our “elder project,” a multi-layered salmon-rearing venture in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Our work stems from Tom’s passion for engineering structures that are eco-sensitive and responsive to river life. Bella joined the partnership because of her growing interest in the environment.

Tom made an inquiry to ODFW with the support of Lisa. Together, we set up a tank, the incubation center for 500 salmon eggs. This involved de-chlorinating the tap water, hooking up the water filter and air stones, and providing gravel floor on which the maturing salmon eggs rest comfortably. The process is rich for record-keeping and math! We are charting the thermal units, testing and adjusting the amount of ice we add daily to maintain a relatively constant temperature, 44-54 degrees Fahrenheit. At approximately 850 TU, the developing eggs will begin to hatch. We have seen the life within the eggs begin to twist and develop full spines and eyes. Once all of the salmon hatch and find a calm space to rest, the “alevin” salmon will grow to a size that can survive after their release in a river. It is exciting to be a parent to 500 new beings!

Theater Studies and Government

We welcomed Sarah and James, two local actors, to help us with American history content.

Over a couple of months, our scholars worked on political science, taking advantage of the recent election, working through the system of checks and balances, and learning about the path from our original colonies to the Constitution. In each case, the children took notes, first as a group, gradually working toward team notes and independence, capturing information shared through oral presentations. Quite a set of skills! The most important aspect was to capture information accurately so that we could retrieve it when we needed it. To test our success, we used our notes to retell the information to a partner and quiz each other. We divided into small groups to write a slice of our country’s story. Reviewing and sharing early-stage writings with our new actor-friends, we shaped vignettes into succinct mini-dramas woven together to create an abbreviated rendition of our history in play form.


A Renaissance School is fully accredited through Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


A Renaissance School of Arts and Sciences
234 S. Bancroft St., Portland, OR 97239
(971) 221-2311

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