Middle schools are designed to meet the developmental needs of young adolescents including 10–15 year olds. From a middle school perspective, curriculum is broadly defined and has been conceptualized as the total school experience. It moves beyond academics and encompasses both planned and unplanned learning, or hidden curriculum, that occurs in the school environment. The focus is on meeting the developmental needs of young adolescents through positive interactions that promote academic, physical, social, and emotional growth. Guided by the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), formerly the National Middle School Association (NMSA) and its most recent mission statement, The Successful Middle School: This We Believe (2021), middle school curriculum is defined as “challenging, exploratory, integrative, and diverse, from both the student’s and the teacher’s perspective” (Bishop & Harrison, 2021, p. 27).
A number of differing curriculum models continue to be used in middle schools across the United States. The most common curriculum frameworks include; subject-centered, multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary, integrative, and exploratory. Subject-centered curriculum follows the traditional structure of a high school in which content areas are taught in isolation from each other. Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary curricula attempt to cross the traditional content divides in order to mimic the real world in which math, science, English, and social studies are intertwined in daily life. While integrative and exploratory curricula differ in practice, they both provide a more student-centered experience that seeks to make meaningful connections between content and student lives.