Schedule & Advisory
Engaging, balanced, and student-centered
PCDS is committed to the personal and academic wellness of each of its students. By leveraging a robust advisory program with a student-centered schedule, the Middle and Upper Schools at PCDS are able to ensure that every student is engaged, supported, and has every opportunity to thrive on campus.
For all students in grades 5-12, PCDS utilizes a block schedule on a seven-day rotation. Each day, students take only four, 75-minute classes, with significant breaks in between each class. These extended 75-minute learning blocks allow for teachers to utilize multiple teaching strategies, from lecture or group work, to guided practice, different media, and more to engage the different learning styles of the students in the classroom. In short, at PCDS teaching and learning emphasizes depth of understanding, deep questions and conversations, and demonstration of mastery, rather than superficial memorization. In Middle School, students rotate through academic subjects every two days, and attend co-curricular classes within the full seven-day rotation.
All 5th graders take the following classes: English, Social Studies, Math, Science, Spanish, Technology, Art, Music, PE, and You & Others.
Signature Project: The Magazine Project is interdisciplinary and involves reading, writing, research, and art to produce a biographical magazine focusing on an historical figure chosen by the student. The Magazine Fair takes place in April.
Signature Trip: Multiple day trips in the Phoenix metro area
All 6th graders take the following classes: English, Social Studies, Math, Science, Spanish, Technology, Art, Music, PE, and You & Others.
Signature Project: Every 6th grader participates in The Becoming Project which allows students to showcase who they are becoming as a human being and which parts of their being that they want to grow.
Signature Trip: 2-night trip to a campsite in Prescott
All 7th graders take the following classes: English, Social Studies, Math*, Science, a language chosen by the student (Spanish, Latin, or Mandarin), Art, Music, PE, an elective class, and You & Others.
*Two ability-based levels of Math in 7th grade: a 1-year advanced Algebra 1 curriculum or the first year of an accelerated 2-year Algebra 1 curriculum.
Signature Project: The Bridge Project asks each student to choose and explore a topic that connects, or “bridges,” learning across two classes into one cohesive product, which the student presents to the community at the end of the year.
Signature Trip: Boston
All 8th graders take the following classes: English, Social Studies, Math*, Science, a language chosen by the student (Spanish, Latin, or Mandarin), Art, Music, PE, an elective class, and You & Others.
*Three ability-based levels of Math in 8th grade: Geometry; the second year of an accelerated 2-year Algebra 1 curriculum; or an introduction to Algebra.
Signature Project: The 8th Grade Speech asks each student to prepare a five-minute speech on a topic of their choice that shares a personal perspective, has a cohesive theme, and is meaningful for the audience. Speeches are delivered at end-of-year assemblies.
Signature Trip: Catalina Island
Breaks between classes are meaningful and substantive-- Morning Meeting, advisory, Middle School electives, or just a chance to grab a snack and chat with some friends allow for appropriate mental breaks in between demanding courses.
Additionally, home work and academic planning is manageable with four courses per day. Each week, Middle School students have a proctored "work period"-- a 75-minute period dedicated to completing coursework or meeting with a teacher for additional support-- as well as "Homework Help," where students may meet with teachers midday for any questions they may have. Because of the schedule's rotation of classes, students typically have a full school day between class meetings to manage their homework or preparation for the following class period.
In the Middle School, every student is placed in an advisory group, consisting of approximately ten other students and one advisor, a faculty member entrusted to support the students' PCDS experiences both in and out of the classroom. Advisors are grade-level teachers uniquely prepared to address the demands of the school year, from upcoming class projects to preparation for a Middle School grade-level trip. Advisories meet at a dedicated time once per week, and informal, individual conversations occur frequently outside of this time-- whether simply to touch base, or to address a personal or academic challenge facing the student.
Advisors maintain a macro-viewpoint on each advisee's academic progress, regularly gathering information and updates from the student's teachers and serving as an advocate on the advisee's behalf when any issues arise. Advisors communicate regularly with parent, including two conferences with the advisee and parent(s) each year.
The daily academic schedule features four class periods, extended breaks, and an early dismissal on Fridays.