An independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, DC


John Mathews
MS Head
(703) 749-6342

Shefali Sardar
Middle School Academic Dean

Kim Mackay
Assistant to MS Head
(703) 749-6383

welcome to Middle School!

Welcome to Potomac’s Middle School! We have the rewarding job of fostering and challenging fourth, fifth and sixth grade students during a time of tremendous growth and development. This unique age group sits squarely between their wide-eyed Lower School counterparts and their fiercely independent Intermediate School classmates. During these middle years, we encourage our students to maintain their curiosity and creativity while stretching their self-confidence and self-advocacy.


Students enjoy some hands-on science learning.
The library is a cozy place to work with friends.
The MS provides many opportunities to be creative.
Science studies are enriched by being outdoors.
The fifth grade Greek Olympics is a highlight for many students.
Students work together on environmental activities on Earth Day.
Group projects build collaborative skills.
Learning from peers is powerful.
Musical performances demonstrate students' talents and accomplishments.
Science is a time for active exploration.
Off to class!
Reading out in nature together.
Students can play in the band, choose a string instrument, or join the handbell choir.
Having adventures during Interquest.
We make a point of enjoying beautiful weather!
Our May Day celebration is a revered tradition.
Riding the school bus is a chance to make neighborhood friends of all ages.
Joining the handbell ensemble is a fun option for students.

From the Desk of Mr. Mathews

I had a professional development experience recently that spoke directly to what we do as a school to educate the whole child. I attended the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning to develop new strategies to include in our curriculum what is known as social and emotional learning (SEL). In simple terms, SEL instruction helps students recognize emotions in others, manage their own emotions, care about those around them, and act responsibly and ethically.

Read more about Designing Community and Curriculum

Recently, parents sat down with their child’s teacher for parent-teacher conferences. I believe there are three main ingredients of any successful parent/teacher interaction, especially a conference like this. I ask the teachers to articulate: that they know the child as an individual, that they “like” the child, and that they recognize the child’s areas for growth and a plan for improving the child’s success in those areas.

The teacher who knows your child as an individual recognizes his or her academic aptitude, approach to challenge, social-emotional vicissitudes, and many, many other personal qualities. In short, in the conference parents receive a picture of their child as a member of the classroom community and as a student of their new grade.

Read more about Key Ingredients of the Parent-Teacher Conference

In preparation for upcoming coffees for new Middle School parents, I’ve been interviewing fourth graders. I decided to go directly to the source for the best information on what being in Middle School is like. I asked fourth graders three questions: What’s cool about Middle School? What’s different about Middle School? What, if anything, came as a surprise when you started Middle School?

By far the most frequent answer to both “What’s Cool?” AND “What’s different?” was “the freedom.” Fourth graders seem to relish the ability to walk themselves to different classes, and to walk as a clump, rather than in neat, straight lines. Most gratifyingly, children cited at least 10 times the pleasure they get from “being able to go to the library WHENEVER we need a book.” I just loved the joy children seemed to derive from the nearly unfettered access to books.

Read more about Straight from the Source

Children are striving to make connections with each other hundreds of times a day. These connections occur in a huge variety of ways, from lunchtime conversation, to pairing on a social studies task, to dancing together in music. These interactions are complex indeed, and while we may be “wired” for these interactions, it should come as no surprise that negotiating their complexity is not innate. It seems like the Middle School educator’s life is at times surfeited by conflict resolution discussions that emerge because connection has failed to take place successfully. Connecting well is known as being “socially intelligent,” and we are currently addressing this topic at our Tuesday assemblies.

I sought to approach the topic in assembly by sharing short video “playlets” where feelings are hurt in an failure to connect successfully. I first showed a short video where teachers were the actors, discussing the “villain” of the video, and her reasons for saying things that ultimately hurt anothers’ feelings.

Read more about Developing Social Intelligence