7th & 8th Grade Curriculum

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All seventh and eighth graders take Arts, English, a Modern or Classical Language, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  Students attend classes on a modified block schedule, with all classes meeting on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, three classes meet for a period that is twice as long.  Students go to PE class each day except Friday.  The PE period falls at the end of the day and incorporates the athletics program, including practices and most games.  (See the section on Sports for more information.)

The Social Studies program for 7th grade covers issues in United States history. Some of the topics include the causes of and issues related to the American Revolution, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, slavery, westward movement and “manifest destiny,” the causes of the Civil War, the Civil War and Reconstruction, Industrialization, the Gilded Age, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and 20th Century Foreign Policy.

Eighth graders begin a two-year study of world history. The 8th grade portion of the course examines the rise of civilizations, such as ancient Egypt, ancient India, ancient Greece, ancient Rome and ancient China and ancient Islam. The second part of this course, covering the Renaissance Reformation to the 20th Century, follows in 9th grade.

Reading, critical thinking, historical writing, and study skills are reinforced throughout the Social Studies curriculum.  Study of the Ancient World reinforces students' familiarity with geography, and students discuss and debate current events after reading newspaper articles.  All students also complete an independent Research Project each year.  Instead of just reporting on a topic, 7th and 8th graders work to write and prove a thesis statement using the evidence they collect from primary and secondary sources. For the first time, citations are required in addition to the more familiar bibliography.

The English program in 7th and 8th grades concentrates on developing the skills of close textual analysis and written expression.  Students are introduced to the genres of the short story, the novel, poetry, and drama.  Major texts in the 7th grade currently include To Kill a MockingbirdThe Miracle Worker, A Raisin in the Sun, Twelve Angry Men, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as shorter works by Edgar Allan Poe, O.Henry, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson and others.  In the eighth grade students currently read Brave New World, The Tempest, Things Fall Apart, Lord of the Flies, and The Odyssey, among other works fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

In both years there is a particular emphasis on writing, both analytical and creative.  Students learn to plan, draft, and revise paragraphs, essays, and imaginative pieces.  They develop grammatical understanding in relation to their writing, and their vocabulary grows with respect to their reading. Efforts are also made to establish interdisciplinary connections with other subject areas in lessons, units, and/or assignments.

Seventh graders take a series of courses in Studio Art, Choral and Instrumental Music,  and Quakerism and the Arts.  Eighth graders may choose among Arts courses in Studio Art, Choral or Instrumental Music, or Drama.  Eighth graders choose one semester of an arts class, and they are offered the opportunity to take advanced courses in some areas, depending on their schedule and on enrollment balances. Seventh and eighth graders may also participate in extra-curricular arts activities.  For more information, see the section on Visual and Performing Arts.

Seventh grade students choose one of four Modern or Classical Languages for seventh and eighth grades.   Students with previous experience may continue their study of Spanish through 8th grade, or they may choose to begin Chinese, French or Latin. 

The Modern Language programs (Chinese, French and Spanish) utilize text and audiovisual materials to present and reinforce vocabulary and grammar structures in a meaningful context.  Students are expected to communicate in the target language, both orally and in writing; Chinese students also learn character writing.  Beyond providing effective linguistic instruction, the Modern Language programs aim to foster an awareness of and interest in the various cultures tied to each language.  Through authentic sources such as films, songs, music, newspapers and magazines, students explore these cultures in exciting and engaging ways. 

As a Classical Language, Latin offers a unique set of learning experiences to students.  Classical studies are broad in scope and offer an opportunity to delve into the historical and cultural contributions of the ancient world.  Students also benefit from the explicit examination of etymology, thus strengthening their English vocabulary and enhancing their understanding of English grammar. 

In all four languages, the 7th and 8th grade program is roughly equivalent to one year of study in an Upper School language course.  The 7th grade courses in Chinese, French and Latin are beginning level courses that continue into 8th grade.  The 7th grade Spanish course continues instruction where the 6th grade program leaves off, with appropriate review at the start.  While most students take the same language from 7th grade on, this is not required, and students may elect to begin any of the four languages at any point in the Upper School. 

Seventh and eighth grade students are grouped for Math based on the students’ skill levels, independence, and comfort with abstract ideas. 

Seventh graders cover topics selected from the following areas: number patterns; properties of groups; matrices; network theory; geometry; transformations; ratio, proportion, and rates; percent; relations and functions; probability; algebraic notation; circuits; symbolic logic; and math history.  Students use technology in a variety of ways.  Problem solving is emphasized throughout. 

Eighth graders are placed in introductory, regular, or accelerated algebra.  In both regular and accelerated algebra, students develop algebraic concepts and skills through exploration, rigorous analysis, and problem solving.  In introductory algebra, students cover fundamentals in depth at a pace that prepares them for a formal algebra class in ninth grade. 

Seventh grade Science focuses upon our biosphere, beginning with an introduction to the diversity of life. After participating in a survey of species and a long-term study of pollinators on our urban campus, students learn how life emerged on our planet and how the process of evolution resulted in the spectacular variety of species—from microscopic to large—that we know today. Essential ecological processes illustrate the complex interrelationships between living things and their physical world, strengthening the foundation of sustainability principles students are gaining and providing the impetus for students to answer the guiding question—how is biodiversity important to our lives on Earth? Students study heredity and DNA, relating these to the evolutionary process they have learned as well as to their own bodies. The year concludes with a focus on the human body and the interrelationships between body systems. Throughout the year, students are challenged to apply scientific concepts in new situations and to explain their understanding using scientific evidence and models.

Eighth grade Science introduces students to Earth’s place in the universe and to the Earth Systems (atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere) that influence our lives and make life possible. In addition to a study of space and the physical laws that govern it, our focus is Earth’s systems: their structure and function, and how they interact with one another. Students apply their system understanding to several critical global issues: climate, water, and food security. Our middle school green building serves as a touchstone throughout the course. Students are challenged to explain how the systems within the building work and to use their scientific understanding to explain why, from an ecological and sustainability perspective, various features and systems are important. Throughout the year, students continue to develop their process of scientific inquiry, investigation, and laboratory skills.

Although there are not scheduled weekly computer skills classes in the seventh and eighth grades, technology is integrated into all curricular areas at this level.  Classes in all subjects use the lab for Internet research and subject-specific software. See the section on the Middle School Laptop Program for more information.

Middle School Students in Upper School Classes

An effort is made to allow a few 8th grade students the opportunity to participate in appropriate Upper School classes in modern and classical language or in math.  However, the schedules of the two divisions do not mesh exactly, and a student who takes an Upper School class will find his or her day more complicated.  Middle School students do not get credits for Upper School classes, but they do get advanced placement in future Upper School courses, and the record explains how that placement has come about.  Any student who takes a class in the Upper School is subject to the expectations of that course, including attendance policies and exam requirements.