Grades 7 & 8

An Age of Exploration & Human Greatness

Seventh graders navigate two worlds: they inhabit an introspective side as well as an active, outer, exploring perspective. At this age they have a growing need for independence and solitude, they feel enhanced emotional sensitivity and experience a strong need for social connection. Their adolescence is marked by many physical, emotional and cognitive changes including energetic outbursts, and a motivating desire for exploration alternating with periods of emotional listlessness or increased self absorption.

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Grade 7 Student Block Book Examples: The Renaissance and Physiology

The 7th grade block curriculum studies the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Scientific Revolution and the Reformation in order to activate the students’ developing engagement with?and questioning in?the world. The students study the innovative thinkers of these eras whose thirst for knowledge was coupled with a fearless need to question and defy authority. The class teacher guides the students in projects that enable them to take an active role in the outer world. They respect and nurture the students’ inner emotional lives while simultaneously challenging their cognitive and creative skills. To offer the students a diversity of perspectives and expertise in the main lesson blocks, Mathematics and Language Arts, specialist teachers (from the upper grades and High School) visit the class to periodically present curriculum topics as guest presenters (in addition to the ongoing instruction from the Special Subjects teachers). While retaining the primary relationship with their class teacher, at this point the students receive topic-based instruction from a team of 7-10 guest specialist instructors. This structure introduces the students to the subject-based study of curriculum in the High School.

Exploration and discovery are key themes in all 7th grade lesson blocks. In History, students study the biographies of key individuals whose changing views of the world profoundly influenced global thinking. In Geography students learn about the environments, climate and social structure of indigenous cultures in Africa or South America. In The Arts, they paint in the style of the Renaissance masters, learn perspective drawing and explore chiaroscuro (the Italian term for how light and shadow affect the laws of graphic and spatial construction and representation).

In Language Arts students write personal, as well as expository essays on course topics. The Creative Writing block explores poetry to engage students in bringing expression to their inner feelings. In Geometry students study planar forms, including: triangle constructions, angle theorems and proofs, the golden ratio, and an introductory exploration of the Pythagorean Theorem. Students begin Algebra and are introduced to computational and symbolic mathematics integrated with conceptual thinking. In the Sciences and Mathematics, where students had previously been calculating and observing processes, they now apply phenomenological observations to the conjecture and discovery of general relationships. They apply simple logic structures to more complex problem solving and abstract thinking including mathematical and geometrical relationships. In Physics the students study processes and phenomena involving mechanical force and simple machines. The study of Chemistry is introduced. Students explore the chemical process of combustion, then they investigate and analyze the lime cycle, and study salts, acids and bases.

The seventh graders also study human Physiology. They focus on health issues that are grounded in the practical and personal experiences of the students themselves. They learn about the essential body systems including: digestion, respiration, circulation and reproduction. In examining themselves as growing, changing and maturing individuals, the students develop a sense of responsibility for the choices they make.

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Examples from Grade 7 student work: Astronomy and Physics

Grade 8

Exploring Integration and Interconnectivity

Eighth grade students have reached the culmination of the middle school experience. Their sharpened observational skills and growing critical faculties open possibilities for new ideas and perceptive questioning. With growing independence and reasoning they strive to balance a tender emotional inner life. The eighth grader develops a sense for their emerging individuality in a world where the human experience is increasingly interconnected.

By comparing and contrasting biographies of key historical figures, the students realize the powerful difference one individual can make. Beginning with the American Revolution, they study major political, cultural and social events that have shaped the modern world. Eighth grade history provides the students with an understanding of the past, an appreciation of the present and an enthusiasm for the future.

Through scientific observation adolescents are pulled out of their subjective emotional experiences and into the world of pure sense perception. In chemistry students analyze the parallels between the uses of organic materials in the human body and in industrial and commercial production. Building on the history of the Industrial Revolution, the class studies the physics of hydraulics, aeromechanics and the practical applications of electromagnetism in motors.

The study of world geography meets the adolescent’s growing interest in environments, regions and cultures different from his or her own, while at the same time creating a strong sense of place in the world with which they can identify. 8th graders investigate past epochs and current events through Geography which provides a context for significant world events. The students explore how the physical landscape influences and shapes every aspect of human life, including economics, politics, religion and culture.