Design This course helps students follow the Design Cycle, which is, at its core, a model for empathetic problem solving. The cycle has four stages: analysis, ideation, creation and evaluation, and students find that they often need to rethink their progress and revisit stages of the cycle. This can take the form of debugging code, redesigning plans for a boat during the Milk Boat Project, or troubleshooting an unexpected hurdle for a commissioned art project. Students track their progress and provide reflection, an integral component of the process, in their design blogs.
Individuals & Societies
This concept-driven course builds note-taking skills and a base of knowledge and then encourages students to apply what they have learned. The first unit covers the American Revolution; the second focuses on the US Civil War; and the third takes a look at the World Wars, particularly World War II. While there’s an emphasis on the American experience, each unit also reaches to global experiences. During the first two units, for example, students research a revolution or civil war in another country and another time period, and then they deliver a formal presentation on the conflict for their peers. The spring focuses on the production of a thesis-driven research paper and also on the interdisciplinary Milk Boat Project, which helps students improve and reflect upon their group skills.
Language Acquisition: Chinese or Spanish
Chinese: In Chinese 7, students build on the foundation they laid in Chinese 6 and explore topics such as the Chinese calendar, money, food, street markets and schools. By the end of the year, they are able to order food, bargain at flea markets and talk about their day at school. Communication is no longer limited to formulaic expressions, and students rely less on Pinyin and can write about 450 characters. Students also complete more multi-media projects at this level.
Spanish: Grade 7 Spanish continues to deepen the understanding and practice of speaking, reading, writing and listening components of the language. Students are engaged in a 90% target language environment leaving room for clarification questions. Assessments are rigorous and often include presentations. Topics of interest include: identity and culture; connecting to natural landscapes; daily routines; important interactions; and cultural creativity and function. Grade 7 students complete the second half of our high school level Spanish textbook and enter into their second year of high school level Spanish by the end of the year.
Language & Literature
This course emphasizes the organization and structure found in quality writing. A consistent feedback loop on essays offers the main guidance, but there is also an emphasis on the application of grammar concepts and editing skills. The year begins with short stories and builds into novels that sometimes connect to concepts and units in other classes, creating opportunities that help students see larger ideas in different ways. We read The Lord of the Flies in the early spring, primarily as a push toward better reading comprehension. Another genre for the year is poetry, including novels in verse and recitation. Throughout the year students build speaking skills through a series of increasingly challenging games that culminate in formal speeches.
The Math program in Grade 7 engages the topics most important for success in algebra and higher math. Key concepts and the accurate execution of standard algorithms enable students to solve complex problems. Students are asked to investigate, define, and solve complex real world problems using these tools of mathematics. The Milk Boat Challenge, for example, tests the students' intuition, imagination and ingenuity by applying their concepts of geometry to the construction of an actual boat made from recycled materials. Each group shares their product and process and then tests their result by racing the boats on a lake with their parents and the student body in attendance.
Grade 7 Music students study the structure, form and content of Ancient Music, Music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods.They learn skills necessary to perform repertoire from each genre. All students learn keyboard and djembe drums as well as introduction to bass guitar and drums and perform together in groups. They create original music using compositional devices from periods study on Garage Band. It is the expectation that by the end of the semester, students can listen to and identify music of each period studied.
In each grade level, Middle School Science includes units in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Science. At the start of each year, students explore the process of the Scientific Method to learn about the system scientists use to investigate the universe. Two to three times per year, students will design their own laboratory investigations, collect data, process and evaluate their results, and draw conclusions. A Grade 7 interdisciplinary unit provides information on buoyancy and density to help students refine their Milk Boats designs prior to racing them on American Lake. A unit preparing students for their Journey to the Southwest explores processes that have shaped the Earth as they prepare to visit the stunning landscape in national parks.
Each year in Visual Arts Grade 7 students create symbolic self-portraits that become a part of a unified collaborative installation piece. For each object, students compose narratives identifying the symbolism of the artist and connections to the viewer. In preparation for their Journey to Arizona students research the art of the Southwest and how it connects to the geography, land and religion of the Pueblo people. In the pottery studio, students use the knowledge gained from their research to choose and recreate an artifact based on the art practiced by Pueblo artists. Finally, students choose a musical composition as inspiration for a multi-media artwork that shows a visual interpretation of rhythm.
Physical & Health Education Throughout the year, Middle School students engage in three major components of Physical & Health Education (PHE): Health & Wellness, Social-Emotional Development, and Digital Citizenship. As part of the Health & Wellness component, students focus on learn about muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and body composition, and they participate in exercises and activities that promote the development of agility, balance, coordination, speed, power, and reaction time. Students also develop a deeper understanding of nutrition, growth, and development. The social-emotional aspect of PHE will allow students to grow and reflect through activities focused in five core competency areas, including self-awareness, self-regulation, social-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Finally, through units focusing on digital citizenship, students develop a broader understanding of their own digital footprints and strategies for self-management and self-care in the digital environment.
As part of their design course, Grade 7 students picked their own non-profit, reached out to conduct an interview with an expert and created a documentary-style short video to publicize the non-profit's work. Above are a few examples.