The Grade 8 design course focuses heavily on embracing empathy and developing skills in all areas of the Design Cycle. Each unit involves inquiry and analysis, developing ideas, creating a solution, and evaluating the impact of their solution. The importance of the process, not simply the final product, is stressed as the main focus of Design. Students document the journey through this process in a detailed blog, recording their experiences, making reflections, and self-evaluating their work. Projects, which address both concept and content, include the Coding App Challenge, Wikiseats, and an interdisciplinary unit involving oral histories.
Individuals & Societies
Grade 8 students explore their roles in their own families, local communities, and the world. Areas of focus for the year include the formation of the American government, the causes of American Revolution, states’ rights versus federal law through the Civil War, cause and effect of immigration waves, technology and globalization during WWI and WWII, and social change during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the year students make connections between their coursework in American History and Government and the real world, with extensive discussion, readings, simulations, and hands-on-experience in creating a social action project. In collaboration with Language and Literature and Design classes, the students complete an oral history project and take a class Journey to Costa Rica.
Language Acquisition: Chinese or Spanish
Chinese: In Chinese 8, students explore units on school life, cities and dwellings, the weather in China and the Chinese New year. Students develop the ability to communicate about these topics in reading and writing. Chinese characters become dominant in this course. By the end of the year, students are ready for the Upper School Chinese 2 course.
Spanish: Grade 8 Spanish students can interact confidently and respond in detail to spoken, written and visual cues. They can also communicate a wide range of ideas and feelings. Students are engaged in a 90% target language environment leaving room for clarification questions. Assessments are rigorous and continue to prepare students for the ultimate test of their skills: the Grade 8 Journey to Costa Rica. Students return with a new appreciation for their abilities and growth, as well as a fresh global perspective to connect with their language learning.
Language & Literature
This course emphasizes reading comprehension skills through close readings of a variety of texts and stresses an improvement in writing style through building voice and crafting more powerful sentences and thesis-driven essays with compelling introductions and satisfying conclusions. Course texts include Animal Farm
, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
, To Kill a Mockingbird
and Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
. In addition to reading and writing, the class focuses on improving speaking skills as students practice speaking to inform, entertain and persuade.
Algebra is a progression of learning that emphasizes gaining proficiency in this fundamental language of higher mathematics. Representing quantitative relationships in valid and insightful fashions condenses large amounts of data into efficient mathematical statements and enables young mathematicians to model and solve complex problems. The study of the quadratic equation, for example, culminates with the construction of trebuchets and catapults.
Grade 8 Music students explore America’s music, Jazz and Musical Theatre. Students learn about the history of Jazz and Blues. They examine and analyze key elements, and identify Free Jazz, Country Blues, Urban Blues, Classic Blues, Ragtime, Stride, New Orleans Jazz, Swing, Big Band and Bebop. They learn that music is a bi-product of history and cultures. Students perform drum, bass, piano, vocal and keyboard parts to prominent Jazz repertoire individually and in groups. Their large projects include composing a Blues song and creating an original Bebop Jazz composition. In Musical Theatre they listen to, analyze, present and perform pieces from the Modern American Musical.
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 design their own laboratory investigations, collect data, process and evaluate their results, and draw conclusions. They also design an investigation of factors that affect the rate of chemical reactions and, prior to their Journey to Costa Rica, explore tropical ecology. Upon their return, they evaluate how friendly ecotourism actually is and research steps that scientists have taken to mitigate the effects of ecotourism on the environment.
Each year in Visual Arts Grade 8 students investigate color. Small homework assignments help students identify primary, secondary and tertiary colors on the color wheel and understand their relationship to each other, prompting an inquiry into color theory. Students use this understanding to create unique and interesting works of art that focus on color relationships and schemes. One project combines old and new technologies to manipulate a photograph and enlarge it for a fun and colorful self-portrait. In preparation for their Journey to Costa Rica, students research the artwork of the indigenous peoples and ways that globalization impacts their art and cultures. In the Pottery Studio students use the knowledge gained from their research to recreate a variety of traditional art forms including pots and Diablito masks.
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.