Cycles of Study: Grades Six Through Eight

Sixth through eighth grade students work together in multi-grade academic teams for subjects like history, science, music, art, and physical education. Academic teams follow a three-year cycle of study and stay together for the years. Each year brings new topics and challenges. The central themes of each cycle are carried out across the curriculum in an integrated approach. More on academic teams.

At the same time, subjects like math, Spanish, and language arts are taught by individual grade.

All students in grades six through eight independently read high volumes of text—one book per week—as a part of the graduation requirement in literature.

Cycle One:  The Quest for Friendship, Courage & Hope

What is your quest?  We are told that Eric the Viking sailed the oceans to find “the land where the sun goes at night,”  while Aeneus searched for a homeland and Sir Galahad set on a quest to find the Holy Grail.  So, what are you looking for?  Gilgamesh sought the secret to eternal life,  Jason struggled to find the golden fleece, and Odysseus just wanted to finally go home. What are you hoping to find next year . . . or the year after that?    According to legends, myth, and histories, people have wandered the world for thousands of years. Faced fear and danger. Search for the fountain of youth, lost loves, golden birds, treasure, new worlds, or the answers to unanswerable questions. What do you see in your own path to come?

In cycle one, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students will explore these ancient questions as they journey around the globe and across time to the Middle East. Africa. The Americas. They will follow the quests of Gilgamesh, Kintu, and Quetzalcoatl. Consider the epic rise and fall of ancient civilizations. And personal quests of ordinary individuals.

Our searching will not be limited to merely earthly civilizations. In science, students will study the stars and human biology, as they work through units in astronomy, the human body, and solar power. It will be a year of quests, as students become acquainted with the lives of ancient peoples and the discoveries, historic conflicts and human aspirations that still now shape civilizations.  They will study the mysteries of the stars and the wonder of their own human systems as well.  The wonderful paradox of course will be this: as we stretch ourselves to learn the stories of the past, the challenges of the earth, and the wonders of space, we will find what we most want to know about—our own place in the searching.

Ancient Civilizations, World Religions, & World Geography

Fall and Mini Term:

  • The interconnection of geography and climate with the rise of trade.

  • The invention of writing and law.

  • The birth of civilizations in the fertile crescent.

  • Atlases and maps, as well as ancient and Biblical stories, to see how faiths, kingdoms and even small bands of nomads left their mark on the geography of Egypt and the Middle East.

Winter Term:

  • Ancient India

  • Ancient Nubian empire

  • China

Spring Term:

  • Ancient Mayans

  • Aztecs

In every term, students reflect upon average persons who pursue great things.  Journey to new lands. Raise monumental hopes in this world.  At the same time, students consider current geography and happenings in these parts of the world.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six:  World Timelines and Maps

    • Grade seven:  History Exhibition: Ancient Cultures

    • Academic teams:  Guided Tour at The Jewish Museum

Visual Arts

To complement the study of Ancient Civilizations, we study Egyptian hieroglyphs. Each student will phonetically translate their name into hieroglyphs and make a clay cartouche. Throughout the year we will return to drawing as the basis of all our art. Students will explore different drawing media as they work on still life arrangements of flowers, abstract their drawings, and then contemplate the role of art in a world of instant photography.

Major Projects:

    • Academic teams:  Tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    • Grades seven and eight:  The Visual Arts Exhibitions

Religious Education

Beginning in sixth grade, students take on significant leadership roles in the fall celebrations and an annual service project.  They also reflect upon the relationship between Christianity and the beliefs and practices of our Jewish and Islamic neighbors.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six through eight: Designing a Service Project; Chorus Performance

    • Grade eight: Service & Leadership Exhibition

Reading, Literature & the Humanities

In cycle one students read informational texts, ancient myth, folklore and memoirs. They encounter legendary and ordinary individuals, who work to sustain friendship. Invent solutions. Find hope. And build civilizations in places from Israel to South Africa to Nicaragua.

Novels and anthologies include: One More River; Dark Sons; Flag of Childhood; Gilgamesh, The Hero; Things Fall Apart; Dream Freedom; A Treasury of African Folktales; Julius Caesar; The Tree is Older Than You Are; Before We Were Free; Any Small Goodness;  and Baseball in April.

Major Projects:

    • Academic teams: Reading Self-Analysis & Portfolio that documents independent reading (one book per week)

    • Grade six: Mini-exhibition  (June)

    • Grade seven: Literature Exhibition (June)

Writing Composition

As students complete routine assignments in vocabulary, grammar, writing mechanics, and spelling, they work towards creating written compositions of significance. Through the writing of poetry, students deepen their understanding of figurative language, imagery, rich vocabulary, and language structure. As they compose persuasive and process essays, students gain strength in the ability to compose reasoned explanations and arguments. Finally, as students develop memoirs, they consider how words are used to compose one’s own life and living.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six:  Memoir Night; Mini-Exhibition, and Portfolio (May)

    • Grade seven: Literature & Writing Exhibition (June) & Extra-Curricular Resumes

    • Grade eight: High School Entrance Essays (September)  & Final Graduation Project (June)

Science

Students study the universe and our planet’s place in the creation.  This year’s science program includes three units:

  • Astronomy: Stars, Galaxies and the Universe

  • Human Body Systems

  • Solar Energy & Engineering

In science, we work as partners with Stevens Institute of Technology, among other schools, in a statewide effort to advance education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six: Beuhler Challenger Center

    • Grade seven: Science Exhibition (March)

    • Grade eight: Leadership of  Investigations and Team Reports

    • Academic teams: Partnership with the Liberty Science Center

Cycle Two: Finding Your Voice and Speaking the Truth

Who am I in this world and what do I have to say to the world? What keeps me silent?  When should my voice be heard?

Throughout the year of cycle two, students will read, hear, and study people who had something to say.  In the fall, students will read the narratives of slaves who found their voice. In the spring, students will read the speeches of civil rights leaders who spoke to the whole world.  In between, students will hear the many varied voices of the writers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as the voices of those farmers, soldiers, immigrants, union workers, builders, architects, and leaders who have shaped our nation.

Along the way, students will explore and develop their own voices and shape what they have to say to the world.

History, Society, & World Geography

In cycle two, students examine the words and ideas that have shaped the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the most influential letters and speeches of the 18th century.  In the winter term, students see how the United States found its voice as a nation, as well as how diverse individuals spoke boldly in the face of slavery and injustice. Finally, by the end of the year, students recognize how historic voices have formed a nation of varied peoples. The role of immigration and Ellis Island is given considerable attention, as is the 20th century struggle for Civil Rights. Throughout the year, students review important historical documents, from the Magna Carta to the Constitution to the Civil Rights Amendment, in order to understand the ideas, laws, arrangements and movements that have shaped our current democracy.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six: Study of an Amendment

    • Grade seven:  History Exhibition – Notable Americans  (February)

    • Academic teams:  Trip to historic Philadelphia and The National Constitution Museum

Visual Arts

In the visual arts, students work with a wide variety of media, including drawing materials, paints, clay, printmaking materials, mixed media sculpture and digital media.  They also visit art museums to study the art and artifacts of revolutionary artists, particularly in the fields of African American, Latin American and Modern art.

Major Projects:

    • Academic teams:  Art Museum Visit

Religious Education

Beginning in sixth grade, students take on significant leadership roles in the fall celebrations and an annual service project. In grade seven, students pursue internships, lead Las Posadas and Passover, and take on greater service projects. Eighth grade students close this experience by delivering a homily in Upper School Worship.  This year, students will explore the theme of gardening, considering the wonders and complexities of God’s creation, the beauty of the earth, and our own roles as stewards.

Major Projects:

    • Grades six through eight: Designing a Service Project

    • Grade eight: Service & Leadership Exhibition  (February)

Reading, Literature & the Humanities

As students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres, they build an understanding of the multidimensional nature of human experience, language, and forms of expression.  This year, students read significant memoirs, historical fiction, plays, and utopian literature. Important titles include:

  • Eighth grade: The Giver; To Be a Slave; My Antonia; A Raisin in the Sun; Julius Caesar

  • Seventh grade: Gathering Blue, Day of Tears, Lyddie; Warriors Don’t Cry; To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Sixth grade: Messenger; I, Dred Scott; Letters from Rifka; Freedom Riders; Romeo and Juliet

Major Projects:

    • Reading Self-Analysis & Portfolio that documents independent reading (one book per week)

    • Book Review Collection

    • Grade seven: Literature Exhibition (June)

Writing Composition

As students complete routine assignments in vocabulary, grammar, writing mechanics, and spelling, they work towards creating written compositions of significance. Students especially sharpen their skill with the essay form as they complete a personal essay, a comparison-contrast essay, a research report in both history and science, and a final eighth grade paper that addresses a question of choice. In addition, the regular study and writing of poetry will help student expand their use of rich language.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six:  Memoir Night; Informational Essays, and Portfolio

    • Grade seven:  Literature & Writing Exhibition (June)

    • Grade eight:  Final Graduation Project (June)

Science

Students investigate three major units of study this year:

  • Chemical Interactions (Chemistry)

  • Force and Motion (Physics)

  • Engineering

Throughout the year, students learn and practice observational skills, recording and interpreting data, and understanding scientific models in the context of human history.   In addition, we continue our Math-Science partnership with the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute.

Major Projects:

    • Grade seven: Science Exhibition (March)

    • Grade eight: Leadership of Investigations and Team Reports

    • Academic teams:  Partnership with Stevens Institute of Technology

Cycle Three: Adversity, Change, and Making a Difference

What causes us to conform to the world around us?  How does the world change?  Who belongs?  

These are essential questions that guide our studies in cycle three. Students will discuss the struggles, failures, and achievements of world powers, historical figures, and ordinary individuals. They will consider the mark they, themselves, make upon the world. As they examine the ways in which faithful individuals, in history and in the present, have been called to live out their lives and make ethical decisions, they will consider the nature of their own aspirations, enduring faith, and moral courage.

History, Society, & World Geography

Through the study of world geography, economics, politics, and great historical conflicts, students review the 19th century world events and circumstances that led to World War I, World War II (including the Holocaust), the Cold War, and, finally, the Cultural Revolution in China. A look at major historic events, economic movements, and cultural change will include studies of imperialism, capitalism and communism, nuclear weapons and the space race, and the ways in which these movements and others changed the natural and cultural geography of every continent.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six: Mapping

    • Grade seven: History Exhibition (February)

    • Academic teams:  Trip to Museum of Jewish Heritage, Seminar with Holocaust Survivor

Reading, Literature & the Humanities

As students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres, they build an understanding of the multidimensional nature of human experience, language and forms of expression.  In cycle three, students read significant memoirs, historical fiction, plays, and utopian literature. Important titles include:

  • Eighth grade: The War of the Worlds, The Martian Chronicles, No Pretty Pictures, Night, The Book Thief, Gadget, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, Fahrenheit 451, and Snow Falling in Spring

  • Seventh grade:  Time Machine, Out of the Silent Planet, A Day of Pleasure, Anne Frank Remembered: A Play; The Bomb, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes; and Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

  • Sixth grade:  The Little Prince; Gulliver’s Travels; Number the Stars, The Diary of Anne Frank, Journey to Topaz, When My Name was Keoko, and Red Scarf Girl

Major Projects:

    • Grade six: Initial Portfolio that documents independent reading (1 book per week)

    • Grade seven: Literature Exhibition (June)

    • Grade eight: Book Review Collection & Digital Portfolio

Writing Composition

As students complete routine assignments in vocabulary, grammar, writing mechanics, and spelling, they work towards creating written compositions of significance. Students especially sharpen their skill with the essay form as they complete a personal essay, a descriptive essay, a comparison-contrast essay, a research report in history, process essays, and timed expository essays. In addition, the regular study and writing of poetry will help student expand their use of rich language.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six:  Memoir Night; Informational Essays, and Portfolio (May)

    • Grade seven: Literature & Writing Exhibition (June)

    • Grade eight: High School Entrance Essays (September)

Religious Education

Beginning in sixth grade, students take on significant leadership roles in the fall celebrations and an annual service project.  In grade seven, students pursue internships, lead Las Posadas and Passover, and take on greater service projects. Eighth grade students close this experience by delivering a homily in Upper School Worship.  This year, students will explore the theme of seasons, considering the wonders and complexities of God’s creation, the beauty of the earth, and our own roles as stewards.

Major Projects:

    • Grade six through eight: Designing a Service Project; Chorus Performance

    • Grades six through eight: Day of Service (MLK Day)

    • Grade eight:  Service & Leadership Exhibition  (February)

Science

Students investigate three major units of study this year:

  • Weather and Global Climate Changes;

  • DNA and Genetics;

  • Electricity and Electric Circuits

  • Engineering Design Process.

In the fall, students explore the complex factors that influence climate and climate changes.  In winter term, trace the characteristics of their own features to proteins, identify chromosomes and genes, and explore cell structures and functions. Finally, in the spring, students build and analyze circuits, explore the concepts of receivers and converters, and experiment with energy and resistance. Throughout the year, lab reports, data keeping, note-taking, and content-area reading are routine challenges.

Major Projects:

Visual Arts

In the visual arts, students work with a wide variety of media, including drawing materials, paints, clay, printmaking materials, mixed media sculpture and digital media.  They also visit art museums to study the art and artifacts of varied places.

Major Projects:

    • Academic teams:   Art Museum Visit

    • The Visual Arts Exhibition takes place next year in the fall.

other subjects

Mathematics

  • Sixth grade: students explore new concepts with number and operations while continuing to work with whole numbers, fractions, percentages and measurement. Number theory work includes primes, factors, multiples and Venn Diagrams. Extensive work with geometry, fractions, statistics, and probability are also important.
  • Seventh grade: Pre-Algebra
  • Eighth grade: Algebraic study, which can be thought of as the “science of comparison and reduction,” begins in early grades and ends with a formal study in the eighth grade year.  Such study includes work with variables, expressions and equations, transformation of equations, polynomials, linear and quadratic equations, Cartesian planes, and set theory.

Major Project:

    • Grade six through eight: I-Love-Math Day Problems and Event (February)

    • Grade eight:  Math Exhibition (March)

World Language: Spanish

In this class, the main goal is to develop conversational vocabulary in Spanish. Classroom activities are designed to promote the understanding and speaking of the language through games, improvisations, art activities, and drama. Whenever possible, the language is taught in its cultural and sometimes, literary, context.  While students do use a textbook (Viva el Español, ¿Qué Tal?), personal, active, and consistent involvement in class is the most critical element of student work.

Music

The first instrument of musical instruction is through the human voice, as students develop musical literacy through vigorous exposure to authentic folk music and music theory.  Chorus is required for sixth grade students and offered by audition to students in grades seven and eight.  Chorus members will perform at the Las Posadas Celebration in December, and those who are accepted for the second term will participate in a set of spring performances, as well as the Annual Spring Concert.

Major Projects:

    • Chorus and service team:  Annual Las Posadas, Spring Concert, and other concert performances.

Health & Physical Education

As students study the intricacies of genetics and heredity, they also consider the human body systems. In the process, students consider nutritional eating habits, personal hygiene, healthy relationships, and emotional health. Each week, in physical education, student experiences emphasize the development of fitness, physical skills, and the understanding of game rules and strategies, sportsmanship, individual initiative and teamwork.

Major Projects:

    • Spruce Lake Outdoor Education School (October)

    • Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge  (Conclusion in May)

summer reading

Summer reading list and requirements for students entering sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.