Grade 7 and 8 students start their day with a hearty Community Meeting, during which they play games to connect, share stories from their lives, discuss upcoming events, and hash out solutions to middle school dilemmas of all kinds. They create the boundaries and expectations for participation, working to ensure everyone feels valued, safe, and welcomed.
In Language Arts and Social Studies, you will find students sprawled on the floor, or sitting at tables working in small groups, discussing a good book, or revising their latest draft. There’s times where you will see students prepare for and then participate in a Socratic Seminar, practicing the habits of civil discourse. They also deliver presentations, offer feedback to one another, and apply the habits of effective collaborators (managing tasks, communicating, and solving conflicts). Teachers and students may meet in one-on-one conferences, sharing analysis of literature, or discussing strategies to move a piece of writing forward, or they may be in front of the class leading a mini lesson on character development, elements of effective argumentative essays, or the history of voting rights. You will certainly witness moments of rambunctious preteen excitement, but then we may take a movement break and return to our studies shortly after. Whole groups may sit on the floor and lead one another through their revelations about whole-class reads, like March by John Lewis in 8th grade, or Refugee by Alan Gratz in 7th. Although you may see furrowed brows of concentration, and pauses for deep thinking, you will also witness wide eyed epiphones, bright smiles of joy, and pleasant calm appreciation for one another. Ultimately, you will see students thinking critically about the world and reflectively about themselves and their role in it.
In Math and Science, students build their critical thinking and communication skills by engaging in math talks and class discussions where they are encouraged to explain their thinking and work through challenging problems. Movement is often encouraged in science and math class as movement is strongly correlated to the ability to take in information and learn. Students have the comfort to move about the room and you will often hear light chatter sprinkled in with moments of healthy debate and laughter as they work in groups, sharing with each other ideas and strategies they’ve developed to solve complex and unique math problems. In science students work together on many challenging concepts as small collectives via science labs. Some of these engaging labs that students have completed together are a physics lab calculating speed and acceleration with matchbox cars and ramps, a speed lab investigating how fast students chew gum, a biology lab where students get to view cells under a microscope and make cell cakes out of edible things representing organelles, and a genetics lab where students “mate” dragons to have different characteristics like fire breather, smoke breather, spiky tail and short arms all based on dominant and recessive genes. Students strengthen their presentation and public speaking skills by presenting math strategies and science projects and by participating in math gallery walks. Social skills are developed and connections are made as our scholars play fun games like chess, math jeopardy, or by participating in friendly gingerbread house building contests. 7th and 8th Grade Math and Science is a place where students absorb critical middle and late adolescent developmental and life skills that will serve them as they move on to high school and beyond.