Seventh and eighth graders read classic literature and award winning young adult novels. Some units are approached using a whole class structure; while other units include small literature circles or independent reading. Over the course of the year eighth graders are asked to think, discuss and write about how and what they read. The Units of Study Writing Program, developed by Lucy Calkins at Columbia Teachers College, provides the foundation of the writing program from Pre School to Eighth grade.
The essential aspects of the program are that
• Writing needs to be taught with explicit instruction.
• Children deserve to write for real, to write the kinds of texts that they see in the world
• Children need to be immersed in a listening and storytelling culture where their voices are valued and heard.
• Children need explicit instruction in spelling and phonemic awareness. K to Grade 3 students receive daily training in phonological awareness, phonics and word study, fluency, spelling, and handwriting based on the Wilson Fundations program. There is a scope and sequence for spelling and grammar instruction from first to eighth grade.
• Writers read! For children to write well, they need opportunities to read and to hear texts read and to read as insiders, studying what other authors have done that they too could try.
• Children need clear goals and feedback.
In the Units of Study program, each grade level includes four six week units of writing with some combination of the following: narrative, opinion/persuasive/ argument, and informational. Instruction builds on itself from one year to the next.
Teaching follows the gradual release of responsibility model of teaching. Students can first learn from a demonstration, accompanied by explicit teaching, then from guided practice in which the amount of scaffolding they receive lessens over time.
Geography provides students with a fundamental understanding of how the human and natural worlds work at local, regional, and global scales. Students learn about important global issues including peace and security, human rights, the environment, food and hunger, economic development, and globalization through the study of current events and project based learning. They participate in Model United Nations which is a simulation of the UN General Assembly. In Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization's agenda. While playing their roles as ambassadors, student delegates make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the Model UN conference rules of procedure - all in the interest to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world.
Grade Seven and Grade Eight Middle School Science is a rotation of Earth and Life Sciences. In school years that begin in even numbers, Earth Science is taught to all middle school students; in odd, it is Life Science.
Earth Science focuses on the topics of plate tectonics, minerals and rocks, meteorology and astronomy with a local focus whenever possible. Topics studied include plate boundary characteristics, earthquakes and tsunamis, minerals and rock characteristics, the rock cycle, weather, in particular hurricanes, and global climate change, our solar system and star evolution. Activities include a two month moon watch journal, an engineering solution to problems of local earthquakes and/or tsunamis, locating plate boundaries within the Caribbean, identifying an unknown mineral sample and several St. Croix rocks, relative size of planets in the solar system (using a 12 kg ball of modeling clay), graphing and interpreting moon observations, a Scratch program model of a process studied in class, simulations of Earth’s movement in the solar system to explain seasons and star patterns and a facebook page to describe the life history of a star. Students develop an engineering project to solve a St. Croix problem related to either an earthquake or tsunami. Students learn to collect, graph and analyze bivariate data in class activities. Scientific explanations are developed using a claim/evidence/reasoning (CER) model. Students read and take notes from the textbook, Holt Science & Technology Earth Science and use their notes to reinforce understanding in a modified literacy circle.
Life Science focuses on the topics of cells and cell processes, genetics and evolution. Topics studied include types of cells and organelles, photosynthesis and cellular respiration, mitosis and meiosis, genetics, natural selection and human evolution. Activities include reading selections from Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle and On the Origin of Species, creating an analogy for a cell and its organelles, a Scratch program model of a biological process studied in class, writing a childrens’ book on mitosis, simulating inheritance in Muppet children and dragons, simulating natural selection with Jelly Bellys and a paper declaring the superiority of a particular hominid. Students learn to collect, graph and analyze univariate data in bar charts and dotplots. Students develop an engineering project to solve a St. Croix problem related to either the local watershed or a locally endangered species. Scientific explanations are developed using a claim/evidence/reasoning (CER) model. Students read and take notes from the textbook, Holt Science & Technology Life Science and use their notes to reinforce understanding in a modified literacy circle.
Pre-Algebra prepares students to transition into Algebra with the necessary foundations to be successful. This course follows a structured scope and sequence, introducing, reinforcing, and expanding topics needed for success in Algebra 1 and Geometry. Students will model and solve problems that involve varying quantities by using variables, expressions, equations and inequalities. Measurement, proportional reasoning, statistics, probability, and problem solving are also topics of focus in this course. Students understanding of the topics will be measured by end of chapter assessments and projects. The textbook McDougal Littell Pre-Algebra will be used for notes and homework.
The Middle School Technology curriculum strives to provide students with innovative projects that prepare students with the 21st century skills needed to succeed today and in the future. Students focus a variety of concepts including: productivity software, iPads, robotics, 3D design, online research tools, presentation skills, video production, digital citizenship, and information literacy.
In Middle School art students are exposed to a variety of art techniques, design elements and principles, which incorporate contemporary and historical art components. In addition, students are involved in community projects to expose them to the local art world as well as to provide them with the opportunity to learn from others. This program firmly supports creativity, individuality, and most of all, the joy of creating art!
Middle school students are invited to join band or chorus. At this level, students are able to make a choice that best fits their interests and schedule of activities. Band instruction begins in fifth grade. Students new to the Middle School who have never played an instrument are encouraged to select chorus in order to enjoy a successful experience as an ensemble member. A student who wishes to be in band might consider taking private lessons until s/he is able to play at the level of the Middle School band.
All students in band or chorus continue to improve their understanding of the place of music in relation to history and culture, while analyzing different musical forms through listening and reading music. Weekly homework assignments are given in each class to improve music reading skills along with good practice skills. Band members are expected to practice twenty minutes five days a week. Rehearsal and performance skills continue to be emphasized in each class, culminating with performances in December and May. Students commit to band or chorus for a semester.
The focus of Spanish A is to develop a strong foundation of the four foreign language skills at a basic level: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Students are prepared to use essential classroom phrases and commands for Spanish to be the primary language of the classroom. Concepts previously learned are reinforced to build on a new repertoire of practical vocabulary in present tense related to topics such as life at school, friendship, health, and pastimes. The emphasis on pronunciation, intonation, fluency, grammar, and forms of regular and irregular verbs builds confidence and prepares students for appropriate oral and written interaction using short paragraphs. Students apply these skills in a range of creative activities, from performing weather reports, writing and performing dialogues, creating, likes and dislikes diagrams, and others individual and group projects. Cultural awareness is integrated into the curriculum by comparing United States and St. Croix's geography, history, customs and holidays with those in other Spanish speaking countries. Students are involved in craft-making activities, reading magazines, listening to traditional music, exploring fine art, and watching foreign language videos. The use of Realidades A student workbook and digital program (e-text and companion website) allows the teacher to differentiate instruction and enables students to monitor their progress. At the end of the year students should be able to move from a Novice High-sub level of proficiency to an Intermediate Low- sub level (ACTFL Proficiency guidelines 2012 are used to determine students’ proficiency.)