8th Grade Academics

 

"I got to know my fellow students really well and over the years, we became more than friends; we became a big family. I hope we all stay in touch for a long time."
—graduating 8th grader
The eighth grade brings a sense of culmination. The goal is to continue developing the capacity for an all-encompassing point of view accompanied by a mood of completion and accomplishment for all that has gone before. It is essential to continue leading the students towards developing the capacity for independent judgment. The students have nearly completed their passage through childhood and are entering the territory of youth, an attainment that gives them an enhanced perspective, sharper powers of observation, and growing critical facilities. From this vantage, with their expanding capacities, the students continue developing the scope and the perceptive abilities to recollect, to connect, and to see relationships. These abilities make it possible to build a more comprehensive picture within the curriculum, whether the subject is literature, history, math, or science.

The students are taught the elements that are used in creating a story. They practice creative writing using the techniques of figurative and descriptive language. Numerous short stories are read and critiqued by the students. Students create their own short story. English practice periods are conducted two to three times a week where the students review the basic rules of grammar, usage, and mechanics.

Algebra is reviewed and expanded. In addition students work with math word problems, ratios and proportions, and review positive and negative integers. Students review exponents and learn how to find the square root of a number. The use of grids and plotting equations are also presented. There is an expansion upon the plane geometry learned in the sixth and seventh grades. The students also focus on aspects of solid geometry. The five basic Platonic solids are taught and constructed. The students are taught to calculate the volume and surface area of different solid figures such as triangular prisms, cylinders, cones, and rectangular solids. The Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio are presented or reviewed.

Math practice periods are held three times a week. A review of the various math processes is conducted: working with decimals, fractions, percentages, graphs, and solving word problems. Strengthening geometry and algebra skills can also be accommodated during these periods. An eighth grade theme is the struggle for human rights, and how this desire has shaped our world. Much of this history is taught through the presentation of biographies. The starting point is the colonization of America followed by a study of the American, French and/or Industrial Revolutions. Immigration and the American Civil War are studied. The students then move on to the history of the twentieth century, looking at some of the people who have brought new ideas to life in the modern era, and identifying some of the questions and possibilities that currently face us. During these blocks the students are assigned historical novels to read, and may conduct interviews with grandparents or other “seniors”, and explore their own heritage, learning how their families came to the United States.

Generally Eurasia is studied in the eighth grade. The physical and cultural geography of this vast continent is studied with special attention to three or four counties or regions such as Russia, India, China, Japan, or the Middle East. Historical references and biographies enliven the understanding of how people relate to their surroundings, and shape the cultural and political direction of a particular place. Students continue to develop their map skills, geographic vocabulary and terminology. Current events related to the regions studied are included in class discussions.

In physiology students learn the composition, location, and function of bones and the interaction of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These are tied in with the action of the brain and central nervous system to provide students with an understanding of how these systems provide a strong, mobile, and sensitive framework for the human body. Human sexuality and reproductive system are covered in the eighth grade. Often an outside speaker, such as a midwife, comes to answer students’ questions.

The curriculum in the eighth grade deals with organic chemistry, specifically sugars, starches, proteins, and fats and oils. It is discussed how these substances are created in plants through the process of photosynthesis and then are distributed throughout the food chain. Tests that are conducted include observing the behavior or these substances under the influence of water, fire, acid and base. More tests verify the presences of these substances in various types of food. Industrial application of these substances is discussed. The students are given the opportunity to make various products such as soap, cold cream, lollipops, paper, pudding, and cheese.

The material presented in eighth grade physics may include acoustics, heat, optics, electro-magnetism, aerodynamics, and hydraulics. Generally two or three of these topics are chosen for presentation over the course of this three week block. Each topic taught includes a practical application such as building a telescope in optics, or an electrical motor, bell, or telegraph in electro-magnetism.

A play is usually performed for two evening performances off campus in a public venue. The choice of this culminating class production is based on the teacher’s insight into the character of the particular class. The class teacher is usually supported by parents who will assist as drama coaches, in putting together props, costumes, program booklets etc. In eighth grade, students are asked to pick any subject that is of a particular interest to them as the focus of their eighth grade project. Using this subject, they spend several months researching and writing a research paper. They create a presentation board and prepare an oral presentation. Each student is asked to submit an artistic project to go along with his or her subject. Most all the work is done at home. Periodic meetings are scheduled with the class teacher. Students are encouraged to seek assistance outside the classroom from professionals in the particular field they are researching. Each eighth grade student makes a formal presentation of his/her project to the community: family, teachers, all other students, and friends as part of the course requirements.

The eighth grade year culminates with a class trip of greater length than in previous years, usually with a rite of passage theme. The trip’s destination and focus is arrived at through discussions guided by the teacher with the students and parents.