Eighth Grade students flourish in the final year of their Far Brook journey. As leaders of the school, the Eighth Graders take on special roles within the school Traditions, experiencing each of these for the last time. Students are often asked to be tour guides or greeters or to speak on panels during campus events such as Open Houses, dinners, and other special events. Continuing with their rigorous academic work, they simultaneously begin to think about their next steps and the future that lies ahead of them in secondary school. During the final months of school, the Eighth Graders prepare to perform a full-length Shakespeare play as their graduation gift to the school.
The Eighth Grade takes a humanities approach to their work in English and history. The history curriculum focuses on selected topics in American history, ranging from the arrival of the first Europeans in the Americas to the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. The class explores the ideas of protest, propaganda, and boycott in the nation’s history and also undertakes an in-depth study of the Constitution. Considerable time is devoted to a study of the Bill of Rights and its relevance to contemporary issues in American society. Throughout the year, the Eighth Grade discusses the idea of what it means to participate in a democracy and have civic responsibilities. They also examine the question of how a society lives up to the ideals it professes to believe in.
Whenever possible, primary sources are used, and national and international current events are discussed. Both of these, along with secondary source material, serve as rich materials for the class as they learn to make connections between earlier episodes in our nation’s history and contemporary events. They also help to illustrate moral dilemmas and contemporary political challenges. In the second half of the year, the students select a topic from any period of American history on which to write a research paper before graduating to gain expertise in a specific area of our nation’s history.
Eighth Grade English continues to build on the skills of analyzing and interpreting texts and writing across several genres that students focused on in Seventh Grade. Emphasis is placed on using discussion and writing to develop the higher order skills of critical, logical, reflective, metacognitive, and creative thinking. Over the course of the year, students practice their narrative, argument, and information writing skills through the following units: nature-writing, a literary essay on A Raisin in the Sun, reading and writing poetry, and a review of common grammar pitfalls.
Throughout the year, the students also read and discuss novels, plays, essays, short stories, and poetry with partners, in small groups, and as a whole class. The study of sentence structure and grammatical conventions focuses on the errors that come up most frequently in students’ writing; students learn strategies and resources to help them become more independent in their ability to recognize and correct their own mistakes. The Eighth Grade class play is integrated into the curriculum. The year ends with a production of The Tempest or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As students near the end of the year they prepare a graduation speech to share with their families and the entire school community before the last performance of their Shakespeare play.
The Eighth Grade science curriculum, “A Lab Based Investigation of Our Physical World: Asking Questions and Finding Answers,” is an experiential exploration of physical science. As the course name suggests, students will learn physics and chemistry content that will help them understand the world around them, specifically why the ocean is essential to life on Earth and how we can help protect this resource. Students will learn about how they influence the ocean and how the ocean influences them. Over the course of the year, students will study topics such as: volume and mass, atoms and molecules, molecular motion, bonding, characteristic properties of substances (including melting point, boiling point, and density), solubility and mixtures, polarity, chemical reactions, heat and temperature, bathymetry, weather, climate, and climate change.
Students gain a solid foundation of scientific knowledge, laboratory and field experience, and a deeper understanding of scientific investigations. Students regularly practice their science skills, including generating testable hypotheses, designing and carrying out experiments, displaying data in an organized manner, analyzing and drawing conclusions, and creating scientific arguments. In one project, students will use scientific tracking data available online to study a specific marine animal and apply what they learned about the ocean in class to explain the animal’s movements. In this manner, students apply their knowledge of chemical and physical processes to help them understand biological phenomena.
Children reach cognitive landmarks at different times throughout their adolescent years. Allowing for their individual differences, ongoing consideration is given to ensure that each student is in the correct math course.
Skills developed throughout the earlier grades are combined with more advanced creative analysis and sequential thinking in the Junior High math courses. Math classes include investigations and presentations to the class for discussion. This continuum of rich experiences and carefully selected resources provides students with the deep understanding, the knowledge, and the skills of math to meet the challenges of high school math programs. The two sections of Eighth Grade math prepare students for either Geometry or Algebra II during their Ninth Grade year.
Algebra 1B: This course covers the second half of a standard Algebra 1 course. The course begins with a review of all content in Algebra 1A such as solving equations, factoring, exponent laws, rational expressions, linear functions, and word problems. The new content includes solving rational equations, negative exponents, solving systems of equations, and solving inequalities. If time permits, the curriculum can also include absolute value inequalities, graphing linear inequalities and systems of linear inequalities, simplifying radicals and radical operations, solving radical equations, and solving quadratic equations using completing the square and the quadratic formula. Students end the year by completing a special STEAM project that relates to the curriculum or applies their problem solving skills.
Text: Algebra: Structure and Method (Book 1) – McDougal Littell.
Advanced Algebra: This course builds on the topics in the Algebra 1 curriculum, and also includes the application of Algebra to real world problems such as modeling with scatter plots and linear equations, linear programming, direct and inverse variation, and growth and decay with exponential functions. Students complete an in-depth study of the topics with more complex problems and applications that also include Algebra 2 material. The Algebra 2 concepts include factoring with substitution, factoring sum and differences of cubes, complex fractions, fractional exponents, synthetic division, solving systems with 3-variables, piecewise function with domain and range, transformations of functions, and exponential functions.
Texts: Algebra Structure and Method (Book 1) – McDougal Littell; Intermediate Algebra – Zuckerman; Discovering Algebra (An Investigative Approach) – Key Curriculum Press.
Geometry: This class covers topics found in a standard introductory Geometry course, including parallel lines, quadrilaterals, congruent triangles, circles, areas of polygons, similar figures, right triangle trigonometry, areas and volumes of prisms and pyramids, and coordinate geometry proofs. Students learn through a variety of methods, including class discussion, group work, hands-on investigations, and GeoGebra explorations. Students complete real-life applications throughout the year, including an end-of-year culminating project.
Text: Geometry – McDougal Littell
In Eighth Grade French, students continue to build listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills through a year-long study of Haiti. They begin the year with a review of vocabulary and structures from previous years, including the futur proche tense, through personalized conversation and reading the novel Pirates Français des Caraïbes. While reading this novel, students learn about the history of French influence in North America, particularly the Caribbean. Although the students have been exposed to the past tenses via storytelling for a number of years, in Eighth Grade students study the formation and usage of the passé composé and l’imparfait tenses. The analysis of these two tenses is accomplished through conversation as well as through reading the novel Ma Voiture à Moi, set in present-day Haiti. Students also read traditional Haitian folktales in the past tense. Over the course of the year, the Eighth Grade students raise money for the F.E.E.D. organization, which benefits the children of Paulette, Haiti. In preparation for the Junior High’s annual trip to Québec City and Montréal, students study the history and culture of the area and then have an opportunity to put all of their French knowledge to use on the trip.
Art: In Eighth Grade Art, students create an introspective assemblage box utilizing various two- and three-dimensional materials to encapsulate feelings, ideas, and themes. Students learn about the artist Joseph Cornell and the boxes he created, which relied on the use of symbolism and surrealism to convey meaning. The ability to represent the unconscious in a visual format is also an integral aspect of how students express ideas and give clarity to their narrative. Students write a reflection that supports their themes and describes in what ways the visual imagery reflects their personal feelings, dreams, and desires. Discussions address the reasons why symbolism and surrealism became important and, to some extent, mainstream aspects of 20th Century art. Included in these discussions are references to the developing interest in the psychology of the unconscious mind and how this interest also had a profound influence on the development of visual art during that time period.
Calligraphy: Eighth Graders study the techniques of calligraphy using authentic calligraphy tools. During their calligraphy mini, they select a Far Brook song or a quote from their graduation Shakespeare play, and over a series of weeks, they create their Far Brook graduation diplomas.
Woodshop: In Eighth Grade woodshop, students are taught simple framing and make custom frames which they design, cut, assemble, and stain to complement their handmade diplomas. They learn how to use a framing jig and how to cut mitered angles. The students design details to be etched into their wooden frames. Other independent projects may follow once they complete their frame. Most recently, students have built chairs and benches to be used by students around the campus.
Handbells: In Eighth Grade Handbells each student plays two or three bells with one bell sounding one note. Students learn to set up the equipment and to care for the bells. Students use their cumulative knowledge to decode the music to create melodies together. This is the culmination of many years of music note-reading study where all aspects of rhythm, melody, harmony, expression, and form come into play. Students share performances in Morning Meeting and Instrumental Music Night.
Group: In Group, students rehearse for the music that they sing during many traditions at Far Brook. This Upper School choir includes all students in grades 6-8. The ensemble prepares the music of the Thanksgiving Processional, An Evening of Choral Music-Stabat Mater, and the Spring Choral Concert.
Boys’ Choir: Boys’ Choir consists of boys in Grades Six, Seven, and Eight and sometimes the men of the faculty and staff. Repertoire is selected specifically for the musical range of male voices. Boys’ Choir sings in Morning Meeting and performs at the Spring Choral Concert.
Orchestra: Students join the Far Brook Orchestra once they reach a certain level of proficiency in their musical skills. The Orchestra plays in Morning Meeting and at Instrumental Music Night. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in the annual Recital Night in the spring.
Drama: Eighth Grade students perform in two distinct productions in their final year. The Eighth Grade play, which reflects the students’ study of American history and literature, draws from the work of classic American writers such as Mark Twain, Langston Hughes, Thornton Wilder, Eudora Welty, F. Scott Fitzgerald, O. Henry, Damon Runyon, James Thurber, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Eighth Graders return to the stage in June with their traditional graduation gift to the School: alternating productions of either A Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Tempest. Each is a full-length Shakespeare play that is supported by an incidental score by composer, arranger, and musical scholar, Far Brook’s Music Director Emeritus Edwin A. Finckel, and performed live by an ensemble of professional musicians. This final major production of each year, which is shared with the entire Far Brook community, is a performance whose integration, complexity, and grace is the pinnacle of our students’ growth through five years in Far Brook’s drama program, and from more than a decade of watching and participating in a full season of theater each year.
During the first half of the technology mini, students digitally design their yearbook pages. Eighth Graders carefully consider how they want their time at Far Brook to be captured and remembered. Meaningful photographs, quotes, and artwork are chosen, edited, and then added to their yearbook pages. Students learn a variety of technology and design skills as they complete this project.
In the second portion of the technology mini, students are introduced to the basics of electrical engineering. The Eighth Graders use littleBits and Arduino microcontrollers to design, program, and build functional and innovative alarm clocks. In order to successfully complete this project, students not only build circuit boards, but also program the desired commands using the Arduino IDE, a simplified version of C++. Arduino microcontrollers and littleBits provide students an accessible way to prototype and create interactive circuits; which hopefully will spark students’ interests to continue exploring more sophisticated robotic and electronic projects.
Sports and Wellness
Sports: The Eighth Grade Sports program includes a combination of cooperative team-building activities, fitness, and strength development, and participation in a fall and spring interscholastic sport. Boys participate in soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, and the girls participate in field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. A co-ed track and field team has been added to the spring program. Students learn the rules and regulations of these games and practice the basic skills and strategies of these sports. Peer leadership and learning to be a supportive teammate are reinforced during every practice and game. The cornerstone of the sports curriculum is character development through demonstrating good sportsmanship. During the sports seasons, students share a Sports Report each Friday in Morning Meeting, reporting the team’s accomplishments and goals for the next game. When not in season, the students participate in activities such as pickleball, ultimate frisbee, team handball, basketball, and various fitness activities.
Health & Wellness: The goal of the winter sports season is to foster an appreciation of fitness, sports, and living a healthy lifestyle. Activities may include flag football, basketball, pickleball, volleyball, and cardio kick-boxing. For approximately 10 weeks, students have one health and wellness lesson in place of a physical education class each week. This comprehensive curriculum has been developed to closely follow national health and sexuality curriculum standards. Each topic has been carefully selected to serve the developmental level of the student
Social and Emotional
Advisory facilitates students’ development of caring, creative, and competent approaches toward academics and relationships. Mixed-grade groupings provide an opportunity for mentorship, leadership, and collaboration across the two Junior High grades. Advisors facilitate group conversations dealing with specific topics such as team building, character and integrity, healthy habits, diversity, organization, and transitions. Advisors also meet with students one-on-one and conference about academic and social areas.
Opportunity Period allows students to self-select into an activity of choice during the school day. Recent options include Far Brook’s Upper School Orchestra, Green Team (leading the community in environmentally sustainable practices), book club, School newspaper, art, chess, and knitting.
Progress Reports: Eighth Graders work with their advisors to set academic and social goals for themselves. At the end of the first and second trimesters students lead their own academic conference for their parents, sharing a portfolio of their academic work that they have prepared with their advisor.
Adirondacks Trip: The Adirondacks Trip occurs early in the school year and plays an important role in the community-building aspect of the Junior High. The natural setting at Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center in the Adirondacks is ideal for 5 days of living and learning together. The Pok-O-MacCready staff provide an extensive outdoor program including hiking, canoeing, a ropes course, a sensory-awareness challenge course, forest and pond ecology, wildlife studies, and American Revolution studies. Additionally, students fish, participate in writing workshops, and enjoy an evening of square dancing. The cost of all trips is included in the Junior High activities fee.
Canada Trip: In early spring, the Junior High students spend five days in Canada, visiting Québec City and Montréal, to increase their exposure to the French language and to the French cultural presence in North America. This annual capstone experience gives students an opportunity to use their French skills in practical, real-world settings as they interact with native speakers in local businesses. During the trip, the students also visit a local school, finally meeting the Canadian students who had been their penpals since the fall.
Girls’ Leadership: Seventh and Eighth Grade girls meet weekly to provide an opportunity for small group conversation to foster girls’ leadership. Through on-campus experiences such as volunteering in classrooms or coordinating their own Morning Meeting presentations, students explore their voice and what impact they can have both at Far Brook and beyond. Additional projects building leadership skills through an on-campus experience have included collaborating on special projects such as set design for a Shakespeare play, selecting Gold Key books for Fall Family Day, designing school-wide sustainability initiatives, and learning more about the ways Far Brook communicates through social media and other publications.
After School Programs
- Mentoring: Mentoring in the After-School Program is an opportunity for Junior High students to volunteer as helpers in the Lower School After-School Program classes (cooking, art, music, sports, etc.). This gives our older students a chance to interact with and guide the younger students. The Junior High students can choose their own after-school activity, such as Homework Club, and also spend time as a mentor for the younger students.
- Spectrum: A Social Justice Discussion Group-As expressed in our Diversity Statement, we believe that being intentional about diversity provides a platform for students to understand, to thrive in, and to impact our multi-cultural society. Students in grades Six, Seven, and Eight who are interested in discussing or learning more about race, equity, and social justice are invited and encouraged to attend.
- STEAM Camp (December and June)
During the second trimester, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade families may enroll their students in winter After School Programs.
- The Interscholastic Basketball program offers games against other local independent schools.
- On Friday evenings in January and February, Ski Club offers all levels of skiers an opportunity to ski and snowboard on Shawnee Mountain.