American Democracy and Its Ancient Greek Roots: How Do I Live Responsibly?
In Seventh Grade the students explore the interplay between individual and community by asking the question, How do I live responsibly? Students begin the year considering the Greek system of direct democracy and how it paved the way for representative democracies across the globe. Students explore the connection between civic participation and democracy, and socially-constructed hierarchies. This builds on previous study of the shaping of Roman government during the Republic and Empire and looks further back at the roots of those systems that began in Greece. Considering the powerful connection between these ideas, Seventh Graders shift their focus to our own nation’s history. With considerable focus on the diversity of the United States and the struggle for all citizens to gain a voice, students build on their past studies and continue to investigate the historical construction of race and racial identities while considering the impact and importance of a multitude of individual and collective voices. The class undertakes an in-depth study of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and their relevance to contemporary issues in American society. Throughout the year, the Seventh Grade discusses the idea of what it means to participate in a democracy and have civic responsibility. They also examine the question of how a society lives up to the ideals it professes to believe in.
Students’ investigation of individuals and society includes consideration of the responsibilities that are required to be individuals living within a community in modern American culture. Students consider this question through current events and also as they prepare for an Ethics Bowl in late February, an event challenging students from a variety of independent schools to engage with ethical questions facing our society.
The Seventh Grade history curriculum develops a historical foundation for students where they continue to explore American history as Eighth Graders and explore the question of what is justice. That year culminates in a Social Justice trip to Atlanta, Georgia, and Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama.
The Seventh Grade English curriculum combines sophisticated analysis and interpretation of text with writing across several genres. Students practice and refine their skills in narrative, argument, and information writing as they study genres including book review, realistic fiction, literary essay, poetry, and persuasive essay. Our in-depth exploration of writer’s craft techniques such as contrast, repetition, metaphor, and flashback informs students’ reading and writing at the same time. An appreciation of craft not only makes students more thoughtful and nuanced readers, helping them to build well-supported arguments for their interpretation of an author’s purpose and meaning, but also makes students more thoughtful and nuanced writers, helping them to intentionally craft their own pieces of writing to be as compelling and meaningful as possible. Over the course of the year, students read and discuss novels, plays, essays, short stories, and poetry with partners, in small groups, and as a whole class. Throughout their discussion of literature, students again encounter the question, “How do we live?” The interplay of individual and society that they consider in history also informs their study of literature.
The study of sentence structure and grammar focuses on the errors that come up most frequently in students’ writing; students learn strategies to help them become more independent in their ability to recognize and correct their own mistakes. In the spring, students select poems, stories, essays, and artwork for The Far Brook Journal, the School’s literary magazine.
The Seventh Grade Science curriculum, “Genes and the Environment: Science for Social Justice,” is an exploration of biological science. Students will learn about biological concepts through the lens of race. Students will investigate such questions as: Where is race in biology? Are there biological differences between humans of different races? What accounts for differences in traits such as skin color and hair texture? How and why did humans evolve to have different skin colors? What is the difference between race and ancestry?
In order to answer these questions, students will study characteristics of life, cell theory, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, plant and animal cells, organelles, DNA, mitosis, genetics, adaptations, proteins, pigments, nutrients and how nutrition impacts health, pollution of air and water sources, separation of mixtures including methods to reduce pollution, the interdependence of organisms within an ecosystem, how organisms are impacted by their environment, the role humans play in changing these ecosystems, and why diversity in ecosystems is so important to life on Earth.
When learning about how nutrition impacts health, students will make and test their own calorimeters to find out how much energy is contained in different foods. After gathering their results, students write comprehensive lab reports in which they create data tables, analyze data, and draw conclusions about their experiment.
At the end of the year, students will complete a social justice action project, searching for possible solutions to real-world environmental problems that impact community health, such as poor nutrition, hunger, food deserts, access to quality healthcare, and pollution of air or water sources.
Children reach cognitive landmarks at different times throughout their adolescent years. Allowing for their individual differences, 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. Algebra is a focus and is the context for fostering the reasoning skills necessary for success in higher level mathematics. Math classes include investigations and presentations to the class for discussion. The “Flipped Classroom” teaching model is regularly used to allow students an opportunity to be introduced to new concepts at first independently followed by further investigations and group work during school. This continuum of rich experiences and carefully selected resources provides students with the deep understanding, the knowledge, and the skills to meet the challenges of high school math programs.
Algebra 1A: This course includes topics in the first half of a standard Algebra 1 course including operations with positives and negatives, absolute value, translating word problems, order of operations, the distributive property, solving equations, simplifying expressions with exponent laws, operations with polynomials, literal equations, word problems, factoring completely, solving quadratics by factoring, linear functions, and simplification and operations of algebraic fractions (rational expressions). Students end the year by reviewing all of the concepts from the year and completing a STEAM project that relates to the curriculum. One example of a STEAM project is the Marble Slides Project, which explores physics concepts (magnetism, motion, force, gravity) as they relate to linear functions.
Text: Algebra: Structure and Method (Book 1) – McDougal Littell.
Algebra 1AB: This course includes the content in a standard Algebra 1 course and progresses rapidly through the content. Topics include operations with positives and negatives, absolute value, translating word problems, order of operations, the distributive property, solving linear equations, polynomial operations (distribution and FOIL), factoring polynomials, solving quadratics by factoring, linear and quadratic word problems, rational expression operations, solving rational expression equations and word problems, negative exponents and exponent laws, slope, graphing lines, equation of lines, systems of equations, solving word problems, and graphing systems of linear inequalities. If time permits, the course can cover square root/radical operations, solving inequalities and absolute value equations, and solving quadratic equations with completing the square and the quadratic formula.
Text: Algebra: Structure and Method (Book 1) – McDougal Littell
The Seventh Grade Technology mini begins with a digital citizenship unit that challenges students to develop a personalized, balanced approach to media use. Following this challenge, Seventh Graders use the Bloxels game design platform to create a game that’s not only fun but has a social message, too. Design thinking provides the framework for the project, during which students take primary responsibility for one of three roles in their game’s development–Layout Designer, Character Designer, or Story & Theme Designer. As a part of the design thinking process, groups will partake in a cycle of iteration and playtesting, publishing the final version of their games on the Bloxels Arcade, accessible online by players worldwide.
French and Spanish: In the Seventh Grade French and Spanish classes, the curriculum builds on the skills, vocabulary, and structures acquired in earlier years. Over their two years in the Junior High, students will complete a typical French 1 or Spanish 1 curriculum. The curriculum is taught through interactive storytelling techniques, and student participation becomes a key contributing factor to the development of oral fluency. Most students are able to speak spontaneously in response to a situation, a picture prompt, or a written story or article, and are able to write lengthy pieces with a good degree of accuracy. Each unit of study is centered on a main story that incorporates all of the structures and vocabulary that are practiced in class. Each unit has a cultural theme, such as leisure activities, food/restaurants, school, family life, and travel. Writing skills continue to develop through class dictations and freewrites. Grammar questions pertaining to such issues as verb endings and adjective agreement arise naturally in class. Grammar topics are viewed in context and as part of the whole language.
Music Theory: In their mini, Seventh Graders study the theory of music. Topics include: learning and identifying intervals, note-reading facility, rhythm and rhythmic values and their connection with mathematics and languages, as both science and an art form. Students are introduced to basic keyboard skills and the construction and execution of major and minor scales at the piano. Through specific assignments, students explore great master works, analyze key themes, compose original melodies. Students are also exposed to various musical styles and its origins in folk and secular music around the world.
Group: In Group, students rehearse for the music that they sing during many musical events at Far Brook, including Thanksgiving Processional, Stabat Mater and Other Voices, and the Spring Concert. Group is the school’s most advanced upper school choral ensemble, and it includes students in Grades 6 to 8. The class provides the opportunity for students to apply the theoretical and literacy concepts they have learned thus far, through the instrument they all possess, the voice. Students learn a diverse selection of repertoire, from classical to folk to contemporary, which allows them to build community, understanding and empathy with each other and the world. The students also study vocal pedagogy and learn healthy singing habits that will sustain them in their singing life beyond Far Brook.
Cambiata and Trebles
Cambiata (formerly known as Boys Choir) is a changing voice choir for students in Grades 6-8. While most students in this ensemble are male identifying, AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) students who identify as male or non-binary are also welcome to participate. Students learn about the vocal anatomy, and the skills and techniques they will need to navigate their vocal changes, while delving into appropriate and stimulating choral literature.
The Trebles is a new group that will be rehearsing at the same time as Cambiata. The Trebles will delve deeper into treble works, exploring songs with more complex voicings, richer harmonies, and diverse textures. Students will strengthen their singing and advance their aural and sight-reading skills. While most students in this ensemble are female identifying, AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth) students who identify as female or non-binary, and desire to continue exploring their treble range are also welcome.
Orchestra: Students in Grades Fifth through Eighth 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 the Spring Concert. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in the annual Recital Night in the spring.
Drama: Integrating the Seventh Grade’s curricular study of the Roots of Democracy in Ancient Greece, students in Drama engage with, and perform, foundational tales from the development of – and struggle for – self-governance. These ancient legends are shared by a Chorus-based ensemble, including plays by Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and others. Here, individuals begin to step out of the Chorus to draw out conflicts, and the students delve into more complex language and situations. The production is somewhat more elaborately staged than previous years’ plays, reflecting the students’ growing proficiency in interactive ensemble performance. This is facilitated by the choral-based structure of Greek drama, in which the interactions between individual solo characters and the chorus create the dramatic center of the play. The Seventh Graders present their class play to the Far Brook community in the late winter. The annual class play is an essential part of their history studies. It brings the curriculum to life as they work collaboratively with their classmates, and share the results of their explorations with the wider school community.
Art: In Seventh Grade, students develop their point of view as visual artists. “Portraits of Power” allows students to express their inner-selves through the vehicle of self-portrait painting. Inspired by artists like Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald, students create fully-rendered portraits that represent who they are, and where they are on their journey. Throughout the course students refine their painting and drawing skills, while learning transfer drawing methods, underpainting and glazing techniques, collage, and other mixed media methods. Students continue to develop positive self-awareness and voice through their art.
Woodshop and Design Thinking: In Seventh Grade Woodshop, the students study the importance of artifacts and the stories they tell us about our ancestors. Through the inspection of various important artifacts, we learn more about important events and eras in human history. Using digital and physical tools, the students are then tasked with creating an artifact representing an important event in their lifetime and creating museum labels and mounting to display it in our Museum of the Seventh Grade.
Sports and Wellness
Sports: The Seventh Grade Sports program includes a combination of cooperative team-building activities, fitness, and strength development, and participation in a fall and spring interscholastic sport. Fall teams include boys’ soccer and girls’ field hockey. Spring teams include boys’ baseball and girls’ lacrosse. Co-ed fall cross country and spring track and field teams are options as well. Students continue to learn the rules of these games and practice more advanced 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 Sports Reports in Morning Meeting reporting the team’s accomplishments. When not in season, the students participate in activities such as Pickleball, Ultimate Frisbee, Team Handball, Basketball and various fitness activities.
Health & Wellness: The continued 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 students.
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, book club, School newspaper, art, chess, and knitting.
Progress Reports: At the Seventh Grade level students first experience progress reports with letter grades. They have weekly study skills classes and 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.
Study Skills: Students in the Seventh Grade begin to take on more responsibility for their learning as they transition to letter grades. The grade level meets regularly for a joint Study Skills/History class. Through support from their academic teacher and the learning specialist students learn organization, time management and note taking skills that are reinforced daily, resulting in students who are more independent. Students also learn various study strategies as they prepare for quizzes and tests and manage long term assignments.
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 4 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, and wildlife studies. Additionally, students enjoy an evening of square dancing.
Social Justice Trip: In alternating years, the Far Brook Junior High students travel to Atlanta, GA and Montgomery and Selma, AL to visit important landmarks and museums which illuminate a critical movement in our nation’s history. Our newest trip offers our students an opportunity to deepen their learning of American history with a focus on the Civil Rights Movement. Itinerary highlights: Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, CNN Studio Tour, The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, Rosa Parks Museum, Freedom Rides Museum, an HBCU college campus visit, and the Civil Rights Memorial Center.
Cultural Immersion Trip: In alternating years, the entire Junior High and faculty go on a cultural immersion trip during late winter. During the 2022-23 school year the Junior High will travel to the province of Québec in Canada, visiting Montréal and Québec City. In preparation for this event, students study the history and culture of the area and have an opportunity to put their French knowledge to use.
The cost of all trips is included in the Junior High activities fee.
After School Programs
Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade families have opportunities to enroll their students in 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 (culinary arts, music, art, 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.
- Debate Club- An opportunity for Junior High and Middle School students to collaborate in building public speaking skills, building confidence in argumentation, and showing off their subject speciality knowledge in a team building environment.
- On Friday evenings in January and February, Ski Club offers all levels of skiers an opportunity to ski and snowboard on Shawnee Mountain.
View Curriculum Guide in ISSUU