The Seventh Grade year in history is focused on an in-depth study of ancient China. The class begins with the earliest dynasties and continues as far as the rise to power of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor. Topics include the geography of China, early Chinese culture, the achievements of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the philosophies of Confucius and Laozi, and the creation of the terracotta warriors during the Qin dynasty. Interwoven throughout the curriculum are current events topics, particularly those having to do with contemporary China. Several essential questions help focus the class’s studies: what is meant by civilization, what role do the arts play in society, and how best do we recognize the importance of non-Western cultures.
Chinese folklore typically serves as the subject material for the class play in March. In the spring, an integrated English unit explores the works of poet Tu Fu from the Tang Dynasty and students write their own poems. Exploring Chinese art, students have worked with a guest artist and visited the China Institute in New York City. In December, the Seventh Grade students paint the Junior High windows with Chinese characters, to share their curriculum with the larger school community. Students explore the types of celebrations of the Lunar New Year.
Throughout the year, students learn how to take notes from informational texts, how to ask questions of the text, and how to use specific evidence to support their ideas and opinions. Each student writes a research paper on a Chinese topic of his or her own choosing, practicing all of the skills previously learned and making decisions about format and content based on what they have discovered in other informational texts. The final product might include an index, glossary, and sub-headings as well as captioned illustrations. In addition to their China studies, students follow current events taking place on both the national and international stages.
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. 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, “Sustaining and Regenerating Life,” is an experiential exploration of biological science. Students learn about what it means to be alive, the interdependence of life forms, and how these life forms adapt to a changing environment. Topics include: the characteristics of life, use of the microscope, experimental design, cell theory, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, plant and animal cells, organelles, DNA, mitosis and meiosis, genetics, adaptations, nutrients, atoms and elements, separation of mixtures, ecosystem dynamics, and conservation of energy and mass in ecosystems. Students also learn about chemical reactions in order to better understand essential biological processes such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and decomposition. 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 articulate conclusions about their experiment.
Throughout the year, students will spend time observing and researching what makes our Wetlands Habitat a thriving ecosystem. This close study of an ecosystem will help students integrate all of their science knowledge when it comes time for them to design their own self-contained ecosystem in regards to food, water, energy, waste, the carbon and nitrogen cycles, and other processes. Students apply ideas from their biomes to search for solutions to real-world problems such as pollution, water shortages, and climate change.
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
Students explore how different digital tools, in particular digital games, can be used to promote awareness about important social issues, and in turn, bring forward positive change. The Seventh Graders browse the Games for Change website to construct their own answers to what makes a game fun to play, how games can educate players, and what factors to consider when creating a game. Working in small groups, students make their own video games using a block-based programming language known as Scratch. In addition, students build game controllers to accompany their video game using the invention kit, Makey Makey.
In Seventh Grade, the French 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 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, speed writes, and letter writing to penpals in Canada. Grammar questions pertaining to such issues as verb endings and adjective agreement arise naturally in French class. Grammar topics are viewed in context and as part of the whole language. In preparation for the Junior High annual trip to Quebec City and Montreal, students study the history and culture of the area and then have an opportunity to put all of their French knowledge to use.
Music Theory: In their mini, Seventh Graders study the theory of music. Topics include: aural intervallic and triadic discernment, musical literacy and note-reading facility, and the interconnectedness of mathematics, languages, and music as both a science and an art form. Students are introduced to basic keyboard skills and the construction and execution of major scales at the piano. Through specific assignments, students explore great master works (such as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony), analyze key themes, compose original melodies as an homage to Beethoven, and produce their own podcasts exploring a movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (The Pastorale) which resonates with them.
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 the male voices. Boys’ Choir sings at 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: In Seventh Grade, students continue to work on even more complex and challenging pieces from the world’s classic repertoire. 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 yearlong study of the history and culture of Ancient China. It brings the civilization to life and gives the students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a classic piece of Chinese drama, work collaboratively with their classmates, and share the results of their efforts with the wider school community.
Art: In this art mini, students visualize the beauty and depth of a small moment through direct observation, artistic interpretation, and imagination while learning the fundamental principles of drawing, painting, sculpture, and illustration. They design and create a 3-dimensional plaster-cast model of their own hand in an expressive and meaningful gesture. Students literally and metaphorically relate their sculpture to their original written work around a small moment by painting, illustrating and/or writing their small moment on the sculpture’s surface. Keeping an artist’s sketchbook, students catalog their inspirations and technical designs throughout the class.
Woodshop: In Seventh Grade Woodshop, the students are tasked with creating a product to fit the needs of a problem on campus. The Seventh Grade students research the problem to gather ideas for a solution, then begin designing and building that solution. Projects are self directed and designed and students share and present their projects with the class.
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. 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 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, pickle ball, 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, Green Team (leading the community in environmentally sustainable practices), 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 Study Skills class. Through support from their academic teachers and administrators students learn organization and time management 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 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.
Service Learning: Seventh Graders participate in two community service days assisting at three local organizations that serve families and individuals in need: Community FoodBank of New Jersey; Valley Settlement; St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen. Within our own community, students assist faculty by walking younger students to their classrooms in the mornings and acting as mentors in the After School Program.
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.