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  • Nursery through Grade 8 | Short Hills, New Jersey

Seventh Grade

Seventh Grade students join the Junior High community where they assume greater independence as they transition to departmentalized academic life in which they experience a formalized grading system. Socially, their peer group increases as the Junior High becomes one large student body. Through their two weeklong trips to the Adirondacks and to French speaking Canada, combined interscholastic sports, and mixed-grade advisory program, the Junior High community is formed.


The year in Seventh Grade History begins with a brief unit on the culture and history of the Adirondacks, in preparation for the Junior High’s trip to upstate New York in September. The main focus of the year, however, is on 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. Current events topics, particularly those having to do with contemporary China, are interwoven throughout the curriculum over the course of the year. Several essential questions help focus the class’s studies throughout the year. They discuss what is meant by civilization, what role the arts play in society, and they explore the importance of non-Western cultures. Chinese folklore serves as the subject material for the class play.

How to read and take notes from informational texts and how to ask questions of the text are skills emphasized during the year. The class learns to use specific evidence to support their ideas, opinions, and argument. 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 contents 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.


The Seventh Grade English curriculum focuses on analyzing and interpreting texts and writing across several genres. Over the course of the year, students practice their narrative, argumentative, and informative writing skills as they study genres such as memoir, book review, literary essay, poetry, and persuasive essays. Students respond to their reading, collect ideas for future writing, and practice using various tools as they develop their writer’s craft including their use of metaphors, dialogue, and transitional phrases in a more informal way before incorporating those tools into the pieces that they publish at the end of each unit. Students are expected to read approximately one book every two weeks in their independent reading. Throughout 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 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. In the spring, students select poems and short stories 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 characteristics of life, kingdoms and domains of living things; classification terms; use of the microscope; design of experiments; methods of heat transfer; introduction to energy; parts of plant and animal cells; mitosis and meiosis; genetics; adaptations; the Law of Conservation of Energy; and the transfer of energy to living organisms.

Students also learn about chemical reactions in order to better understand essential biological processes such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and decomposition. The class designs and carries out a well-planned scientific investigation in the Far Brook greenhouse and/or garden plots using organic plants. After gathering their results, students write comprehensive lab reports in which they create charts, analyze data, and articulate conclusions about their experiment.

In an independent project on our ecosystem, students collect data using birds as bioindicators and send the data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as part of Project FeederWatch. This program helps scientists track broad-scale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.

Students integrate all of their science knowledge and design a self-contained system in regards to food, water, energy, waste, the carbon and nitrogen cycles, decomposition, diffusion, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, 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.

Text: Life i Science- Glencoe

Green Team: The Junior High Green Team leads the Far Brook community in environmentally sustainable practices. In addition to coordinating the School’s recycling program, the students lead initiatives within their created committees: Recycling & Trash; Energy; Water; Wetlands & Grounds; and Food & Compost. Students aim to establish a culture of choices that will benefit the health and wellness of our school environment and all those who are a part of it.


We acknowledge that 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. 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. 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.

Beginning Algebra: This is a one-year course that prepares students for Algebra 1. Course content follows the Common Core State Standards for Seventh Grade Math and includes some introductory algebra topics. In this course, students expand their understanding of mathematics by studying operations with positives and negatives, absolute value, rational numbers (fractions), translating word problems, order of operations, the distributive property, solving equations and inequalities, proportions and similarity, percent, direct variation, and probability. Students solve real-life problems by finding patterns, modeling with diagrams, tables or graphs, and generating equations. If time permits, the following topics can be covered: volume and surface area, and combining like terms. Text: Math Connects: Course 2.

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, combining like terms, simplifying expressions with exponent laws, operations with polynomials (distributive property and FOIL), literal equations, word problems, factoring completely, solving quadratics by factoring, and simplification and operations of algebraic fractions (rational expressions.) 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.


In Seventh Grade, the French curriculum builds on the skills, vocabulary, and structures acquired in earlier years. 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 pen pals 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 or Montreal, 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.


Music Theory: 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.

Group: In Group, students rehearse for the music that they sing during many traditions at Far Brook. The ensemble prepares for the music of the Thanksgiving Processional, Harmonia, 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. They perform at the Spring Choral Concert.

Orchestra: The Director of Music invites students to join the Far Brook Orchestra once they reach a certain level of proficiency in their musical skills. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in our annual Recital Night in the spring.

Fine Arts

ArtDuring Art, students learn the fundamentals of oil painting on canvas. In addition to the formal issues of perspective, shading, composition, color theory, and texture, the relationship between light and color is also taught. Students create a suite of two paintings called a diptych. The separate panels of a diptych are typically visually and conceptually related and may hang touching or with space in between. All students paint their canvasses on easels and use oil paints and palettes. The ability to duplicate the observed local color of objects is taught by breaking down the shading into component aspects of dark, light, and predominant color. This process trains the eye to see with more accuracy and makes the artists more attentive to the reality in front of him/her. Developing skill with the use of mixing color to represent reality and also to express emotion is also explored.

Woodshop: In Seventh Grade Woodshop, the students are tasked with creating a product to fit the needs of classmates from another grade. The Seventh Grade students survey their clients to get ideas for their products, then begin designing 3D models using Tinkercad, a simple-to-use CAD program. These designs are then printed using Far Brook's MakerBot Replicator 2 and then the student-clients test the products. 


Drama: In Seventh Grade, students continue to work on even more complex and challenging pieces from the world’s classic repertoire, such as Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, King LearMacbeth, Henry IV, Richard III, or Twelfth Night, just to name several recent examples. The productions grow gradually in length and breadth, along with the growth of the students’ developing skills. The Seventh Graders present their class play to the Far Brook community in the late winter.

Improvisation: The Seventh Grade participates in a series of Improvisation classes, under the guidance of both the Director of Drama and a Guest Teacher/Coach, a founding member of the award-winning Improv comedy Troupe “Lunatic Fringe.” Students begin to explore this most challenging dynamic form of ensemble collaboration, as they learn to create - just like the title of Chicago’s Second City improv game - “Something Wonderful Right Away.” 

Sports & Wellness

Sports: The Seventh Grade Sports program includes a combination of cooperative team-building activities, fitness and strength development, and participation of all students in a fall and spring interscholastic sport. Boys participate in soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, while the girls participate in field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. 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 to the entire school community.

During the second trimester, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade families may enroll their students in winter After School Programs. The newly piloted basketball program offers separate teams for boys and girls and includes 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.

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. The Seventh and Eighth Grade curriculum includes healthy lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, exercise, building healthy relationships, stress, gender and biological sex, sexual orientation, puberty (including physical and emotional changes), human reproduction, STDs and HIV, contraception, peer pressure, drugs, and alcohol. To foster a comfortable environment, each of the classes is composed of students from two grades and of one gender.

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