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  • Nursery through Grade 8 | Short Hills, New Jersey

Eighth Grade

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. Continuing with their rigorous academic work, they simultaneously begin to think of their next steps and the future that lies ahead of them in secondary school. During the final months of school, the Eighth Graders perform a full length Shakespeare play as their graduation gift to the school.


A study of selected topics in American history is the year long curriculum of the Eighth Grade. Both the American Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement are discussed as the class explores the ideas of protest, propaganda, and boycott in the nation’s history. The class also undertakes an in-depth study of the Constitution as a living document. They study the “nuts and bolts” of the document and devote considerable time 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 civil 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 events in our nation’s history and contemporary events. They also help to illustrate moral dilemmas and contemporary political challenges. At the end of the year, the students select a topic from any period of American history on which to write a final research paper before graduating.


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 informative writing skills as they study genres such as nature-writing through a literary essay on To Kill a Mockingbird, historical fiction reading, reading and writing poetry, non-fiction writing, and a review of common grammar pitfalls.

In Eighth Grade, students continue to respond to their reading and practice the writing skills taught during class. Students are expected to read approximately one book every two weeks in their independent reading. 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, for example a dramatization of Eudora Welty’s short story, Why I Live at the P.O., is integrated into the curriculum. The year ends with a production of The Tempest or A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


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. Students gain a solid foundation of scientific knowledge, laboratory and field experience, and a deeper understanding of scientific investigations. Over the course of the year, students study the following topics: volume and mass; mass changes in closed systems; characteristic properties (including melting point, boiling point, and density); solubility; separation of mixtures; heat and temperature; molecular motion; elements and the periodic table; bonding; chemicals reactions; and periodic trends including the sizes and masses of molecules and atoms.

Students regularly practice their science skills through weekly laboratory investigations and written lab reports. This includes generating testable hypotheses, designing and carrying out experiments that include controlling variables, displaying data in an organized manner, analyzing and drawing conclusions, and by creating scientific arguments. The culminating experience of the physical science curriculum is when students plan and carry out an investigation to separate a mixture into its different parts and identify each component using characteristic properties.

Text: Introductory Physical Science, 9th Edition.

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. 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.

Algebra 1B: This class 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, long division, and word problems. The new content includes solving rational equations, negative exponents, equations of lines, graphing lines, 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. Text: Algebra: Structure and Method (Book 1) - McDougal Littell.

Advanced Algebra: This class 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 functions 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 introduction to Geometry course, including quadrilaterals, congruent triangles, circles, areas of polygons and circles, 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 and hands-on investigations. 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 the reading of 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 the imperfect 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 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.


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. The musicians in the class 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.

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

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 expresses and represents those themes. 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. These assemblages may not only include the students general themes, but may also reflect personal feelings, dreams, and desires.

Calligraphy: Eighth Graders study the techniques of calligraphy using their own authentic calligraphy tools. Following a series of classes exposing them to all the letters of the alphabet, they select a Far Brook song or a quote from a piece of literature. They then create their own diplomas for their Far Brook graduation.

Woodshop: In Eighth Grade woodshop, students are taught simple framing and make custom frames in which they design, cut, assemble, and stain the frames which will complement their handmade diplomas. They learn how to use a framing jig and how to cut 45° angles. The students design details to be etched into their wooden frames, and great care is taken in order to be sure the design is evenly laid out. Finally, the frame is stained in the color of their choice and then sealed with polyurethane.


The 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 then 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 composed by the celebrated composer, arranger, and musical scholar, Music Director Emeritus Edwin A. Finckel and performed live by an ensemble of professional musicians. This final major production of each year, combining so many distinct elements together in harmony, creates and shares with the entire Far Brook community a performance whose integration, complexity, and grace have been made possible through the growth of the preceding five years of work in the Far Brook drama program, built on the shoulders of more than a decade of watching and participating in a full season of theater each year.

Sports and Wellness

Sports: The Eighth Grade Sports program includes a combination of cooperative team-bbuilding 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 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 including 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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