Curriculum by Grade

Preschool (3*-5)

In the preschool program, children are immersed in the language arts experience as they begin to learn the skills necessary to become life long readers, writers, listeners and thinkers.  Students learn to communicate with others and to use words effectively to express their thoughts and desires.  They learn to negotiate and compromise with a peer, listen and understand instructions from a teacher, follow multiple-step directions, tell a story, and ask thoughtful and meaningful questions.

Understanding that written words are connected to real life actions and objects motivates children to make meaning out of print.  Letters, words, poetry and books are found throughout the preschool classroom, promoting letter recognition and print awareness.   Children are aware of the written words around them and enjoy asking questions, such as “What does this say?” and “Can you read this to me?” The students’ printed names are used throughout the day so that they learn to recognize their names as well as the names of their classmates.  Reading one’s own name and the names of friends, is one of the earliest motivators in learning to read words.

Phonemic awareness is an integral part of the preschool curriculum.  During the day students play games, sing songs, recite poems, and learn nursery rhymes.  Poetry baskets, books, and journals are used daily.  Book baskets in the classroom library are labeled and organized so students can easily locate a favorite author or theme. Author studies and the reading of non-fiction are important components.  Children practice reading favorite books or poems to their peers and teachers.

Writing skills develop naturally through dramatic play and through journaling and labeling activities.  Letter formation is first taught through large body and arm movements, drawing letters in the sky, and using water on a chalkboard.  As students become more comfortable holding a pencil and gain greater finger strength, they are ready for more direct handwriting instruction.  So that students develop proper writing habits from the beginning, proper finger grip is taught; when children are ready, more formal handwriting instruction begins.  The Handwriting Without Tears approach is introduced, providing developmentally appropriate, multisensory tools and strategies to help students to master handwriting with joy.  Students practice copying printed words on paper as an introduction to sounding out words on their own.  Students are encouraged to use inventive spelling in their journals and writing activities.

As children enter the preschool classroom each morning, they immediately begin to use mathematical thinking and reasoning.  Students are introduced to math topics in small groups.  Everyday, they count, use one-to-one correspondence, and begin to see parts of a whole, as they experiment with concrete and mental addition and subtraction.  The preschoolers use a variety of math manipulative materials, games, and activities to practice numeral recognition and number sense, including: counting beads, number rods, texture numbers, and puzzles.  Pattern blocks and shape templates are used in the classroom to study fractions, attributes, classification, and patterns. Some of the many ways math is explored in the preschool classroom are through sequencing, block building, tactile numbers, counting and sorting, estimating, measuring, mapping, baking, finger plays and counting rhymes, creating class charts and graphs, and exploring patterns.
The preschool science curriculum reflects the natural curiosity of young children.    Using their five senses, students strengthen their skills of observation and understand how each sense provides a different piece of information.  The students learn to interpret and record their findings in a scientific manner.  Integrated with the social studies program, concepts in science focus on the use of resources, both renewable and finite, as we explore the school environment.  Topics of study include native flowers, plants and trees; life cycles and parts of pumpkins, apples, bulbs, and other plants; life cycles and parts of insects, mammals, pond life, and marine life; and the four seasons.
The guiding question of the preschool social studies curriculum is, “I wonder why?’” The initial focus is on why it is important to care for one’s self and the preschool community.  This understanding leads to the exploration of why it is important to be connected to and grateful for the school environment and all of the living creatures that occupy it.  What follows is the exploration and discovery of other children and families around the world and how they live.  Preschool students learn specific and interesting facts about the planet earth’s continents and main oceans using non-fiction books, puzzles, a tactile globe, and other manipulative materials.  Each month, different continent studies focus on climate, common flora and fauna, regional food, and cultural characteristics.

French

The Preschool curriculum follows, whenever possible, the main curriculum designed by the preschool teachers.  The lesson keeps a lively pace to facilitate seamless transitions from activity to activity.  It also relies on the innate power of imitation children have at that age.  Tone, body language, movement, and rhythm are intrinsic to all we do:  nursery rhymes, clapping, finger games, circle games, songs, and stories.  By the end of the year, the children will have been exposed to greetings, saying one’s name, colors, parts of the body, the name of familiar animals, and numbers up to 12.

Art

Young children like to experiment with and create art, a necessary and vital part of their brain development.  The preschoolers have easy access to watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, and markers.  Construction paper, scissors, glue, and a basket of different collage items are available for the students to work with freely.  Printing, rubbings, weaving, stenciling, and clay modeling are some of the many different art projects explored in the preschool classroom.

The focus of library instruction in preschool is the immersion in print literacy.  Students learn the routine of a classroom community and have the opportunity to practice listening and responding to literature that is connected to their classroom units of study.  Students gain an understanding of the library as a physical space as the behaviors that correspond with the atmosphere and purpose of a library are modeled.  Students learn appropriate care of books and respect for other learners within the library.  Students are given opportunities to develop essential early literacy skills, such as: learning the parts of a book; understanding basic print concepts, including that letters are symbols that represent sounds and sounds work together to make words; and that words and books are read from left to right.  A love of reading is fostered  through exposure to different authors and genres.  A clearer understanding of the virtues is fostered by way of stories.

Cooking and Snack Preparation

Cooking and preparing snack is an integral part of our preschool curriculum and provides opportunities for many teachable moments for young learners.  This rich educational experience encourages critical thinking, teaches concepts essential for math and reading, allowing children to practice motor skills and explore their senses.  The children work cooperatively to create and enjoy a healthy meal.

Gardening

Children have a natural passion for planting seeds and watching them grow. Children prepare the garden for planting by weeding and adding compost.  They learn about sustainability as they come to appreciate and care for the earth.  Garden work is designed to give students hands-on, sensory experiences that connects them to the natural world and gives them a sense of wonder.

Handcrafts/Practical Life Skills

The goal of the preschool handcrafts and practical life skills curriculum is for the children to feel accomplished when they take care of themselves and their environment.  Skills such as learning to fold a napkin, pour water from a pitcher, wash dishes, or sew a button, prepare children for practical life experiences. Classroom jobs encourage children to act as responsible community members and help students take ownership of keeping their space and classroom materials organized and neat.

Wellness content coming soon

 

Kindergarten

In kindergarten, children discover that the world of print is not the exclusive domain of adults. Surrounded by print and rich literature, children play with words, enjoy rhymes and poetry, listen to books read aloud, act out stories, and write. Through explicit and developmentally appropriate instruction in reading, writing, and word studies, children learn that the world of language belongs to them. Kindergarteners increase their knowledge of letters and letter sounds to make sense of their books. As they develop independence through practicing decoding strategies and recognizing sight words, they gain fluency and understanding. Book discussions, author studies, skits, and art projects, inspire children to think about the various components of good literature. Children write daily, receiving both individually tailored instruction in word study and spelling, and group instruction in a writing workshop format. Good penmanship is developed through practice with the Handwriting Without Tears program and workbooks. Children learn to organize their thoughts and ideas by relating stories verbally or pictorially. As their knowledge of print grows, they begin writing at their level of understanding. Through producing personal narratives, journals, poems, fictional stories, and informational texts, the students come to see themselves as writers and perceive writing as a rich and rewarding activity.
Singapore Math is the main program used for instruction in kindergarten. This program is supplemented with Montessori math materials, which introduce abstract mathematical concepts in developmentally appropriate concrete terms. Students begin the year by exploring the number system and what it means to count.  Through various counting games and counting in real life situations, students come to understand that counting is practical and useful. As the children become proficient at counting in sequence, rote counting, recognizing number symbols, and using different strategies to keep track of growing quantities, they explore the idea that numbers represent quantities and that relationships exist between numbers. To develop an understanding of addition and subtraction, they act out, model, and solve story problems with practical math applications. Patterns, data, and geometry are explored throughout the year. Students create and extend linear patterns to predict what will come next and explore shrinking and growing patterns to determine descriptive rules. Using a variety of materials, students are introduced to geometry as they observe, construct, represent, describe, and explore relationships between two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes. Students use concrete materials, pictures, numbers, and words to explain and interpret data.
The kindergarten science curriculum is guided by the ideas of interdependency and systems. These concepts are an integral part of the questions explored in science. Topics of study include trees, birds, anatomy, and desktop ponds.  As the students explore these topics, they learn that every part of a natural system has an integral function and is interdependent within the framework of the system.  In a quest for comprehensive understanding, students engage in the process of inquiry and problem solving and develop both knowledge and skills that lead toward scientific literacy.  The program empowers students to relate to their environment in a positive fashion and to restore sustainable relationships between people and their environment.
The focus of the kindergarten social studies curriculum is the self. As children consider the essential question “Who am I?”, they become aware of who they are as individuals in relation to others around them. They explore the attributes that make them unique such as how they look, feel, behave, change, and grow.  Through self-investigation they gain an understanding of their characteristics, motivations, needs, desires, abilities and talents, and realize that their differences can be assets that enrich the social environment. Examining themselves in the context of their classroom, school, family, and the world, students appreciate the importance of responsibility cooperation, and support.

French

The Kindergarten reviews, broadens and deepens the preschool curriculum.  Students are able to answer simple questions in French. Interactions between the children increase as they practice phrases, perform a short play about Le Petit Chat Noir (a hungry kitten rescued by his friends the farm animals) or dance to traditional songs.

Handcrafts

The Kindergarten year is a time to explore a variety of handcrafts.  The year begins with finger knitting, a wonderful craft that’s easy to master, creating a great sense of accomplishment among these young students.  For the first big project, the students create the parts for a one of a kind animal friend that they will care for throughout their regular classroom studies.  In addition to honing their fine motor skills, this pom-pom project utilizes the children’s math skills in counting the rounds wrapped to determine the ball’s size and density.  Each animal’s personality reflects the character of the child’s handwork.  The class prepares for Thanksgiving by creating woven baskets (jute string) decorated with hand sewing (whip stitch) and dried schoolyard plants.  Following the math sequence, the next project is a patterning project.  Each child crafts a garland gift for the birds of dried fruit and popcorn strung in a specific configuration to be hung outside on a tree for the birds to enjoy.

The Handcrafts curriculum is designed to integrate nature with the child’s development of fine motor skills, his or her sensibility to the textures and colors of the natural environment, the harmony between human activity and the seasons, and to the ways humans can use natural resources thoughtfully and respectfully.  Throughout the winter and spring, the lessons focus on the properties of different fibers.  The children investigate plant fibers by working directly with wood in different forms, from sticks to lumber, including sanding and conditioning a cutting board.  Another energetic exercise that the kindergarteners undertake is felting wool.  They wet felt a pocket for aprons by vigorously agitating the wool roving in warm water and soap for twenty minutes or so.  In addition, these students become expert button sewers in order to complete the apron project.  After this, they make Rainbow Hats (using recycled felt), which they don for their Kindergarten Culminating Event.  In conjunction with their social studies investigations of shelter, the students wrap up the year by using their architectural sensibilities and numerous handcrafts skills to create a Boogle House out of natural materials and repurposed project supplies.  To conclude their classroom “self” studies, the kindergarteners create felt banners using symbols to declare who they are.  These children are encouraged to continue to use their handcrafts skills to explore the world around them throughout the summer.

Visual Arts

Kindergarteners work on a series of projects designed to enhance classroom concepts, foster self-expression, and explore new artistic skills and mediums.  Students work with concepts such as observation, composition, imagination, color mixing, foreground and background, 2D vs. 3D, texture, and symbols by viewing and discussing works of art from cultural and master artists.  Projects include pastel self –portraits, artistic tree designs, nature-inspired bottle-cap mosaics, artistic bird collages, Totem animal sculptures, texture animal designs, and creative family portraits.  Each project is designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of art concepts, while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.

Students continue to be immersed in literacy to support beginning reading skills development.  Students learn that libraries follow systems of organization, and students become familiar with the section of the library where they find books of interest to them.  Students recognize the difference between fiction and nonfiction writing and begin to apply alphabetic principles to their understanding of a library’s organization.  Read alouds based on the virtues program as well as classroom areas of study are conducted throughout the year, giving students the opportunity to reflect upon and make connections within their learning.  The idea of a learning community is fostered throughout the year through activities such as the writing and publication of a class book.
Wellness Summary

 

First Grade

First graders develop an appreciation for language as a unique means of expressing, relating, sharing, and connecting with others.  In order to keep the language arts curriculum alive and responsive to children, teachers utilize methods that accommodate various learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile). Children participate in both guided and independent reading and are encouraged to read both fiction and non-fiction. The Willow School strives to help children appreciate that reading can be both informative and pleasurable. As comprehension skills improve, focus shifts to components of literature, such as plot, setting, character development, and predicting and drawing inferences. Children learn the rules of sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, and grammar in writing workshop.  Each child produces word of the week entries, journal entries, short stories, research projects, poetry, and book reports.  Children begin to learn the important skill of editing their work.
The core math program for the first grade is Singapore Math. Students learn though instruction, hands-on activities, and problem solving. Key math concepts are introduced and built upon to reinforce various mathematical ideas and practices. Topics covered include addition and subtraction up to 100, ordinal numbers and position, measurement, graphs, the calendar and time, rudimentary multiplication and division, and currency. In addition to Singapore Math, the first grade uses Pearson’s Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. Math skills are reinforced through games, activities, mathematical discussions, and finding solutions to practical mathematical problems. Montessori materials are also used in the first grade classroom.
First graders study plants, animals, anatomy, and matter. Beginning with the exploration of plants and plant growth, students practice scientific drawing and establish the parameters for long-term investigations about change.  This is a springboard for considering all plants as organisms. To help establish the interconnection between humans and the plant kingdom, the students experience roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds both as food and as part of the plant’s structure. Students also explore the process of photosynthesis and the water cycle. As fall moves into winter, the class begins an exploration of the basic anatomy of vertebrates, winter habitats, animal adaptations, and the strategies animals use to survive the cold winter months.  The characteristics of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians are studied, observed, and recorded.  A project based on the life cycle of the Painted Lady butterfly vividly demonstrates the concept of metamorphosis. The question “What is Matter?” is the driving theme in the physical sciences. Students discover that what happens in the world on a molecular level is just as important as what happens on a visual level.  Atoms, elements, and compounds are described.  Students expand their understanding of these terms through activities like dissolving solids into liquids and experimenting with the physical properties and characteristics of balls and what effects the way balls bounce.
In first grade, students explore the concept of community through looking at their classroom, school, and town communities. Essential questions in this investigation include: “Who are the people in the community? What makes a successful community? What responsibilities do community members have?” To answer these questions, the children generate, sort, and categorize rules and guidelines for their classroom. They also explore the logical consequences of being a part of a community and recognize that self-reliance and personal responsibility are virtues essential to a communal way of life. They research the roles of the members of The Willow School community, the procedures in place at the school, and the school’s physical environment. The children learn to conduct surveys and interviews, and to compile, organize, and evaluate their research. During the study of the town community, children come to recognize that all people have similar basic needs and wants and that these needs and wants are met and fulfilled by different individuals, industries, and institutions within the community. They also learn that the will of the people influences the type of community that results. As a final project, the children assume the roles of various community members and construct a town in the school’s woods.

French

Spanish

Handcrafts

To make the transition into first grade from kindergarten, the children begin with familiar materials.  Their first project is Reverse Weaving.  By “unweaving” a piece of burlap sacking and then reweaving the missing strings with wool yarn and felt, they develop an understanding of how woven fabric is constructed, each individual piece relying on one another for cohesive strength.  In this way, the theme of First Grade Handcrafts curriculum underscores the classroom exploration of community.

The first major project that the class undertakes is creating quilt squares, which is introduced by reading a piece of children’s literature that highlights the project and underscores the Virtues.  Beginning with paper quilt squares and moving on to fabric, the students build on the understanding that many parts can come together to create a beautiful whole.  Each experience highlights the idea that the nature of the material, colors, patterns, and shapes impact the outcome of one’s design.  They continue to develop their fine motor skills by tracing, cutting, sewing and finally quilting their pieces together with French knots.

The first grade students prepare for knitting by choosing a yarn color for their project, rolling it from skein to ball and casting on stitches.  Together the group learns the knitting rhyme.  First as a big group and then one on one, everyone learned to knit.  Some work slowly with diligence making even, deliberate stitches, while others knit with exuberance, dropping and adding stitches as they go.  The intent behind the project is not to produce a perfectly knitted object, but to develop an ease with the technique and to enjoy the process.

In order to supplement the knitting process, and to prepare for our spring woodworking project, the students craft knitting needles.  Each child sharpens, sands, waxes and polishes the dowels and affix colorful tops to finish them off.  The woodworking project for first grade centers on one method of assembling (gluing and nailing) pieces in order to create a purposeful object.  Each child builds a wooden trug to carry their knitting work.  They finalize their pieces by sanding, and adding a personalized name plate.  The first grade students explore a wide range of skills, which will give them the flexibility to approach the variety of project work to come.

Music

In first grade, students begin to learn music notation.  They learn the staff, and beginning solfège (so/mi, la/so/mi).  In rhythm, they learn quarter notes and eighth notes, and the quarter note rest.  They use this knowledge to learn two-part music on the Orff instruments, and to sight-sing new music.  They acquire a repertoire of folk songs, singing games, and movement games from a variety of different cultures.  On the instruments, they begin to develop basic skills needed to play in an ensemble: beginning and ending together, playing on the beat, and listening to one another while playing.

Visual Arts

The first grade curriculum focuses on exploring the elements of art, and fostering confidence in one’s own artwork while also learning to appreciate the work of others.  Emphasis is placed on respect for the unique ideas and perspectives each individual has to offer.  Students spend time working with the artistic elements of line, shape, form, texture, and color by viewing and discussing works of art from cultural and master artists.  The students apply their knowledge and skills through a series of creative projects that include individuality dot drawings, imagination dot creations, 2D line designs, 3D line constructions, geometric shape dwellings, watercolor story places, acrylic mountain scapes, and clay sculpted “wild things”.  Each project is designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of concepts, while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.

In first grade, the focus of library instruction is to continue to help children further develop their understanding of the library as an organized system of information as well as help emerging readers strengthen their reading skills.  Students begin to locate books independently and have time for silent reading/viewing each at the end of each class.  Additional opportunities for practicing reading skills are provided through activities such as readers theater.  Exposure to different authors and genres fosters a love of reading, while the sharing of stories supports an understanding of and connection to the virtues.  Award-winning books are discussed and shared with students.
In grade one, students practice and build on the foundational skills they learned in kindergarten. Students continue to practice and improve their locomotor skills, jumping, hopping, galloping, sliding, walking, running, leaping, and skipping with more confidence. They learn about movement qualities, particularly space and time. They’re improving hand–eye coordination and reaction time make the manipulation of objects easier, but they must practice basic manipulative skills to improve their technique. First-grade students also learn to share, take turns, and work with others.

 

Second Grade

The integrated and diverse nature of the second grade themes promotes the practice of language arts skills in all subject areas. Utilizing a variety of genres of literature within each theme provides a rich context from which to draw upon literate behaviors. Students acquire productive reading habits that support their stamina and desire to read as they learn to select developmentally appropriate independent reading material.  Students are taught comprehension strategies to aid in their understanding of increasingly difficult texts.  Specifically, they visualize, recall details, make and adjust predictions, compose questions, compare stories, make personal connections, recognize cause and effect, and analyze characters.  Journal keeping and oral presentations provide a structured means by which children can express their responses to literature. As students analyze literature for elements of good writing, they learn to use similar conventions in their own pieces. They compose, illustrate, and publish legends, mysteries, fractured tales, poetry, journal entries, interviews, historical interpretations, and scientific reports.  These writing projects often pertain to the thematic units and include literary terms like comparatives, similes, and alliteration. Conventional structures of writing are taught as students write four sentence types (statement, question, exclamation, and command), paragraphs, and stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Second graders move from phonetic to conventional spelling through spelling sorts, homework assignments, and word wall activities geared to assist them in recognizing spelling patterns. Proofreading activities are practiced daily as students edit sentences to include capitalization, punctuation, singular and plural, and tense.  They also analyze sentences for the common parts of speech including articles, common and proper nouns, pronouns, verbs (including linking and helping verbs), adjectives, adverbs, and contractions.  Handwriting in script and typing on computers are introduced towards the end of the school year.
The second grade math units illustrate the school’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning. Numbers to 200 are represented on number grids, which are used to represent significant “years ago” from the social studies program.  Students identify patterns on these grids and number lines using skip counting by twos, fives, and tens.  They also work with ones and tens as they manipulate and compare numbers up to 1,000. Students collect, tally, and create bar graphs in order to analyze data.  Two data projects of importance are the school-wide lost tooth survey and the Willow Pond Population Study. Students learn to tell time by hour, half hour, and quarter hour intervals. They create a variety of time lines including one representing the early life of Theodore Roosevelt up to his presidency. Triple-digit addition and subtraction is practiced first in the context of expanded notation and later using common algorithms to solve real-world problems. Fractions and their various representations are studied and applied to two-dimensional objects. Children practice currency skills by making different coin combinations of twenty-five cents, fifty cents, and one dollar. Linear measurement activities that use both standard and metric units and are integrated with the science program. Dinosaur lengths are measured and marked on the schoolyard and are integrated with the fossil study. The children also graph the temperature over two-week period, utilizing both Fahrenheit and Celsius scales. At the end of second grade, students are introduced to the concepts of multiplication and division.
The second grade science curriculum challenges students to think and act as scientists.  Driven by natural curiosity, students learn to solve meaningful problems and questions using the scientific method.  Topics are sequenced to coincide with other subject areas.  For example, students simultaneously learn about adaptations of the three North American bear as they create their own Frank Asche inspired bear book in language arts and study the early life of Theodore Roosevelt in social studies.  These opportunities for cross-curricular investigations make for a rich and authentic experience. A review of sorting and classification of non-living collections is applied to animal and plant groups. Students generate questions about a mystery invertebrate (Tenebrio Molitor), which they answer through observation and experimentation. This unit reinforces an understanding of life cycles and prepares students for the Willow Pond Population Study which consists of invertebrate collection, identification, sorting, tallying, graphing, and publication on the internet. Food webs are created that demonstrate interdependence in the pond. Students identify the characteristics of light through a series of student and teacher designed activities including the creation of a sundial. They study magnetism by testing magnetic properties. The basic states of matter as applied to water are studied via The Willow School’s unique water system. By studying fossils, students learn about the exploits of early paleontologists and that scientific knowledge changes as a result of new discoveries. Finally, the science, origin, and characteristics of sound are explored through student activities and integrated with a language arts project pertaining to the history of jazz.
The essential question of the second grade social studies curriculum is “Why is the past important to me?”  Students explore different communities by investigating how they evolve.  Extracting information from photographs, paintings, artifacts, interviews, and fiction and nonfiction texts, students reconstruct past community life and gain an appreciation for the historical value of multiple perspectives and primary sources. Students begin with their own family, creating a family tree, photograph display, and artifact museum. They collect stories from their grandparents and also conduct interviews at a local retirement home.  Studying Willow’s collection of campus artifacts and visiting a local functioning historic farm, connects students to the history of the school’s site. In the second semester, students learn about sustainable communities as they investigate the first inhabitants of this area, the Lenape. Students imagine Lenape life through reading legends, studying artifacts from the Morris Museum, and visiting a Lenape home reconstruction at the Great Swamp.  A slide presentation of the Cree of Northern Quebec aids students in comparing Lenape culture with our present relationship to the environment .   Every spring children create a Lenape garden featuring the Lenape’s three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Second graders study cartography as they create ground view and bird’s eye view maps of their rooms, the school garden, and their classroom.  Students use their maps (which include a title, key, scale, compass rose, and other cartographic symbols) to locate hidden, “mystery” objects. Continents and oceans are studied in the context of the discovery of America. The explorations and routes of the Vikings, Christopher Columbus, and Henry Hudson are examined and mapped. Students also compare and contrast the worldviews of the First Nation’s residents with those of the European explorers as they question what causes a group to thrive or collapse and how needs are met in a sustainable community. An on-site archaeological dig is the final second grade activity.  Children learn excavation practices as they catalogue, map, and interpret their findings.  This authentic learning experience highlights how history can be reconstructed through the work of an archaeologist. Throughout the year second graders keep a journal and create a timeline of significant events.

French

Second graders familiarize themselves with the material as topics emerge from a given context, a story, poem, song, or skit.  They start the year with the French alphabet,  design creative letters representing an animal or object (C for ‘crabe’, for example), and create a sampler.  These creative activities support proficiency in spelling simple words from the lesson.  They learn the days of the week, the months of the year, and to say the date.  In connection with the social studies curriculum, which looks at their family history, they learn the names of family members.  The second part of the year is devoted to preparing and rehearsing a play, usually based on a popular tale such as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, or Boucle d’Or et les Trois Ours.  

Spanish

Handcrafts

The primary focus of second grade handcrafts is weaving.  The class jumps right in with the classic hand-loom potholder project.  Typically, when children make these potholders they randomly apply the loops and watch a pattern emerge.  When Willow’s second graders try their hand at it, they must follow a prescribed pattern (in their choice of colors) in order to create a specific design.  This involves a deeper comprehension of how the “under/over” creates the pattern, how to use math skills to understand the multiples, and how to order the loops.  Students develop a keen awareness of the pattern as they make sure that it is forming as planned, using problem solving skills to correct any missteps.  Once the weavers have mastered all of these skills and the pattern is completely woven, each child uses a technique reminiscent of finger knitting to remove the work from the loom and finish the edges.

Next, in coordination with the Language Arts Program, the students use their new weaving skills to tell a story.  Historically, people have recorded their histories in pictures and patterns incorporated into their handmade household articles.  In this vein, the second graders practice a new way of communicating a story.  Each student relays a tale about a time when they were required to put the month’s virtue into action (Perseverance, Diligence or Temperance).  In handcrafts, each child creates a unique piece using their choice of a variety of materials:  paper, felt and branches, and reeds from the woods, to tell the story in another way.  Next in the sequence is making baskets, a project using coils of manila rope and brightly colored wool with a weaving technique that is similar to sewing.  It is an opportunity for the students to tell the story of their Willow experience in color.  The activity serves as an introduction to their social studies investigations of the First Nations people.

The wood-working project for this grade is a table top heddle loom.  This project is an introduction to woodworking tools for cutting and assembling, and follows a study of First Nation tools and artifacts that the students have just completed in social studies.  Each child learns to measure, cut (90 and 45 degrees), assemble (nails, machine screws, and wing nuts) and finish (sand flat and round objects) as part of this exercise.  They work in teams to promote cooperative learning and safety with tools.  In the process of building, the children develop an awareness of the wood and its properties and build a deeper understanding for how the loom itself works.  To prepare for weaving, each child learns to wind their shuttles and is introduced to the process of warping their loom.  With all this accomplished and the loom complete, the students begin to create a unique weaving to tell Willow’s story of place. Having the underlying knowledge of the working parts of their own loom, they can transfer this basic understanding to a variety of other types of looms.  Each of the second grade students exhibits great pride in their finished loom and is eager to continue weaving on it.

Music

In second grade, students continue to gain more tools for musical self-expression.  They build on the solfège that they know by adding re and do. This gives them the full pentatonic scale, and opens the door to a whole new repertoire of music!  In rhythm, students learn sixteenth notes, half notes, and whole notes.  They read, write, and learn to recognize these new elements in their folk songs and singing games. They also improvise and compose in the pentatonic scale.  They broaden their repertoire of folk songs, singing games, and movement games.  On the instruments, they continue to refine the basic skills needed to play in an ensemble: beginning and ending together, playing on the beat, and listening to one another more carefully as they explore more complicated music in two and three parts using the full pentatonic scale.

Visual Arts

The second grade students work on a series of projects designed to help enhance classroom themes such as the study of family history, self-reflection, the virtues of respect and responsibility, the study of snowflakes, native cultures, and dragons.  Students spend time working with the concepts of emphasis, color mixing, proportion, texture, design, analogous color, overlapping, form, texture, and pattern by viewing and discussing works of art from cultural and master artists such as Edvard Munch, the W.P.A. poster artists, George Seurat, Wassily Kandinsky, and native African pottery sculptors.  Projects include respect and responsibility themed poster designs, mixed-media family tree compositions, Expressionistic watercolor self-portraits, snowflake design drawings, clay pinch pots, pointillism personal place drawings, jazz inspired abstract drawings, and dragon collages.  Each project is designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of art room concepts, while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.

In addition to selecting books of personal interest at any reading level, students in second grade also select books that are a good fit for their reading level, supporting their growth as emerging/transitional readers.  Students navigate the physical library space independently and participate in written responses to literature.  Author studies are continued at this age providing students with opportunities to examine the style, content, and messages of various writers which they carry over into their personal writing experiences in the classroom.  Read alouds continue in second grade whereby students see virtues within story characters and also draw connections between story content and classroom studies.
In second grade, students focus on mastering the correct technique for locomotor and nonlocomotor skills. They begin learning skills at a level that allows them to transfer weight from one body part to another with control. By the end of the school year, students demonstrate more control when using manipulative skills and can describe the correct technique in greater detail. They learn about the benefits of physical activity, the purpose of good nutrition, and how to solve movement problems with a partner. Students learn the terms force, open space, and base of support as they experience them during physical education lessons.

 

Third Grade

Third grade students become thoughtful readers, compelling writers, attentive listeners, and articulate speakers. Participation in reading workshop improves their comprehension skills, vocabulary, and recognition of both story elements and figurative language. Small group instruction provides further support for students as they assimilate new skills. In the group format of the writing workshop, students learn writing conventions, hone their sense of voice, and become well-rounded, successful writers.  Students engage in peer and teacher conferences to further reinforce writing skills. Additionally, students receive a personalized spelling program tailored to their individual skill level.
Third grade uses the Singapore Math based program, Math in Focus. The program is designed to enhance problem-solving abilities through an approach that emphasizes skill and strategy development, conceptual understanding, and metacognition. Topics covered in third grade include place value, mental math and estimation, addition and subtraction up to 10,000, multiplication, division and basic long division, money, measurement (length, mass, and volume), bar graphs, line plots, and basic fractions. Additionally, third grade math is supplemented with engaging puzzles and practical math problems. Students utilize partner and small group support as well as independent and teacher lead work. Students use manipulatives and graphic representations of concepts to gain further understanding.
Third graders study soil, mystery powders, electricity, and the solar system. Students collect and analyze soil samples from multiple locations on campus.  To understand what makes good soil, children learn how macro-invertebrates turn leaf litter, organic materials, and compost into nutrient rich soil. Worms are analyzed in great detail as their external and internal anatomy, digestion, and tunnel digging activities are studied. A pumpkin is used as a teaching tool.  After the pumpkin is weighed and measured, its seeds are counted and it is placed in a pumpkin patch to rot.  Data is taken weekly throughout the school year as children observe the various states of decomposition and learn for themselves the circular nature of the life cycle of the pumpkin. Five mystery powders are studied and identified as the children practice accurate measuring, proper handling of chemicals, experimental methodology, and detailed data recording and analysis. While learning about electricity, third graders study atoms, protons, electrons, static electricity, electric currents, electromagnetism, open and closed circuits, generators, and magnetic fields. They work with batteries, series and parallel circuits, circuit diagrams, and magnets. The solar system is studied through investigations that involve observation and approximation. Scale models are created to estimate size, demonstrate sequence, and deepen the students’ understanding of the organization of the solar system and the relationships among the various bodies that comprise it.
The third grade social studies curriculum focuses on the themes of movement and change, specifically in the formation of the United States.  The students learn about explorers, the thirteen original colonies (with particular focus on Jamestown and Plymouth), Louis and Clark’s journey, and the role of westward expansion in the geographic development of our nation.  They consider reasons for immigration and its effects on culture as they discover past and present motivations for relocation to the United States, the role of Ellis Island, and their individual family’s immigration history.  Additionally, the students focus on map skills and learn to identify all fifty states and capitals with an understanding of how our nation became what it is today.  Throughout the year, students role-play, create historical journals, and participate in field trips. They are immersed in historical novels, non-fiction texts, and primary sources.  Social studies provides an opportunity for students to contribute meaningfully to class discussions and articulate their views and opinions. Third graders practice public speaking and learn to be engaged, respectful listeners.

French

In Third grade, the focus starts to shift to reading and writing French.  Children learn to introduce themselves, and design a small poster displaying name, age, birthday, place of residence, likes and dislikes.  Questions and answers on this topic are practiced and learned.  Third graders study the parts of the day and learn to say the time.  The students design analog clocks to practice in class.  Two texts are used to support this topic:  La journée de Miko and Une Journée avec Émilie et Thomas. The children, modelling these, write a sequence of their own day.  Through this exercise, singular personal pronouns are differentiated and recognized.

Spanish

 

Handcrafts

The primary focus of the third grade year is learning to hand craft items that relate to a variety of folk crafts, particularly from the periods that they are investigating in social studies.  The year begins with Aesop’s fable, The King of Birds – a story that celebrates the uniqueness of the individual.  Each child creates a puppet that represents the bird of their choice (New Jersey natives) from the story.  They learn to use a paper pattern, piece together a project, sew, and trim the puppet.  Even though each project starts with the same exact pattern, the students take cues from the story to create strikingly individualized puppets.  The hand work reflects the distinctive design decisions made by each child and so the puppets develop their own unique personality as the designer continues to work.  The final event for this project is a Morning Gathering presentation of the puppet play.

Third grade is a time for discovering self-sufficiency in the shop by acquiring a range of ways to get information about the task at hand.  Before asking the teacher for guidance, they learned to:  check the posted list of steps, ask a friend, or evaluate their project and make use of what they know.  The Bench Project, an outgrowth of their classroom study of Lewis and Clark’s exploration, gives the students an opportunity to test the waters of independence.  The native peoples that the adventurers encountered in the Pacific Northwest are renowned for telling their legends in stark graphic representations carved from native cedar; think totem poles.  The children read some authentic creation tales, which they represent in a bench crafted out of Eastern white pine and Western red cedar.  The cross piece of the bench is meant to bear the likeness of an animal from their legend.  In addition to building an understanding of the qualities of the different woods, the students learned to fine tune their construction skills.  They practice mitering corners, assembling with screws, and shaping with a coping saw, which prepares them for more challenging projects in the fourth grade.

Music

In third grade, students build on what they know of the pentatonic scale by adding low la and low so.  They learn about major (do-centered) and minor (la-centered) pentatonic scales. In rhythm, students learn syncopated quarter and eighth note combinations.  They learn to read, write, and identify these new elements in their folk songs and singing games.  They sing rounds regularly to develop their intonation and musical independence.  Students begin the study of two-part choral music, and they begin learning to read a multi-part vocal score.  On the instruments, third graders continue to refine basic skills such as playing on the beat without rushing, and listening more closely both to their own part and to the whole ensemble as they incorporate more syncopated rhythms into their working knowledge. Students also focus on mallet technique, specifically playing with alternating hands whenever possible.

Visual Arts

The third graders work on a series of projects that pertain to the themes of design and abstraction. Students spent time working with concepts such as organic and geometric shape, complementary color, overlap, contrast, symbolism, story telling, space, and design by viewing, engaging, and discussing works of art from cultural and master artists such as Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, the artists of the Op Art Movement, Faith Ringgold and the Tlingit Native American artists.  Projects include geometric and organic shape collages, leaf inspired abstract watercolor paintings, optical illusion designs, pastel spirit animals, and acrylic painted story quilts.  Each project is designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of art room concepts, while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.

In third grade, students learn to use parts of a book such as the table of contents, index, and glossary, as part of the search for information within reference materials such as encyclopedias and atlases.  In addition, collaborative units of study focusing primarily on the social studies curriculum are a focus of third grade library instruction.  Students participate in research activities using pathfinders that are designed to support these classroom units of study.  The teaching of nonfiction narrative structure is addressed and students are given opportunities to practice related reading and comprehension skills to support their content work in the classroom.  Read alouds move from picture books to a novel, offering students the opportunity to hear proper fluency and greater vocabulary.
Grade three is a pivotal time in the development of students’ movement skills. In grade three, students begin to focus on combining locomotor and nonlocomotor skills into new movement sequences. Students who cannot perform the skills using the proper technique will need additional learning and practice opportunities to improve these foundational skills. Practice opportunities throughout the school year allow them time to develop the proper form for manipulative skills, such as rolling an object, throwing, catching, dribbling, kicking, and striking. By the end of grade three, students should have mastered the proper form for locomotor and nonlocomotor skills and learned to manipulate objects in a variety of ways.

 

Fourth Grade

In fourth grade, students work to develop reading and writing skills through authentic engagement. They practice comprehension strategies as they select and read various forms of literature including fiction, short stories, mythology, folktales, and poetry. Historical fiction selections reinforce multiple perspectives and the value of cultural diversity.  Nonfiction selections aid the development of research skills, which fourth graders also expand on in social studies and science.  In book club, students learn to build upon the ideas of others as they share passages of objective and subjective significance, offer interpretations, discuss and analyze information, ask questions, and comment on the author’s craft. Writing workshops are devoted to the essentials of writing: collecting ideas, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.  The “small moment” story is developed as students align story elements into a cohesive whole using flow maps. Story arcs are utilized to create rising action, conflict, and resolution.  Literary essay projects include writing into the story, character analysis, and writing from a character’s point of view. Sentence structure and analysis, parts of speech, writing conventions, spelling, and editing skills are practiced as each student improves his or her craft. Vocabulary study includes synonyms, antonyms, homophones, homonyms, homographs, prefixes, suffixes, derivatives, and classical roots.  Development of verbal reasoning is supported through the identification and completion of different types of analogies.
The fourth grade mathematics curriculum aims to help students develop the necessary math concepts and process skills for everyday life and to provide them with the ability to formulate, apply, and solve problems Through the Singapore Math program, fourth graders investigate place value, estimation and number theory, whole number multiplication and division, tables and line graphs, data and probability, fractions and decimals, area and perimeter, and geometry. In addition to Singapore Math, students use Contexts for Learning Mathematics, a key component of which is a math congress.  Students work with partners or in small groups to solve real world mathematical problems, providing a forum for sharing mathematical thinking and fostering an ability to speak articulately about math.  Different strategies are respected and appreciated. The Groundworks series, which develops critical reasoning, is also used in the fourth grade.  Topics include reasoning with numbers, measurement, data and probability, algebra, and geometry.  Montessori math materials are also used when appropriate.
Fourth graders study geology through learning about the composition of the Earth, its layers, minerals, rocks, and rock cycles.  Guided by the question  “Is the Earth static or dynamic?”, students are introduced to an overview of Earth’s geologic eras and the kingdoms of life.   With the purpose of understanding human evolution, students study of the evolution of the animal kingdom.  The earliest organisms and the orders and classes of invertebrates are studied with particular focus on evolutionary developments and the contributions of different species.  Students create anatomical drawings to facilitate the telling of each animal’s story and poetry to cultivate a sense of wonder and appreciation. Students retrace unique evolutionary developments from the Australopithecines to Homo sapiens and research a species of their choice.  As part of the culminating project, students become Paleolithic artists, creating a hominid skull to represent their chosen hominid species.  The study of the interactions of land and water relates directly to the social studies curriculum and the study of Africa.  Movement of water and its effects on land are investigated through examining the components of soil, permeability, and filtration systems.  A model aquifer and well are created as students study the types of aquifers present in Africa.  Students identify, explore, and create simple machines that might be useful to the people of various African cultures. Through the discovery of connections, patterns, and trends in man’s evolutionary and cultural developments, fourth graders enjoy a sense of awe and fascination as they study science.
The essential question for fourth grade social studies is, “Why is it important to understand other cultures?”  Students read creation myths from diverse cultures as they consider the creation and population of the Earth from different perspectives. Students examine the Earth’s relationship to the sun, creating diagrams that reflect first their suppositions, then their growing understanding of the relationship between the direction of the sun’s rays and climate zones. Through focusing on the biomes of the world, students delve into the adaptations of plants and animals.  The relationship between environment and culture is explored as students question, “What is culture?” Students devote themselves to studying African indigenous peoples, world hunger, and human rights. Primary sources such as ethnographic films, photographs, art, music, and stories provide students with a meaningful understanding of an African culture. Students research many different components of culture, both material and nonmaterial.  Emphasis is placed on finding connections as students consider how spiritual beliefs affect art and music, how gender roles affect social structure, and how social structure affects the physical orientation of a village.  To understand current problems facing indigenous cultures, students examine root causes of world hunger.  Issues of land rights, lack of self-determination, education, and discrimination are discussed, leading to awareness of the legacy of colonialism and the consequences of the modern land grabbing of Africa. Students read A Long Walk to Water and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.  They create historical fiction based on extensive research.  In conjunction with their work in science, students locate major aquifers in Africa. As the emphasis of the hunger program is on finding solutions, students immerse themselves in the work of Heifer International.

French

Fourth grade starts the year with a unit on the house, inside and out.  Reciting the French version of The House That Jack Built and other rhythmical poems is an example of how speech combined with movement enhances language acquisition.  The children design and build their own miniature houses, with a special focus on a room of their choice and present their projects to the class.   A weather unit follows, in which the students research a French ‘météo’ website for children to help them design the weather map of an imaginary country.  Light homework and quizzes are given periodically.  Grammar work focuses on the singular forms of the first conjugation.

Spanish

Handcrafts

The fourth grade year is a time to advance the handcrafts skills and understandings at which the students are already adept.  This year’s projects are connected by the theme of ceremony and celebrations.  Each child can use the insight they gain from their social studies curriculum about other world cultures to inform their individual handcrafts projects.

The fall semester begins with the reading of the West African tale, The Wedding Bowl.  In the story, ideas and virtues are represented by a handmade bowl.  Students elaborate on this topic during the study of Adinkra cloths of the Ashanti people (West Africa).  The cloths, used ceremonially, tell stories and represent virtues through symbols printed in ink on the cloth in a continuous grid.  Alongside the handwork, the fourth grade reads and interprets African proverbs.  Some are Ashanti and the rest are from other regions of Africa.  Students work individually and in groups to figure out which virtues might be hidden in the proverb.  Once they clarify these ideas, the students share their interpretations with each other.  With these concepts in mind, each student chooses a series of Adinkra symbols to narrate the Ashanti proverb.  The children then carve a linoleum block of their chosen symbol(s).  The students share symbols/blocks as well.  After marking out the 2 x 2 grid on flour sacks, each child prints their proverb on the fabric within the grid in a pattern they designed.

To finish the project in the Ashanti tradition, the cloths are soaked in dye bath using native plants and hot water.  By the end of the year, these striking cloths are sewn into drawstring bags for storing the instruments that they craft as the winter woodworking project.  The bags are held closed by colorful braids that the children weave on Japanese braiding looms called Maru Dai.

Since music is universally an integral part of celebrations, the woodworking project for the fourth grade year is an African mbira, or thumb piano. This project utilizes a variety of woods and woodworking skills.  Each student begins by making an inner frame of pine and then encasing the frame in a mahogany shell.  The students revisit some of the tools that they mastered as young students, such as an egg beater drill and a light weight hammer.  All of the pieces are glued and nailed together and finished with progressively finer grades of sand paper.  The corners are eased with a rasp and the final piece is protected with a finish of mineral oil and beeswax.

By building their skills and observances throughout the five year handcrafts curriculum, the students are now ready to apply these understandings to the study of architecture in fifth grade.

Music

In fourth grade, students strive for fluency in sight-singing pentatonic music using movable-do solfège.  Fourth graders learn how to find their way around a vocal score (measure numbers, rehearsal letters, systems) as they sing in two-part harmony.  They begin to work with eighth / sixteenth-note combinations.  They learn to read, write, and recognize these new elements in their music.  On the instruments, fourth graders continue to learn more complex music in three or more parts, using simple meters, eighth/sixteenth-note combinations, and the extended pentatonic scale.  Students undertake a group composition project based on African models.  They notate their pieces using African notational conventions as well conventional Western notation.

Visual Arts

The fourth graders work on a series of projects designed around the themes of movement, energy, depth, observation, abstraction, and space.  Students spend time working with concepts such as spatial depth, overlap, foreground, midground, background, and linear perspective, positive and negative space, and form by viewing, engaging, and discussing works of art from cultural and master artists such as Henri Rousseau, and Vincent van Gogh.  Projects include mixed-media jungle compositions, pastel energy drawings, linear perspective environments and landscapes, negative space window paintings, and negative space sculptures.  Every project is designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of art room concepts, while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.

Innovative technology is explored in fourth grade, giving students opportunities to creatively express their learning and share it with both the school and broader community.  Ethical behaviors with regard to digital media are explained, modeled, and practiced throughout the year.  Students learn the basics of our automated library catalog to conduct searches for books which they then locate independently.  After listening to a biography and learning about the unique qualities and contributions of this genre, students participate in an independent biography study.
In grade four, students focus on learning and practicing manipulation skills (e.g., kicking, throwing, striking), in particular using rackets and paddles to strike objects. They also learn about the correct technique for manipulative skills, such as body orientation when serving a ball, and to distinguish between similar skills (e.g., kicking and punting). They begin to learn individual defensive and offensive moves. They are introduced to the concept of perceived exertion. They learn about the value of muscular endurance/strength, aerobic and flexibility exercises, and the importance of water and healthy foods to improve physical performance. Students learn to include others in physical activity and to respect differences in skill levels. They also learn to accept responsibility for their own performance of physical activities and to both win and lose with dignity and respect.

 

Fifth Grade

In fifth grade, students are actively involved in writing and reading workshops. In writing workshop, students choose their own topics, collect ideas, draft, revise, edit, and publish their work. Word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and organization are reinforced within the context of well-developed paragraphs and five paragraph essays. Grammar, spelling, and writing conventions are imparted through the students’ writing, while reinforcement is provided through Daily Oral Language, an exercise program that focuses on editing skills. In reading workshop, students read fiction and non-fiction as they improve reading comprehension, write literary essays, and participate in book clubs. While reading non-fiction texts, they learn to identify the main idea and to take detailed notes. Through an individualized word study program, students expand their vocabulary by studying word families. Spelling improves through studying high frequency words and commonly misspelled words.
The mathematics curriculum encourages an active environment in which students become mathematicians. Student exploration and investigation ensure an in-depth understanding of topics. Rather than solely teaching students to memorize discrete formulas and procedures, students develop a conceptual understanding prior to learning and practicing the processes to solve problems. Singapore Math is the basis for the fifth grade math. Topics covered include whole number multiplication and division; fractions and mixed numbers; multiplying and dividing fractions, decimals, and mixed numbers; area of a triangle; ratio; percent; graphs and probability; properties, angles and four-sided figures; three-dimensional shapes; surface area and volume. Fifth graders also participate in math congress. Students work on project-based activities and join together to discuss how to approach and solve mathematical problems. The workshop structure supports Willow’s dedication to a community of activity, discourse, and reflection.
Fifth graders begin the school year with a watershed study. Students first wonder how old water is and how much of it is actually available for use. One way they learn the characteristics of a watershed is by exploring how water runs through Willow’s campus. The Earth, moon, and stars are studied as a system. By keeping a journal of their observations of the moon for a month, students gain a deep understanding of moon phases. The class explores chemistry by creating and separating mixtures and solutions, and examining suspensions, colloids, emulsifiers, immiscible liquids, and performing pH testing. Fifth graders use their senses out doors, as they observe atmospheric elements and the climate.  Fifth graders also study energy forms and transformations. The final project, the creation of an island, provides an opportunity for students to synthesize the topics they have covered in fifth grade science.
In the fifth grade, students investigate the essential question, “What is gained and lost when people develop a way of life that is ‘civilized’?” The year begins with a study of map skills as children look at a wide range of maps in order to gain perspective for a variety of purposes. The cultural development of early species of man (Australopithecus, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Neanderthalis, and Homo Sapiens) leads to the study of Neolithic communities, when humans first practiced agriculture. Students explore the causes leading to food production as well as agriculture’s role in the development of complex human settlements such as Catal Huyuk, Skara Brae, and Jericho. The early civilizations that developed along the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers are studied with a focus on Mesopotamia and Egypt. Students examine the transformation from tribal lifestyles to more complex forms of social and political organizations. Relevant literature, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, is read. As a culmination of their study of ancient civilizations, the students engage in a final project that requires them to synthesize the information and insights they acquired through their studies of ancient river civilizations as they create a hypothetical one, taking into consideration the significance of location, the relationship between culture and environment, and the interconnectedness among different aspects of culture.

French

Fifth graders explore the worlds of forest and mountain animals.  Using French books for young students, the fifth graders are guided to key words- known vocabulary and words strongly resembling English- to make sense of the text.  They are asked to become detectives and spot all clues to deduce meaning.  Students choose an animal to present to their classmates, following a simple ‘ID card’ model stating family, diet, longevity, gestation etc.  They are directed to a French website to research and gather the data.  The second half of the year is dedicated to food and markets.  The students design their own restaurant menu. Homework and quizzes are given on a regular basis.  Grammar work focuses on the present tense of the first regular conjugation and written practice of interrogative and negative sentences.

Spanish

Architecture

The intent of the Architecture Program is not to train the students to be architects, but to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills through the process of design.  By working both independently and cooperatively towards a solution, fifth graders must consider the constraints and consequences of their design decisions.  In all projects and discussions, students begin to use the vocabulary of architecture, as well as the specific tools and terminology of architectural design.

The first project is a study of the towns and neighborhoods in which they live.  Here, the intent is for the students to develop and awareness of their surroundings and for the class as a whole to begin to cultivate a sense of place.  Next, the students construct handmade sketchbooks in order to try out some basic architectural tools.

Moving forward, they tackle a more traditional design school project – using simple planes, lines, and textures to create space.  The intent of this Making Space exercise is to understand what defines the space around us and how to manipulate it in order to create the environment that we envision.  The students stretch their boundaries and build confidence in their own ideas and abilities as they continue to create and test their projects within a given set of parameters.  In order to delve deeper into the basic elements of design, they apply their knowledge of architectural principles (axis, datum, rhythm & repetition, hierarchy, symmetry, asymmetry, and transformation) in a collage diagram of an Italian Renaissance garden.  Next, they put their knowledge into action by creating a model of an art gallery, displaying various types of art, each requiring a different viewing perspective.  For example, a sculpture should be seen in 360 degrees, a mobile from below, a portrait up close, a mural from afar and an architectural model from above or at eye level.  In another project, the students analyze structural forces (tension and compression) by building an 8 foot diameter geodesic dome out of newspaper.

The final fifth grade project is based on the principles of biomimicry:   the process of transferring nature’s finest ideas into designs and practices that attempt to solve human problems.  To begin, every child is given a natural object to study; a pinecone, deer antlers, a horseshoe crab, for example.  Each student creates a wooden model for an observation tower that reflects the characteristics of their object.  The exercise is intended to demonstrate an understanding of the full range of design concepts studied during the year.   The challenge for many of the students is to distinguish between mimicking the form of their object and extracting the characteristics that might be valuable to their tower design.  As a final celebration, each architect has the opportunity to present his/her tower to the class in a classic architecture school design review.

Music

In fifth grade, students continue to develop their reading, writing, and listening skills.  Students learn fa and ti, and the diatonic major and minor scales.  They learn about half and whole steps.  Fifth graders learn to read, write, recognize, and perform dotted rhythms.  In addition, they learn absolute note names and conventional counting.  On the instruments, students learn music in three or more parts, as they explore major and minor diatonic music. In addition, students sing two-part choral pieces from the folk repertoire.

Visual Arts

The fifth graders work on a series of projects designed around the themes of observation, color, perspective, and positive change. Students spend time working with concepts such as composition, emphasis, space, complementary color, apparent texture, color, mood, form, motion, and story telling by viewing, engaging, and discussing works of art from cultural and master artists including Albrecht Durer, Andre Derain, the Fauvist artists, Andy Warhol, and animation artists.  Projects include a Fauvism inspired pastel drawing, ink textured landscape environments, “Pop Art” printmaking designs and hand drawn charcoal animation films.  Every project is designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of art room concepts, while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.

By the end of fifth grade, students have a greater awareness of the Dewey Decimal System and use it to locate materials necessary for classroom study.  Students also use a variety of Web 2.0 tools to demonstrate their learning within the content areas.  Comprehension strategies for both fiction and nonfiction texts continue to be modeled through read alouds.  Students examine literary features such as an author’s tone, narrative perspective, the theme of a piece of writing, and the use of figurative language.  The concept of plagiarism is introduced as is the framework of an information search process.
In fifth grade, the focus of instruction is providing students with experiences that help them transition to sport-skill learning with an emphasis on the application of movement and motor skills in lead-up or modified games. When students practice manipulative skills, they practice more often with partners than in earlier grades. They learn how to recognize and correct their own errors and to provide feedback to peers to assist them in developing movement skills. Students continue to learn about health-related physical fitness, and assess their own fitness level.  Cooperative physical activity is another focus of instruction in fifth grade, with students learning about their own and others’ roles and responsibilities in setting common goals and solving problems.

 

Sixth Grade

The goal of the Middle School English Program is to create literate, thoughtful communicators who are capable of managing language effectively as they negotiate an increasingly complex and information-rich world.  Integrating each grade’s theme with essential questions and pertinent study units supports students as they become critical thinkers who express their original ideas with confidence and integrity. As students continue to read a variety of novels, short stories, poems, plays, visuals, and nonfiction works, they become more effective readers, writers, and speakers.  Vocabulary development and precision is an important outgrowth of literature and language study.  Students write to discover and clarify what they think, to explore their ideas, and to communicate with others. They engage in a variety of writing genres and experiment with various methods of development. By focusing on the six traits of excellent writing (ideas and development, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and conventions), students learn to express themselves effectively as they develop their own individual voices. In Middle School, students master the skill of writing a five-paragraph essay and learn to view grammar, usage, and sentence construction as integral parts of the drafting and revising process. As they acquire specific skills and strategies for writing, speaking, listening, and reading, students learn to think abstractly, to solve problems, to make decisions, and to question the world around them. Students engage in discussion models that encourage inquiry, self-expression, and active citizenship.  In Middle School English, students learn to express themselves with clarity, power, and fluency.

The sixth grade English Program consists of four units: The Ripple Effect; Unexpected Connections; The Greater Good; and Nature vs. Technology and Development.  These units help sixth graders better understand their place in the world as they examine the impact of their choices and how an individual’s choices can shape a better future. As students enter Middle School, they strengthen their ability to analyze varied and complex texts, develop arguments, synthesize information from multiple sources, examine different perspectives, and engage in self-reflection.  Sixth graders read The Giver and Hoot, among other varied literature selections.

The Middle School Math Program is designed to help students better understand their grade’s theme by relating profound ideas to practical, mathematical applications.  Each study unit includes a rigorous practice of skills, varied levels of difficulty, and challenging real-world problems and applications.  Lessons and activities often include student led demonstrations and explanations of the steps and processes involved in problem solving.  Class notes and examples are frequently shared with students to aid in reviewing and practicing for mastery. The program is geared to develop the whole child. Essential to the Middle School Math Program are interactive endeavors and project-based applications.  For many of these activities, students have the opportunity to work individually or in small groups to apply what they have learned in the classroom.

The sixth grade Math Program consists of nine units: Whole Numbers and Decimals; Data and Graphs; Number Theory and Fractions; Operations with Fractions; Ratios, Proportions, and Percentages; Tools of Geometry; Geometry and Measurement; Exploring Probability; and Introduction to Algebra.  Throughout these units, sixth graders question how math can help them define their place in the world.

The Middle School Science Program is designed to help students better understand their grade’s theme by asking essential questions that pertain to units of study. Each unit includes in-depth presentations and hands-on activities that give context to new concepts while building vocabulary and strengthening note-taking skills. Student centered and/or designed field and laboratory experiments challenge students to apply developing skills and newly acquired knowledge in a meaningful way.  To augment in-class learning, students have at home access to the teacher’s PowerPoint notes online and reading assignments in the Prentice Hall Science Explorer textbook series.  Geared to develop the whole child, one of the cornerstones of the Middle School Science Program is the wide variety of inquiry-based explorations and experiments that students engage in throughout the year.  For many of these activities, students have the opportunity to communicate their findings in lab reports that include detailed, mathematical and graphical analysis of their exciting discoveries.

The sixth grade Science Program consists of eight physical science units: Experimental Design; Introduction to Matter; Solids, Liquids, and Gases; Elements and the Periodic Table; Motion; Forces; Energy; and Sound and Light.  These units help sixth graders better understand their place in the world as they question how the laws of the physical world guide human behavior.  The year begins with an extensive exploration of the scientific method with activities highlighting scientific questioning, observation, measurement, data collection, and data analysis.  The course then proceeds into topics of physical science including matter, atoms, motions, forces, energy, sound, and light.

The Middle School Social Studies Program covers exciting and compelling periods of human history while integrating each grade’s theme with essential questions and informative study units.  Each unit includes work on geography, government, religion, philosophy, and cultural achievements. Through a variety of activities designed to develop higher order thinking, students make inquiries and learn important concepts. Role-play, simulations, art activities, debates, Socratic Seminars, the examination of primary and secondary sources, and research, aid students in learning a variety of skills like note-taking, writing persuasive pieces, and preparing and delivering oral presentations. Throughout each unit, students are asked to make comparisons, ask questions, analyze information, and draw inferences.  In this way, students develop the ability to make sense of historical facts, and to connect what they learn to the world around them. Through activities that invite students to engage with the diverse cultures they encounter, they assimilate historical and cultural information in a meaningful way that supports critical thinking and active citizenship.

The sixth grade social studies curriculum focuses on the study of ancient civilizations from about 1200 BCE to 500 BCE, the age of empires.  The program is divided into three large units: Ancient India and China; Ancient Greece; and Ancient Rome.  Sixth graders strive to understand their place in the world as they question to what degree cultural heritage influences beliefs and decisions and whether domination is a sustainable strategy for success.

French

Sixth grade discovers the concept of ‘francophonie’, a term for the community of French speaking countries throughout the world. To illustrate this study, the students read the story of two young boys going back to school in Madagascar.   They prepare and share a presentation in French for their classmates, following the model of the UNICEF book A School Like Mine, which features school children on all continents.  The second half of the year is dedicated to the study of French geography and presentations of regions of France, complete with gourmet food!   Middle schoolers have weekly homework assignments.  Their work is graded.  Grammar work focuses on present and passé-composé tenses of IR & RE conjugations as well as the  futur proche and the present tense of avoir, être, aller, faire.

Latin

The course provides students with an introduction to the Latin language and Roman culture.  Through the Cambridge University Press text Minimus: Starting out in Latin, students learn about a real Roman family that lived in Vindolanda near Hadrian’s Wall in Roman Briton during the second century AD.  The course is divided into 12 units each of which includes the study of grammar, vocabulary, derivatives, Roman culture, and mythology.  Study of mythology is supplemented with additional books and audiovisual materials and culminates in an end of the year gods and goddesses project.  In grammar, sixth graders develop beginning vocabulary and translation skills as they study nouns and adjectives in the first two declensions (focusing on the nominative and accusative cases), and learn the four verb conjugations in the present tense.  Cultural projects focus on the Roman world- dress, homes, customs, legends, and mythology.  Homework, special projects, and assessments serve to solidify and expand student learning and accomplishment.

Spanish

Architecture

The intent of the Middle School Architecture Program is not to train the students to be architects, but to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills through the process of design.  By working both independently and cooperatively towards a solution, they must consider the constraints and consequences of their design decisions.  In all projects and discussions, they begin to use the vocabulary of architecture, as well as the specific tools and terminology of architectural design.

The Architecture Program provides an opportunity for design minded students to delve deeper into the field of architecture.  The themes, specific architectural content, and projects vary from semester to semester, but each session contains the same intent.  The children take on authentic exercises and problems that might be presented to a professional architect.  For example, projects include designing a small bungalow, a restaurant, an outdoor classroom, a sculpture garden, a park, a stained glass window, and a World’s Fair Pavilion, among other things.  Students take on challenges that are local and experiential, making the exercises personally meaningful to them, and of great value as they build a sense of place.  This effort is often supported by field trips to neighboring places like historic landmarks, parks, and sculpture gardens. To expand their horizons, the local community aspect of the projects is often paired with a larger scope.  For instance, they might take on the study of the work of a specific architect or firm, famous park and garden designs, an aspect of city and regional planning, interior design, school related projects, multi-cultural ideas like Japanese and Islamic courtyards, or something whimsical like tree houses or games.  The project themes are often students driven, while the curriculum content of the class is based on a serious study of architectural principles and concepts.  These universal understandings support the students’ current and future studies and encourage them to continue to explore the world around them.

Music

Middle School students continue practicing solfège by sight-singing rounds and part-songs. Students sing rounds in two, three, and sometimes four parts and in foreign languages.  They sing three-part choral music and begin to explore their changing voices while they focus on developing resonance and improving their diction.  In addition, students apply their skills to learn more technically and rhythmically challenging pieces for mallet percussion.  They continue their study of international folk music, learning music that is consistent with the International Day theme for that year.  By the end of eighth grade, students have learned at least one piece from each of the major periods of music history: the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Twentieth Century.

Visual Arts

What is the relationship between art and story? This is the essential question that guides the sixth grade art curriculum.  Sixth graders explore this question through a series of sketch assignments, art observations, class discussions, and several projects on the theme of story from multiple perspectives.  Projects include volumetric line environments, charcoal self-portraits that use expression to tell a story, masks inspired by Greek mythology created from recycled materials, symbolic personal crest “swords”, figure drawings, and dynamic wire figure sculptures.  These projects work to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of concepts such as contour line, volumetric line, proportion, portraiture, form, contrapposto, dynamic movement, abstraction, and symbolism while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.

Throughout Middle School, library instruction focuses on the skills and strategies necessary for students to become skillful and ethical researchers.  Areas of study include:  conducting effective web-based searches, determining reliability of websites, avoiding plagiarism, navigating databases, citing sources, accessing relevant information, note taking, and acting responsibly when gathering and using information.  At each grade level, students are given opportunities to use materials, information, and strategies to complete writing assignments for content area classes.  Students are taught an information search process which they use to complete research assignments.
Students in grades 6 through 8 further their education in fitness, recreational activities, body movement, individual and team sports. Through ongoing assessment of personal fitness levels, students monitor their own progress toward the attainment of lifelong personal fitness goals. The physical, social, and emotional aspects of lifelong health are examined and students practice individual sports that promote the attainment of individual fitness goals.

 

Seventh Grade

The goal of the Middle School English Program is to create literate, thoughtful communicators who are capable of managing language effectively as they negotiate an increasingly complex and information-rich world.  Integrating each grade’s theme with essential questions and pertinent study units supports students as they become critical thinkers who express their original ideas with confidence and integrity. As students continue to read a variety of novels, short stories, poems, plays, visuals, and nonfiction works, they become more effective readers, writers, and speakers.  Vocabulary development and precision is an important outgrowth of literature and language study.  Students write to discover and clarify what they think, to explore their ideas, and to communicate with others. They engage in a variety of writing genres and experiment with various methods of development. By focusing on the six traits of excellent writing (ideas and development, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and conventions), students learn to express themselves effectively as they develop their own individual voices. In Middle School, students master the skill of writing a five-paragraph essay and learn to view grammar, usage, and sentence construction as integral parts of the drafting and revising process. As they acquire specific skills and strategies for writing, speaking, listening, and reading, students learn to think abstractly, to solve problems, to make decisions, and to question the world around them. Students engage in discussion models that encourage inquiry, self-expression, and active citizenship.  In Middle School English, students learn to express themselves with clarity, power, and fluency.

The seventh grade English program consists of four units: Cultures and Traditions; Perceptions- Ability versus Disability; Labels- Own, Accept, or Reject, A Sense of Place.  These units help seventh graders to better understand vulnerability, power, and change as they question the impact of stereotyping and prejudice. Through the study of language and literature, seventh graders refine specific skills and strategies in writing, speaking, reading, viewing, and listening. Students read a variety of novels, short stories, poems, visuals, and nonfiction works to become more facile with both written and spoken language. Seventh graders focus on understanding analysis as it relates to literature and how to select quotations and develop original ideas based on those quotations.

The Middle School Math Program is designed to help students better understand their grade’s theme by relating profound ideas to practical, mathematical applications.  Each study unit includes a rigorous practice of skills, varied levels of difficulty, and challenging real-world problems and applications.  Lessons and activities often include student lead demonstrations and explanations of the steps and processes involved in problem solving.  Class notes and examples are frequently shared with students to aid in reviewing and practicing for mastery. The program is geared to develop the whole child. Essential to the Middle School Math Program are interactive endeavors and project-based applications.  For many of these activities, students have the opportunity to work individually or in small groups to apply what they have learned in the classroom.

The seventh grade Math Program consists of seven units: Algebraic expressions and integers; Solving equations and inequalities, whole numbers, fractions and decimals; Exponents and scientific notation; Ratios, proportions, and percentages; Linear functions and graphing; Spatial thinking; and Irrational numbers and Pythagorean theorem.  These units help seventh graders better understand vulnerability, power, and change as they question how math changes their perspective on the world.

The Middle School Science Program is designed to help students better understand their grade’s theme by asking essential questions that pertain to units of study. Each unit includes in-depth presentations and hands-on activities that give context to new concepts while building vocabulary and strengthening note-taking skills. Student centered and/or designed field and laboratory experiments challenge students to apply developing skills and newly acquired knowledge in a meaningful way.  To augment in-class learning, students have at home access to the teacher’s PowerPoint notes online and reading assignments in the Prentice Hall Science Explorer textbook series.  Geared to develop the whole child, one of the cornerstones of the Middle School Science Program is the wide variety of inquiry-based explorations and experiments that students engage in throughout the year.  For many of these activities, students have the opportunity to communicate their findings in lab reports that include detailed, mathematical and graphical analysis of their exciting discoveries.

The seventh grade Science Program consists of seven life science units: Introduction to living systems; Plant function; Classifying life; Introduction to cells/single celled organisms; Cell function; Heredity; and Evolution. These units help students  better understand vulnerability, power, and change as they explore the susceptibility of natural biological systems and address the effects of human cultural development.  Seventh graders explore a broad range of life science topics that prepare them to better understand the natural world and to be successful in future classes in the biological sciences. Topics include classification of living things, cell structure and function, plant structure and function, heredity, and evolution.

The Middle School Social Studies Program covers exciting and compelling periods of human history while integrating each grade’s theme with essential questions and informative study units.  Each unit includes work on geography, government, religion, philosophy, and cultural achievements. Through a variety of activities designed to develop higher order thinking, students make inquiries and learn important concepts. Role-play, simulations, art activities, debates, Socratic Seminars, the examination of primary and secondary sources, and research, aid students in learning a variety of skills like note-taking, writing persuasive pieces, and preparing and delivering oral presentations. Throughout each unit, students are asked to make comparisons, ask questions, analyze information, and draw inferences.  In this way, students develop the ability to make sense of historical facts, and to connect what they learn to the world around them. Through activities that invite students to engage with the diverse cultures they encounter, they assimilate historical and cultural information in a meaningful way that supports critical thinking and active citizenship.

The seventh grade social studies curriculum focuses on the topic of connections among peoples and civilizations.  To better understand vulnerability, power, and change, seventh graders question the impact of cultural connections, the effects of belief systems, and the concept of winners and losers.  Investigation of these topics is structured in three units: The Islamic World; The Silk Road; and Cultural Exchange and Transformation in Europe.

French

Seventh grade students study a short novel designed for middle school students, which they are required to read over the summer.  They work with a series of vocabulary and comprehension questions for each chapter.  The class explores the world of French cheese.  After working with a PBS documentary on the subject, they present a cheese of their choice to their classmates.  The year ends with a biography of an important French figure who influenced the world, such as Marie Curie or Louis Braille.  The seventh graders write weekly journal entries on a given theme to practice using target vocabulary.  In grammar they review prepositions and additional irregular verbs.

Latin

Seventh graders continue the work begun in sixth grade.  Working with Unit 1 of the Cambridge Latin Course, its supplementary materials, and Cambridge’s interactive website and web books, students absorb the language, culture, and history of the Romans through reading stories about a real family that lived in Pompeii during the first century AD.  Students master the four verb conjugations in the present, imperfect, and perfect tenses, and learn the first three noun declensions in the nominative, dative and accusative cases through participating in classroom activities and playing assorted learning games. While continuing to explore basic Latin and English grammar concepts, students become confident with Latin pronunciation, increase English vocabulary through the study of derivatives, and further develop their awareness of the history, culture, and life of the Romans.

Spanish

Architecture

The intent of the Middle School Architecture Program is not to train the students to be architects, but to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills through the process of design.  By working both independently and cooperatively towards a solution, they must consider the constraints and consequences of their design decisions.  In all projects and discussions, they begin to use the vocabulary of architecture, as well as the specific tools and terminology of architectural design.

The Architecture Program provides an opportunity for design minded students to delve deeper into the field of architecture.  The themes, specific architectural content, and projects vary from semester to semester, but each session contains the same intent.  The children take on authentic exercises and problems that might be presented to a professional architect.  For example, projects include designing a small bungalow, a restaurant, an outdoor classroom, a sculpture garden, a park, a stained glass window, and a World’s Fair Pavilion, among other things.  Students take on challenges that are local and experiential, making the exercises personally meaningful to them, and of great value as they build a sense of place.  This effort is often supported by field trips to neighboring places like historic landmarks, parks, and sculpture gardens. To expand their horizons, the local community aspect of the projects is often paired with a larger scope.  For instance, they might take on the study of the work of a specific architect or firm, famous park and garden designs, an aspect of city and regional planning, interior design, school related projects, multi-cultural ideas like Japanese and Islamic courtyards, or something whimsical like tree houses or games.  The project themes are often students driven, while the curriculum content of the class is based on a serious study of architectural principles and concepts.  These universal understandings support the students’ current and future studies and encourage them to continue to explore the world around them.

Music

Middle School students continue practicing solfège by sight-singing rounds and part-songs. Students sing rounds in two, three, and sometimes four parts and in foreign languages.  They sing three-part choral music and begin to explore their changing voices while they focus on developing resonance and improving their diction.  In addition, students apply their skills to learn more technically and rhythmically challenging pieces for mallet percussion.  They continue their study of international folk music, learning music that is consistent with the International Day theme for that year.  By the end of eighth grade, students will have learned at least one piece from each of the major periods of music history: the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Twentieth Century.

Visual Arts

What is the relationship between art and change? This is the essential question that guides the seventh grade art curriculum.  This question is explored through a series of sketch assignments, art observations, class discussions, and several projects exploring the concept of change through the theme of landscape. The projects include “en plein air” landscape paintings of the Willow campus, traditional ink landscape paintings, nature inspired contemporary abstract ink paintings,  small monument designs that convey a message for positive change in the world, chiaroscuro cloth drawings, and surrealism linear perspective dreamscapes.  These projects are designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of concepts such as spatial depth, linear perspective, chiaroscuro shading, design and form; while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.

Throughout Middle School, library instruction focuses on the skills and strategies necessary for students to become skillful and ethical researchers.  Areas of study include:  conducting effective web-based searches, determining reliability of websites, avoiding plagiarism, navigating databases, citing sources, accessing relevant information, note taking, and acting responsibly when gathering and using information.  At each grade level, students are given opportunities to use materials, information, and strategies to complete writing assignments for content area classes.  Students are taught an information search process which they use to complete research assignments.
Students in grades 6 through 8 further their education in fitness, recreational activities, body movement, individual and team sports. Through ongoing assessment of personal fitness levels, students monitor their own progress toward the attainment of lifelong personal fitness goals. The physical, social, and emotional aspects of lifelong health are examined and students practice individual sports that promote the attainment of individual fitness goals.

 

Eighth Grade

The goal of the Middle School English Program is to create literate, thoughtful communicators who are capable of managing language effectively as they negotiate an increasingly complex and information-rich world.  Integrating each grade’s theme with essential questions and pertinent study units supports students as they become critical thinkers who express their original ideas with confidence and integrity. As students continue to read a variety of novels, short stories, poems, plays, visuals, and nonfiction works, they become more effective readers, writers, and speakers.  Vocabulary development and precision is an important outgrowth of literature and language study.  Students write to discover and clarify what they think, to explore their ideas, and to communicate with others. They engage in a variety of writing genres and experiment with various methods of development. By focusing on the six traits of excellent writing (ideas and development, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and conventions), students learn to express themselves effectively as they develop their own individual voices. In Middle School, students master the skill of writing a five-paragraph essay and learn to view grammar, usage, and sentence construction as integral parts of the drafting and revising process. As they acquire specific skills and strategies for writing, speaking, listening, and reading, students learn to think abstractly, to solve problems, to make decisions, and to question the world around them. Students engage in discussion models that encourage inquiry, self-expression, and active citizenship.  In Middle School English, students learn to express themselves with clarity, power, and fluency.

The eighth grade English Program consists of three units: Leadership, Power and Control; Culture, History and Roots; and Values and Convictions. These units guide students on their journey of self-discovery. Eighth graders learn how to formulate a clear thesis statement and how to organize their ideas effectively to support a thesis. Types of sentences (e.g. topic sentences, directional sentences, and transitional sentences), sentence mechanics, paragraphs, and essays, are practiced and perfected to ensure each student’s complete preparation for the rigors of high school English.

The Middle School Math Program is designed to help students better understand their grade’s theme by relating profound ideas to practical, mathematical applications.  Each study unit includes a rigorous practice of skills, varied levels of difficulty, and challenging real-world problems and applications.  Lessons and activities often include student lead demonstrations and explanations of the steps and processes involved in problem solving.  Class notes and examples are frequently shared with students to aid in reviewing and practicing for mastery. The program is geared to develop the whole child. Essential to the Middle School Math Program are interactive endeavors and project-based applications.  For many of these activities, students have the opportunity to work individually or in small groups to apply what they have learned in the classroom.

The eighth grade Math Program consists of seven units: Review of the Foundations of Algebra; Solving, Graphing, Writing Linear Equations, and Inequalities; Graphing Linear Functions; Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities; Exponents and Exponential Functions; Quadratic Equations and Functions; Polynomials and Factoring; Rational Equations; and Radicals.  These units help eighth graders on their journey of self-discovery as they question how math can help them create their future.

The Middle School Science Program is designed to help students better understand their grade’s theme by asking essential questions that pertain to units of study. Each unit includes in-depth presentations and hands-on activities that give context to new concepts while building vocabulary and strengthening note-taking skills. Student centered and/or designed field and laboratory experiments challenge students to apply developing skills and newly acquired knowledge in a meaningful way.  To augment in-class learning, students have at home access to the teacher’s PowerPoint notes online and reading assignments in the Prentice Hall Science Explorer textbook series.  Geared to develop the whole child, one of the cornerstones of the Middle School Science Program is the wide variety of inquiry-based explorations and experiments that students engage in throughout the year.  For many of these activities, students have the opportunity to communicate their findings in lab reports that include detailed, mathematical and graphical analysis of their exciting discoveries.

The eighth grade Science Program consists of eight Earth science units: The Big Bang Theory and stars; Earth, moon, and sun; A trip through geologic time; Terrestrial planet formation/early earth; Geologic eras; Continental movement and the Earth’s surface; Rocks and soils; and Earth’s atmosphere, weather, and climate.  These units aid students on their journey of self-discovery as they question the future of the Earth and the impact of their decisions and actions.  The course progresses through time from the big bang, to the formation of the stars and planets, and then through geologic time on earth from the formation of earth’s first living entities to modern systems.  The year concludes with an exploration of the earth’s current dynamic land, atmosphere, and climate.  All year eighth graders collect data about the position of the sun in the sky through the changing seasons.  The year’s work culminates with graphing and analyzing the collected data.

The Middle School Social Studies Program covers exciting and compelling periods of human history while integrating each grade’s theme with essential questions and informative study units.  Each unit includes work on geography, government, religion, philosophy, and cultural achievements. Through a variety of activities designed to develop higher order thinking, students make inquiries and learn important concepts. Role-play, simulations, art activities, debates, Socratic Seminars, the examination of primary and secondary sources, and research, aid students in learning a variety of skills like note-taking, writing persuasive pieces, and preparing and delivering oral presentations. Throughout each unit, students are asked to make comparisons, ask questions, analyze information, and draw inferences.  In this way, students develop the ability to make sense of historical facts, and to connect what they learn to the world around them. Through activities that invite students to engage with the diverse cultures they encounter, they assimilate historical and culture information in a meaningful way that supports critical thinking and active citizenship.

Eighth graders study American history from 1500 to 1800, while making connections between history and global and current events.  The year is structured around three units: We the People; Revolution and the New Nation; and America in the global context.  Eighth graders question  who they are and who they want to be as they contemplate what it means to live by ethical principles.  Investigations at the eighth grade level involve students in activities that promote emotional engagement as well as critical thinking and synthesis.  Students realize and appreciate meaningful connections between ethical attitudes and sustainability.

French

Eighth grade is a review year.  The students prepare for placement tests and work to become more fluent in their speaking, reading, writing, and translating.  They are given current events articles in English about France to summarize in French.  They learn about the French explorers to Canada, Jacques Cartier and Samuel Champlain.  They research and present to their classmates a topic of cultural significance which is of personal interest to them, from the worlds of science, fashion, food, history, music, etc.  The eighth graders write weekly journal articles about a given theme or a theme of their choice.  In grammar they review the passé-composé of verbs with être as an auxiliary, adverbs, and prepare for placement tests.

Latin

Working with CLC Unit 2, students continue to follow the storyline, which has now shifted location to Roman Briton.  In grammar study, eighth graders master all six verb tenses in the active voice, the five noun declensions (all cases), adjectives, and numerous pronouns.  As grammar becomes more challenging, an effort is made to engage students in activities that are pleasurable and to make time for creative projects that allow for self-expression.  Vocabulary building through derivative study continues to be an integral part of Latin class.  After completing eighth grade Latin at Willow, students are thoroughly prepared for high school Latin II.

Spanish

Architecture

The intent of the Middle School Architecture Program is not to train the students to be architects, but to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills through the process of design.  By working both independently and cooperatively towards a solution, they must consider the constraints and consequences of their design decisions.  In all projects and discussions, they begin to use the vocabulary of architecture, as well as the specific tools and terminology of architectural design.

The Architecture Program provides an opportunity for design minded students to delve deeper into the field of architecture.  The themes, specific architectural content, and projects vary from semester to semester, but each session contains the same intent.  The children take on authentic exercises and problems that might be presented to a professional architect.  For example, projects include designing a small bungalow, a restaurant, an outdoor classroom, a sculpture garden, a park, a stained glass window, and a World’s Fair Pavilion, among other things.  Students take on challenges that are local and experiential, making the exercises personally meaningful to them, and of great value as they build a sense of place.  This effort is often supported by field trips to neighboring places like historic landmarks, parks, and sculpture gardens. To expand their horizons, the local community aspect of the projects is often paired with a larger scope.  For instance, they might take on the study of the work of a specific architect or firm, famous park and garden designs, an aspect of city and regional planning, interior design, school related projects, multi-cultural ideas like Japanese and Islamic courtyards, or something whimsical like tree houses or games.  The project themes are often students driven, while the curriculum content of the class is based on a serious study of architectural principles and concepts.  These universal understandings support the students’ current and future studies and encourage them to continue to explore the world around them.

Music

Middle School students continue practicing solfège by sight-singing rounds and part-songs. Students sing rounds in two, three, and sometimes four parts and in foreign languages.  They sing three-part choral music and begin to explore their changing voices while they focus on developing resonance and improving their diction.  In addition, students apply their skills to learn more technically and rhythmically challenging pieces for mallet percussion.  They continue their study of international folk music, learning music that is consistent with the International Day theme for that year.  By the end of eighth grade, students will have learned at least one piece from each of the major periods of music history: the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Twentieth Century.

Visual Arts

What is the relationship between art and identity? This is the essential question that guides the eighth grade art curriculum.  This question is explored through a series of sketch assignments, art observations, class discussions, and two major projects. The first project is an acrylic painting that used the theme of silhouette and sky as a vehicle to explore concepts of choice and personal aesthetic. The second project,  “Me, Myself and I”, is an open medium triptych project where students explore a symbolic object or place from different perspectives (observational, expressionistic, and intellectual/imaginative) in three separate works.  In the spring, students focus on a collaborative design project for their fabric graduation banner.   Each student contributes design ideas during the process and works with their classmates to construct the banner, sewing an individualized element to represent themselves within the overall banner composition.  Students also spend time working on charcoal still life drawings of symbolic objects and etchings following the theme of symbolic places.  These projects encourage students to think deeply, observe thoughtfully, and strengthen their skills and craftsmanship, as they each work to develop their own unique artistic voice.

Throughout Middle School, library instruction focuses on the skills and strategies necessary for students to become skillful and ethical researchers.  Areas of study include:  conducting effective web-based searches, determining reliability of websites, avoiding plagiarism, navigating databases, citing sources, accessing relevant information, note taking, and acting responsibly when gathering and using information.  At each grade level, students are given opportunities to use materials, information, and strategies to complete writing assignments for content area classes.  Students are taught an information search process which they use to complete research assignments.
Students in grades 6 through 8 further their education in fitness, recreational activities, body movement, individual and team sports. Through ongoing assessment of personal fitness levels, students monitor their own progress toward the attainment of lifelong personal fitness goals. The physical, social, and emotional aspects of lifelong health are examined and students practice individual sports that promote the attainment of individual fitness goals.