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.

English

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.

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.

Library

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.

Math

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.

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.

Science

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.

Social Studies

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.

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.

Wellness

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.