Getting to know this year's Chinese guest teacher
One of the highlights of seventh grade is Early America Day in November. After weeks of independent work, each student becomes a living historian in the role of a significant individual from colonial and early American history, the time period at the heart of seventh grade humanities. In other classes, students delve deeper into abstract thinking and complex topics. Algebra is at the heart of math classes. In science, students build wings to study airflow, investigate and track weather patterns and experiment with wind turbines, among other investigations. A trip to the Metropolitan Opera, the introduction of Latin, the seventh/eighth grade play and a spectacular penciled self-portrait add artistic and cultural texture to the year.
Seventh grade students explore the theme of change as it pertains to history, literature and themselves. We start by looking at what happens when different cultures meet, focusing in particular on American Indians, Europeans and Africans. Coming-of-age stories form the backdrop for our study of the American Revolution, as students look at the issue of independence in literature, history and our world. Finally, students explore the theme of conflict through examples from literature, the antebellum South and contemporary society.
In Humanities, students develop reading, writing, thinking, speaking and information skills. Through a variety of literary genres students build an understanding of theme, symbolism and tone; they read primary and secondary historical sources for main ideas and supporting details. They are guided in organizing their study materials and in taking effective notes. Gaining map and geography proficiency, understanding time lines and dates, and learning the research process are central. Students work independently on long-range projects including Early America Day in the fall and a more formal research paper in the spring.
In past years, literature selections have included April Morning, Sees Behind Trees, The Light in the Forest, The Crucible, Seedfolk, To Kill a Mockingbird, To Be a Slave, and a Shakespeare play.
A highlight of the year occurs on Early America Day on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when each seventh grader assumes the identity of an individual from the early days of European settlement. Early America Day offers students a chance to hone their skills in research, organization and public speaking. Dressed in colonial costumes, students visit classrooms and offices to address enthusiastic audiences and to share their knowledge about influential people from the past.
This course fosters students’ natural curiosity through a series of developmentally appropriate hands-on activities that allow them to practice laboratory skills and gain an appreciation for and working understanding of key energy concepts. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, students make observations, record data and write formal reports utilizing spreadsheets and graphing programs. During the fall study of meteorology, student research topics of their choosing, prepare responses ranging from models to Power Points, and make presentations to the class. They also investigate energy transformation and conservation by building generators powered by the wind, integrating engineering design and core science concepts. This same integration occurs again during other projects: investigating astronomy; building and programming robots; and designing and launching rockets to test aerodynamic principles and Newton’s laws of motion.
In seventh grade, students are placed in either pre-algebra or algebra I, in sections that best match their needs. Teachers guide students to hone their procedural skills as they move beyond operations involving whole numbers, decimals and fractions and transition into algebraic reasoning. All seventh grade mathematics classes focus on equations and mathematical reasoning as expressed through many types of numeric, geometric and conceptual forms. Our classes emphasize the meaning and concepts of math, often engaging students in ways that are both challenging and fun. One of the highlights of the year is an independent research project in statistics. Every student chooses a focus question and formulates a hypothesis. After collecting and analyzing data, the students prepare presentations and a written summary of their results, using mathematical language to explain the proof of their hypotheses.
A significant strand in the seventh grade program focuses on portraiture and self-identity. Students design and write their own Cree naming shields, carefully describing themselves in symbols and words. Other projects concentrate on design elements in black and white, ranging from Pop art to photography, optical design, and portraiture. Lessons about Pop art lead to the creation of optical designs. Experimenting with different drawing techniques, students find their own style. The culminating project in seventh grade is a realistic 16 x 24 inch self-portrait rendered in pencil and following the techniques of the artist Chuck Cross.
Seventh grade music is a joyous exploration into different genres, with an emphasis on experiential hands-on activities. All students learn the mountain dulcimer and listen and respond to contemporary recordings suggested by the entire class. They learn to analyze this music with each other, using appropriate musical terminology. An introduction to the 12-bar blues includes listening to exemplary players of this music, learning to identify the form of the music and creating original compositions. Seventh graders take trip to New York City's Metropolitan Opera (pictured). This is a great opportunity to compare and contrast different kinds of musical genres and to discuss the difference between recorded concerts and live performance.
Students participate in performance projects that visually represent principles and theories about acting: improvisations to learn acting technique; flexibility, decision-making and problem-solving skills; theater games to learn concentration, thinking quickly and adapting to the needs of the moment. Students are also exposed to playwriting, dramatic literature and oral and written critical assessments. In seventh and eighth grades, students have the opportunity to participate as actors or members of the stage crew for a major production that is performed in our black box theater in December.
The seventh grade is broken up in various ways depending on the activities chosen for the class. Students participate in field hockey, soccer, flag football and Frisbee in the fall; basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, juggling and floor hockey in the winter; and softball, baseball, badminton and lacrosse in the spring. They also play many large group games as a whole grade throughout the year. In addition, seventh grade students have the opportunity to participate in daily team practices and play team sports against other schools. The sports offered are soccer, field hockey and cross-country in the fall; basketball, squash and swimming in the winter; and lacrosse, softball, baseball and tennis in the spring.
In seventh grade, students continue to expand their knowledge of Chinese language and culture through a theme-based curriculum. Some of the topics include the celebration of birthdays, daily routine, clothing, houses, rooms and household items. By learning to talk about these topics, students are introduced to a number of major concepts such as word order, modifiers and the use of prepositions. Through targeted language instruction, students are encouraged to gain oral proficiency that enables them to talk about each other’s birthdays, ask permission, find out what someone is doing, inquire about and express opinions, etc. Traditional and modern Chinese culture is introduced by way of hands-on activities that complement each thematic unit. Some cultural highlights include tea tasting, Duanwu sachet making, and a field trip to the Yale University Art Gallery. Students may be grouped by ability.
After extensive review and reinforcement of previously learned material, students continue to expand their knowledge of French vocabulary and grammar. They are introduced to a new set of regular verbs, many more irregular verbs and the passé composé. Francophone culture throughout the world continues to be emphasized. Special projects may include poetry memorization for the COLT Poetry Contest, DVDs, French cuisine and a short reader. Students may be grouped by ability.
After a thorough review of the previous year's material, students continue to expand their knowledge of Spanish grammar and vocabulary. They are introduced to reflexive verbs, indirect object pronouns, familiar commands, comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and the preterite tense. Projects, readings, videos and discussions heighten their appreciation of Hispanic culture. Special activities may include participating in the COLT Poetry Contest, creating a Day of the Dead craft, researching and sampling Hispanic cuisine, hosting guest speakers and planning fiestas. Students may be grouped by ability.
Students become familiar with the basic grammatical concepts of the Latin language, early Roman history and various cultural topics such as family, slavery and travel. Their interest in, and awareness of, Roman culture and civilization are enhanced by reading the continuous narrative about the lives and adventures of the Cornelius family in the Ecce Romani IA textbook. Students become quickly proficient in reading lengthy stories in Latin and inducing the general grammatical and syntactical rules from the specifics found in the passages. Attention is also paid to modern influences from the Roman world, such as English words derived from Latin, Latin sayings and the vestiges of Roman culture in our own. During their first year of study, students master three declensions of nouns, first and second declension adjectives, the present and imperfect tenses for all four conjugations and numerous irregular verbs, prepositions, adverbs, and many elementary syntactical rules. Special projects may include poetry recitation, creation of a Latin game, making of Roman lamps, and story bags of Roman Kings and early Republican heroes.
The sixth grade Festival of the World caps a yearlong study of global cultures, religions and geography. Each student studies a different country, creating a range of informational and artistic projects, including a model of a famous landmark.
Assistant Head of School
Beth Mello oversees the school's curriculum development; diversity, inclusion and social justice initiatives; and faculty professional development.