- Why a K-8 School?
- How we Teach – the Socratic Method
- Curriculum Overview K-5
- Curriculum Overview 6-8
- Specialist Curriculum Overview
- Professional Development
- Field Studies/Outdoor Education
- Our Library Program
- Learning Specialist
- School Psychologist
- Extended Day Program and Clubs
- Community Service Program
THE UPPER SCHOOL PROGRAM
Black Pine Circle’s Upper School faculty creates ways to engage students in their own learning and in the school’s community. Students research their own questions, assess their own writing, and reflect on their own work. Teachers foster student inquiry and allow for student voice, engaging students in the creation of a truly welcoming school culture in which students take risks and practice intellectual generosity.
During this dynamic developmental time, young adolescents require a careful balance of challenge and support. Our advisory program allows small groups of students to meet weekly with an advisor, checking in about concerns, reflecting on academic and social progress, and covering social-emotional learning topics. Our eighth grade MasterWorks project allows each student’s time here to culminate in a project reflective of his or her interests and passions. Throughout the school year, students organize dances, write plays, and conduct science experiments. We gather as a whole Upper School community once a week in Assembly to share in performances, we plan Outdoor Education trips for each grade level, and we do Service Learning projects at school and in the world. Overall, we could not be prouder of the questions our students continue to ask. The richness of their ideas infuses all aspects of middle school life.
HUMANITIES In Sixth Grade:
Sixth Grade Humanities includes English and History and the intersection between the two disciplines. In Humanities, we read, think, ask questions, discuss, and write about literature and history in an effort to understand larger themes, to make connections, and to interpret information.
Sixth Grade Humanities emphasizes:
• Learning to work together
• Fostering curiosity
• Encouraging the love of literature
• Learning skills that help students read for understanding and meaning
• Asking good questions that engender critical thinking
• Developing and articulating ideas in writing
• Developing a writer’s voice
• Learning to self-assess
The emphasis on learning to read for comprehension, deeper understanding, and inference is at the heart of the English program. Students will think, discuss, and write about the setting, characters, plot, theme, and writing style of the novels we read in class, as well as talk about them in light of the theme, how do journeys change us?
Students will also talk about the novels as documents that reflect the times in which they were written. The novels we will read in fall may include Weedflower, Boy, Seedfolk, The View from Saturday, One Crazy Summer, Call of the Wild, and Watership Down. In winter we will read Inside the Walls of Troy and The Odyssey in conjunction with our unit on ancient Greece; the spring curriculum will include either To Kill a Mockingbird or
In History, we study the development of early humans and the agrarian revolution before delving into the rich civilizations of Sumer, classical Greece, and China during the Qin and Han dynasties. Through studying geography, economics, political structures, and culture we will examine the relationships between people and their environments, the development and destruction of societies, conflict and resolution, the vision humans have of their own journey, and the question of how we understand history (how do we know?).
Writing is a major part of the Humanities program. Students write often in journals and explore language through their own writing, through studying other authors, through learning about and using literary devices, and through writing and reading poetry. Students will also learn and practice writing a simple structure for an expository paragraph, one that proposes and supports a thesis using a topic sentence, three or four examples, and a conclusion. Grammar and vocabulary are integrated into the yearlong program.
SCIENCE AND MATH In Sixth Grade
What role do mathematics and science play in our everyday lives? How do scientists study their surroundings? How do we use mathematics to describe the world around us and solve problems? 6th grade math and science is taught as a core program to integrate the two subjects. We base science learning on careful observation, questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, and hands-on activities. Students engage their natural curiosity to look at the world through scientists’ lenses and practice the skills scientists need to explore the world around them. Science lessons regularly incorporate math topics, such as measurement, graphing, scale, data analysis, etc. Curiosity also drives our studies in mathematics. Students explore new topics through the Socratic method of questioning and discovery. As students learn new math concepts, they apply them directly to our science investigations or to solving problems from the real world. We regularly integrate technology into the program as well, and students will work on math and science projects on our portable laptop station and in the Black Pine Circle computer lab.
Science Topics and Questions of Exploration:
- Geology: What forces shape the Earth? How does the Earth shape how we live? Topics in Geology will include: the rock cycle, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, seasons, weather, the water cycle, oceanography, and maps. We focus specifically on the geology of California and the Bay Area.
- Density and Heat Transfer: How does density influence our atmosphere and ocean circulation? How do scientists study convection in the Earth’s mantle? These physical science concepts are key in understanding many of Earth’s processes and students will learn about them in many hands-on lab activities.
- Engineer It!: How do engineers plan and design structures or machines to fill a specific purpose? What math skills do engineers need? Throughout the year, students face engineering challenges related to our topics of study, such as building a seismically sound bridge or designing blades for a wind turbine, where they will use their own creativity and problem solving skills. Students learn to apply skills in geometry and scale drawing to reinforce our studies of mathematics.
- Learning About Learning: How do humans learn? What hinders and helps our learning? Students begin to take more responsibility for their own learning throughout the middle school years, and an understanding of learning can help them navigate this tricky transition. In this unit, students study the brain and examine different learning styles and multiple intelligences.
- History of Science and Mathematics: When and where did important mathematical and scientific developments occur in history? How did a culture’s scientific knowledge (or lack of it) affect how they lived? As students study ancient civilizations in social studies, we explore the role that science and math played in those civilizations.
- Current Topics in Science: What are scientists presently researching? How is new scientific information and technology changing the way we live? Science is always on the verge of new discoveries about our world and the changes occurring within it. Students are encouraged to keep abreast of current topics in science and have periodic assignments to report on “Science in the News” topics.
- Science Fair: All students participate in the Black Pine Circle Science Fair held in the evening on April 22nd. Projects are completed primarily during class time and students also utilize the Black Pine Circle library and tech lab. Topics and themes for the science fair are decided later in the year based on topics covered in class and student interest.
- Gardening: What is our connection to the land? What are the benefits of caring for the garden and of caring for the planet in general? All science classes work regularly with the Black Pine Circle garden specialist, using the Black Pine Circle garden as an outside laboratory to explore various science topics and themes of stewardship.
- Sex Education: A puberty education specialist visits Black Pine Circle for one week and covers reproductive anatomy and physiology, birth control methods, sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional and psychological aspects of sexuality, dating and other issues associated with adolescence. More information on this unit is sent home before it is presented.
- Field Science Program: Sixth Graders spend five days and four nights at the Headlands Institute, located in the Marin Headlands, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The natural outdoor setting at the Headlands Institute gives students opportunities to observe and learn about the natural world in a more immediate way than what they experience in the regular classroom.
Math Topics and Questions of Exploration
- Number and Operations: Why do we use the base ten system? How are fractions, decimals, and percents related to each other? Why do we need negative numbers? Sixth graders practice computation and estimation as they review the four operations and their relationships with each other. We use hands-on activities and real world applications to help students solidify their conceptual understanding with fractions, decimals, and percents. In addition to learning the skills of computation, students will use manipulatives and visual explorations to explore patterns in numbers and investigate the reasons behind the algorithms we use.
- Measurement: How do we measure the world around us? Why are accurate measurements important? We will explore measurements of length, area, volume, mass, and temperature using the metric system in all science activities. We also investigate the customary system of measurement, precision in measurement, scientific notation, and scale drawings.
- Pre-Algebra: How can patterns be represented by functions? Why do we use variables? The sixth grade mathematics curriculum is designed to aid students in making the transition from elementary mathematics to algebra in Seventh and Eighth Grade. It provides an in-depth presentation of the prerequisite skills, concepts, and problem-solving processes to help students become comfortable with and successful in algebra.
- Data Analysis and Probability: How is data collected and organized? What can we interpret from our data? How can we present our data to others? Students regularly apply skills of data analysis in science experiments and in preparing for the science fair.
- Geometry: How do we describe the spatial world around us? Students investigate circles, triangles, lines, and angles.
- Mental Math: When do I need to be able to do math quickly and in my head in the real world? Students will practice mental math skills for real life skills like shopping and calculating a tip in a restaurant. Students will have timed assessments in mental math with the goal of improving their speed and accuracy.
- Problem Solving: What strategies can we use to solve problems? How can we best explain our solutions to others? We explore a variety of strategies and approaches to problem solving. Our goal is to promote flexible thinking and creating problem solving. Regular examples of math problems from real life will highlight how mathematics is used every day. Students practice showing their work and explaining their thinking through drawings, written explanations, and step-by-step lists of mathematical computations used in their solutions.
Assessment in Sixth Grade Science and Math
Students are assessed on the following:
- Class Participation: Students are expected to be actively and constructively engaged in class activities, labs, and discussions.
- Portfolio: Students keep a record of their work for the semester in a portfolio kept in the classroom. Periodically, students are asked to reflect on their work throughout the semester to look for signs of learning.
- Journal: In both math and science, students need to communicate their ideas through writing. Students respond to a variety of journal topics asking them to explain their thinking on mathematical ideas and issues in science.
- Lab or Activity Write-Ups: As much as possible, discovery is through hands-on activities and observation and experimentation. Lab write-ups will be kept for most experiments recording observations, procedures, results and conclusions.
- Projects and Reports: Projects are evaluated using rubrics to provide students with feedback. Students will often be asked to use rubrics to evaluate their own work.
- Tests and Quizzes: These are not a major focus in 6th grade but assessments are given regularly to show students how they are doing in a particular skill area.
- Challenge Work and Additional Practice: We recognize that students in sixth grade are arriving at Black Pine Circle at different levels of preparedness and are often on a wide spectrum of developmental readiness for some of the topics covered. Some students might need additional practice on topics, while others might be ready for some additional challenge work. Curriculum is designed to offer students opportunities to delve deeper into topics, and challenge problems and projects are offered regularly to all students.
- Homework: Regular homework will be assigned. Once a week, students will have an “interactive” assignment designed to help students practice communicating about the skills we are learning. These assignments might be to play a game, share a problem from class with another family member, or conduct a simple science experiment at home.
SEVENTH AND EIGHTH GRADE
As Seventh and Eighth Graders continue their development as critical thinkers and as active community members, our program continues to nurture this growth. Students take increased responsibility for their own learning, taking on longer-term projects and greater elements of choice in their work. For example, Seventh Graders map the world by heart and eighth graders perform at Drama Night. Our Outdoor Education programming continues with a Seventh Grade leadership retreat and an Eighth Grade field science week. We carefully advise students and families about their high school options and are always pleased to see BPC graduates attending a wide array of high schools—a testament to the diversity and individuality of BPC students.
ENGLISH in Seventh Grade:
In Seventh Grade English, students bring the reading and writing skills introduced in Sixth Grade English to a more complex and demanding level.
- Master strategies of observing, interpreting, connecting, questioning, and synthesizing texts;
- Learn skills of expression (both verbal and written) that benefit students in all subjects, not just English class;
- Become familiar with the process of writing the five-paragraph essay, including prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing;
- Strengthen oral communication skills through discussions and presentations;Develop self-awareness about individual strengths and weaknesses and improve skills of recognizing and fixing errors in written expression;
- Identify, understand, and interpret figurative language;
- Recognize intertextual themes and authorial or societal concerns;
- Become critical consumers of literary productions;
- Consider the ways in which the skills used in critical consumption of literature, when mastered, can apply to various art forms.
Along the way, we cover:
- Elements of a story (parts of a plot, types of characters, differing points of view, etc.);
- Extrinsic factors in interpreting a text, including the life of the author and the historical or social contexts in which the work was created;
- Different forms of prose and poetry as well as various genres of fiction;
- Archetypes, the hero’s journey, the theory of the collective unconscious, psychoanalytic concepts and the ways in which these ideas manifest in cultural productions.
Students write in journals regularly in order to improve skills in developing voice, expanding ideas, and revising for clarity. The class receives a new vocabulary word almost daily, learning vocabulary with a focus on word roots. This way, students do not merely memorize words and meanings, but learn to “unpack” unfamiliar words by using clues within and outside of the word itself. We incorporate regular grammar exercises into class, encouraging retention by anchoring the lessons both in literature and in writing assignments. Students have opportunities for group work and presentations, learning from each other as well as from the teacher. Finally, an interdisciplinary approach reiterates the value of the goals of an English class outside of the classroom.
The focus for the entire curriculum is the American Dream. We examine how authors, characters, and the students themselves define the American Dream. We also think about how the American Dream might be different for diverse groups within the United States. Students consider the (im)possibility of achieving the American Dream and question whether the American Dream is uniquely American or if it is an intrinsically human—and therefore universal—aspiration.
The seventh grade curriculum considers group identity, culture, the nation, and the world. Works this year might include speeches and letters by Martin Luther King, Jr.; “The New Colossus,” “I Hear America Singing,” “I, Too, Sing America,” “next to of course god america i,” “American Tune,” The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence; The Westing Game; American Born Chinese; Of Mice and Men; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; Romeo and Juliet; West Side Story; The Great Gatsby and A Raisin in the Sun. This list may change, but should give an idea of the scope of the course.
ENGLISH in Eighth Grade:
In Eighth Grade English, students hone the reading and writing skills developed in seventh grade.
- Continue practicing strategies of observing, interpreting, connecting, questioning, and synthesizing texts;
- Master the process of writing the five-paragraph essay, including prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing;
- Improvise the five-paragraph essay, gaining fluency with in-class essays;Participate in writing workshops, using peer review to practice giving and receiving constructive criticism;
- Learn standard research and citation methods;
- Polish oral communication skills through discussion and presentations;
- Develop self-awareness about individual strengths and weaknesses and improve means of recognizing and fixing errors in written expression;
- Recognize inter-textual themes and authorial or societal concerns;
- Become critical consumers of literary productions;
- Consider the ways in which the skills used in critical consumption of literature, when mastered, can apply to various art forms.
As in seventh grade, eighth graders write in journals regularly in order to improve skills in developing voice, expanding ideas, and revising for clarity. Students continue learning vocabulary via word roots and etymology, acquiring strategies for approaching unfamiliar words with confidence. We incorporate regular grammar exercises into class every week and we encourage retention by anchoring the lessons both in literature and in writing assignments.
We use various critical methods including formalism, structuralism, deconstructionism, and psychoanalytic theory. We also use Marxist, feminist/gender/queer, and ethnic/post-colonialist theories to understand elements of identity and diversity in the literary works. Students participate in group work and class presentations in order to teach each other the ways in which different voices, disciplines, socio-historical events, and other cultural productions interact with the literature of a particular period.
The curriculum in eighth grade English is built around utopias and dystopias, using the seventh grade English curriculum theme of the American Dream as a point of departure. Students observe how authorial intent behind dystopian or utopian societies fit into and depart from the concerns that supposedly typify the respective time frames. They analyze and criticize the lessons readers are expected to absorb and apply to their own lives and personal moralities. After students consider real historical dystopias and (attempts at) utopias, they then posit reasons for why modernity and technology feed utopias and dystopias within the speculative genre of science fiction.In addition to a unit on poetry, works this year may include “City on a Hill,” “The Lottery,” “Shooting an Elephant,”"The Veldt,” “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” “Harrison Bergeron,” “A Modest Proposal,” The Garden of Earthly Delights, Utopia, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, The Tempest, Brave New World, 1984, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Erewhon, Herland, Gulliver’s Travels, and Wuthering Heights. This list will certainly change, but should give an idea of the scope of the course.
MATH in SEVENTH and EIGHTH GRADE – ALGEBRA INTEGRATED WITH GEOMETRY
The Mathematics curriculum at Black Pine Circle provides an important foundation for strengthening every student’s math abilities and overall math awareness. The main elements of this foundation in seventh and eighth are Algebra, Geometry, and Applied Mathematics.
Studying Algebra can help students in many ways. It helps them to organize their thoughts in order to solve mathematical problems that they meet in their everyday life. It will prepare them to continue their studies in mathematics and science. Whatever they choose to do in the future– from running a business to doing scientific or social research– they will need to use algebra. It will generally strengthen their mental powers by encouraging them to master a complex system of interlocking ideas.
We start with the regular course of algebra in seventh grade. The curriculum includes students’ explorations of the main algebraic concepts and processes so that students can understand the concepts of variable, expression, polynomial, equation, inequality, ratio, proportion, real number and function; develop confidence in solving linear equations, inequalities and their systems using concrete, informal and formal methods, in doing operations on polynomials and equations; and apply algebraic methods to solve a variety of real-world and mathematical problems.
The eighth grade Algebra course includes explorations of algebraic concepts such as algebraic fractions, functions, systems of equations, inequalities and their systems, radicals and quadratic equations, functions along with processes related to them. As a result, students are able to represent situations and number patterns with graphs, rules, equations, and inequalities and investigate the interrelationships of these representations. The developed mathematical apparatus gives students a chance to solve a variety of mathematical, science and real-world problems.
In both seventh and eighth grade, we study the geometry of one, two, and three dimensions as a deductive system in which a few simple statements are assumed and then used to derive more complex ones. The BPC geometry course introduces all of the geometric concepts usually presented in a traditional course in high school geometry in an investigative and application-oriented format. Students will find out the beauty of geometry as a deductive system and develop an appreciation of geometry as a means of describing the physical world. We will consider, for example, how astronomers have used geometry to measure the distance from the earth to the moon, how artists have used it to develop the theory of perspective, and how chemists have used it to understand the structure of molecules. We will also consider some interesting contributions to the subject that were made by the ancient Greeks (e.g. Euclid, who systematized the ideas that we will study), in India during the Middle Ages, and in Europe during the Renaissance. And we will survey the “non- Euclidean” geometry developed in the 19th century and see how Einstein used it in his theory of the nature of space. Students will have many opportunities to use their imagination.
- Identify, describe, compare and classify geometric figures
- Visualize and represent geometric figures with special attention to developing spatial sense
- Represent and solve problems using geometric models, properties and relationships.
Since geometry is a logical subject, students need to take time to become thoroughly acquainted with the ideas contained within it. Therefore, in 7th grade, students will explore fundamental ideas: points, lines, segments, planes, angles, parallel lines, and some basic postulates and theorems; they will study congruent and similar triangles, trigonometric ratios and Pythagorean Theorem; they will learn about perimeters and areas, surface areas and volumes. In 8th grade, the study of geometry includes congruency and similarity, quadrilaterals, regular polygons, the right triangles, circle and its relationships; coordinate geometry, areas and volumes.
We will use two textbooks as references: Merrill Informal Geometry, Glencoe Algebra 1: Integration, Applications, and Connections.
Many people, not just students, wonder why mathematics is important. The Black Pine Circle math curriculum is designed to answer those questions through integration, application, and connections. Since mathematics is the key to our understanding of the physical world, we will explore some topics in physics, biology and chemistry through the science and math labs. We have explained “why” and “what” we are going to study in mathematics class. But the main question is “How are we going to do this?” “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” The message of this Chinese proverb is that to learn with understanding, students should engage actively with mathematical ideas and materials. Students learn mathematics by doing it. Thus we provide and encourage:
An activity-oriented approach to mathematics learning. We use the Socratic method of asking questions, which leads students to discover a result. Students are encouraged to actively participate, to think, to question, and to seek understanding. As each new concept unfolds, students are given an opportunity to investigate the ideas by using a wide variety of manipulative materials, activities, and projects. Then, through guided discussion, the students are led to a deeper understanding of the ideas and their relations to the overall structure of mathematics. Following the investigation and discussion, students will have sufficient problem-solving practice to develop speed and accuracy.
Careful provision for individual differences. Throughout each topic, students are challenged to do what they can do. To experience individual success, we provide an environment that stresses cooperation and communication rather than competition. For this purpose we combine independent work or small-group work with a whole class discussion. Our goal is to teach students to be independent learners. In this case, skill development is necessary. The topics in each course are arranged according to the level of independence that is required. The early topics can be used to develop skills; the later ones require their use. Students have the opportunity to take part in an additional enrichment program. This program includes Math Accelerated Teams (MATs) for grades 7 and 8, the Math Club for grades 4- 5-6, and the Math Team for grades 6-7-8. In the Math Club we will go beyond the foundation of mathematics to more advanced areas of geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and number theory.
Emphasis on what students should know and be able to do in the field of mathematics. We believe that there are fundamental mathematical concepts that must be understood by each student with sharpness and clarity. When truly understood, they provide powerful tool for extending knowledge. A long-range planning chart of these concepts is given to assist students and their parents in making individual efforts and assignments according to needs, abilities, and time available for each student. The individual assignments can be remedial, regular or advanced.
Learning strategies and techniques. We’ll use the Most Difficult First strategy or the Pretests strategy for highly capable learners allowing them to work on more challenging activities instead of the grade-level-work. We’ll use the Learning Contract strategy for students that are likely to learn the material much faster than their age peers. Such students can form the Math Accelerated Teams (MATs) to work on tasks at their own challenge level and pace.
Homework: Homework will be assigned five times per week in 7th and 8th grade for further mastery of the material we cover in class. It is due the next class unless otherwise specified.
Tests: A test will be given after the completion of each topic or chapter. Tests will be announced in advance. Also, there will be mid-year and end-of-year tests.
Seventh Grade Curriculum:
Unit A Review of the Prerequisite Concepts from Pre-Algebra;
Unit 1 Introduction to Algebra- the Language and Tools of Algebra;
Unit 2 Working with Real Numbers
Unit 3 Solving Linear Equations;
Unit 4 Using Proportional Reasoning;
Unit 5 Graphing Relations and Functions;
Unit 6 Analyzing Linear Equations and Slopes;
Unit 7 Solving Linear Inequalities;
Unit 8 Solving Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
Unit 9 The end-of-year Review
Unit 10 Geometry: points, lines, segments, planes, angles, triangles, polygons, perimeters and areas of polygons, parallel and perpendicular lines and their slopes, Pythagorean Theorem, motion geometry-flips, turns and slides, congruent and similar triangles, triangle inequalities, trigonometric ratios, surface areas and volumes of solids.
Textbooks: Glencoe California Algebra 1 (2008) & Merrill Informal Geometry
Eighth Grade Curriculum:
Unit 1 Analyzing Linear Equations;
Unit 2 Solving Systems of Linear Equations;
Unit 3 Solving Linear Inequalities;
Unit 4 Polynomials;
Unit 5 Factoring;
Unit 6 Quadratic and Exponential Functions;
Unit 7 Radical Expressions and Triangles;
Unit 8 Rational Expressions and Equations;
Unit 9 Statistics and Probability.
Textbooks: Glencoe California Algebra 1 (2008) & Merrill Informal Geometry
SCIENCE in SEVENTH and EIGHTH GRADE
Science isn’t about memorizing “big words.” Science is about being curious, asking questions, exploring data, asking more questions, researching, and making connections between what you learn and what you already know.
The most important goal of science class is to foster students’ curiosity about how the world works and help students develop basic explanations for natural phenomena, as well as the ability to ask good questions and apply experimental procedures to collect and analyze data. The curriculum is based around some basic topics, while allowing for the flexibility to explore areas of student inquiry, interest, and current events.
Seventh Grade Science – Focus on Life Science – Includes:
- Classification and Small Things – This unit introduces taxonomy and highlights the evolutionary relationships between all living organisms. Students will explore microscopes and sizes ranging into the micro- and nanometers.
- Things That Make Us Sick (good and bad microbes) - Students will study various viruses, bacteria, protists and fungi in the context of harming (and helping!) human health. This section includes a focus on the immune system and epidemiology.
- Cells and Biotechnology – Students will examine different kinds of cells, learn about their most important functioning parts and cell division, investigate DNA and its role in protein synthesis, and use their newfound knowledge to explore biotechnology. There will be ample opportunity for discussion as we consider the great rewards and inherent ethical considerations of these new technologies.
- Invertebrate Animals – Focusing on evolutionary patterns, students will explore the various phyla of invertebrate animals as well as the mind-boggling diversity of adaptions such organisms have developed.
- Vertebrate animals – Students will explore the organization and physiology of the human body as it compares to other vertebrate animals, highlighting the complementary nature of structure and function, and some basic embryology.
- Plants – Students will study the parts of a typical plant, then move on to studying the life cycle of angiosperms using genetically modified Wisconsin Fast Plants.
- Ecology and Populations – Students will study how organisms in ecosystems exchange energy and nutrients among themselves and with the environment.
- Science Fair – Seventh grade students will develop a science fair project requiring both background research into the chosen subject area and an experiment that can be demonstrated at the Fair. There will be intermediate due dates for various parts of the project and the final project will be due by the date of the Science Fair in April.
Eighth Grade Science – Focus on Physical Science – includes:
- The Periodic Table of Yosemite – The 8th grade class (often) spends one week together at Yosemite National Park. There, in addition to reviewing the basic principles upon which ecosystems are organized and the components of an ecosystem, students will create a “periodic table of Yosemite,” looking for elements in biotic and abiotic parts of the park.
- Volume and Mass – Students will review measurement skills and practice their safe lab technique in this short introductory unit that introduces the concept of physical versus chemical change.
- Mass Changes in Closed Systems – Students will explore a wide variety of ways mass is conserved in closed systems, and potentially not conserved in open systems. Experimental design will be a focus – including the use of histograms while looking as class data and effective error analysis.
- Characteristic Properties – Students will investigate properties, such as boiling point and density, of various substances.
- Solubility – Students will study solvents, solutes and concentrations as they explore the solubility of various solids, liquids, and gases.
- Separation of Mixtures – After learning various separation techniques, such as distillation, students will engage in an open-ended inquiry lovingly called Sludge. They will separate and identify the component parts of their “mystery mix.”
- Compounds and Elements – Students will begin to explore chemical reactions, compounds and elements and determine how atoms get together to form molecules.
- Atomic Model of Matter & Periodic Table – Students will delve into the details of atomic models, learning how its component parts influence bonding and element characteristics.
- Various Topics – We will explore topics in Pressure, Energy, Radioactivity, and / or Forces as time permits.
The eighth grade curriculum is based around the IPS, or Introductory Physical Science, curriculum by Uri Haber-Schaim. Throughout the curriculum, abstract exploration will run concurrent with practical applications of the chemistry – from making cheese, to sugar in lemonade, paint, fireworks, balloons and more. Student will be keep a lab notebook.
Both 7th and 8th grade science Includes:
- Garden class – Working with the BPC Garden Specialist on regularly scheduled “Garden Days” we use the garden as an outdoor classroom to look at themes in the context of the garden. Participation in Garden Days (and the garden journal) is factored into this part of students’ science grade.
- Sex Education – An outside specialist will cover reproductive anatomy and physiology, birth control methods, sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional and psychological aspects of sexuality, dating and other issues associated with adolescence. More information on this unit will be sent home before it is presented.
SPANISH LANGUAGE STUDIES in the SIXTH, SEVENTH and EIGHTH GRADE
The goal of the Spanish program is to give our students the ability and confidence to speak Spanish. We work on the four basic language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. As the course progresses, there is increasing emphasis on oral communication. Students are expected to actively engage in our group conversations. During the year, students make oral presentations, write their own dialogues, invent games, plan the downtown of fictitious cities, participate in role-plays, interviews, and more. Writing reports about Spanish-speaking countries will gives students knowledge about their geography, history, culture, daily life, and contributions to the arts. Field trips enhance their understanding and knowledge of Hispanic culture. This year, all eighth graders have the option to spend two weeks at an intensive language school in Costa Rica, living with host families and furthering their cultural understanding and language skills.
Ms. Catalina Lacy: Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Grade
The most important grammatical points to be covered:
• Present tense of regular verbs: ar, er, ir;
• Present tense of some irregular verbs;
• Possessive adjectives;
• Nouns, articles, and adjectives: gender & number;
• Interrogative words and construction of questions
• Telling time;
• Future tense using ir + a + verb;
• Vocabulary: greetings, weather expressions, numbers, food, school items;
• Linguistic sounds and corresponding symbols.
• Review and reinforcement of the material previously covered;
• Present tense of irregular verbs;
• Direct object pronouns;
• Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns;
• Prepositions of location;
• Commands (formal and familiar, affirmative and negative);
• Contrast between ser vs. estar, conocer vs. saber, pedir vs. preguntar,
• ir vs. venir;
• Preterite tense of regular verbs;
• Present progressive.
• Review and reinforcement of the material previously covered;
• Comparison of equality and inequality;
• Preterite and imperfect tense of regular & irregular verbs;
• Intransitive verbs and indirect object pronouns;
• Reflexive verbs and pronouns;
• Negative words;
• Introduction to present perfect tense;
• Introduction to the prepositions: por and para.
We use the textbook ¡En Español! ,designed for beginning and intermediate students. We use ¡En Español! as a guide for many different activities and exercises done at home. Other books to be used are: Mi Libro de Gramática Española, Action English Pictures (an action series picture sequences book), Primer Libro, Ya Escribimos, Así Escribimos, ¡A Escribir! , Exercises in Spanish Grammar I and II (writing exercise books for beginning Spanish). In addition to the books, there are many supplemental materials to which the students are exposed. e.g., Nuevos Destinos and Muzzy, a video language program.
Ms. Jacquin Sanchez: Seventh and Eighth Grade Spanish
Students in Seventh grade are using the ¡En español! program from McDougall and Littell. Each unit begins with a short video shot in the country where the chapter is set. This is a great way to introduce students to all of the various accents of Spanish-speakers. This system is designed for beginning and intermediate students. Your child has been assigned a ¡En español! book that will be returned at the end of the school year. The textbook is for them to keep as a guide for activities in class and for homework. The Más practica workbook is for them to keep as a guide for many different activities and exercises assigned as homework. In addition to the books, there are many supplemental materials to which the students are exposed. e.g., ¿Que tal? Scholastic Magazines and they will view documentaries when we do cultural units.
Students focus primarily on building conversation and comprehension skills through skits written by the students and reading. Throughout the year, students review the regular present tense verbs and learn the common irregular verbs and idiomatic expressions regularly used in conversations about daily activities at home, school, at restaurants and more. In addition to many reading, writing, speaking and listening activities relating to grammatical structures and vocabulary units, students participate in many free and guided conversations in Spanish about their interests and hobbies. Other activities, such as singing, cooking, art projects and field trips enhance skills and cultural understanding.
Students in both Seventh and Eighth Grade are using ¡En español! Textbook and Más practica workbook from Mc Dougall and Littell.
Homework should take between 20 to 40 minutes. During the year the students will be asked to research a topic or work on a specific project. Long-term assignments are also assigned at intervals in addition to regular homework. Because homework is an extension and/or reinforcement of what is covered in class, it is important to do it when is assigned. If an emergency arises and homework is not completed, a note from a parent with a brief explanation will be appreciated.
Short quizzes will be given on a regular basis. A test will be given after the completion of each chapter/unit or after we have covered a grammatical point. Dates for tests will be announced in advance.
Please make sure your child has a Spanish-English dictionary available at home.
Topics covered this year:
• Review and reinforcement of previously covered material;
• Present tense of irregular verbs;
• Direct object pronouns;
• Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns;
• Prepositions of location;
• Usage of verbs: ser/estar, saber/conocer, pedir/preguntar, ir/venir;
• Present progressive verb tense;
• Introduction to commands;
Students in Eighth Grade will continue using ¡En español! Each unit begins with a short video shot in the country where the chapter is set. This is a great way to introduce students to all of the various accents of Spanish-speakers. This system is designed for beginning and intermediate students. The textbook will keep traveling from the classroom to the house for homework. The Más practica workbook is for them to keep. Throughout the year, we review and reuse all of the vocabulary and grammatical structures learned in previous years. Eighth graders focus on learning the preterit and imperfect verb tenses in order to increase ability to talk about past events. We continue our free and guided conversations in Spanish about daily activities at home, school and out in the city. To enhance skills and cultural knowledge students will play games, learn Spanish songs, view subject related films, do art projects, go on to field trips and learn about the lives of many Hispanic famous artists and historic figures of the past and present.
Students in both Seventh and Eighth Grade are using ¡En español! textbook and Más Practica workbook from Mc Dougall and Littell.
Notebook, Homework, Quizzes Students each have their own cuaderno from ¡En Español that they are responsible for bringing to and from class and home each day. Students also have a section of their binder allocated to Spanish where they keep handouts and take notes during class. Notebooks are collected each semester and will be awarded a grade. Homework is assigned on a weekly basis, but not during weekends with the exception of some long-term projects. The academic planner is the best way for parents to keep track of Spanish homework. Late assignments are marked down one letter grade for each day they are late.
Topics covered this year:
• Review and reinforcement of previously covered material;
• Preterit tense of regular and irregular verbs;
• Imperfect tense;
• Negative words;
• Comparisons of equality and inequality;
• Indirect object pronouns and intransitive verbs;
• Introduction to prepositions: por and para;
HISTORY in SEVENTH GRADE
History – 1492
This year, we will investigate the watershed year of 1492 from all angles. There were vast, sophisticated societies throughout the world at that time. We will study some of the crucial cultural encounters and major social changes that affected each continent. We will compare and contrast the cultures as we seek diverse perspectives on major historical events. We will build on the students’ Sixth Grade study of the attributes of civilization as we study each culture in depth. Along the way, we will acquire tools for thinking like historians.
By narrowing the focus of our historical studies to a single time period and tying it together in the context of a major event in Western exploration and expansion, I try to present historical facts in way that is accessible to students who are at various stages of transition from predominantly
concrete thinking to abstraction and logical reasoning. For their research, students will use primary and secondary sources, including diaries, letters, periodicals, literature, artifacts, art, photographs, political cartoons, historical documents, and maps.
Students will focus their attention on investigating:
- What is a civilization? What causes civilizations to fall?
- How did geography shape lives and cultures in the past? How does it shape them today?
- What happened in 1492, and how can we connect what we learn about that to today’s world?
- What do the events of the past have to teach us about possible pathways to peace for our nation and our world?
- How do we find out the truth about things that happened long ago and far away
In addition, we will be learning five themes of geography – location, place, human-environmental interactions, movement and regions. Geographical literacy is a basic skill for global citizens, and so it will be the focus of the students’ culminating project of the year, when they will learn to draw a map of the world “by heart.”
HISTORY IN EIGHTH GRADE
United States History
Eighth Grade History will develop in the students’ minds a high-level timeline of major U.S. events, while working toward a deep understanding of twenty to thirty specific topics such as the Constitution, the Civil War, Japanese Internment, and the Civil Rights Era.
The foundation of the class is critical thinking. We will read thoughtfully, accept or debunk cause-and-effect propositions, and learn to question historical claims and sources. We will relate each event to the present, and to other events. Students will be challenged to develop arguments about history supported by evidence. The class will respect well-supported accounts, even if they are unconventional. ?
Along the way, students will develop several important skill sets. Students will learn how to participate in Socratic discussion, role play, and employ a variety of note-taking styles. They will also practice extracting main ideas and applying the principles of historiography to sources.
Our text, A People’s History of the United States, brings to life the extraordinary history of ordinary people who built the movements that made the United States what it is today. By studying stories of “the people,” we hope to instill a deep sense that students as individuals can make a difference, and that they have an important role to play as champions of social justice. The narrative style of the text is effective at generating thoughtful debate. Its use of first person accounts helps the students relate to the material and engages them on a personal, emotional level that is particularly effective with this age group. The text will be supplemented with reading selections from other texts, primary sources, selections from literature, guest speakers, videos, and other materials.
Four overarching themes will weave throughout our study this year.These are:
- Immigration and “Americanization” of immigrants
- Historiography (the study of history)
The ultimate goal of the class is to help the students become deep-thinking, active, skillful global citizens. Our class motto: “No sheeple!”
Eighth Grade History of Philosophy
In our History of Philosophy course, we explore the great notions of western philosophy from Ancient Greece and the pre-Socratics through the 20th century and philosophers such as Sartre and Camus. We actively practice critical thinking strategies in a Socratic seminar format, continuously probing for historical accuracy, original ideas, and substantiated conclusions. We also explore techniques in respectfully disagreeing with each other on a regular basis.
Students are supplied with developmentally appropriate translations of historic texts (e.g. Plato’s Apology), as well as worksheets developed by the instructor. To support our class discussions we also read fiction and analysis on the topic of philosophy, including the novel Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, which traces a teenage girl’s interaction with Western philosophers
Other texts used as reference materials and in the development of the course include:
Philosophy for Kids by David White
The Examined Life by David White
Philosophy: A Complete Course in a Book
Founders of Thought by Hare, Barnes, and Chadwick
Introducing Philosophy by Dave Robinson and Judy Groves
A History of Philosophy by Frederick Copleston
The Greek Philosophers W.C. Guthrie
Essays in Philosophy by R.G. Collingwood
The Pre-Socratics by Edward Hussey
The central theme of this course can be summed up by Socrates’ best- loved statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
While some Communications units (e.g., debate and journalism) focus directly on communication skills, many are devoted to developing students’ social, emotional, and learning intelligence.
The Sixth Grade Communications curriculum begins with a unit on the concepts of active and respectful listening and non-verbal communication, and examines conflict resolution through a series of “social-triangle” vignettes. In 6th grade, students also interview an older person from a different culture about the values, norms, roles, customs, and traditions that are important, and/or unique, to that culture, and present to the class on behalf of that culture.
The Seventh Grade Communications curriculum includes a unit on how advertisers, and the media in general, can manipulate public perception of what is normal, desirable, or important, and some specific techniques advertisers use to get their messages across successfully. In a separate unit, students learn about various thinking and learning styles, to see that there are many different “kinds of smart”, and that learners might prefer different ways of studying for tests or participating in discussions. This unit can also incorporate the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory to teach the concept of different personality types and of personality inventories in general. Along with learning about the various personality-type distinctions in the Myers-Briggs, students examine how these preferences can translate into styles for handling conflict, friendships, goals, and projects, and eventually can even help identify compatible career choices.
The Eighth Grade curriculum also includes a comprehensive drug education unit, in which students learn about “Uppers” (stimulants), “Downers” (sedatives), and “All-Arounders” (hallucinogens), and examine the physical and psychological relationship various drugs have to the brain, body, and behavior. Separately, by Winter Break students will complete a proposal for their MasterWork, an in-depth interdisciplinary project students work on at home but which includes some check-in and planning time in Communications class.
Goal: To discover how music is constructed, and why it moves us, by reading, writing, performing, listening to, composing, and analyzing music from a variety of genres and time periods. Through vocal performance, composition, movement, individual projects, and use of the piano keyboard, students develop a sequenced skill set with which to enhance their critical thinking and better enable them to explore their responses to music.
• The knowledge necessary to decode, sight-sing, write, and understand the effect of the elements of musical composition;
• Recognition of notes on the grand staff using both letter names and sol-fa syllables, the translation of these notes to the keyboard, an understanding of melodic structure, and the ability to compose and notate with correct standard notation;
• Performance of rhythmic names and time values in many meters;
• An understanding of scales, modes, keys, chords;
• Ear-training to develop the ability to sing intervals, melody, and basic harmonies;
• Categories and timbre recognition of instruments of the orchestra;
• Classic compositional forms and techniques
• Familiarity with major composers, time periods, and varied musical styles through listening, discussion and analysis;
• The social impact, instruments, and techniques of music in many cultures
Singing: vocal production, voice training, sight singing, improvisation, part songs, descants, ostinati; with musical repertoire ranging from renaissance to rock, musical theater, jazz and world music
Movement: mind-body experiences of musical concepts
Presentations: preparation of vocal repertoire for at least three Black Pine Circle music events in each grade, with incidental use of keyboard, recorder, dance, and instrumentalists
Piano keyboard: basic note and chord location; note reading, composition projects and performance assignments
Homework: periodic skill practice exercises, projects, small written reports and memorization of music
Glee: opportunity to join this advanced choral ensemble / show choir
The goal of the Upper School Art program is to instill in students an appreciation of art, both as creators and as viewers. This is achieved through instruction in specific skills, introduction to a broad range of media and materials, and exposure to the art of different times and cultures.
Art class focuses on students creating artwork, improving technical skills, experimenting with different media, critiquing their work informally, and having the opportunity to exhibit their work on an ongoing basis. Students view the work of many artists and cultures throughout history, thus developing an understanding of what goes into the making of art, a greater understanding of how life and art connect, and a sense of their own creative process.
Sixth graders study an artist of their choice, write a report on the artist, and make a piece of work in the style of the artist. The project culminates in an oral presentation to the class. The wealth of knowledge gained is built upon in seventh and eighth grades.
Students are required to keep sketchbooks as a place to express themselves , practice techniques, plan projects and write definitions, art language, information about artists. These become logs of the year’s work, and students can look back through them to see how their skills have improved over the year.
There will be occasional homework – to watch a special show, make a few sketches, look up an artist online, or visit a museum exhibit.
Projects this year may include:
Drawing : still life, self-portraits and figure drawing, landscapes, imaginary works
Design : logos, posters, tshirts, etc
Painting: color mixing and color theory, watercolor, tempera, acrylic, sandpainting
Textiles: weaving, sewing
Sculpture: wire, clay, paper mache, wood, junk
Student work will be exhibited throughout the year in our gallery, located in the hallway of the theater building.
Through a daily regimen of “vitamins,” Upper School PE classes teach and reinforce:
• proper warm up and stretching techniques
• basic knowledge, both physical and mental, of a wide range of sports methods and strategies that lead to successful team achievement
• types of communication employed in the athletic world
• strength training and aerobic fitness exercises
We encourage students to put forth their maximum effort and best attitude. Mistakes are a part of life and students are never ostracized while experimenting with movements or ideas with which they may not be familiar.
In order to maximize understanding of different sports, we focus on three sports annually. The first, second, and third quarters of the year will each be dedicated to a specific sport, while the fourth quarter will be used as a review session in which students get a more in depth experience through practical application of each sport.
Each unit will be sprinkled with recreational games and organized free time to allow students to pursue their personal athletic interests.
Theme: Creating an Identity through Physical Activity
Being new to the upper school often creates many identity crises among sixth graders. PE offers an opportunity for each student to develop a positive physical self-image, which will be either the starting point or continuance of a healthy lifestyle.
Theme: Pushing Past Limits
Students often fall into the trap of setting limits on themselves. Seventh graders will be challenged to extend themselves past any physical or mental limits they have built. There will be ample opportunity for students to break barriers they may have never approached otherwise.
Theme: Looking Ahead
Our eighth graders are at the point where they are starting or continuing to make decisions on which sports, if any, that they want to make a priority. For those that are focused on continuing a steady diet of competition PE provides an atmosphere of recreation as an outlet from their everyday commitments, while still providing everyday work on fundamentals. For those who are less interested in competition PE provides a great opportunity for students to experiment freely and perhaps gain a lifelong love of a sport or activity at a recreational level.
Black Pine Circle’s Upper School computer education program focuses on three areas of technology: basic skills, applications for productivity and presentation, and digital citizenship. We emphasize technology as a tool of, and not a substitute for, effective learning strategies.
Basic Skills: Students will refresh their skills and extend their learning using commonly available software and web tools. Students maintain their own folders and manage all navigation, printing, file creation, retrieval, saving and (local) networking. We work to demystify technology terms and concepts such as megabytes and gigabytes, URLs and domain names. Students also practice keyboarding using a self-pacing, auto-advancing computer program, typically Type-to-Learn 3. Experienced typists will use supplementary online typing activities that they can access from home or any library.
Applications: Students will use Microsoft Office tools (Word, PowerPoint, Excel), iLife programs (iMovie, Garageband, and iPhoto), and a variety of free web tools (Google Sites, SketchUp, wikis) to synthesis and present information. These applications will be used to support cross-curricular learning in other academic areas whenever possible. While our lab is a Mac lab, we strive to make connections allowing students to use what they have learned on alternate platforms. In Seventh Grade, we also explore new trends in web-based productivity and communication tools. At the conclusion of Seventh Grade, students will have the option to negotiate an independent project in which they can dive deeper into a topic of their choosing.
Digital Citizenship: As our students are raised using technology, they are navigating areas unknown to the previous generations. At Black Pine Circle, we strive to help our students become good “digital citizens” by focusing on topics including digital etiquette, Internet safety, media literacy, and intellectual property rights.
The culture of our lab is non-competitive, collaborative and inquiry-based. Projects are generally open-ended and tailored to challenge each student at the appropriate level. Students are encouraged to discover, rather than are given, many of the solutions they seek. Students are encouraged to take risks, make mistakes, and innovate.
Students are assessed throughout the semester using a combination of quizzes, project rubrics, keyboard progress charts, presentations and class participation.
Black Pine Circle School’s Drama program gives students an additional avenue to express their creativity as well as learn some basic theater skills. Confidence in speaking publicly, preparation of presentation and the fun of pretending are key components of this class. This class encourages students to express themselves with words, body language, and their imagination.
Sixth Grade will work on fundamental improvisational techniques throughout the year. They will cover basic stage skills and presentation. Sixth grade has ongoing class performances, a storytelling section and a section devoted to a work, or works, of Shakespeare.
Seventh Grade will continue working on improvisational skills throughout the year. Basic stage skills and presentation will also be reviewed and worked on at a higher level. There will be sections on monologues, two-person and small group scenes and a section devoted to exploring a work of Shakespeare.
Eighth Grade works towards an all class open performance that presents the culmination of their skills. Character development, improvisation, performance techniques and play writing are covered throughout the year. Eighth Graders also work with one Shakespeare play, often in conjunction with their English class.