Middle School | Grades 5 - 8

At RCS, we know that one of the greatest advantages of a PreKindergarten through Grade 9 school is the attention, energy, and expertise that is focused on the most crucial and essential years in a child’s education. Simply put, we recognize that middle school matters.

Our dedicated Upper Campus faculty are middle school experts, and our program and facilities are tailored to meet students where they are, and inspire them to reach their full capacity as learners and as individuals. Our program values original thought and exploration and seeks to achieve balance between freedom and structure, innovation and tradition. We celebrate initiative and challenge our students to take risks and develop new interests and passions. The result is a dynamic curriculum that is both rigorous and individualized.

Grade 5

List of 9 items.

  • Overview

    Our goal in fifth grade is to help students become successful, independent learners. We encourage students to advocate for themselves and to become partners with each other and their teachers as they question, explore, and learn during this formative year. Additionally, homeroom teachers help students develop individualized best practices that help them become organized and engaged learners. Time management skills are taught and reinforced so that students stay on top of both short and long-term assignments using a daily planner. 
  • Language Arts

    In language arts, we continue to encourage and develop a lifelong commitment to reading independently, writing thoughtfully, speaking confidently, and thinking critically. As our students transition from the Lower Campus, we reinforce comprehension skills and the importance of active reading strategies and habits including previewing, inferring, connecting, predicting, decoding new vocabulary, and picking out important details to support evidence. While focusing on the theme of transformation in literature and life, students read both independently chosen books as well as class novels. Throughout the year, students respond to their reading by completing book reviews, letters to authors, reading responses, and book talks which creates a positive and safe atmosphere for cultivating the love of reading.

    Fifth grade is the year of the writer! We teach, model, and stress the importance of following a multi-step writing process: brainstorming, pre-writing, drafting, editing, revising, and finalizing. The writing program encompasses personal narratives, persuasive topics, poetry, and independent writing in a variety of genres.

    Additionally, students regularly write on demand and respond to engaging prompts, questions, and relevant topics. All writing assignments are developed to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency, promote independent thinking, and nurture a confidence and passion for writing. Students develop vocabulary through our text, Vocabulary Workshop, along with excerpted words from literature and humanities texts. Specific grammar and mechanics rules are taught as a class through mini-lessons culled from writing assignments or from teacher directed activities. Also, practice worksheets are offered for specific skill development and are differentiated according to individual needs. During the year, students are expected to embrace
    the individual challenges teachers give them as they grow in their ability to revise, edit, and finalize their writing.

    Overall, the goal is for students to take ownership in developing and strengthening their reading and writing skills and competency level.
  • Humanities

    Our humanities curriculum is grounded in the understanding of culture. Essential questions focus on how geography is a prime determining factor in climate and how, working together, they act as major influences on the lives of individuals in a region. This is accomplished through the study of thematic maps - specifically physical, climate, environmental, and political. Further, this study will help students to understand whether or not economies thrive, governments succeed, and a society will flourish. The roles of architecture, taboos, arts and crafts, and myths and legends are also examined.

    From this valuable framework, students are prepared to enter into a study of our local region, the United States, and Africa. Utilizing the lessons of the interplay of nature and man, students will be able to analyze the factors that led to the success and failures of these regions.

    Students are taught active reading strategies that they employ in the classroom and library as well as online. As they research, students are expected to identify the main idea, underline supporting details, create note cards, and construct their own bullet outlines. These skills will be brought to bear as they analyze information and reflect their thinking through class discussions, presentations, and written assignments.

    In an attempt to connect their studies to their lives, current events are regularly discussed as students read and respond to articles from Time for Kids as well as other sources. This analysis of cross-cultural and temporal development helps to bring their understanding, awareness, and growth to an entirely higher level.
  • Science

    Fifth grade science is based on basic earth science concepts and principles. In addition to this, there is an environmental science component that looks at important environmental issues on both local and global levels. The unifying theme throughout the year is the importance of the complex interactions that work together to keep our planet in balance, making it the ideal environment in which to live. When one part of our ecosystem is disturbed, either by a natural event or a man-made activity, that important balance is broken, resulting in other direct and indirect changes.

    We begin the year by reviewing the steps of the scientific process. Students then design, implement, and analyze their own experiments. While doing this, they also learn how to use scientific tools such as graduated cylinders, balance scales, and metric rulers.

    Following that, students begin their study of astronomy. They look at how the universe began, as well as how stars and planets were formed. During this investigation we discuss the positioning and motion of the Earth in our solar system and how that affects the length of a day, a year, and the seasons. We end the unit with a mini-research project in which each student investigates a topic in astronomy that he or she finds interesting.

    We then begin an in-depth study of ecology. We define what an “ecosystem” is and look at its three parts: community, populations, and habitat. Next, we examine the role of producers, consumers, and decomposers within an ecosystem, and the importance of maintaining a balanced food web.

    Once students have explored the basics of ecology, they learn about soil and explore its important attributes. Students perform several lab activities in which they find ways to identify different soil types, look at the ways that soil affects our everyday lives, and finally build the “perfect” water filter using different forms of soil.

    We follow this unit with an exploration of botany. While students learn about the life cycle of flowering plants they also grow their own plant in our botany lab and observe the process firsthand as their plants go from seed, to plant, and finally produce seeds of their own. As a culmination to this unit, students draw scientifically accurate cartoons depicting either the process of germination or pollination.

    Finally, students will use a problem-based learning model to look at the environmental issue of wetland destruction. First, they explore wetland ecosystems and learn about the benefits they provide and the severe environmental consequences of destroying them.

    Throughout the year students have the opportunity to take a break from the set curriculum and take part in “Maker’s Days”. They are given design challenges and must work in a team to meet the challenge. These activities reinforce important 21st Century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, testing and redesigning, and communication. At the end of the school year fifth grade students take part in a Maker’s Day Expo in which they highlight their designs and explain the design process.
  • Mathematics

    Mathematics in the fifth grade is a transition program from the Investigations in the Number, Data, and Space program started at the Lower Campus. In order to prepare the students for the mathematics sequence of the upper grades, a number of skills are supplemented to the Investigations program. Students must develop proficiency in mathematical skills and move towards a clearer understanding and implementation of the standard algorithms. These include applying all mathematical operations, not only to whole numbers, but fractions and decimals as well. The three major topics of study are number theory, standard algorithms with fractions, decimals, whole numbers, and geometry.

    Within numbers and operations, students are expected, by the end of fifth grade, to understand fractions as part of a whole, know the fraction, decimal, and percent equivalents for halves, thirds, fourths, sixths, and eighths, and use all four operations to solve problems involving whole numbers, simple fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals.

    In geometry, students will be expected to identify triangles and quadrilaterals by attribute, use known angle sizes to determine the sizes of other angles, calculate the perimeter and area of triangles, quadrilateral, and trapezoids, and calculate the volume of a rectangular prism.

    All grade level math sections (3 courses) in fifth grade follow the same scope, sequence, and pacing of the curriculum. Each math section ends the year with a final project that has each student demonstrate mastery of certain topics learned throughout the year. In an effort to differentiate instruction, extension problems are offered to students that provide interesting and challenging math problems for them to solve independently. In addition, students are given daily warm up exercises that provide practice on previously taught skills.
  • Spanish

    Fifth graders at Rippowam Cisqua begin to write and read in Spanish and continue to build on the vocabulary that they learned while at the Lower Campus, which emphasized culture and oral skills. Students are accustomed to speaking and listening to Spanish. We start the year by telling and acting out stories, which review past vocabulary and introduce new words and grammatical structures. Students practice this material by answering questions, writing their own stories, and acting out and retelling stories created in class.

    Students read the short novels Brandon Brown quiere un perro, which is set in the United States, and Berto y sus buenas ideas, which is set in Madrid, Spain. In addition to working on their reading comprehension skills, these books use many of the grammatical structures they are studying.

    Reading the novels also introduces the vocabulary necessary to discuss cultural similarities and differences. Additional stories, songs, and poetry expose students to a wide array of customs practiced in Spanish speaking countries. The grammatical concepts are introduced through the reading and cultural activities. These concepts are also practiced using textbook activities and ancillary materials such as the workbook and audio and video components.

    The students use the class web page and their planners to keep track of their assignments and due dates. They learn to use technological tools such as Garage Band, Google Docs, and Pages to create oral and written projects.
  • Latin

    The first year of Latin emphasizes the mastery of pronunciation, acquisition of a basic vocabulary of roughly 250 words, and a brief introduction to the basics, complexities, and oddities of an ancient language. Spoken Latin is used frequently in the classroom and students begin to learn vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar through conversational exercises. Students will study Latin derivations in English, the geography of the Roman Empire, Roman theater, gladiators, the eruption of Vesuvius, and the role of papyrus scrolls in ancient Rome.

    The fifth grade course uses the First Latin book of Marion Polsky and Nunc Loquamur, by Thomas McCarthy, and the Cambridge Latin Course: Unit One and Lingua Latina: Pars I, by Hans Orberg as supplementary readers.
  • French

    Fifth grade is the beginning of the French language program at Rippowam Cisqua. Students continue through the ninth grade, at which point they will have completed the equivalent of two years of high school level French. In this introductory year students primarily focus on oral skills, in particular pronunciation, intonation, speaking, and listening. Students learn the alphabet and are introduced to typical French rhymes, songs, and tongue twisters to help them with pronunciation, intonation, and memorization of sounds. Students also make use of the textbook website to help them recognize and practice French sounds and words. There is little formal presentation of grammar; only the concept of gender of nouns is introduced. Similarly, writing is not heavily emphasized, although students regularly take dictées, learn correct use of accents and punctuation, and write short descriptions. Students build their vocabulary around themes and conversational topics that are revisited and expanded upon in subsequent years.

    Upon completion of fifth grade, French students learn how to engage in social conversations with friends and family and in public situations. They recognize and know when to use informal and formal greetings (tu vs.vous). Students also learn how to count, tell time, and speak about age, dates, and birthdays. They talk about the weather and food and use their knowledge of numbers to ask about prices and to order food at restaurants. At the end of the year students create dialogues and perform French café skits.

    In addition to developing conversational skills, students learn about the culture of France. They become acquainted with the map and borders of France, and learn to locate the French-speaking countries in the world. They are introduced to school and family customs via discussions, assigned readings, and lesson video clips. Whenever possible, students partake in French customs. For example, French holidays are celebrated in class with French food (la galette des rois, les crêpes de la Chandeleur) and songs typical for such occasions.

    Text: Discovering French Bleu
  • Technology

    The fifth grade students come to the computer lab for a formal computer class once every six days. During this time students are introduced to the software available to them and are taught technology skills necessary for them to become successful 21st century learners. These include word processing, desktop publishing, creating presentations with audio and video enhancements, and using spreadsheets. In fifth grade students are given a school Gmail account that gives them the ability to communicate with teachers and classmates. Students use Google Apps for their assignments, allowing them easy access to their work both in school and at home. A good portion of time in computer class is devoted to computer programming. First, students learn basic Logo programming commands using Pro-Bots. A Pro-Bot is a small robot disguised as a racecar. This is followed by an introduction to programming using the online program Scratch. Internet safety, web searching, and website evaluation are taught and reinforced throughout the year. Time is taken in computer class to infuse technology into classroom studies and projects.

Grade 6

List of 8 items.

  • Humanities

    The content of the sixth grade humanities curriculum revolves around the study of three distinct ancient cultures: China, Greece, and Rome. Each unit of study incorporates the exercise of comparing and contrasting different cultural values. Within each ten to twelve week unit, we explore cultural themes of religion, social structure, geography, significant historical events, daily life, and important figures who reflect key cultural beliefs. Critical thinking and higher order cognitive thinking skills are reinforced throughout each unit of study. Utilizing timelines to deepen chronological sequencing, students gain a better understanding of cause and effect. The ability to discern between fact and opinion is also emphasized throughout our study.

    As part of our skills-based program, we continue to reinforce important strategies such as annotating, organizing, prioritizing information, and preparing for quizzes and tests. Students also learn to manage deadlines on both long and short-term assignments and learn reading strategies for all types of texts, including maps, timelines, and graphic organizers. Students also collaborate through group work. They are charged to create many projects throughout the year to share their understanding of research on the different civilizations. These exercises enrich student understanding of how cultures develop and change over time.

    In order to expand on historical research skills, we model the research process using tools such as note cards, Harvard outline, and appropriate citation. Students cull information from a wide variety of sources including online sources, print text, encyclopedias, and periodicals. Twenty-first century media literacy is reinforced as students learn to evaluate information from multiple sources. Additionally, students utilize Google Applications for Education and EasyBib/Imagine Easy Scholar technology to create their outlines. The research writing process is also emphasized, including paraphrasing, outlining, and organizing information into subtopics. We encourage students to stand back and take a look at their own work by teaching proofreading, editing, and self-evaluation strategies. One of our key objectives is to move students toward a higher level of independence and competency when they prepare a research paper. In addition, students have multiple opportunities to share their work through public speaking opportunities and group projects. Throughout our exploration, common threads are identified to help students deepen their understanding of how civilizations develop and grow over time.
  • Language Arts

    The sixth grade language arts curriculum focuses on both the reading and writing processes. The curriculum supports active reading and literary analysis through an exploration of many genres including poetry, short stories, novels, plays, and expository writing. Focusing on the development of both expository and creative writing, teachers support a structured writing process that includes brainstorming, prewriting, outlining, drafting, editing and revising, and publishing.

    Active reading strategies are taught through an examination of a wide variety of literary works. These techniques are modeled by teachers to encourage students to make predictions, infer meaning, decode vocabulary definitions in context, and understand the sequencing of events. To monitor their own comprehension, students are engaged in metacognition to appreciate and develop their own learning strategies. Independent reading is also an integral part of the curriculum throughout the year. Each night, students read for a minimum of 30 minutes. Book talks are presented by students to share what they read with their classmates and to practice public speaking on a regular basis. Students are also encouraged to share their independent reading experiences through various technology applications.

    Additionally, students are encouraged to employ their own writing style and literary voice while using a tone that is appropriate for each genre. The writing program builds on the fifth grade foundation as students explore a wide range of poetry forms, paragraph and essay structures, and narrative writing styles. Expository writing is also an integral part of the curriculum as students go beyond paragraphing to writing the five paragraph persuasive essay. This includes constructing a cohesive argument with textual evidence and supporting details, and excludes extraneous details that are not salient to the argument. In addition, students write about their reading and also engage in more creative, unstructured writing in a Writer’s Notebook (WN) modeled after Ralph Fletcher. Grammar, vocabulary, and spelling are also important components of the program. Students study parts of speech including nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs and examine parts of speech in the context of their daily reading and writing assignments.
  • Science

    Science in grade six focuses on human biology, health, and energy systems. Students explore the anatomy and physiology of human body systems including the reproductive system and stages of development including the skeletal, muscular, and digestive systems, respiratory systems, and circulatory systems. Health related issues and strategies for healthy living, including nutrition, are incorporated throughout the curriculum. Additionally, many forms of energy are also examined including heat, chemical, electrical, mechanical, electromagnetic, nuclear, and alternative energies. Students investigate how the human body creates energy and utilizes it.

    Students explore the various forms of energy systems and compare to, and contrast it with, human body energy systems. Converting energy forms is a key component of study. Additionally, students investigate the different ways that we harvest, produce, and utilize energy. Students also explore how each energy system affects our environment.

    In addition to class discussions, students face many academic challenges such as web-based research, incorporating technology into presentations, experimentation, and problem solving in groups. These learning experiences deepen subject mastery and foster a practical understanding of key science topics.
  • Mathematics

    The sixth grade math curriculum focuses on proficiency of basic skills and emphasizes the comparing, ordering, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing of rational numbers. These operations are consistently utilized throughout all topics taught.

    Computation problems are introduced and reinforced to improve speed and accuracy. Similar problems placed in the context of word problems emphasize estimation, number sense, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Also, students are introduced to pre-algebra concepts to transition them from concrete to more abstract thought processes. Topics in geometry are also reviewed.

    The sixth grade curriculum is separated into two ability groups. There is an honors and a grade level section. The core topics remain the same in all classes but teachers adapt their curriculum to meet the needs of the class and individuals. In the honors section, students frequently work on extension problems and activities. In the grade level classes, there is more of an emphasis on reinforcement and proficiency of basic skills. A common theme in all classes is a continued emphasis on estimation, number sense, use of technology, and problem solving skills.

    Students study the following topics:
    • decimals: operations, place value, repeating and terminating, conversion to fractions
    • integers: operations and order of operations, absolute value
    • number theory: multiples, LCM, factors, GCF, primes, composites, and prime factorization exponents: operations with integer bases and whole number exponents, and square roots (honors) Scientific Notation
    • fractions: equivalent fractions, simplifying, conversions, mixed numbers, operations
    • ratio & proportion: unit rates, cross-products, and similar polygons
    • percents: three types of percent problems, increase and decrease, conversions
    • geometry: lines, rays, angles, triangles, quadrilaterals, circles, perimeter, and area (honors) volume and surface area, tessellations and fractal geometry. Use ACSLogo.
    • statistics: mean, median, mode, histograms, bar graphs, line graphs
    • pre-algebra: working with terms only with integer coefficients, translating and simplifying, solving one-step and two-step equations (honors) combining like terms and distributive property, variables on both sides of the equation.
    • Word Problems: Coin Problems and Rate-Time-Distance problems both using charts to solve.
    • Coding using Basic
  • Spanish

    In sixth grade Spanish, students continue to develop all four language skills: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, speaking and pronunciation, and writing. Students are expected to attempt to communicate in Spanish as much as possible and learn how to ask questions and to express their ideas and opinions. The class is conducted primarily in Spanish. The vocabulary and grammar correlates to the textbook Realidades A. By the end of the year, students are comfortable using the conjugated forms of regular –ar, -er, and –ir verbs as well as commonly used irregular verbs in the present tense. Class activities include: reading short novels, discussion, re-enacting stories, watching DVDs, listening to CDs, playing games, and doing paired activities as well as a variety of cultural projects.

    Exposure to Spanish and Latin cultures through food, dance, art, and music during class also helps to bring the vocabulary and grammar to life. For example, students may eat a typical Colombian merienda (snack) to help them retain food vocabulary or learn Latin dances to reinforce vocabulary for giving directions. Students are expected to communicate in complete, detailed sentences using a variety of vocabulary. We teach proofreading and editing skills and help students manage deadlines on both long and short-term assignments. Students demonstrate their oral and written proficiency by creating dialogues and stories, filming scenes, reciting poems, and collaborating on various projects. The sixth grade course uses the hardback and digital textbook Realidades. Chapters 3 and 4 and 5 in Realidades are completed by the end of the spring term.
  • Latin

    The sixth grade course continues to emphasize pronunciation and acquisition of vocabulary and introduces the reading of longer and more complex passages of Latin. Students learn the forms of the first three declensions of nouns and begin to examine the roles of the accusative, ablative, dative, and genitive cases in Latin grammar. Spoken Latin continues to be a means of acquiring vocabulary and learning grammar.

    Text: Oxford Latin Course: Part I, by Balme, M.
  • French

    French 6 builds upon foundational material learned in French 5 and students continue to employ the same textbook, Valette & Valette’s Discovering French. Graduating to Unit 4, students learn grammar concepts at this level, and begin to develop writing skills, while expanding their vocabulary and reading simple texts. Introducing conjugation or regular –er verbs and key irregular verbs (avoir, etre, faire) occurs by second term, providing a critical turning point in their learning. Similarly, learning to negate sentences, ask questions, and accurately employ adjectives and adverbs makes students active parties to a conversation.

    Accurate pronunciation becomes a priority to guide them early to near-native delivery in their spoken expression. Dictees continue to be used in furthering students’ comprehension and analytical skills, while playing games and singing songs persist as kinetic means of retaining both vocabulary and grammar concepts.
  • Technology

    The sixth grade students come to the computer lab for a formal computer class once every six days. During this time students are introduced to the software available to them and are taught technology skills necessary for them to become successful 21st century learners. These include word processing, desktop publishing, creating presentations with audio and video enhancements, and using spreadsheets. A good portion of time in computer class is devoted to computer programming using the online program Scratch. Internet safety, web searching, and website evaluation are taught and reinforced throughout the year. Time is taken in computer class to infuse technology into classroom studies and projects.

Grade 7

List of 7 items.

  • English

    In seventh grade English, students continue to develop their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. This is done through analysis of different literary works, the continued study of grammar and vocabulary, and a variety of writing assignments.
    Literature study enables the students to develop stronger inferential and analytical skills.

    Students read works from a variety of genres such as short stories, poetry, non-fiction articles, and novels. This year, these novels will include The Running Dream, The Red Kayak, The Outsiders, and The Book Thief. Some of the key ideas and skills that will be developed are citing several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis, determining a theme and analyzing its development, understanding how particular elements of a story interact, and being able to compare and contrast different texts.

    In addition to assigned in-class readings, students are required to read independently. Literature is shared through discussion and collaboration so that all points of views can be considered

    Students deepen their understanding of writing as a craft, learning how to interpret words and phrases used in the text, analyzing how specific word choices shape meaning and tone, and strengthening the structure of their writing by including figurative language. Written skills are refined as students learn strategies that help them plan, draft, edit, and execute solid final drafts. Students have many opportunities to share their writing with the school community. They keep writing portfolios that reflect their growth and progress throughout the year and submit work to contests and publications outside of school, such as Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

    Grade-appropriate vocabulary acquisition and use are key skills emphasized in 7th grade writing. Students learn how to determine the meaning of unknown words and phrases within the context of reading. They learn strategies to demonstrate an understanding through use. Students will learn strategies like using common grade-appropriate Greek affixes and roots as clues to understanding the meaning of words. Then, students will apply advanced vocabulary to demonstrate their understanding of word relationships.

    Grammar is taught both formally and in context of what is being read. A myriad of sources such as Ridgewood Grammar, Grammar Revolution, Grammar Keepers, and Essay Apprentice, among others, are used. In addition, students will maintain an interactive grammar notebook throughout the school year. Students will apply what they learn to usage, mechanics, and the overall structure of their writing.

    Students will demonstrate their speaking and listening skills by engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners, analyze main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (visually, quantitatively, and orally) and present material using the PEC method (paying attention to Pacing, Eye Contact, and Clarity).
  • Social Studies

    The social studies program in grade seven concentrates on American history from the colonial period through the Civil War. The students are expected to learn by doing rather than passively absorbing information. The students read, write, illustrate, assess visual media, act, and employ twenty-first century learning skills. The emphasis is upon providing students with the necessary skills to discover history themselves. Primary materials are central to the investigation of American history.

    The essential questions that the units of study seek to answer include: Why study history? Does geography determine the destiny of an individual, a group, or a culture? How do humans deal with cultural differences, competition for resources, and conflicting ideas? What factors motivate human action? Are wars inevitable? Is there an American identity? Students evaluate the responses that individuals and groups make to historical events from the first settling in Roanoke through the Civil War.

    Basic academic and cognitive skills include reading for the main ideas and identifying supporting details from text, the Internet, authentic documents, and supplementary visual resources. Students routinely read and interpret graphs, charts, maps, and tables to make inferences and draw conclusions about the historical periods they study. As active learners, students design and create visual interpretations of historical data including, but not limited to, diaries, journals, newspapers, brochures, plays, and skits. Students also have opportunities to use digital media to demonstrate their knowledge.

    Each student is guided through the process of researching, note taking, outlining, and developing a thesis statement to defend through a variety of writing assignments. These assignments include a formal research paper with works cited in text, responses to document-based questions, perspective pieces, and debate.

    Attributes of a culture (religion, technology, economy, etc.) serve as a framework for students to study, compare and contrast, and synthesize information about the diverse groups that formed the American society. Through their study of diversity within American society, students can gain an appreciation for others. Students also study the effects of geography on historical events and the development of the American culture.

    An essential part of the seventh grade social studies program is the study of the structure and function of our nation’s government. Students analyze the role that individuals played in the development of our government. By the end of the year, they are able to identify the personal responsibilities they have as citizens in a democracy, and ways in which they can participate in the government.

    As members of a global community, students are expected to develop a global awareness and analyze the relationship that America has with other countries. Through their interpretation of current events, students can appreciate the interdependence of countries, how America’s decisions impact other countries, and how those decisions can alter the perceptions that other countries have about America. Students also compare and contrast contemporary events to historical events.
  • Science

    How can you tell if a river or stream is polluted? This question, posed to the students on their first trip to the Mianus River, becomes the underlying theme in science class. The students acquire the knowledge and techniques needed to paint an increasingly complex picture of this freshwater ecosystem. In the process, they come to understand how human actions can have both helpful and harmful effects on land and water. Given the thematic nature of this course, the content is not divided into distinct life science/physical science/earth science units. Instead, these elements are woven together throughout the year. This emphasis on “environmental science” is a continuation of their fifth grade science class and a logical transition given the primary focus on physics in eighth grade and biology in ninth grade.

    In their search for a greater understanding of the health of local rivers, students conduct explorations, both in the field and in the laboratory, that require knowledge of lab equipment and techniques. Students learn to use macro invertebrates, such as the stonefly and mayfly nymphs, as early warning indicators of pollution. Chemical test kits are used to measure the levels of certain chemicals such as dissolved oxygen, nitrates, and chloride. Physical characteristics such as width, depth, turbidity, and flow are measured.

    During the final term, students work in groups to collect and analyze data using the skills and techniques they have honed over the school year. Each group becomes an expert in a particular area (i.e. macro invertebrate studies, chemical testing, or physical characteristics) and then communicates their findings orally to their peers.

    Besides embodying the scientific method, this program helps to instill in students a strong connection to their individual communities and to the larger world. Rivers do not recognize political boundaries and students must realize that every single person who inhabits a watershed must be responsible for the health of the land and water. As the human population continues to expand, so does the importance of the message that each individual can help make a difference.
  • Math

    The seventh grade math curriculum covers the operations of rational numbers and the application of these skills to solve problems of increasing complexity. Unlike sixth grade, basic skill proficiency is expected. Also, pre-algebra skills are extended as students are challenged to manipulate variable expressions and equations.

    The seventh grade curriculum is separated into three ability groups. There are two levels of honors and two grade level sections. The first honors class covers a full year of algebra. The core topics of the second honors class, and the grade levels classes, remain the same, but teachers adapt their curriculum to meet the needs of the class and individuals. In the honors section, students frequently work on extension problems and activities. In the grade level classes, there is more of an emphasis on reinforcement and proficiency of basic skills. A common theme in all classes is a continued emphasis on estimation, number sense, use of technology, and problem solving skills.
  • Spanish

    In seventh grade Spanish, students continue to develop their conversational skills, listening and reading comprehension, and proficiency in writing. Students are immersed in the culture through a variety of experiences such as talking about fashion designers, architectural housing designs, shopping and vacation activities. More complex grammar is introduced in the context of these cultural units. For instance students use the preterite tense to describe what they did on vacation and the present progressive tense to describe the actions of the Spanish characters in videos. Other concepts formally introduced include the placement, agreement, and use of demonstrative, possessive, and qualitative adjectives, indirect and direct object pronouns, the affirmative informal command, and comparisons.

    As part of the seventh grade curriculum, students are expected to communicate primarily in Spanish. They are asked to apply what they learn in short written assignments, projects, and oral presentations such as developing an image for their ideal bedroom and filming dialogues and improvisations. To further expand vocabulary knowledge and enhance reading comprehension skills, students read short novels such as Los Baker van a Peru. These readings are discussed at length in class and form the basis for discussions of cultural differences and similarities.
  • Latin

    The sequence of courses in grades 7-9 emphasizes a more rigorous and analytical study of forms and grammar. In the seventh grade, students master the ablatives of time, manner, and means, the dative of indirect object, the uses of the relative pronouns, the forms of three noun declensions, and the passive voice of verbs in all tenses. Although new vocabulary lists appear weekly, much of the vocabulary is a review of the fifth and sixth grade Latin lists. Students have nightly assignments, read stories from Roman history, and translate passages into English.

    Text: First Year Latin, by Jenney (1986)
  • French

    Seventh grade French is the transition from the beginning to the intermediate level of French 1. Students build upon the material learned in fifth and sixth grades. They further develop their conversational skills and vocabulary and expand on their writing and reading skills. Students learn new adjectives and vocabulary regarding physical appearance, personality, nationality, family, and home furnishings. More complex grammar structures are introduced.

    Students learn additional regular verb conjugations (-ir and -re) as well as irregular verbs aller, venir, and the use of aller + infinitif as an immediate future tense. Other concepts are formally introduced, including the use of the possessive, the placement and agreement of adjectives, structures such as jouer à vs jouer de, cíest vs. il est, the use of prepositions, definite and indefinite articles, and contractions (à, de).

    Seventh grade French heavily emphasizes learning by doing. Students apply what they learn via short written assignments, projects, and oral presentations. For example, when studying the verbs aller and venir and the vocabulary on cities, students create maps, give directions, and present these in class. Further, the lesson on the immediate future becomes an occasion to write a piece on “predictions” and talk about the future plans of a classmate. To further expand vocabulary knowledge and enhance reading comprehension skills, students are provided small readers written by classic French authors, e.g., La Chèvre de Monsieur Seguin and Le Bossu de Notre Dame. The latter also serves as preparation to the cultural unit on Paris.

    The cultural focus in seventh grade is primarily on French cities, in particular Paris. During spring term, students begin by reviewing the map of France, identifying major French cities, and learning important geographical information (i.e., major rivers, mountains, and surrounding bodies of water). Students then focus more specifically on the city of Paris. They study and read the information provided in Unit 6 of their textbook and learn additional information about the various monuments and historical sites in class. One of the main projects of the year is to research an historical monument of Paris and present it to the class.

Grade 8

List of 8 items.

  • Social Studies

    The Social Studies program in eighth grade is a thematic approach to studying American history from Reconstruction to the Cold War period. Students will investigate the major themes and topics of human rights, the role of the United States in the global community, and leadership and the influence of media in a democratic society. Among the essential questions that students will address are: How does the desire for autonomy affect human behavior? What causes discrimination and intolerance? How does social change occur? What are the responsibilities of the individual in a democratic society? What is the role of media in a democratic society? Are wars inevitable?

    Through these themes and questions, and their study of current events, eighth grade students will build upon their skills of cognitive reasoning and academic proficiencies, cultural appreciation, civic understanding, and global awareness, as previously developed in their seventh grade year.

    In building their evaluative and academic expertise, students read and interpret charts, maps, and tables to infer historical information; analyze authentic materials; write five-paragraph essays using facts to develop and support a thesis; design and create interpretations of historical information in a variety of media; select and assess reading materials and internet resources for research; apply appropriate research skills (overview, outlining, note-taking, drafting, revision, and bibliography) as a means of attaining an understanding of specific historical events and individuals; present and demonstrate knowledge in a variety of media; prepare persuasive essays based on research; and examine and present information from different perspectives.

    In developing a growing appreciation for both the American culture, as well as that of other societies, students explain the many roots of American culture; recognize the benefits of the multicultural world; recognize the struggles and contributions of specific groups and individuals; evaluate the benefits and the struggles of a multi-cultural society; trace the development of modern American culture; and trace the political, social, and economic rise of marginal groups, such as women, African Americans, and American immigrants.

    As they cultivate their civic understanding, students are encouraged to investigate what it means to be a citizen in a democratic society. Moreover, students trace the role of the American government in the development of a national and global economy; understand the implications of America’s domestic and foreign policies; recognize personal responsibility in a political and social community; evaluate the responsibility and power of citizens in a democracy; identify a variety of government systems, including those of a monarchy, democracy, tyranny, and republic; identify a variety of social beliefs, including communism, socialism, and fascism; and analyze the role of individuals in reforming and changing an established government.

    Finally, students piece together a concept of global awareness, situating themselves as members of a growing global community. In doing so, they recognize the role of geography in historical developments and conflicts; analyze the relationship between America and the global community; assess the influence of America’s past on today’s world; assess the impact of environmental factors in societal development and conflict; and read about and interpret current events.

    To facilitate student learning of American history and provide practice with twenty-first century academic skills (drawing information from charts, maps, primary documents, statistical resources and pbs.org resources), the history faculty selected – America: The History of Our Nation, published by Pearson a subsidiary of Prentice Hall Publishing Company. The book was printed in 2014 and provides online resources to enhance student learning. It spans the essential units in a traditional eighth grade American history course. The textbook also covers the following relevant present-day topics: global warming, energy consumption, population growth and increasing food needs, Internet security, appropriate use of technology, the post-Arab Spring period, and social issues related to bullying, privacy and civil liberties. The textbook lessons support the teachers in their efforts to provided differentiated instruction to accommodate the different learning styles of the students.
  • English

    In eighth grade English, students further develop their reading, writing, speaking, and thinking skills through their experience with a full array of literary selections, the study of grammar and vocabulary, and a variety of writing assignments.

    Specifically, students build on, refine, and deepen their understanding of, and experience with, creative and expository writing while applying strategies for approaching, developing, revising, and perfecting a given piece of written work. In addition, students are encouraged to develop style and voice in their writing and to feel confident about make the sorts of decisions that are reflective of increasingly mature and independent writers. Students continue to have opportunities to share their writing with peers in school publications and by submitting their work to contests and publications with audiences outside of the School community. Integrated within the constructs of writing instruction is the unit “Public Speaking 101” where students investigate and apply public speaking and presenting skills by experimenting with the humor genre. Additionally, through the course of the year, students build a writing portfolio that reflects their growth and development as writers and presenters.

    Literature study continues to provide students with the opportunity to develop stronger inferential and analytical skills, greater facility with reading on both literal and figurative levels, an understanding and appreciation of different works of literature, a knowledge and understanding of literary devices, and exposure to various techniques and styles. Students read works from each of three major literary genres: selected poetry from Sleeping on the Wing, and selected passages and sonnets from William Shakespeare, the non-fiction Into the Wild, and the novels, The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, and The Secret Life of Bees. Through intensive written reviews, students are expected to analyze and review their independent reading on a regular basis.

    Grammar and vocabulary are taught both formally and incidentally. To create strong articulation between the seventh and eighth grade English curriculums, students study topics in grammar using Get Smart Grammar and apply what they learn to usage, mechanics, and structure in their writing. Vocabulary from Classical Roots, Level B helps students further augment their knowledge of words (prefixes, suffixes, and roots) and word attack skills while enhancing their reading comprehension as well as their oral, aural, and written vocabularies.
  • Physics

    From the effects of the basic forces we encounter each day to the structure of an atom, Physical Science comes alive on the Upper Campus. Our eighth grade science curriculum focuses on the many ways that Physical Science relates to everyday objects and activities. This course incorporates mathematics, design, experimentation, and STEM into all aspects of the curriculum. Students are encouraged to learn by doing, and to make connections between what they see and scientific theory.

    The laboratory component of the Physical Science program provides students with the opportunity to design experiments, record and analyze data, and organize their observations.They are taught how to document their work, form reasonable conclusions based on scientific evidence, and present their results for further discussion.

    The design process is a major component of our Physical Science program. Through this process,  students learn how to work effectively in groups, brainstorm ideas, build prototypes, test and retest their creations, and present their final designs. This is done with an emphasis on the ways that problem solving and design occur in the real world.

    Students learn about gravity, friction, and buoyancy, the basics of propulsion and satellite movement, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and atomic structure and bonding. These topics are followed up with a variety of hands-on activities designed to inspire creativity and innovative thinking.
  • Mathematics

    The eighth grade curriculum begins a formal study of Algebra I. There are three different sections grouped by ability levels: Honors Algebra, Grade Level Algebra, Advanced Pre-Algebra Topics studied by all three sections include:
    • Pre-Algebra - review of operations and the five-step plan for solving word problems
    • Polynomials - rules of exponents, operations, transforming formulas, rate-time-distance, and area problems
    • Factoring polynomials - GCF, factoring trinomials, difference of two squares, solving equations by factoring, *factor by grouping
    • Fractions - ratios, proportions, percents, mixture and work problems, negative exponents, and scientific notation
    • Functions - equations in two variables, points, lines and their graphs, slope, determining equation of a line, and linear and quadratic functions
    • Graphing - TI-83 graphing calculator
    Topics studied by honors and grade level classes only include:
    • Systems of equations - graphing, substitution, and linear combinations methods,*puzzle problems Inequalities - solving, absolute value, graphing
    • Rational and irrational numbers - properties, square roots, Pythagorean theorem, and simplifying radicals
    • Quadratic functions - standard form, completing the square, quadratic formula, graphs, and methods of solutions
    * Honors only
  • Spanish I

    Eighth grade Spanish marks the culminating year of Spanish level 1 at Rippowam Cisqua. Students write and read more extensively compared to previous years. The class is largely conducted in the target language, and complex cultural topics are discussed. In addition to completing the textbook, Realidades 1 and chapters 1 and 2 in Realidades 2, students are assigned supplemental readers and work on several projects that relate to units in the text. These include skits, stories, dialogues, and other demonstrations of oral and written proficiency. Topics include ordering in a restaurant, protecting the environment, making plans for a party, and other communicative situations. Students write and illustrate a short book (either digital or paper) about a party and its complications, and create a video demonstrating their daily routine. Students watch video clips and listen to audio recordings to enhance their understanding of Spanish culture and accustom their ear to a variety of accents. Students are introduced to a variety of popular music, using the songs to work on their listening skills and as a stimulus for conversations about cultural differences. In the area of grammar, students study present, past, and simple future tenses of regular verbs and several irregular verbs (e.g., pedir, servir, ser, and estar). Among other topics, students learn to use a greater variety of pronouns such as reflexive, demonstrative, and direct and indirect object pronouns. By the end of eighth grade, students will have exceeded the requirements of a high school level 1 Spanish course. They are introduced to some of the concepts that are the focus in Spanish level 2 including reflexive verbs, demonstrative adjectives, and a brief introduction to the imperfect tense. This is coupled with advanced units on school, leisure activities and their daily routine.

    Throughout the year cultural topics are embedded in the unit lessons. For example, the unit on the classroom allows students to see the differences in grading systems, types of classes offered, and levels of formality in their own schools and those of Spanish-speaking countries. The unit on food and meals offers students an opportunity to learn about cuisines and eating habits of some Spanish-speaking countries and to prepare and present a typical dish. Students read and discuss short novels set in Spanish-speaking countries. These novels provide an opportunity for students to explore cultural differences. The novel, Esperanza, and the film Bajo La Misma Luna, allow students to explore the complex issues surrounding political oppression, poverty, and the need to immigrate to seek new opportunities.
  • Introductory Spanish

    During the year, students develop all of the four major language skills: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing. Students are encouraged to communicate in Spanish as much as possible, learning to ask questions about classroom routine as well as expressing ideas and opinions. We use the video and audio supplemental materials to the Realidades 1 textbook to allow students to see and hear other young people speaking in Spanish in a variety of countries. Students are introduced to proper pronunciation and intonation through songs and poetry as well as the textbook materials.

    Students are introduced to the structure of the Spanish language through stories and conversations. They also listen to recordings of male and female native speakers to hear the language in contextualized settings. This helps them learn verb conjugation, noun/adjective/article agreement, word order, and other grammar concepts.

    We sing, tell stories, play games, and do paired communicative activities as well as complete a variety of projects. These projects urge students to compare the cultural differences and similarities in their own schools, sports and leisure activities, foods, and meal times with those of students in Spanish-speaking countries. The vocabulary and grammar correlates to the textbook Realidades, Para empezar and Chapters 1- 4. Students demonstrate their proficiency by creating recorded oral projects, writing messages, and creating short illustrated stories as well as other more traditional assessments. Students develop their reading comprehension skills by reading short novels, such as Berto y sus buenas ideas. This course is equivalent to the first half of a traditional Level 1 Spanish high school curriculum. Students complete the level one curriculum in the ninth grade.
  • Latin

    The eighth grade course emphasizes the mastery of all tenses in the active and passive voices, the uses of three participles, idiomatic expressions of place, and the comparative and superlative degrees of adjectives. There are nightly assignments to memorize vocabulary, to read, or to translate. Completion of this year fulfills or exceeds the requirements of one year of high school Latin at most schools.

    Text: Oxford Latin Course: Part II, by Maurice Balme & James Morwood, and Daimon, by Richard Case
  • French

    Eighth grade French marks the culminating year of French level 1 at Rippowam Cisqua. Students write and read more extensively as compared to previous years. Maximum use of French in the classroom is encouraged. In addition to completing the textbook, Discovering French Bleu, students are assigned supplemental readers and work on several projects that relate to Units in the text. These include a clothing project, a food project, and a lengthy written assignment demonstrating their competence of the passé composé. In the area of grammar, students study present, past, and future tenses of regular verbs and several irregular verbs (e.g., acheter, espérer, préférer, amener, payer, boire, faire, prendre, apprendre, comprendre, voir, mettre, connaître, savoir, dire, écrire, vouloir, devoir and pouvoir). Students also study the imperative, the use of partitives vs. definite articles, direct vs. indirect object pronouns, and comparative and superlative statements. If time permits, students view French films (e.g., Les Choristes, La Gloire de Mon Père) to enhance their understanding of French culture. By the end of eighth grade, students will have fulfilled or exceeded the requirements of a high school level 1 French course.

    Although eighth grade French continues to focus on everyday experiences (e.g., shopping for clothing, giving opinions, planning for meals, discussing weekend and sports activities), an important feature at this level is the encouragement of students to work on critical thinking skills. For example, when discussing shopping and prices, students observe the similarities and differences in the ways commands and comparisons are expressed in French and English. Similarly, when discussing weekend activities and speaking in the past tense, students learn to observe the similarities and differences between the passé composé in French and the past tense in English. In addition, students are encouraged to hone these analytical skills in writing assignments, projects, and readings.

    Throughout the year, cultural topics are embedded in the unit lessons. For example, the unit on clothes allows students to explore the French concept of style and the ways in which young people earn and spend their money. When discussing sports and weekend activities, students learn about popular sports (e.g., Le Tour de France) and the importance of leisure time to the French people.

    The unit on food and meals offers students an opportunity to learn about French meals and eating habits, and to present a typical French dish they have prepared. Finally, when students view the film, Les Choristes, they learn about the French student-teacher relationship and the importance of discipline in French education.

- Matt Hall, Head of RCS Upper Campus

Middle school students seek structured opportunities for adventure and discovery, while still yearning to play freely. They crave independent work, yet they collaborate willingly and without hesitation. Our objective is to harness this energy and enthusiasm for learning and to foster a passion for growth and knowledge that will be the foundation for future academic success. The RCS Upper Campus provides the supportive environment to navigate this dynamic period of academic and emotional development.

Electives and Allied Arts

Each trimester, the academic requirements for students in Grades 7 through 9 expand to include an elective or allied arts course. These unique course offerings, which vary by trimester, may include:

3D Printing                    Photography     

Ceramics                        Robotics     

Maker Club                    Stagecraft/Tech 

Film Criticism                 Strings 

Hydroponics                   Studio Art 

Intermediate Guitar

Music Lab 

Ripped Pages
 (Student Newspaper)

(A Capella Singing Group)