Grade Seven Curriculum
The seventh-grade year is one of great change and challenge for the students as they explore limits and express their own opinions, and teachers and parents whose authority is being questioned as the children assert their independence. The children are focused both out into the world that they are moving quickly towards and on themselves and their growing and deepening emotional and intellectual inner life. This requires a curriculum that echoes the energy of the seventh grader, mirroring their own self-discovery with an historical age of remarkable discovery, the Renaissance, as a parallel to the child’s adolescence experience.
The language arts curriculum focuses on creative and expository writing throughout grade seven. In the block Wish, Wonder and Surprise, students are encouraged to explore their own developing imaginations and inner experiences through narratives, descriptions, essays around fairytales and poetic forms like haiku. Literary concepts such as meter, simile, metaphor, and oxymoron are discussed and employed, along with continued exercises in spelling and grammar. Most of the writing in the main lesson books is either the students’ own or dictations that provide continued exercises in spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
Biography offers a way to enter deeply into the thought and motivation of a particular time period of an individual soul. It can also inspire the seventh grader to look beyond the turbulence and self-preoccupation of adolescence. Thus in seventh grade, biography is emphasized in many of the history and language arts main lesson blocks.
With the study of algebra, the students are introduced to abstract mathematical thinking for the first time, freed of its relationship to computation. They enter the realm of positive and negative integers, variables, formulae, binomials, inverse operations, coefficients, and irrational numbers. Students learn to balance equations and to solve for variables.
In geometry, the class moves into the computation of areas of polygons and solids. More divisions of the circle are drawn and students learn the possible transformations arising out of nested forms as an introduction to the spiral forms. Computing pi and deriving the formula for area and circumference of the circle are included. Understanding the Fibonacci number sequences and the Golden Mean leads students to understand the significance of these ratios in art and architecture.
As in previous years, the seventh grade does morning recitation, singing and playing the recorder in addition to chorus and orchestra. One main lesson block will be devoted to the class play, which is now often from the standard theater repertory. Students often continue watercolor painting, with an emphasis on architecture or on copying paintings of the great masters. Perspective drawing and calligraphy are introduced, and the children continue their handwork and sculpture classes, felting slippers and carving bowls as their final projects.
Biology takes the form of lessons in the anatomy of the sense organs, soft organs, nutrition, and human development. The children draw and discuss the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and reproductive systems in detail, examining the importance of proper nutrition and the developmental and physical changes that occur in puberty.
A historical approach with astronomy includes the biographies of the great astronomers Copernicus, Newton, Kepler, Brahe, and Galileo, revealing to the student the discovery of the heliocentric view. This will lead to a broader look at the solar system in relation to the galaxy. The teacher may choose to present contemporary astronomy concepts and ideas to deepen the students’ sense of awe with our Universe.
In chemistry, through a continued emphasis on observation, the children are invited to explore the transformation of substances during combustion. Beginning with simply observing a candle flame, the class learns about topics which may include the characteristics of oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, acids and alkalis, copper plating and the chemistry of the limestone cycle. Students keep detailed illustrated notes of their observations in the main lesson book.
The study of physics is broadened in complexity with the application of mechanics examining the “six simple machines,” such as levers and pulleys, and their applications in the practical world of work, current electricity and the continuation of visual physics with reflected images, as in the workings of the camera. These studies provide the means to understand many modern technological processes.
Seventh-grade geography builds on the previous year’s studies with further exploration of another continent, typically Europe or Africa, with a continued emphasis on accurate map drawing. As is common in earlier grades, some teachers do individual country projects that enable children to explore a particular region, cook its food or present its games or culture to their classmates. Major geographic details, as well as cultural and historical threads relating to their respective regions, are studied. Country research reports and presentations are customary and traditional classroom lessons are augmented by trips to museums, drumming demonstrations, participation in a Japanese tea ceremony, and guest lecturers visiting the classroom.
The class grapples with the strengths and weakness of various map projections from the Age of Exploration. Understanding latitude and longitude as a part of map reading lessons are important and students are assigned freehand drawings of the different regions of the earth.
The theme of the courageous individual from the medieval history curriculum continues in the study of the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration, marking a new way of stepping out into the world. In these blocks, by studying such artists, religious leaders, philosophers and explorers as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and others, we observe the new role of the individual in society. Religion is further explored through the Reformation, featuring the life of Martin Luther as it points to the development of the individual’s spiritual freedom, which serves as a backdrop for the youth’s own emerging identity. Students are asked to deeply consider the tension between science and religious beliefs, which nourishes those who are wrestling with similar questions of their own.
The biographies of notable explorers support the growth and investigation of adolescent development as students discover the theme of traveling and discovering uncharted territories, even when no one believed it was possible. This is a wonderful block that illuminates the inner courage and resources that the students must find as they continue on their path of development.
Students review the concepts learned in sixth grade, noun agreement (gender, number), adjectives with articles, the formation of plural and non-plural nouns, abstract and concrete nouns, possessives, and use of “de” as a possessive.
New vocabulary and concepts of grammar are introduced for the students to be able to greet and respond, engage in basic conversations, express likes and dislikes, make requests, obtain information, understand some ideas and familiar details and begin to provide information. The use of some irregular verbs is introduced, such as gustar (to like), querer (to want or wish for), poder (to be able to), tener (to have) and ir (to go). The students learn how and when to use the verbs ser and estar (to be) in the present, preterit and perfect past tense.
The soul landscape deepens in adolescence and the Waldorf curriculum makes a tremendous shift to meet this aspect of the developing child. In eurythmy, this calls for the greater polarity of artistic material and the exploration of gestures that communicate such moods of soul as joy, megalomania, and grief. Within the realm of polarity, music lends powerful contrasts of major and minor harmonic shifts. These are taught through conscious gestures for major and minor and in the selection of music for general class exercises throughout the year. The study of language continues, focusing on the strengthening study of rhyme. The seventh grader needs space for greater individuation while still connecting with his/ her peers. With this in mind, opportunities for small and large group work intersperse the lessons. The need for humor remains paramount.
Grades Six, Seven and Eight
After the focus on “personal best” that is the mainstay of the fifth grade Olympic preparations, the middle school students are encouraged to expand their striving for individual excellence to encompass a sense of team identity. It is hoped that the foundations of teamwork, camaraderie and sportsmanship laid down in the early grades will allow for a healthy progression into mainstream sports without falling prey to the shadow-side of organized sports in our culture; cheating, showing off, violent conflicts and low self-esteem among the less naturally gifted. Above all, the central goal for the students is to have fun with their classmates while getting exercise.
The school’s relationship with SUNY New Paltz allows the student access to first-rate sports facilities and the opportunity to be taught by a variety of teachers. This aspect of the curriculum meets the adolescents where they are at developmentally and provides them with variety, state-of-the-art facilities and the opportunity to be taught by specialists in their fields.