Eighth Grade: The Student and the Curriculum
As the student turns fourteen, he stands at the beginning of a process that will unfold over the next seven years. Puberty marks this threshold, but it is more than sexual maturity; it is, more importantly, the birth of critical thinking and judgment. These capacities come at the painful cost of breaking away from the warm, lively attachment to one’s own small world causing feelings of deep loneliness. Yet, antipathy, in puberty, has the rightful task of pushing back the world in order to create an inner space in the teenager. He must discover his center and search for his own separate identity. At the same time, he must move outside of himself and find a new way back into the world with direction in life and his own path toward people and community. He begins to see the world differently, coming face to face with the raw facts of reality. It is the task of the teacher to strengthen the individual forces inherent in the students and to stand firm before them with inner strength and conviction so that they may discover their own.
In the language arts curriculum, the students read and analyze various selections that are written with different perspectives and styles. They also study the elements of a story, e.g. plot, setting, characterization, theme, and use these elements to create their own stories. While their work together may focus on the short story, the students independently read a selection of books, often with the theme of man’s struggle for freedom. Formal debate is introduced to show the logical steps in developing an argument and to appreciate different, yet valid points of view.
Mathematics helps develop objective thinking and to strengthen the students’ budding capacity for logical thought, as in the simple algebraic equations of “if a, then b.” Students work with Algebra ½ or Algebra 1 textbooks in their skill lessons for consistent practice. In geometry, students try to construct the platonic solids, (tetrahedron, cube, dodecahedron, etc.), in clay or paper before they calculate their areas, surfaces, etc.
In eighth grade, the students not only want to move out into the world, they want to alter it, to conquer it, to leave their mark upon it as a way of defining who they are. The personalities of the great industrial, scientific and political revolutions from the 1700s to the present day speak to the students and show them how individuals can effect change in the world. The fight for human freedom echoes the growing feeling of independence within the students and their developing self-reliance. The fight for freedom is revealed in the history of the United States, from the Boston Tea Party, framing of the Constitution, the Civil War, abolition of slavery, suffrage, to the Civil Rights and Women’s movements.
In geography the students explore Asia in its vast diversity of land, cultures, history and philosophies. The continents of Australia and Antarctica complete the students’ grand tour of the varied peoples, cultures, and lands of the world.
Through the sciences of climatology and meteorology, the whole world is examined again. Students see how the layers of the atmosphere and air pressures affect the world’s climate and weather. Previous work in physics is deepened and the students study the practical application of scientific principles as in hydraulics and aerodynamics. In chemistry, the basic organic substances of sugar, starch, protein and fat are explored as well as their application to diet, technology and manufacturing. Human anatomy and physiology are observed in the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems, and through the stages of embryology.
Even as the students stand more strongly as individuals, it remains vital that they learn to work together and build healthy, social relationships. As a class, they continue to refine communication skills and explore ways to remain warm while becoming separate individuals, to avoid the destructive “anti” energy, and to speak and act without polarizing others. They learn to honor and celebrate the uniqueness of themselves and others.
Grade 8 Morning Lesson Blocks: Revolutions, American History, Modern History, Shakespeare, Chemistry (metals, gases and solids), Physiology (skeletal and muscular system, eye, and ear), Physics (current electricity, hydraulics, and aerodynamics), Meteorology, Geography of Asia, Antarctica, and Australia, Number Bases and Equations, Set Concepts and Platonic Solids, Class Play
Grade 8 Trip: Culminating trip that includes personal and team challenges as well as service opportunities
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