7th Grade Course Descriptions
Language arts work is regularly integrated with main lesson subjects, which provide opportunities to develop and practice a variety of written expression skills. Main lesson compositions and reports offer opportunities to sharpen writing and thinking skills. The students write the majority of their compositions on their own, and continue to develop their proofreading, editing and revising skills. Note taking during daily review is introduced, and the students practice expanding their notes into detailed compositions. They organize and express their thoughts by using outlines, topic sentences, and paragraphing. During history lessons, students write cause and effect, compare and contrast, and persuasive essays. In physics and biology they practice descriptive writing. Seventh grade students routinely recite tongue twisters and poetry during main lesson warm-ups.
All concepts from previous years are reviewed and practiced, with new work on phrases and clauses and their related punctuation, functions of subjects, predicates, direct and indirect objects, verb usage and diagramming sentences. Vocabulary and spelling work is completed weekly. Workbooks provides exercises for spelling, definition work, word usage, synonyms and antonyms. Students also enjoy challenges such as creating analogies.
Class literature is most often chosen for their relevance to specific main lesson subjects, such as History or Geography. These novels provide opportunities to broaden the understanding of human experience during a particular time period or in a certain culture or climate. Discussions and written exercises for comprehension, summarization and criticism are common activities when focusing on a particular novel. After these exercises, teachers may require additional free-choice book reports throughout the year.
While grammar and spelling conventions can make our language feel static, it is actually dynamic in its capacity to express the myriad nuances of human experience. Through close observation of nature and everyday objects, various writing exercises, and reading poetry, the students play with language during their Creative Writing block to explore the soul moods of wonder, longing, playfulness, and surprise. Students draw from their own life experiences to write about a moment in which they had experienced awe, their wishes for the future, and to give their readers an experience of surprise. Students explore the elements that make a fine story and experiment with different styles and approaches. Traditional and non-traditional poetry forms are studied and practiced. Poetic devices such as simile, metaphor, personification, alliteration, anaphora, onomatopoeia, meter, and rhyme help the students develop and reveal their imaginations. Additional work can be done with memorization and recitation. With a growing emphasis on precision, clarity and capacity for articulation, composition is consciously approached as a craft. Each student has the opportunity to write an original short story, a one-act drama or a series of poems as a culminating project.
In seventh grade physics, students revisit topics from the previous year: acoustics, optics, heat, and electricity and are introduced to mechanics. Through playing, listening and measuring, they discover Pythagoras’ mathematical relationships between string lengths and intervals and learn the meaning of oscillation, frequency, and Hertz. They experiment with sound in a vacuum. In the study of heat, students examine the expansion of air and metals and are introduced to the phenomenon of the steam vacuum. Temperature and its measurement, the three states of matter, and phase changes are also studied. The biographies of Galvani and Volta are introduced and students experience how two metals can produce an electric current. They learn about how great scientists discovered chemical electricity and electro-magnetism. Students also work with circuits and make a simple electric motor with a magnet, self-wound coil and a battery.
The chemistry block in seventh grade focuses mostly on inorganic chemistry and the inter-working of what the ancients referred to as the four elements in our world: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Students explore three major areas: combustion, acids and bases, and the lime cycle. Throughout the block they are introduced to the physical tools of the chemist as well as the mental tools required for observation and generating questions. Students witness several classic experiments of Priestly and Faraday, and learn to view fire in relation to its surroundings. Fire safety is also discussed. Students read a chapter from Michael Faraday’s Chemical History of a Candle. The pH scale is introduced and students learn about indicators for acids and bases, experimenting in school and at home with cabbage juice as an indicator. The lime cycle is introduced as an example of one of the oldest industrial processes and as a way of showing a chemical transformation going full circle, ending with the substance with which we had started. Students make slaked lime and mortar and thus are able to experience how burnt lime is made into mortar for building.
Astronomy considers the heavenly bodies and their effects on the earth. Students were introduced to the regular movements of the sun, moon, and stars through lessons in astronomy. Taught primarily from a geocentric and phenomenological perspective, students begin with daily observation of the movement of the sun and moon. This leads to discussions about the two models of planetary movement: heliocentric and geocentric. Students develop an understanding for the cycle of the seasons and the interplay of equinoxes and solstices. The phases of the moon are studied. Teachers compliment the abstract scientific ideas with biographies of astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. Students examine the stars and constellations, including the Zodiac. The students discover how to use the stars as a navigation tool. The class may also visit the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.
Seventh graders are introduced to human physiology, a field of study sparked by Renaissance thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci. The students learn about the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and reproductive systems. Since young teens are in the process of losing their instincts for good nutrition, the main lesson block in human physiology focuses on healthy living through a more conscious understanding of it. Much time is spent learning how nutrients develop in plants and how they contribute to both health and healing. This naturally leads to a discussion of the process of digestion, then how the blood carries these nutrients to every part of the body. In this way the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems are introduced. The course involves the students in a discussion of healthy food choices and cautionary information on addictive and unhealthy substances. A unit is often spent studying the reproductive system and the cultural and physical transition from childhood to adulthood. Sexual education, health, and the effect of drugs are addressed in context, sometimes by a visiting nurse or physician.
Seventh Grade math begins with a review of ratios and proportions, while exploring similar figures and real-life applications. Our discussion of similar triangles leads us to the Pythagorean Theorem as a way to understand right triangles. We then discover irrational numbers, which gives us reason to begin classifying different types of numbers (whole, integer, rational, irrational, etc.). We begin to recognize the limitations of our decimal system, as we discover non-terminating decimals, both repeating and non-repeating. While studying circles, we discover the irrational number π and learn how it can be used to relate any circle’s radius and diameter to its circumference and area. We solve complex area problems involving triangles, rectangles, and parts of circles. We begin to get comfortable working with negative numbers on a number line, on the coordinate plane, and in the real world. We learn how to apply the laws of exponents, and we continue our work with simplifying and evaluating expressions involving multiple operations. We begin to study formal algebra and learn to work with unknown quantities, eventually writing and solving algebraic equations. We revisit percents, using algebra to make multi-step percent problems easier to solve. The basics of statistics and probability are also introduced.
As time permits, the class teacher presents the geography of the Eurasian landmass, often teaching two blocks or selecting only Asia, knowing that the class will include European geography within the context of their European history blocks.
This geography block builds upon last year’s study of geology and ecology. The recent study of the world explorers provides meaningful context. Lessons begin with an overview of global geography and geographical terminology and its application. After examining the continents as a group, study focuses on Europe and Asia for in-depth look at the effects of physical geography and climatology on regional inhabitants. Asia is most often introduced with an overview of its physical geography as experienced and described by Marco Polo. In contrast to Europe’s peninsulas, rivers, and passable mountains, Asia’s deserts, high plains, and looming mountains present a much less hospitable picture. Many teachers choose to focus the study on China, Japan, Korea, India and the Philippines. Life in the various regions is contrasted through stories and descriptions of notable landmarks, climates and cultures. It is common for guest speakers to be invited to the classroom to share their first-hand experience in these cultures. Some teachers use this block to discuss the religions of Eastern Asia, including Islam and Buddhism, which contribute to the unique character of the people. Others may focus on the particular geography and ecosystems of Russia and provide an age-appropriate explanation of Communism and the Cold War. Students are often asked to complete individual research and write reports focusing on the culture of a specific country. The format of this report varies from class to class. Students may write an expository essay, present an oral report, and/or practice and share a particular art form that comes from their region, such as cuisine, practical arts, fine art, music or dance. Students may be asked to create summaries of the material that is presented by their classmates and include them in their main lesson books. As an accompaniment to the study of Asia, seventh graders may read A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park and/or The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson.
The Age of Exploration block offers the opportunity for students to travel vicariously in the ships of the Explorers through a changing world. Beginning with a brief recapitulation of the Middle Ages, students learn about the Hundred Years War and the eventual signing of the Magna Carta. Students learn about Joan of Arc and how she marked the beginning of this new chapter of European History. Teachers then continue by presenting biographies of the great explorers and scientists whose actions and new ideas overturned the prevailing Medieval world views. The accomplishments of Gutenberg, Henry the Navigator, Da Gama, Columbus, Pizarro, Magellan, Copernicus, and Galileo are fundamental to our understanding of our contemporary world. Attention is brought to the effect of the Plague, the invention of gunpowder and the slave trade.
While European sailors broadened their outer vistas, many of their landed countrymen expanded the inner vistas of their minds in the fields of politics, religion, science, and the arts. Through the biographies of some of the more influential men and women of this era, the seventh graders were presented with a Europe gradually awakening to these new ideas. The study of the European Renaissance focuses on several regions of the European continent. Beginning with the flowering of cultural life in Florence students learn about important figures such as Lorenzo de Medici, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Traveling north to Germany students study the life of Martin Luther and the Religious Reformation. Crossing the English Channel students viewed the Renaissance in England through the lives of the Tudors: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I, as well as Sir Francis Drake and William Shakespeare. Additional focus is brought on the effect of the changing times on science through the life and work of Brahe, Kepler and Galileo. To awaken their own artistic power, the students are asked to copy a Renaissance masterpiece.
In seventh grade, students practice reading, writing, speaking and listening in Spanish (in some cases, practicing and reviewing these skills from the past six years). They also learn nearly two hundred verbs and learn about the present tense, the present continuous, reflexive verbs, ser vs. estar, gustar, key question words, and more. Students study and master useful vocabulary related to the topic(s) being studied. All class content is delivered and processed through a creative cultural lens. Students are introduced to specific aspects of Latin American and Spanish culture through music, film, stories and biographies. Some examples include studying Andean myths, learning about revolutionary leaders and the biggest anti-colonial revolution in South America led by Túpac Amaru II, or reading short biographies about Latin America and Spanish athletes.
Drawing is treated as a communicative language and incorporated into every academic class and several specialty classes, rather than existing as a separate subject or as a stand alone class. Drawing fluency is developed along with all other learning and is appreciated as a way to transcend, to accentuate, to compliment and to demonstrate comprehension of a given subject. Watercolor painting is studied alongside drawing and students develop a strong sense of color and learn to create form through color. Students also learn to sculpt in clay and other mediums.
In the seventh grade, students work with different materials and learn different techniques for textiles. The first project involves wet felting; a process of applying heat, moisture and pressure to wool, whereby fibers bond together to create felt. Students learn about this phenomenon as the basis to create the material for making small pouches. Later in the year, students may also learn Shibori, a dye-resist technique for binding and clamping that has been done for centuries in Japan (as well as in Africa and in India) using natural indigo dye. At the end of the year, they explore leather work.
The Middle School Chorus is a hands-on class designed to teach the basics of choral singing and musical literacy through the study of diverse repertoire, music theory and music history. All students in grades 6, 7 and 8 combine to form one singing ensemble, which meets twice a week. Recently, the Middle School Chorus has worked on and performed some challenging choral pieces; including “Psallite” by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), “Bonse Aba,” a traditional Zambian song arranged by Andrew Fischer, and “Da Pacem Domine,” a traditional Latin hymn. Students will perform at various school day assemblies throughout the year as well as special out-of-school performances in and around Brooklyn and New York City. Students must also complete two written projects during the year – one during the first semester and one during the second semester – on a variety of topics chosen by the students.
Music is an important element of the Waldorf curriculum and making music is an essential experience at the Brooklyn Waldorf School. All students in grades 6, 7 and 8 continue (or if they just joined the school, start to learn) to play a string or woodwind instrument, participating in orchestra and performing in ensemble and solo concerts throughout the year. Grades 6, 7 and 8 combine to form one orchestra called the Claver Castle Orchestra, which meets twice a week. The Claver Castle Orchestra works on and performs challenging music such as Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso and Karl Jenkins’s Palladio. During rehearsal time, students learn about musical phrasing, articulation, and dynamics, note-reading, ensemble playing and listening to each other, as well as discipline, focus and determination. In addition to orchestra class, students take private instrument lessons after school where they can focus on the intricate technical elements of playing an instrument. The one-on-one attention—with focus on details of playing, note reading, and musicianship—enables the student to experience the school’s orchestra program on a deeper level, making it a life-forming experience. Students are required to practice their instrument at home for a minimum of 20 minutes five times a week. In addition to performing in the Claver Castle Orchestra, each student performs two solo pieces with piano accompaniment a year, during a lunchtime concert or solo recital. Solo pieces provide an opportunity for the student to enhance his/her individual music skills; focusing on intonation, accuracy and steady rhythm. It also gives the student an opportunity to explore his or her own interests in musical styles which might be different from the styles played in the orchestra.
The seventh grade physical education curriculum is made up of various fitness activities, with an introduction to team sports (volleyball, basketball, handball, badminton, fencing, floor hockey, running, ultimate football, soccer, softball, etc.), games, dance activities, Circus Arts and Bothmer gymnastics. Different activities for these sports are taught at different grade levels. These activities have the goal to both enhance fitness of the participant and to inspire a lifelong enjoyment of joyful and graceful movement. Assessment includes a threefold view of demonstrated behavior in class: (1) self direction, (2) responsibility for self and others, and (3) collaboration and quality of work. Students should demonstrate perseverance in learning, using appropriate resources for problem solving, and readiness for class instruction. They must also demonstrate a stewardship of school resources and facilities, responsibility for personal actions, positive contributions to class and ethical and respectful behavior towards others. Lastly, students must be able to work within groups to achieve group goals and to show effective and responsible use of time.
The seventh grade eurythmy class is an opportunity for students to work on the quality of “mood.” Students learn to use and understand how their physical bodies move with antipathy (i.e. heaviness, reluctance to move) and sympathy (i.e. the need to connect and to be understood by others). Students continue to work on difficult geometric forms which they have to first visualize and then transpose into space. Students also learn about different elements of music (pitch, rhythm and tones) and the speech gestures of eurythmy. For all of these different movements and gestures, students learn about precision but overall the main emphasis is on the mood that the students need to create. We learn specific gestures and movements of the arm, foot or head that can express moods of the soul, as well as musical pieces that often involve contrasts between major and minor keys.