The task of elementary education is to give children an understanding of humanity and the world they live in, to offer them knowledge so rich and warm as to engage their hearts and wills as well as their minds. Such an understanding is the basis of all real learning in later years. With the completion of the eighth grade the students should have a well-rounded general picture of human life and universe. This last year of elementary school should not only bring all previous experiences to a new peak, but enable the students to enter fully and potently into the life of their own time.
The Grade 8 history curriculum strives to span the time from Elizabethan England through the 20th century by looking at the social, political and economic climates surrounding revolutions through individual biographies, art, literature and pertinent readings. Aspects of American history (The Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, Civil and World Wars) become familiar territory. The history of revolutions and its world-wide impact is also explored. Geography takes up the same theme, showing the role played by every part of the earth in modern industrial civilization. A comprehensive picture is given of the relation of mineral resources and plant and animal life to the life of human beings in various regions of the world (world economic geography).
Physics lessons complement these historical and geographical surveys. The practical uses made of man’s new knowledge of all the physical sciences are thoroughly explored. In addition to further studies in acoustics, thermodynamics, mechanics, climate, electricity and magnetism, the students are now introduced to hydraulics, aerodynamics, and meteorology and ecology. Chemistry is also considered in relation to industry. Organic chemistry includes an overview of the nature of and experiments with sugars, starches, proteins, fats and oils.
Mathematics also emphasizes the practical applications of arithmetic, algebra and geometry. Demonstrations in plane and solid geometry lead to problems in the measurement of surfaces and volume. The study of graphs is introduced. Man is again the subject of nature study through anatomy and physiology of the human organism, observed from the standpoint of form and movement (skeleton, muscular systems, and the senses). The anatomy of the ear and the eye are also often brought at this time.
In Language Arts eighth graders learn to edit their writing, summarize written work, and solidify their grammar skills (passive and active verbs, direct and indirect objects, clauses and phrases, pronouns). The spoken work continues with more oral reports including biographies, modern history, and geography. Poetry continues to be a lively part of the main lesson. The class play is often Shakespeare or a modern play with rich use of language. Each individual now begins to understand a point of view and the dramatic themes used in acting. In Spanish students continue to review vocabulary, conjugate verbs, and accomplish some sophisticated reading in English of the political geography of Latin America. The hope is to present in the future more sophisticated understanding of Latin America, the Moors in Spain, the Irish in Mexico, and slavery in the Caribbean.
Music takes up Elizabethan music, American music, symphonic form; eurythmy complements other studies with exploration of poems with contrasting moods. In chorus and orchestra, the students learn more complex and challenging vocal and instrumental arrangements, demanding attention in the lesson and more instrument practice outside of class. Eighth graders are usually invited to join the high school chorus, which provides them the opportunity for an even greater awareness and experience of vocal music. Recorders continue to be played in main lesson, with the bass recorder added in 7th or 8th grade to the already proficient soprano and alto players, allowing for four-part harmony.
Painting concerns itself for the first time with studies of highlights and shadows in portraits and landscapes. Machine sewing, darning, artistic hand-sewing projects, soapstone carving, and carpentry devoted to big projects requiring real skill and imagination culminate eight years of handwork.
The Middle School Dance Program is intended to bring to the students a measure of proficiency, confidence, and cooperation in movement when dancing and offers a Fall and Spring Middle School Dance. The dances taught include swing, cha cha, waltz and foxtrot. These dances require partners, which promote a socially healthy exchange between the boys and the girls. The 8th grader has the opportunity to perfect his or her abilities in movement and rhythm, learning how to lead and follow a partner with expanding confidence. In gym additional sporting activities are introduced, while attention is given to perfecting technique and learning through practice. Emphasis is on sportsmanship.