The seventh grade advisory program focus on goal-setting and reflection, on the students’ management of their own affairs, and on building community. Special programs incorporated within the advisory rubric in seventh grade include a tzedakah program produced by the American Jewish World Service entitled “Where Do You Give?”; an award-winning program for young adolescent girls, “It’s a Girl Thing!”; an exploration of Jewish values as a means of assessing and enhancing the class’s functioning as a community; planning and preparation for a three-day educational trip to Washington, D.C.; and the first half of a year-long high school preparation program. The 7th grade Health curriculum focuses on human sexuality and also approaches the issues of substance abuse and peer pressure in the context of the Jewish idea of Kavod Ha’Briot (human dignity). The seventh grade community service project is volunteering with residents at the Jewish Home Lifecare. Students also use part of their advisory sessions to work on developing their Portfolios and preparing for Portfolio Conferences. The advisory teacher conferences regularly with each student to help monitor his or her academic and personal progress and to address any individual concerns.
Seventh grade art studies begin with looking closely at trees. Students create detailed drawing using a photo of a tree; then sketch in central park. They then use their sketches to paint a more impressionistic version of a tree. Exploration of sculpture is pursued through two choices: animals or figures made from twigs referencing the artist, Deborah Butterfield or clay gargoyles. Students make models and then sculpt their ideas in clay. In a unit on abstraction students use ipads and watercolors to create a series of sketches about abstraction. Then using oil pastels and paint, the students produce their own abstract pieces.
In the spring semester the seventh grade explores the topic of Tzedakah in both study and art. In their Advisory classes they learn about charity in many forms from source texts. They used this knowledge as the basis to create original Tzedakah boxes. The boxes are displayed for the whole school to see. In a unit on cubism, students visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the exhibition Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection, where they sketch pieces that are later developed into a series of still life drawings in class. A graphic design assignment asks students to create a three part narrative in black and white. In the final unit, students explore micrography, the art of using letters to create a picture. Students select a text of their choice to design and fill their designs with Hebrew and English texts and letters.
Hebrew is taught on different levels in Middle School. The beginners’ curriculum – Bishvil Ha’Ivrit book 1 is designed for students with no or very little knowledge of Hebrew. In this program, students learn to speak in short dialogues about daily life; write paragraph-length personal narratives, memos, and assertions of opinion; and read stories, folk tales, and descriptive or informational non-fiction texts. The language structures that they learn to recognize and use include singular and plural forms; masculine and feminine forms; present tense and infinitives; four of the seven verb patterns (binyanim); the basic possessive forms; prepositions; nominal clauses; and word order in sentences.
The intermediate curriculum – Bishvil Ha’Ivrit books 2-3 is a two-year sequence that is typically studied by students entering seventh and eighth grade in Jewish day schools. In this program, students learn to speak in longer dialogues about a wide range of subjects and in interviews; write letters; and read longer short stories, non-fiction texts, essays, and simple songs, poems, and biblical passages. The language structures that they learn to recognize and use include the basic future tense; all seven verb patterns (binyanim); declension of several prepositions; noun-adjective agreement in gender and number; nominal, verbal, and object clauses; parts of speech; and word order.
The advanced curriculum – Bishvil Ha’Ivrit books 4-5 is a two-year sequence that is typically studied by students entering ninth and tenth grade in Jewish day schools. In this program, students learn to speak freely in conversation on any topic; read news articles in easy Hebrew, full-length short stories partially adapted to easy Hebrew, and poetry, songs, biblical verses, and midrashim; write multi-paragraph narratives, reports, and essays; and understand TV or radio news items. The language structures that they learn to recognize and use include the future tense in four binyanim (verb patterns), declension of prepositions, gerunds, past participles, possessives, suffixes, and conditional clauses.
“A Living Democracy: The American System of Politics and Law” is the theme of the humanities core curriculum in seventh grade. Beginning with today’s events, students look at how democratic values and structures are reflected in the upcoming November elections. The branches of government most prominently represented in the current elections are examined, and students investigate the main issues in the election by identifying and comparing the positions taken by the major candidates. The students conclude the first unit on Election Day participating in a series of public debates on issues relevant to the election year and to their lives.
The focus of study next shifts to the eighteenth century. Students read the Articles of Confederation, selected Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, and the Constitution. In connection with their study of these documents, they practice writing persuasive essays of their own. They then select a particular issue that was debated by the Federalists and Anti-Federalists and undertake independent research on the issue, its background, its resolution in the Constitution, and its legacy in subsequent American political and legal history. They discuss their analysis and conclusions about their chosen issue in an extended research paper, present their findings in the form of a scripted debate before members of the wider school community, and defend their presentation in response to “warm” and “cool” questioning.
The enduring legacy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to American politics and law form the basis of the following unit of study. After reading “Inherit the Wind,” students complete a project called The Constitution Works, in which students are given the facts of a First Amendment case and information about relevant Supreme Court precedent. In a culminating role play, students address the constitutional question they have researched by simulating oral arguments before the Supreme Court, taking on the roles of Supreme Court justices and attorneys.
The curriculum incorporates other experiences with literature, as well: the students’ first exposure to a Shakespearean play; each student’s independent reading; literature circles on books relating to life in the ghettos during the Holocaust; a unit on short stories; newspaper and magazine articles; and additional essays. The students’ writing experiences, both in connection with the theme and independent of it, take the form of a writing workshop, in which students write using the writing process, share their writing, and complete multiple drafts of each assignment. Grammar, spelling, and varied word choice are taught directly and reinforced continuously.
The seventh grade Torah curriculum covers selected chapters of Sh’mot(Exodus) and B’midbar (Numbers), commencing with the Golden Calf incident and concluding with the rebellion led by Korach. In addition to the skills learned in previous years, seventh graders learn to work their way through the Hebrew text with limited vocabulary support, put themselves in the shoes of the biblical characters, ask larger philosophical questions about the text, and compare and contrast medieval and modern commentaries.
In the second year of Talmud study, seventh graders explore some classic sugyot from N’zikin (the Order of Civil and Criminal Law) and Mo’ed (Jewish holidays). These passages range in topic from whether the mitzvah of being in the sukkah applies during the day as well as the night or just the day, to the death penalty, to the mitzvah of honoring and respecting one’s parents. The passages range from half a side of a page in the fall to up to a full page in the spring; students become increasingly familiar with Aramaic vocabulary and language patterns during the year, and the amount of Aramaic in each passage reflects this growth. Additionally, students learn how to use a Steinsaltz Talmud with a complete Hebrew and Aramaic text, and some go on to use a traditional Vilna Shas text, which has no punctuation or vowels. The structure of the sugyah also grows in complexity, and the logical connections between parts of the text later in the year often need to be inferred; the flow and style of argumentation between the rabbis becomes increasingly implicit and complex, as well. Students become less reliant on vocabulary lists for common terms, learn to map out the flow of the argument by filling in and constructing charts and diagrams, grow in their ability to analyze and explain the various lines of argument, and develop question-posing skills.
Students explore the history of the modern State of Israel through historic speeches, documents, and song. Through these cultural elements, students gain perspective on each of the periods since 1948.
The second half of the B’nei Mitzvah program is taught in seventh grade. Students learn the art and craft of preparing a d’var Torah, and they undertake a second mitzvah project, this time relating to an interpersonal mitzvah (bein adam la’chaveiro). They again research a mitzvah of their choice and practice it over an extended period, keeping a reflective journal. The mitzvah project culminates in an extensive research paper that they share with their classmates.
The t’filah program continues to expand and diversify in seventh grade. Students learn two entirely new prayer services this year: Shacharit (the morning prayer) and minchah (the afternoon prayer) for Shabbat. In addition, several new prayers are added for the conclusion of the daily morning service following the Amidah. Students who become bar or bat mitzvah this year, or during the summer preceding, have their first experiences of assuming full responsibility for the leadership of a minyan as chazanim.
In seventh grade, the focus of study prior to the chagim (Jewish holidays) shifts to Maimonides’ Code of Jewish Law. In many cases, his novel insights and approaches to understanding familiar practices and concepts provoke surprise, heated debate, and unexpected pleasure. For example, students encounter his analysis of differences between the second day of Rosh Hashanah and that of every other holiday; two different and apparently incompatible descriptions of the process of repentance; an account of the history of Chanukah and the nature of the miracle that differs from everything else students have learned in the past; and a surprising choice of how best to express the joyousness of the holiday on Purim and other chagim.
In math, the seventh grade program focuses on proportional reasoning and its applications and includes an introduction to linear algebra. Students apply ratios to compare geometric figures, prices, rates, slopes and probabilities. Symbolic solutions to proportions lead into formal algebra.
Beginning from an in-depth review of numerical operations and proceeding to properties of operations (commutative, associative, and distributive), variables, signed numbers, and linear geometry, students are prepared with all of the content components they will need to proceed to a fully elaborated Algebra I program in eighth grade. During the year, students prepare an exhibition on ratios and proportions. Student select real-life problems whose solution requires the use of ratios and proportions and present their applications in oral exhibitions to members of the wider school community. They then defend their presentations by responding to “warm” and “cool” questions from the learning community.
With continuing frequent “math workouts,” students gain speed, efficiency, and accuracy in performing calculations and solving rote problems. Working alone and in groups on problem sets and projects, students are responsible for learning skills and assessing their own needs.
Key focal points for the year include: Modeling situations with tables, graphs and equations and performing operations on all rational numbers; Developing an understanding of and applying proportionality, including similarity; Modeling situations with linear equations and applying them to answer questions.
The following topics are studied in seventh grade:
The seventh grade science curriculum consists of several units, each drawn from one of the major areas of scientific study.
In the physical sciences, students explore the physics of simple machines with a hands-on investigation of the six simple machines that culminates in a Rube Goldberg project, in which students design and build their own wacky machine and explain the physical properties that the machine utilizes.
In the biological sciences, students explore evolutionary change. They are introduced to the “tree of life,” organism adaptations, and a class timeline; using living dioramas, organism adaptation stations, and fossil findings, they observe and document change over long periods of Earth history.
The earth science unit, focusing on weather, examines how the relationship between the Sun and the Earth affects our seasons, how clouds determine the types of weather that occur on Earth, and how weather would be different on other planets. The culminating project of the unit is a choice of projects ranging from weather demonstrations to meteorologist reports. The unit leads to a discussion of global warming and its effect on the planet. The various causes, both man-made and natural, are discussed, and the students debate the causes of global warming.
Finally, Environmental Detectives presents a mystery which students must solve by investigating the many potential causes of fish dying, including chlorine pollution, acid rain, erosion and sediment pollution, predator-prey relationships, phosphate pollution and algal blooms, and oil pollution.
The seventh grade program consists of the same elements as in previous years, but as students’ skills build, the tasks become more challenging. In keyboard, the class works on incorporating the left hand, with emphasis on time and correct fingering. The instrumental program culminates in a keyboard recital, in which each student plays a piece. In theory, they continue to work on musical notation and are introduced to group composition, arrangement, and lyric writing. In ear training, they learn to identify particular pitch changes. Music appreciation focuses on characteristics of different genres and styles, including classical, jazz, and pop, with a focus on melody. In addition to learning new Hebrew and English songs, the students work on dynamics and singing two-part harmonies.
Lessons begin with warm-ups, including stretching and a distance jog. The fall program emphasizes advancing students’ basic skills in soccer: leg strength, controlling the ball, and the proper techniques for throw-ins. Strategy of the games and proper positioning are also stressed. The class period regularly concludes with a game that utilizes students’ newly honed skills. Once in a while, a second soccer ball is added during the game to promote alertness and allow more students to be involved in the action. Additionally, the coaches stress communication, teamwork, and sportsmanship.
In the winter, the students continue working on soccer and supporting this with two types of indoor kickball (dome-ball and end-line kickball) games. They then move on to basketball, where they work on dribbling, passing, and shooting until they are comfortable enough to start playing full-court games. This is followed in the spring season by softball, in which the students work on proper throwing, catching, and batting techniques to improve eye-hand coordination, using the pitching machine for fly balls and ground balls, in addition to batting. The rules and strategy are also reviewed. In addition, volleyball and Newcomb are introduced.