Grade 8 Curriculum
Eighth grade is a critical and pivotal year in a student’s social, emotional and cognitive growth. At Cambridge Friends School, we provide strong support for students as they prepare to transition toward greater independence. We seek to create a safe community that allows students a chance to explore their own identities and take academic risks.
Our goals are to:
- Affirm students’ identities, diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and racial identities
- Affirm students’ self-awareness
- Build effective communication skills with teachers through presentations, conferencing and student-led conferences
- Continue to foster a love and joy of learning
- Refine students’ critical thinking and analytical skills
- Refine students’ ability to look at things from multiple perspectives & make more nuanced decisions
- Build empathy and community
- Build a sense of civic responsibility and inspire change-makers
- Ground students in an understanding of the larger social, economic and political landscape of the US, currently and historically
Eighth-graders at Cambridge Friends School are essential members and leaders within our community. As student leaders, they help set the tone for our Middle School culture and act as role models for their Pre-K-K buddies, as well as for the rest of the School. In addition, the social emotional curriculum is designed to support students as they transition from Middle School to their chosen Secondary School.
As a Middle School, we begin the year with the creation of our Guiding Principles, and students engage this work alongside teachers and their peers. The Guiding Principles are an integral part of our Middle School culture and students work to envision what it means to be good stewards in the classroom, and provide input into how we as a community should model positive class behavior and interactions. As issues arise, Advisors will have class meetings to address conflict and to celebrate our successes.
During the secondary school placement process, the class focuses on how to effectively manage stress. The Director of Secondary School Placement and the Eight-Grade Advisor provides concrete tips and strategies, including mindfulness, ethics, and Quaker Principles as a way to stay centered throughout the secondary school process.
Eighth grade at Cambridge Friends School:
- Prepares our students for the required organizational and study skills they will need for a variety of secondary learning institutions
- Prepares our students for the academic, social, and emotional challenges of high school
- Prepares students to make decisions in the manner of Friends; to think ethically and equitably about their social and moral contributions to the greater world in which we live
- Prepares students to believe that the best solutions to problems are solved with a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and racial identities
- Develops students’ use of empathy and their abilities to promote peaceful communication and conflict resolution
- Teaches students to problem-solve using a deep sense of self-awareness
- Cultivates a growth mindset and seeing various perspectives so that students are open to growth and improvement
Over the course of the year, our eighth-grade social-emotional curriculum will focus on:
- Exploring our identities (chatroom)
- Responsible social/online sharing
- Media literacy
- Responsible decision-making around peer pressure, healthy decision making and friend choices, gossiping, exclusion, drugs and building healthy relationships
- Building healthy and supportive friendships
- Learning when to self-advocate
- Managing stress and anxiety
Key Components of the eighth-grade social-emotional curriculum:
- Advisory and Morning Meeting
- Guiding principles creation
- Team building activities
- Community lunches
- Conflict resolution
- Meeting for Worship and visits to the Cambridge Meeting
- A spring class trip to Puerto Rico to provide a capstone experience in students’ study of Spanish, study the El Yunque National Forest, explore the cultural history of the island, and do community service
- Choice-based Mini-mester Program
- Interest-based cross grade level and interdisciplinary Co-Labs
- Intense investigation of a social justice themed District Court case and trip to the MA District Court House
Through the Columbia University-style reading and writing workshop model, Cambridge Friends School students examine the following concepts: the role of audience, purpose and voice of underrepresented groups, how specific elements control genres; the intentional use of language, and how authors convey specific ideas and messages. Using the reading workshop model, students study various forms of literary and informational texts to accurately comprehend and interpret texts, effectively use new vocabulary, analyze and evaluate texts to form conclusions, and use texts to support assertions. In writing, students continue to expand the quality and depth of their written expression in order to organize, develop and support ideas with clarity. This is achieved through effective voice and word choice, write sophisticated paragraphs and sentences that flow effectively.
Using a Reading Workshop format, CFS students learn to pay attention to small moments in a piece of writing—it might be something a character says, the way a place is described, the appearance of an object, or a shift in tone, rhythm, or voice – and to connect them to larger features like theme, plot structure, or character development. Students are challenged to classify and compare their readings and begin to view their reading experiences as they build upon a literary archive. They are also challenged to determine connect thematic comparisons to various texts.
Using a Writing Workshop format, students learn to support their evidence with reasoning and to confidently make claims about literature and important topics related to our history and social studies work. They learn the parts of an argument and the purpose of persuasive writing. Students write for various audiences, and with specific intent. With teacher guidance, learners examine mentor texts for style, perspective, and then try their hands at the author’s craft. Teachers model and then ask students to practice a variety of revision techniques. Students revise their own work and that of their peers by sharing work aloud and in print.
Cambridge Friends School’s eighth-grade math follows a standard Algebra 1 curriculum with appropriate differentiation to meet the needs of individual learners. The year begins with studying real numbers, and a review of integer operations. Considerable time is devoted to studying linear equations, including solving algebraically and graphically. We then move on to solving inequalities and absolute value equations. All of this is combined when we study systems of equations and inequalities. Second semester work includes exponential equations, quadratic functions, polynomials and factoring, and rational expressions and equations.
In eighth-grade science,Cambridge Friends School students address the essential question of: How does matter cycle through Earth’s systems, and what role do humans play in this process? In this course, the ability to plan and conduct scientific research is placed on an equal level with conceptual understanding. Throughout the year, students are asked to participate in the development of projects, while also having a role in setting up the expectations for the completion of those projects. This includes our culminating field work project, in which the eighth-graders use their content knowledge and inquiry skills to work closely with local partners in our community to help assess the health of our nearby natural spaces through field research and data collection.
In preparation for our exploration of a local natural system on both an atomic level and a macro-biological scale, we spend the year expanding upon basic chemistry, physical science, life science concepts, scientific inquiry, and problem-solving skills that the students have learned over the last two years. We start with fluid dynamics and boat physics as a means to investigate the physical properties of various types of matter. An introduction to the elements, periodic table, and atomic physics is followed by laboratory exploration of chemical reactions and chemical changes in matter. In particular, we piece together the movement of atoms and the formation of the matter that makes up life, and examine how human activities affect matter flow in the world around us. In the spring, we begin an ecological exploration of our own local natural spaces with particular attention paid to the physical properties, chemical processes, and environmental interactions that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
The structure of the studio program for eighth grade students is built around the in-depth study of materials and personal choice. During in-depth studies, students explore a material, practice and refine skills, and use the material to create a major project. Each in-depth project is a multi-step design problem. An important goal of in-depth projects is for students to practice working both independently and collaboratively. Often, major projects are collaborations between visual art and another discipline.
Personal choice occurs between major projects and gives students the opportunity to learn from the art studio. Personal choice is not an unstructured time. During personal choice, each student chooses to work on a number of design challenges, or experiment with a material, or propose an independent project.
Middle School Physical Education aims to develop basic skills, concepts, and dispositions needed to lead a physically active lifestyle. Students transition through a variety of movements, and skill-based units including individual, partner, small-sided, and large group activities; all of which aim to promote activity, movement, and increase a student’s sense of self-confidence. Units and activities are tiered from grade to grade increasing challenges throughout the middle school Physical Education experience.
Major units that are taught include team building activities and problem solving, fitness, soccer, and team handball in the fall. The winter classes provide opportunities for group games, basketball, floor hockey, volleyball, yoga, badminton, and student choice. Spring units include post fitness activities, soccer, lacrosse, flag rugby, kickball, and ultimate frisbee. Popular group games of ultimate capture the flag, medic-medic, frisbee golf, and kickball are included intermittently throughout the school year.
Cambridge Friends School eighth-graders participate in a unique program entitled “Page to Stage,” which focuses on exploring and understanding classic texts, including pieces from Arthur Miller and William Shakespeare. Utilizing class discussion and seminar, potential guest artists, and new media, students develop a broader understanding of language and the way in which plays are constructed.
The first step in our eighth-grade drama curriculum is oral presentation and interviewing skills, done in conjunction with Jack Hill, Head of Middle School, and designed to increase the confidence of our students as they embark on interviewing for next schools, whether public or private. Mock interviews are conducted in order for students to fully engage in this process, from understanding how to emphasize themselves in dress, to showcase themselves in a memorable way. Students then move into the reading, reflection, and discussion of several plays. We take a deep look at text analysis using worksheets that outline this process, movie clips, and various other media.
The final step in this year-long curriculum is the preparation and performance of a major theatrical production in April. Students incorporate what they have learned through “Page to Stage” into their work in this production.
Spanish in eighth grade is a total immersion course in which all communication takes place in Spanish. Students and teachers use Spanish as the primary language in the classroom. The class is designed to augment the students’ oral/listening proficiency, reading comprehension, and written expression. The students explore themes related to the environment, human rights and Hispanic history. Students are tasked to utilize authentic resources, applying project based learning. The students conduct their research and present in Spanish. In eighth-grade Spanish, which is collaborative and highly communicative, students are expected to work both individually and in small groups. In this course, the following grammar points are covered: commands, telling time, simple present, preterit, simple future, introduction to imperfect and conditional tenses, adjectives, differences between “ser” and “estar,” reviewing, and building upon what was taught in the previous three years. Students also make comparisons and connections, communicating only in Spanish regarding cultures and communities of the Hispanic speaking countries and the rest of the world as the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework requires.