Themes that naturally arise in the Seventh grade year are individualism, destiny, artistry, and self-knowledge. With the days of learning through stories and fables in the past, students at this age tend to be fascinated by the real and the tangible. Students become more excited by the sciences and the precise mathematics that supports reality. Artistry and understanding reach new levels as they apply these skills to complex geometry that they will revisit and build upon in the years to come.
Our English classes have two major goals related to the development of each student’s writing skills. First is the development of a writing practice in which the students begin to feel a degree of ease in written expression and begin to develop a personal voice with malleability. The second is to develop the ability to write clear, cohesive, and cogent paragraphs that will form the basis of future expository and inquiry-based writing assignments.
After some basic exercises in the classroom, students venture outdoors with pen and paper to write descriptions of the world around them. They return to the classroom to edit and improve their work. The differences between narrative, expository, and descriptive writing are discussed and practiced using similes, metaphors, alliteration, direct quotation, the passive and active voices, and personification. Students are asked to incorporate all of their senses into compositions that emphasize a sense of awe through wish, wonder, and surprise. Nuances of grammar are taken up, as are writing techniques such as foreshadowing, flashbacks, and boxes within boxes of description. Each student is required to memorize and recite a poem. The class listens to a work of literature read aloud, and finishes the block by writing a carefully crafted short story that includes many of the elements with which they have worked.
The class reviews fractions, decimals, and percentage before moving into algebra, geometry, and the application of formulas. New material is always introduced during a main lesson, while established material is reviewed and practiced in the run-through classes.
In the geometry block, we revisit the characteristics of various geometric shapes (triangle, rhombus, rectangle, etc.) and review how to find the perimeter and area of each. The students then turn their attention to the circle, and take up related vocabulary. The curious number “pi” is introduced when students realize that the measurement of each circle, no matter the size, when divided by the diameter comes out very close to 3.1415. . .. In this way, they are able to understand pi before learning how to apply it in order to calculate the circumference and area of a circle. Next, they focus on the famous Fibonacci sequence and the history of the golden ratio. In this context, they discuss the geometry found in the growth patterns of nature before concluding the block with the story of Pythagoras and his well-known theorem. During the course of the semester, these formulas are applied, practiced, and reviewed.
Renaissance: Art, Science, and Religion
The history curriculum covers the time following the end of the period leading up to and including the Renaissance, with a focus on art, science, religion, and the Age of Exploration. The class reviews the split of the Roman Empire after the invasions of the barbarian tribes, and explores the flourishing of Byzantium and the period of the Dark Ages in the Western Empire. Beginning with the Crusades, but also as a direct result of increased trade and exploration, the Western Empire experienced a “rebirth” – the Renaissance. Lost knowledge and wisdom from classical times were rediscovered. Life became easier in Western Europe and the arts began to flourish. The year’s history curriculum shows the students the evolution in human consciousness taking place during the Renaissance. The astronomers, explorers, and leading painters, sculptors and inventors of the time brought innovation to many aspects of society, while the Catholic Church promoted a doctrine of infallibility. The students see these dichotomies and are able to discuss and digest the paradoxes. They explore the lives and work of such figures as Copernicus, John Calvin and John Knox, Martin Luther, and Henry VIII, among others.
In grades 6-8 the geography curriculum widens to include the entire globe beyond the North American continent. This will include Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The Arctic regions are also touched on. Teachers may approach this through a study of bodies of water, meteorology, oceans meeting land masses, development of continents, and native cultures and history.
The study of chemistry begins with observation of a fire. The students build a fire in the woods and observe it as it burns down to coals and ash. They record their observations, diagram the fire, paint it, and write poems about it. They then look at the process of combustion by burning a variety of substances in the laboratory. Through a series of demonstrations, they discover that smoke is acidic and ash is basic, which leads to an exploration of what items are base, acidic, or neutral. This led to work with the pH scale and to the experience of neutralization. The block concludes with observing a piece of marble as it goes through the lime cycle (heating it in a kiln, slaking it, and allowing it to dry again).
The study of physics in seventh grade can be separated into four areas of study: acoustics, light, mechanics, and electricity. Through demonstrations and hands-on investigations, students examine some qualities of sound, namely, consonance and dissonance and the mathematical relationship between musical intervals. The students also observe and discuss the differences between forced and sympathetic vibrations (amplification and resonance). Building upon our sixth-grade studies of light, they focus on the reflective quality of various substances. The heart of the work with physics is mechanics. Students hoist one another up off the floor of the stage with pulleys, and learn to balance unequal weights on a simple lever. The concept of mechanical advantage is learned and applied in the math classes. In concluding the study of the six simple machines (the lever, the wheel, the pulley, the inclined plane, the screw, and the wedge), the students team up to make and demonstrate “Rube Goldberg” contraptions.
German and Spanish
The faculty present opening exercises that engage the rhythmic component of learning a world language. These include speech, singing, questions and answers, recitations of verb tenses, and conjugations. Students read a story and portions of a play, and explore some of the geography of the appropriate countries. The students may compose and write letters to seventh graders in a Waldorf school in Spain, South America, or Germany. They also learn a great deal about the culture and history of the countries where these languages are spoken. There is extensive work on grammar, and the students are tested on their knowledge.
The year begins with work in clay. The challenge is to make a vase using the coil method of construction, following as closely as possible the lines of a silhouette first drawn on paper. In woodworking, the students use mallets and gouges to carve bowls from single blocks of wood. Learning to use the gouges with a certain amount of finesse is necessary as the gouge marks are only lightly sanded, allowing them to show. Understanding the grain of the wood is more important in this project than in any other preceding work done in the shop, for a bowl must be carved through the grain from every angle. Bowl making requires that the student not try to exert his or her will upon the wood, but rather work with it and see how it should be carved.
Students learn about the art of felting as they progress through a sequence of projects. The students learn to create felt by carefully placing layers of sheep’s wool and then, with care, connecting the fibers with hot water and soap. Then the fulfilling process is performed – with vigorous rubbing on a washboard or mat to shape and thicken the felt. The students create flat mats, and then hats for the seventh-grade circus.
The middle-school chorus meets twice a week, usually with the boys and girls singing separately. This makes it possible to tailor the repertoire to suit the different quality of middle school boys’ and girls’ voices. Sometimes the whole chorus rehearses the music together to prepare for performance. The students sing at the spring concert and learn movements from Handel’s Messiah at Christmas. The main focus in this chorus is to develop a choral sound and the skills needed to sing choral repertoire.
Together, the seventh and eighth grades made up a small symphony orchestra. They learn and master the conductor’s arrangements of pieces like Bach’s Chaconne; Soweto Sunrise; and Belle Que Tiens Ma Vie. Work progresses in tuning, watching the conductor, and playing together.
The seventh graders work on many things to improve their ability in eurythmy. The work includes: concentration exercises, rhythm exercises, Apollonian forms, kick-steps and slow walking, contraction and expansion, moving in a weaving in-and-out pattern around the circle, the musical intervals, the major and minor qualities of music, and spatial forms based on the seven-pointed star.
The students develop greater skill at team sports and in fair play. They learn rules and successful strategies as they play monthly blocks of different sports. The students also have a circus-skills block, which culminates in a circus performance. This may include aerial feats, gymnastics, balance beam, unicycle riding, juggling, and clowning.