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EXPLORE Our Programs

Middle School | 5-8

In fifth through eighth grade, our program changes to a combined English and History class titled Humanities in order to best prepare our students for success in high school and beyond. The emphasis in Humanities is on advanced levels of reading, writing, oral presentation, discussion, and critical thinking. Students read for pleasure as well as for information, including self-selected readings, short stories, poetry, novels, and drama. They are encouraged to think independently, solve problems, interpret and analyze literature, expand oral and written communication skills, and increase their vocabulary. Students write formally and informally on a variety of subjects, utilizing the writing process to hone the skills required for description, narration, and persuasion. Technology is used as a tool for learning, for researching information, and for composing and editing written work. Media literacy lessons are integrated into the curriculum to teach appropriate research techniques, internet safety, and etiquette. By the end of eighth grade students are proficient in computer use, internet research, Google applications, a variety of presentation formats, podcasting, and digital movie editing.

Fifth graders create critical connections to American history and world cultures through literature, discussion, and writing. Students are active in groups and do independent work to reflect deeply on an author’s craft and intent. Through writer’s workshop, students further develop their voice, organize their writing, and share work for peer and teacher feedback. Students explore the development of the United States, from the first colonists at Jamestown through the Declaration of Independence. Through project based learning, fifth graders have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning via film, slideshows, photo essays and performance art.

Sixth grade humanities centers around the myriad layers of what forms civilization, culture, and personal identity. Students immerse themselves in the creation stories, mythologies, and history of the early humans, Egyptians, and Greeks, and they come to understand how the Hero’s Journey connects most of our storytelling from Homer to J.K. Rowling. Students keep daily writing journals and continue to deepen their writing skills by composing personal narratives, literary response essays, short stories, poetry, and an original play.

Seventh grade humanities focuses on being a global citizen by interlacing ancient world history with current events. Students are challenged to think critically about current world issues and relate them to their historical, geographical, political, economic, and cultural contexts. By examining a variety of texts including folktales, poetry and short stories, students are able to identify with the larger world and other cultures. Students write daily in both academic and creative ways to develop their voice and perspective. Research projects and collaborative work promote student-directed inquiry and interests.

Eighth grade humanities is rooted in the American experience. Students explore themes of identity and social justice through examining literature, American history, and themselves. Students read fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and primary documents and write analytical essays, creative nonfiction, poetry, persuasive letters, and flash fiction. Eighth graders engage in a number of research based, large-scale, creative projects that integrate humanities, art, and technology. Eighth grade students also take on the responsibility of hosting an all-school assembly, which includes a formal presentation that offers both a lesson for our community and a demonstration of their presentation skills. In their final graduation speeches, each eighth grader delivers a message about who they are and what they hope to contribute to their community and world in the future. 

In fifth through eighth grade, students refine their math skills in more specific subject areas. The focus moves from concrete to abstract reasoning abilities, emphasizing critical thinking, problem-solving, reasoning and proof, communication, connections, and representation with regard to algebraic thinking. Mastery learning is emphasized through the use of the revision process where students find and correct their mistakes on assignments in order to fully master the concepts. For every mathematical process they learn, students acquire a deep understanding of why it works. They learn that mathematics is both a tool and a way of thinking that can be used to address problems in the world.

Sixth graders are assessed according to their readiness levels and begin the year in one of two classes: Math 6 or Math 7. This determines their path through eighth grade:

  • Math 6, Math 7, Math 8
  • Math 7, Math 8, Integrated Math I
Math 6 topics
Math 7 topics
Math 8 topics
Area and Surface Area
Scale Drawings
Rigid Transformations and Congruence
Proportional Relationships
Dilations, Similarity and Introducing Slope
Rates and Percentages
Measuring Circles
Linear Relationships
Dividing Fractions
Proportional Relationships and Percentages
Linear Equations and Linear Systems
Decimal operations
Rational Number Operations
Functions and Volume
Expressions and Equations
Expressions Equations and Inequalities
Associations in Data
Rational Numbers (Negative numbers)
Angles, Triangles and Prisms
Exponents and Scientific Notation
Data sets and Distributions
Probability and Sampling
Pythagorean Theorem and Irrational Numbers

The fifth through eighth grade science curriculum is based on current research in the fields of earth, space, physical, and life sciences. Students develop their science laboratory skills and refine their understanding of the scientific method. They learn how to ask questions, observe accurately, record and interpret data, and design experiments. Labs are a great place for students to test their ability to think critically and creatively while working cooperatively with their peers. They learn how to effectively use computers for data collection and analysis and to research and study using the Internet as a resource. Practical applications of these skills are stressed to help students appreciate the relevance of scientific principles in everyday life.

Fifth grade science is a study of human anatomy and the myriad ways in which day-to-day choices affect human health. Students study the various systems of the body, analyze the organs for structure and function, and explore how toxins and pollutants in the environment impact human health.

Sixth grade science is an investigation of the history of the earth and the biosphere. Students explore the formation and mechanics of our sun and solar system, investigate the dynamic forces that drive plate tectonics, study the rise of single-celled life to the megafauna of the last ice age, and analyze the modern synthesis of Mendelian heredity with Darwin's mechanism for evolution, Natural Selection. Computer coding and robotics are also a part of the sixth grade curriculum.

Seventh grade science explores matter and structure. Units include robotics, coding, physical science, the classification of matter and taxonomy, and chemistry. Students also learn how to design experiments, test variables, and present and analyze data through rocketry.

In eighth grade, students experience a more project-based approach to science in addition to traditional labs. Projects allow them to hone and synthesize the skills they have developed over the past years. Students continue to produce multimedia presentations to share their research with their classmates and our greater community. Science topics include cell biology, viruses, bacteria and pathogens, plants and light, and the physics and biology of heat. Students learn how to design experiments, test variables, and present and analyze data through tasks ranging from solar oven construction to designing and building hydraulic arms.

Social and Emotional Learning
The social and emotional learning program in fifth through eighth grade recognizes these developmentally pivotal years as the time when a child starts to become truly autonomous. Students are introduced to Open Session, a teacher facilitated peer advisory group that addresses issues facing young adolescents today. In addition to Open Session there are lessons on stress management, net citizenship, the effects of the media on self-image, and a focus on maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships.

World Languages
While students in grade 5 continue to take classes in both Spanish and Mandarin, students begin sixth grade having chosen either Spanish or Mandarin as their course of study through the end of eighth grade. Since students enter language classes with varied levels of readiness, lessons are structured so all students can be successful. The sixth through eighth grade curriculum is the equivalent of a first-year high school course. Classes balance an engaging format with a structured approach to grammar, vocabulary acquisition, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students use laptop computers, online resources, and digital video cameras to creatively design projects in the target language. They work individually and with partners, developing skills in translation, collaboration, organization, time management, and oral and visual multi-media presentations. The sixth through eighth grade program prepares students for successful language learning at the high school level and beyond.

Visual Arts
In fifth through eighth grade, art lessons focus on broadening students’ knowledge of art history and the art of other cultures through the use of art reproductions and online resources. Each student is encouraged to find a voice and become involved in their own artistic expression and development. In the last semester of eighth grade, students refinish and paint used furniture to auction off at the end-of-the year Fine Arts fair. The funds from this project support a four day camping and rafting trip on the south fork of the American River. 

In fifth through eighth grade music, students continue their musical exploration with the instrument they select in fifth grade. They play in grade-level instrumental groups, learning an increasingly challenging and exciting repertoire of concert band and orchestral pieces. The focus is on developing skills in instrumentation, reading music, ensemble techniques, and the basic elements of harmony and musical form. Finally, in the second semester of eighth grade, students have a choice of participation in either the jazz band or musical theater production. In jazz band, students focus on blues and jazz standard tunes, swing, and improvising their own solos. Some have the opportunity to play the electric bass, guitar, piano, or drum set. In musical theater, students experience all aspects of a musical production: auditioning, solo and ensemble singing, acting, blocking, set construction, and musical accompaniment by playing in the pit band.

Library and Media
While eighth graders come to the library as needed or on their own, fifth, sixth and seventh graders still make bi-weekly class visits to the library to encourage and support access to literature. Students share book recommendations through short book talks, listen to stories or book excerpts, examine award-winning literature through a Mock Newbery unit in conjunction with their English class, explore the ramifications of censorship in libraries, and seek material related to their studies across the curriculum. Information and media literacy lessons, integrated into the 6-8 curriculum, include such topics as evaluating websites, performing effective online searches, and citing sources. Students learn to formulate queries and use keywords to define the scope of a topic. They begin to develop and use successful strategies for locating information for assignments, independent reading, or projects. They evaluate information for currency, relevance, accuracy and purpose, and verify information by using more than one source. By graduation, they have learned how to interact and collaborate appropriately in the digital environment, and are well on their way to becoming critical users, consumers, and producers of information.

Motor Skills and Physical Education
The physical education program in fifth through eighth grade is designed to assist students with the development of cooperative learning, organizational skills, and sportsmanship. Students learn the rules of games played, improve personal techniques, and practice peer and gender acceptance. The program encourages involvement in physical fitness and athletics as a way of life through high school and beyond. 

Outdoor Education
Fifth grade extends their science education in the field with a day long excursion with the Marine Science Institute, which puts students in physical contact with the San Francisco bay and coast environments to help cultivate their natural sense of curiosity, enrich their understanding of science, and foster a responsibility to protect the environment. In a similar vein, fifth grade also spends three days and two nights at the Marin Headlands Institute, participating in team building activities, ocean and tidepool exploration, and learning more about the Leave No Trace concept of respecting and protecting the outdoors.

The sixth grade participates in the Four Winds ropes course, which is in the coastal hills above Bodega Bay. The goal of this one-day experience is to develop individual skills and to build teamwork among students and teachers. This experience, in the fall of each year, offers students a gentle transition into middle school and an opportunity for new and returning students to get to know one another and their teachers. In the spring, sixth grade spends three days and two nights camping at Salt Point State Park. Students do day hikes and learn the “leave no trace” philosophy, participate in teambuilding activities, and explore the Sonoma Coast ecosystem through paddle boarding, kayaking, and tide-pooling.

In the fall, seventh graders trek through Point Reyes National Seashore for three days and two nights. This trip introduces students to the rewards and challenges of backpacking, which seventh grade students practice again in the spring during an overnight trip to Annadel and Spring Lake State Parks. The trip also includes a service component, as students spend a day doing trail restoration and ridding the park of invasive plant species.

The eighth grade class builds on its prior year’s experience with a four day and three night backpacking trek into Emigrant Wilderness, located near Yosemite in the Stanislaus National Forest. The seventh and eighth grade backpacking experiences are led by trained guides from Go Adventures/Lifeschool, accompanied by SCDS teachers. Go Adventures/Lifeschool is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering teens from all backgrounds with life skills, healthy values, and environmental ethics through wilderness travel. The core values and activities that Lifeschool uses to educate and inspire the youth fall into the categories of risk management, skill building, environmental stewardship, adventure, and nutrition. These align well with the educational philosophy and goals at SCDS.

The final eighth grade trip offers four days of camping and rafting on the south fork of the American River. This trip celebrates the culmination of students’ SCDS experience and offers a unique opportunity for the class to gather together and acknowledge each other in preparation for graduation.

Sonoma Country Day School

4400 Day School Place
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
phone: 707.284.3200
fax: 707.284.3254
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We are…

The premier, fully accredited, independent TK-8 college preparatory school in Sonoma County. Located in northern Santa Rosa and proud home of The Jackson Theater, SCDS offers a challenging academic program rich in fine and performing arts, music, world languages, and social and emotional learning. For more than thirty years SCDS has been the school that brings learning to life.