In sixth through eighth grade, the emphasis in English classes shifts to 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.
During the first semester of seventh grade, students extensively prepare for and participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is a writing challenge that allows students an opportunity to become authors themselves and professionally publish their novels. Eighth grade students 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. Mathematics
In sixth 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 middle school in one of two classes: Sixth Grade Math or Pre-Algebra. This determines their path through eighth grade:
- Sixth grade math (sixth grade), pre-algebra (seventh grade), algebra (eighth grade)
- Pre-algebra (sixth grade), algebra (seventh grade), geometry (eighth grade)
In sixth grade math, the focus is on combining math skills in order to work through multi-step problems, justifying answers, and making connections. The curriculum covers fractions, decimals, percents, ratios, and proportions. Students also work with exponents, explore shapes and measurement, utilize statistics and probability, and develop basic graphing skills.
In Pre-Algebra students are preparing a foundation for future math classes by improving their flexibility of thinking and looking for multiple strategies to solve problems. They work with negative numbers, negative exponents, square roots, and absolute value while mastering order of operations. Students are introduced to the three key algebraic concepts: simplifying expressions involving variables, graphing coordinates, and solving two-step equations.
Algebra students master the rules of working with variables as they translate words into algebraic expressions and equations. Students simplify and solve multi-step equations, inequalities, quadratics, and systems. Graphing is a major focus in algebra. Students graph linear equations, the region defined by a linear inequality, and parabolas. Word problems allow students to apply the algebra skills they learn. Quadratic equations are introduced, and students solve quadratic equations by factoring, using the quadratic formula, or graphing.
In Geometry class, students learn how to create a mathematical proof. They use postulates and theorems about polygons, and angles and lines to prove various equalities or congruencies. Students utilize these properties to find missing sides and angles, or construct shapes and angles. Inductive and deductive reasoning are used to prove statements true or false. Technological applications help students visualize new postulates and theorems.
Students in sixth through eighth grade use the MATHCOUNTS materials to practice their problem-solving skills. MATHCOUNTS questions are designed to challenge and accelerate student learning. Questions are rich and require strong computational skills as well as knowledge of formulas and procedures for pre-algebra and algebra problems. Students are encouraged to participate in the MATHCOUNTS competition in early February.Science
The sixth 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.
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.History/Social StudiesThe sixth through eighth grade curriculum introduces the roles that government, religion, and economy play in shaping communities and worldviews. Along with geographical knowledge of the cultures studied, students formulate meaningful questions about the cultural realities that have shaped history. In the sixth grade, the focus is on the development and spread of civilization in the ancient world. Seventh grade students study the late Roman Empire, and trace the development of medieval feudalism and the Age of Exploration. Eighth grade U.S. History follows our nation's development through the use of original source documents including the Magna Carta, the Iroquois Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.Social and Emotional LearningThe social and emotional learning program in sixth 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
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 ArtsIn sixth 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. MusicIn sixth through eighth grade music, students continue their musical exploration with the instrument they selected 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 MediaWhile eighth graders come to the library as needed or on their own, 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 EducationThe physical education program in sixth 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
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.
Click here to access our curriculum map, which holds more detailed information on concepts and skills in each grade level and subject area.