In eighth grade, students engage in a problem solving course that is grounded in topics covered in traditional Algebra 1 programs. The problem-based, collaborative structure of our eighth grade math program encourages students to expand their focus on analysis, organization, logical thinking, reasoning, and sequencing. Students are taught to recognize and value the importance of clear, concise, and efficient language through verbal and written presentation, and constantly investigate the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’, all while establishing a firm foundation with the raw mathematical skills appropriate at this grade level. Eighth graders study algebra topics such as equations, inequalities, absolute value, proportions, systems of equations and inequalities, combinatorics, and linear, quadratic, exponential, radical, rational, and polynomial functions. Students learn how to effectively use math—rather than just do math—and establish good thinking and reasoning skills. Reading carefully, sorting out the details, building a strategy, executing the strategy (solve, graph, etc.), and checking to see that all details have been covered are all abilities reinforced through modeling and practice. Students emerge from this curriculum well-prepared and ready for mathematics beyond Brookwood.
Eighth graders deepen their relationship with reading and writing strategies. Throughout the year, they learn to identify intended audiences and purpose of texts and how to think more critically by engaging in resistance and respect for messages. Eighth graders read actively by annotating for challenging passages, vocabulary and connections, and they also read closely and interpretively, substantiating insights with evidence from the text. As writers, students produce narratives, essays, and poems. Genre-specific conventions are practiced and applied, as is the use of cover sheets in order to track writing goals and decisions. Revision with the help of teacher conferencing and peer review enables students to hone their writing and editing skills. Students participate in class discussions, expressing ideas and perspectives about their own writing as well as about the works of others. Public speaking skills continue to be practiced and reinforced by telling stories, debating, and speaking to persuade.
Eighth grade students participate in Brookwood’s annual Harold W. Wise Declamation contest, which was named by longtime teacher and administrator Dan Wise for his father who, as a would-be actor, struggled to memorize his lines. Through the years, hundreds of Brookwood School students have participated in the event. With a lower level division for fifth and sixth graders and an upper level division for seventh and eighth graders, the process begins when students choose their own readings with guidance from faculty. They memorize their selections and hone public speaking skills by reciting their poems in front of audiences ranging from small peer groups to their entire class. Declamation semi-finalists are selected during grade-level rounds, and the event culminates at School Meeting in May when finalists compete on stage in front of the entire Brookwood community. A panel of guest judges ultimately select one winner from each division based on a variety of criteria, especially the declaimer’s ability to convey the feeling and meaning of the poem to what is always a rapt audience.
Eighth graders in their social studies curriculum continue to focus on reading and thinking like a historian. They do this as they expand upon their exploration of American history that they began in seventh grade. They build upon that foundational work and study how the United States grew into an international and globally interconnected nation after the end of the Civil War. All the while, they delve into the challenges that the country faced and still faces as a result of the Civil War. As do all history classes in the Upper School, eighth graders look at essential questions such as: What is history and why should we study the past? What are the crucial tools of an historian? How should we act in the world in these novel and difficult circumstances and how should we think about what really matters? There will be more emphasis on analyzing primary and secondary texts to look for context, sourcing, corroboration, meaning, and missing voices. An intensive mock trial is conducted each year to bolster students’ understanding of the importance of a legal system. Throughout the year, students will write and revise their work extensively and learn how to create and support sophisticated arguments.
In their final year at Brookwood, students are introduced to lab-based physical science, which includes a variety of topics having to do with chemistry and physics, and their applications in the area of engineering. Building upon the skills and knowledge gained in prior years, eighth graders hone their ability to formulate logical explanations for science concepts, support explanations with appropriate evidence, construct convincing arguments that can be defended, and use an iterative process to design effective solutions. Eighth grade science curriculum covers the metric system and measurement, chemistry, physics, and human sexuality. Proper lab technique, lab safety and experimental design is reinforced through modeling and practice, as is the design thinking process. Students plan and construct solutions to several design challenges in an effort to honor the design thinking and improvement cycle necessary for well engineered ideas and projects. Hands-on projects such as chemistry experiential design in the fall, energy device construction in the winter, and rocket launching in the spring underpin concepts taught in the classroom, laboratory and in the field. Over the course of the year, students engage in the type of study that promotes scientific understanding and develops the scientific habits of mind in order to make sense of the natural and designed worlds.
Eighth grade students hone their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills as they continue to grow in language proficiency. A culminating year for their study of language at Brookwood, students are expected to use their target language 90-100% of the time they are in world language class. In eighth grade, world language curriculum teaches students how to write paragraphs about events in the present, past and future, and discuss and interpret a variety of written and digital texts. Students become comfortable engaging in spontaneous conversations on topics such as making phone calls, ordering food, shopping in stores, discussing recent activities and future plans, and travel. Building upon cultural awareness that was developed in previous years, students continue to strengthen their cultural intelligence by viewing culture through a variety of cultural value dimensions. Important landmarks, historical events, art, music, food and customs are examined, and an appreciation for cultural trends and traditions are reinforced. Whenever possible, students get the opportunity to meet and speak with guests who are either native speakers or have lived in a country that speaks the language of study. This allows students to practice their skills in an authentic way and to learn first-hand about different cultures. We have occasional visits from Brookwood alumni who have gone on to use their language in travel, study, work, or service.
Eighth graders expand and deepen their mastery of music and performing arts concepts in their final year at Brookwood. The 8th Grade Play is a culminating experience for our oldest students, and remains a treasured Brookwood tradition. Throughout their course of study in eighth grade music class, students seek to understand the role drama has played in human history, use basic stage terms, examine the different components that make up a musical, and coordinate accurate singing, dancing and acting. Students are given choice to become involved in several parts of the play process: assistant directing, sound/lighting, costumes, set work, photography, sneak peek video, stage crew, and prop management. All these jobs play a crucial role in making the 8th Grade Play happen in March. In addition to their performing arts focus, eighth graders also learn to play simple keyboard songs, gain a basic understanding of music history focusing on western music and jazz, deepen their understanding of music theory, and participate in the annual Revels holiday production. Opportunities to participate in School Meeting Band, acapella groups and other music-based clubs are also offered as part of our Upper School experience.
The eighth grade art room is a place of reflection, collaboration, and discoveries. Students continue to explore a range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional art forms from painting and printmaking to ceramics and sculpture. Art elements and design principles are reviewed and discussed as they pertain to the pieces that students are working on whether it is a more traditional oil painting or an expressive mixed-media collage. Students are encouraged to experiment with a variety of techniques and materials, creating artwork that is meaningful to them and represents their interests. Eighth graders are expected to defend their artistic and creative decisions and constructively discuss the work of others. If relevant and when possible, students travel beyond the walls of the school to visit museums and galleries to see examples of art done by past and current artists. The year culminates with students completing a final piece that combines media, utilizes an understanding of techniques and processes, and reflects a personal point-of-view.
In eighth grade, students participate in interscholastic and intramural seasonal athletics teams which are designed to build individual and team skills while also helping our student-athletes develop an appreciation for healthy competition and the benefits of being physically active. Students are required to participate in one of our interscholastic or intramural offerings each season (fall, winter and spring), which include soccer, field hockey, running and fitness, basketball, yoga and lacrosse. We offer two levels for seasonal interscholastic sports (varsity and junior varsity), each with its own guiding philosophy. An extensive tryout period at the start of each season followed by one-on-one team placement discussions between coaches and students ensure that athletic teams are organized based on where each child will find success. Brookwood honors all sports interests, including those not offered by our athletics program. Therefore, we provide the option of an athletics exemption for committed athletes who fulfill their physical education requirement by pursuing their athletic passions off campus.
Though there are no regular technology classes throughout the eighth grade year, classes concerning Internet and technology related topics are woven into the Personal Growth and Development and Community Life experiences of the students. For example, students engage in conversations centered around the topics of online social interactions, risky behaviors including sexting, lack of online privacy, and overexposure to information as their lives use more and more technology. Exposing students to the latest research about the health impacts that excessive technology use can have on sleep and anxiety, promotes conversations about ways to avoid pitfalls and mitigate harmful habits. The goal is for our eighth graders to graduate with the knowledge that there are risks as well as benefits to technology use as they move beyond Brookwood.
The eighth grade community life course meets once a week and is a course designed to help students build their social, emotional, and personal skill sets. As student leaders of the school, and thereby role models of the Brookwood community, this course is designed to be intentionally relevant to life as 13-14 year old as well as to the unique experience of the final year at Brookwood.
The eighth graders learn, practice, and hone life skills that will help them deal with events, people, responsibilities, and decisions in their everyday life. They will be challenged to consider how they can put Brookwood’s Mission into action in a way that is authentic for them and good for those around them.