In eighth grade the main focus is on both providing students with leadership opportunities and preparing students adequately for high school. Students are able to take learning into their own hands by engaging in many projects using communication and collaboration skills. By applying what they have learned throughout their middle school years, students can bring critical thinking skills to their full potential in all academic areas.
Students come to know the Lord in Faith class by studying the most important aspects of the Catholic faith expressed through our Scripture and Tradition. By using the Alive in Christ book and Pflaum Gospel Weeklies, Catholicism is studied in a way that each eighth grader can fully understand. Through daily prayer, reflection, and discussion, students come to recognize what the Lord does in their personal lives and in the world so that they may learn to love God and appreciate his works. Finally, students serve the Lord through specific opportunities such as safety patrol, helping the kindergarteners and first graders, and the HALO school news broadcast. Also at Mass, students may serve on the altar, as a lector, and in the choir.
Our science curriculum is on a two-year cycling schedule. The seventh and eighth grade students study together in combined classes to accommodate this structure.
a. Earth science units are covered in the first trimester of the school year. In Cycle A (2018-2019 school year), the Weather and Climate unit "explores the atmospheric events and oceanic processes that impact the earth and its inhabitants. Students experiment with factors that determine storms and daily weather, explore the impact of oceans on the earth, and examine the influences that produce climate zones and climate changes" (Carolina Science, 2014). In Cycle B (2017-2018 school year), the Plate Tectonics unit covers the topics of earthquakes, volcanoes, and general plate tectonics. "By performing...hands-on activities based on the manipulation of simple models and the study of maps, students extend and enrich their knowledge of the structure of the earth's interior and crust" (Carolina Science, 2014).
b. Physical science units are covered in the second trimester of the school year. In Cycle A (2018-2019 school year), the Circuit design unit "provides students with a hands-on introduction to electricity and circuits. By building their own circuits and using them to light bulbs, power fans, and function in other prescribed ways, students are able to explore the idea that circuits provide a way to transform electrical energy into sound, heat, light, or kinetic energy" (Carolina Science, 2014). In Cycle B (2017-2018 school year), the Properties of Matter unit allows students to "investigate some basic properties of matter and the use of these properties to distinguish one substance from another" (Carolina Science, 2014).
c. Life science units are covered in the third trimester of the school year. In Cycle A (2018-2019 school year), the Development and Reproduction of Organisms unit "gives students the opportunity to perform thought-provoking, hands-on activities based around plants and animals" (Carolina Science, 2014). By studying Wisconsin Fast Plants and the cabbage white butterfly, students study life cycles and their processes. In Cycle B (2017-2018 school year), the Biodiversity and Interdependence "introduces students to the structure, function, and diversity of living things" (Carolina Science, 2014). Discoveries are made about survival, reproduction, heredity, and identifying organisms.
d. In December and January, students participate in the C-STEM fair individually or with a partner. Students come up with original science or engineering-based project ideas that follow either the scientific method or engineering design process. Students first research the concepts and then either perform an experiment or construct their project in order to solve the problem that they have stated. Students are judged, and those with the top projects have the opportunity to move on to a diocesan-wide STEM fair.
e. Some field trips that we have done are performing various tests on Lake Waconia, going to the Tamarack Nature Preserve, and going to the Minnesota Science Museum.
Middle School Technology Consists of the following:
- One-to-One computing with iPads (grades 5 & 6) and laptop PCs (grades 7 & 8)
- Keyboarding Skill Development via typingclub.com
- Course-specific technology skills (word processing, spreadsheet, power point, etc.)
- Progressing through the Smart Lab curriculum.
- Use of cloud-based computing via Office 365 and Google G-Suite.
- Coding via the CS First Curriculum, which incorporates the Scratch programming language.
- Units in contemporary technology areas such as VR (virtual reality) and AI (artificial intelligence).
- Technology analysis thing regarding topics such as:
- Which Cloud is Best: Office 365 or Google G-Suite
- Mac v PC
- Database v Spreadsheet
- Dangers of screen time: what is enough and what is too much
Using the Defined STEM curriculum found online, our Project-Based Learning course puts the 4 C's of learning into action: creativity, communications, critical thinking, and collaboration in order to meet the needs of 21st century learners. Students participate in performance tasks in either groups of three or four centered around science or social studies topics. They are career-focused and present real-world problems such as choosing a site for an archaeological dig, planning a coast-to-coast trip as a travel adviser, or designing the best water bottle to use. By creating presentations, maps, scale drawings, and reports, students are able to convey the information they find to others.
Geometry: Upon successful completion of Algebra 1, students enter the world of Geometry.
Topics discovered include but are not limited to the following: mathematical logic and proofs; parallel and perpendicular lines; transformations; in depth study of triangles including congruency and similarity; polygons; Trigonometry and special right triangles; circles; and circumference, area, and volume. Students will explore Geometry through constructions as well as through technology using Geogebra applications. This course is also infused with review of major Algebra concepts in order to successfully transition into Algebra 2 the following school year. The textbook used in Geometry is titled Big Ideas Geometry.
Language arts students in the eighth grade continue to use the "Expeditionary Learning" curriculum, a comprehensive reading and writing program which is skill-based and fully aligned to state and national academic standards. Students progress as a class through four learning "modules" throughout the year, each consisting of three units and overarching essential questions and themes with real-world connections. These modules feature central texts (books, articles, poems, and speeches) which students analyze in-depth and use to practice targeted skills.
In eighth grade, students learn about "The Universal Refugee Experience" as they consider the challenges of both fictional and real refugees from around the world. They then explore the theme of "Taking a Stand" as they read speeches and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Japanese-American relations during World War II are also explored as students read cases studies and the novel Unbroken to discover how war affects individuals and societies. Finally, students finish the year by analyzing arguments and evidence as they conduct research about the sustainability of the U.S. food supply chain. Focused writing assignments, both creative and analytical, are embedded in these modules and focus on research and supporting ideas with text-based evidence.
Furthermore, students read widely as they meet independent reading requirements in a variety of genres each trimester. While most writing and reading goals are part of the comprehensive curriculum described above, students also partake in daily grammar exercises in class and weekly reading and grammar practices online.
In 8th grade, we immerse students in history with an inquiry-based social studies program! By using the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Social Studies curriculum, students will dig into the geography, history, culture, and people from around the world by engaging in classroom activities that include technology and collaboration. To learn more about HMH visit their website at https://www.hmhco.com/programs/hmh-social-studies.