The seventh grade signals a very important change in the development of the child. Externally, the body is usually in the throes of puberty, while internally, a new force is born - that of the intellect. Again the curriculum appropriately mirrors this development with the leitmotif of the Renaissance. The pre-adolescent is somewhat conflicted, wanting to be accepted by the group while at the same time desiring to be recognized as an individual. These students, much like their Renaissance counterparts, want to break free from traditional restraints and to explore and discover life on their own. Like their counterparts, however, they also discover what can be at times a high price for this freedom, and they are not sure if they can handle the responsibility that comes with it. The curriculum integration continues to reinforce the moral responsibility that comes with individual freedom through the biographies of individuals whose adventures and challenges parallel the yearnings that are present in the students.
In the spirit of the theme of Renaissance, the year is often begun with perspective drawing. The laws of perspective drawing were indicative of an evolutionary step in man's development. This step was the ability to look outside oneself and begin to interpret the laws of nature. The students begin by drawing freehand and then eventually with the aid of tools. Students complete a variety of exercises that demonstrate their mastery of vanishing points, converging lines, interpolation and extrapolation, creating the illusion of a three-dimensional space on a two dimensional paper.
History: The Middle Ages
The first history block begins in the late or high Middle Ages. The students are exposed to a new stage in human consciousness that sparked a sense of nationhood in what was still a largely untamed Europe. Crude villages, monastery life, and castles that once had been the center of European life gave way to the birth of cities, as the arts, trades and commerce took on a new importance. Religious fervor swept Europe, leading to the rise of the great Gothic cathedrals, as well as the crusades and the Inquisition. The students may learn of some remarkable women of the time, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Age of Chivalry to the remarkable short life of the simple yet courageous Joan of Arc.
The Renaissance Masters
As the year progresses, the students visit the golden age of the Renaissance. From Dante to Giotto, the students watch the unfolding of new impulses that become evident in the remarkable advances in the arts, culture, science and politics. Through the contrasting yet connected lives of Da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo, the students will get a sense of this important period in history where it appears that one great mind leads to the discovery of another.
The students will have the opportunity, through original compositions and their own renderings of some the works of the great masters, to establish and develop their own sense of beauty and skill. Often the students have their first taste of a research paper (with a possible oral report) on one of the great figures in the arts, culture or politics of the time.
The Student’s Perspective
Most writing done by the students up through the grades has been re-telling of content covered together in class. In the older grades, the work becomes increasingly independent, born out of the individual student's imagination. At this stage, the students have the opportunity to tap into the creative forces within; thus, the first attempt at creative writing. Students explore how others have expressed what in Waldorf schools are called the soul qualities of wish, wonder and surprise and, through written exercises, the students have the opportunity to express themselves in ways that are self-exploratory rather than self-indulgent. Grammar work continues as parts of speech are reviewed, punctuation, phrases, usage, style and diagramming. Book reports and a class play are also part of the work.
The science curriculum adds chemistry, which focuses on combustion and the effects of fire and acid (a fine reflection of the developmental stage of the students). The students will continue to work with the basic laws of physics, adding a study of mechanics and the simple machines that help move the world. The physiology block is the first introduction to the study of the living human body and its complex systems. In seventh grade, the focus is on the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and usually the reproductive systems, through study of their form and function and the interplay of the organs throughout the body. A study of these systems, each with its own special function, allows for discussion of specific issues of health and hygiene. Matters such as nutrition, drugs, alcohol, the nature of illness, and the miracle of life are topics that are often covered.
Seventh grade chemistry is not only an exercise in laboratory science but is also an exercise in which students are again asked to expand their vision of the earth and its properties. Transformation is the underlying theme as is the interplay of elements found in nature and the human being. Through the study of combustion, salts, acids, the lime cycle, and the universal solvent - water - the students are given the opportunity to experience transformation through careful experimentation and detailed observations.
Physics – The Role of Machines
In the seventh grade, the study of physics is concentrated on "mechanics" and experiencing "simple machines" as laborsaving devices. These include the lever, the wheel and the inclined plane. Newly learned algebraic equations will be put to practical application as the students determine the length of a lever needed to lift a specific weight. The creation of Rube Goldberg-type inventions provides a good opportunity to apply these principles in an imaginative and creative way.
Mathematics - Algebra
In mathematics this year marks the introduction to formal algebra. The students begin with the study of positive and negative numbers, integers and exponents. The laws of balance will be experienced through the introduction and mastery of equations. The students will continue to solve both word and numerical problems involving time, distance, ratio, proportion and comparisons. The Pythagorean Theorem is now viewed in the light of greater mathematical and geometrical knowledge.
Geography: The Age of Exploration
The geography block begins from a historical perspective. The students often learn about this great art through the visionary eyes of courageous figures such as Henry the Navigator and Magellan. The students see how politics, religion, and science come together to create important advancements, while at the same time seeing how the three can often be at odds, creating situations with dire consequences. Africa and South America are often chosen for the study of physical geography and culture.
Watercolor painting and pastel chalk drawing continue as the students now bring elements of perspective, light source, and shadows into their artwork. All students participate in an annual dramatic production. For 7th grade music, students will choose between the Lower School Orchestra or Chorus. Students continue to hone their skills in sculptural arts and handwork classes.