The Age of Revolution
The eighth grade curriculum is designed to help the students know the modern world: from history to science to literature; the aim is to help the 13- and 14-year-olds feel at home in the present world with their emerging individualities. They become familiar with the world through history, literature, geography, and science, and have achieved a level of expertise in various skills that allows them to walk through the world with confidence. They will usually have regained the emotional balance they had lost in the sixth or seventh grade, and will end the eighth grade year filled with gratitude for the past eight years and enthusiasm for the coming challenges of high school.
History up to the Present
The goal of the eighth grade history curriculum is to bring history up to the present. Students begin with a study of revolutionary American and European history, or may begin with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation if it hasn't been covered in the seventh grade. Highlights of the first history block are the American Revolution and the French Revolution. The history curriculum addresses the inner changes going on within the students, and the need to develop social forms that accommodate their emerging individuality. The curriculum accomplishes this by looking at history through the building up and falling away of social forms. The students go on to study the Industrial Revolution and end up in the present day. Along the way, the class looks at biographies of such representative people as George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Theresa, and such events as the American Civil War, the Russian Revolution, World War I and II, and current events. Students might give written and oral reports on the history of a particular subject, such as the history of coffee or Firestone Tires.
Language Arts: The Essay
The English curriculum in eighth grade is devoted to refining skills in expression, focusing particularly on the development of the paragraph and the traditional form of the essay. Students typically refine their understanding and use of topic sentences and supporting sentences, introductory paragraphs, supporting paragraphs, and conclusions. By eighth grade, students typically write basically all their entries in their main lesson books. Students also read books either as a class or individually and write book reports.
In geography, the class continues its experience of world geography by studying areas such as Australia, New Zealand and the Asian continent. The class can then look at the how air, water, fire and the topography of the earth affect continents and cultures. Meteorology is often included in the study of world geography.
Mathematics: Geometry & Algebra
The main lesson block in geometry often augments the elementary geometry students study in their track math classes. Numbers and their relationships to fundamental form can be considered, echoing what the students experienced in first grade with the qualities of numbers. Students often construct Platonic solids three dimensionally with paper, compass, and straight edge, and then in clay. Simple geometric theorems can be presented and worked through. The Fibonacci Series is often introduced in the context of growth in the natural world. The Golden Mean can be explored from a mathematical perspective; Renaissance paintings from the seventh grade can be reviewed and seen in a new light. The Golden Mean is also brought in anticipation of the human anatomy block.
There is also a math track class four days a week, during which half of the students study algebra, in preparation for entering algebra as ninth graders, while the other students work to firm up their mathematical muscles in preparation for pre-algebra in high school.
Study of Human Anatomy
In anatomy, the class studies the muscular and skeletal systems of the human being. The block seeks to balance solid, fundamental scientific understanding with an appreciation for the artistry of form and movement within the body of man. Understanding of pulleys, etc., from seventh grade physics is now applied to the workings of the human being's physical form. The sculpture teacher often joins the class during the block, leading students to model forms in clay related to the skeleton, and works with them to understand the Golden Mean and the divine proportions within man.
The organic chemistry block focuses on the nature and function of carbohydrates (sugars and starches), oils, fats, proteins and cellulose. Students learn how to test for the presence of various substances in food. Food additives, nutrition and synthetic products are discussed. The class may distill wood to get products such as acetone and alcohol. This block relates to the care and delicacy required to balance and nurture our bodies and the recognition that the students are old enough to take responsibility for their bodies. Some teachers incorporate drug education as part of this block.
During the physics block, the students continue to look at various aspects of acoustics, optics, heat and cold, and electricity, reviewing and building upon what they've learned in previous years, and proceeding to a study of aeromechanics.
Eighth Grade Project
Eighth grade projects are often incorporated into the curriculum. This is a year-long project that usually consists of three parts: a written research paper, an oral presentation, and the creation of a physical "product." Examples of the product of these projects include building a Tesla Coil, making a guitar, or writing and performing a monologue.
Most classes go on a ropes course lasting 2 to 3 days to help foster cooperation and gain problem-solving skills. Some classes incorporate the Native American Council Process as a way of facilitating class discussions on various topics.
Three weeks of main lesson time are generally set aside for the class's production of a play in which all students participate.