Eighth graders turn outward to consider “The Individual in Society: Where Do I Live, and Where Am I Going?” during their final year at GUS.
As in all of the previous grades, curricula in the various disciplines are tightly intertwined. For example, while closely analyzing the text during the reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, students consider the historical backdrop of the novel to gain a full understanding of the cultural and historical context of the book’s events. Students also read a number of other novels that relate to their study in history class of early American settlers; reasons for the Revolutionary War; the development of the U.S. government; and the civil rights movement and its effect on today’s social issues.
In math, eighth graders study Algebra I. They go beyond positive and negative integers, fractions, decimals, percents, ratios, proportions, exponents, roots, measurement, probability, and geometry to solving and graphing linear equations with one and two variables, applying the distributive property, multiplying and factoring polynomials, and solving quadratic equations. As in seventh grade, they are often asked to find their own way, apply it, and, if it works, explain to others how and why it works.
Science in eighth grade encourages scientific curiosity in its consideration of sophisticated matters. Lab experiences include a site visit to MIT to investigate chemical reactions and interpret chemical bonding through the use of LEGOS. Students test and discuss the properties of the non-Newtonian fluid Oobleck. They choose their own topic for the Science Fair Project, utilizing the scientific method to further develop their skills of inquiry and research.
In Spanish, students continue to develop communicative competence using more complex grammatical structures and a broader base of vocabulary. They have valuable opportunities to use those skills in authentic settings, ranging from one-on-one interviews with Spanish-speaking immigrants in surrounding communities, to an optional service trip to work in a Central American orphanage. Throughout all lessons, we ask how language and culture shapes lives, here in the United States and abroad.
In Latin, students explore the multiple English derivatives of Latin vocabulary words and begin to realize the centrality of Latin in our own language. The high point of Latin is the annual chariot races, when eighth graders pull each other around the playing fields in custom-made Roman chariots while teachers and students don togas and the band plays trumpet fanfares.
Extra-curricular activities include music and drama, dance, art, and sports. In preparation for the annual full-scale eighth grade musical production, students learn stage craft; they practice mime, blocking and dance; work on pitch, blend, diction and projection. The highlight of the art program is the “shirt project,” when students study a contemporary artist and create a work of art in that artist’s style using an old white shirt. A research paper and oral presentation accompany the project. In sports, students continue their interscholastic schedule of games in soccer (fall), basketball (winter), and lacrosse (spring). Students who wish to participate in something other than team sports may run cross-country (fall), participate in a fitness class (winter), or play intramural games (spring).
In April, all eighth graders participate in a work week, spending the entire week working either in an international setting (Honduras), a national setting (Appalachhia), or a local setting (community service agencies in the Boston area).
The eighth grade year culminates with Evening with the Graduates and Graduation, ceremonies filled with Glen Urquhart traditions. Each graduate presents a speech entitled “This I Believe” on the evening before graduation. The event concludes with a candlelight ceremony in which the Urquhart tartan, a symbol of leadership, is passed from the graduating class to the incoming eighth graders. The next day, a bagpipe band leads the procession of faculty, trustees, and graduates. Two alumni, recent college graduates, then deliver the graduation addresses before The Head of School introduces each graduate with a heartfelt and often humorous profile.