Grade 7 is a time when children begin to exert more independence, but still need adult guidance, acceptance, and supervision.
The transition from Grade 6 to Grade 7 often means that adults give less advice and direct instruction and, in contrast, encourage students to self-advocate, explore their own issues, and find solutions for overcoming obstacles. The Grade 7 faculty strives to balance steady academic challenge and growth with the need for students to take risks, engage in their communities (academic and social), and feel confident in their abilities to solve problems and to succeed when things don’t come easily or naturally.
Students receive letter grades in their academic courses for the first time in Grade 7. Grades and trimester reports in Middle School help students understand their own learning styles, which allows them to set goals for their academic progress. The overall grade in a course reflects a student’s performance on assessment measures, but also reflects their ability to manage time effectively, complete homework in a timely manner, collaborate with others, and participate in the daily activities of the classroom. As a result, there is typically room for reflection, self-awareness, and growth as Grade 7 students learn the underlying skills of becoming an effective student. These skills are deepened through experiential learning opportunities which are highlights of the Grade 7 year, particularly the week-long class trip to Camp Widjiwagan in Ely, Minnesota.
We encourage parents to explore letter grades with their children beyond the grade itself and look at the process, or components, through which the grade was calculated. There is no grading curve in Middle School. This means that students will be able to identify a direct correlation between their work habits and performance and their resulting grade.
As in Grade 6, Grade 7 advisories function as a homeroom for students. Advisors play a critical role in orienting the students to the building, the increasing expectations of Middle School, and to one another. They also serve as the primary liaison between home and school. Advisories meet each morning for check-in and each afternoon for a quiet-study period, providing opportunities for students to interact socially under the guidance and support of an adult who knows them well.
During the Grade 7 year, students explore themes broadly characterized as an understanding of self in the larger context. They begin to think about themselves as a part of communities, and we encourage exploration of their role in these various communities.
Students move from themes of awareness in the first trimester to a global understanding of their learning, social, and physical communities.
- Throughout the first trimester, students focus on two primary questions: Who am I? How do I define community?
- The second trimester themes involve understanding others and relationships with others.
- During the third trimester students ask, What is my role? How can I affect change? and How do I give feedback to others?
Service learning projects, advisory meetings, field trips, after-school activities, the Grade 7 retreat to Camp Widjiwagan, and classroom experiences all give students opportunities to explore these themes.
Within the context of our six-day block schedule, students have two or three of their academic classes each day and can expect to have 20–25 minutes of homework in each of these classes. Students in Grade 7 will spend approximately 60–75 minutes each evening on homework. We realize that some students complete the homework more quickly, while others may take longer to complete their work. Students have a 30-minute quiet study time each day, during which they may meet with their teachers for assistance as needed.
If a student is spending a particularly long time on their homework, parents can assist by determining what the obstacle may be. It may be helpful to consult with the advisor to ask the following questions to determine if the student is using study time effectively, if he or she is reading the assignment directions thoroughly, or if he or she needs additional help or clarification.
Homework as a process is multifaceted. Parents can assist by checking in with their child on a regular basis, limiting extraneous distractions for students while they are working, and arranging a consistent location for students to complete their work each evening.
Every January, Grade 7 students travel to Camp Widjiwagan in Ely, Minnesota for a five-day overnight retreat. The Widji trip is an experiential program of outdoor education and community building that marks the midpoint of students' Middle School experience. Older students and SPA graduates frequently cite their time at Widji with their class as one of the most memorable events during their SPA experience.
During the five days at Widji, we have two main goals: academically, we want the students to experience the northern coniferous forest they have learned about in science class. The Widji staff and Grade 7 faculty lead the students through learning activities in the woods, teaching about the plants, animals, geology, and ecology of the area. Socially, we are providing the opportunity for students to develop positive and supportive relationships with each other and with their teachers.
Grade 7 students continue the use of the school-issued laptops, which they use in all of their academic classes. In addition to technology mini-lessons as needed in academic courses, technology ethics are discussed in Computer Science 7, and wellnology discussions continue in Compass. Additional lessons related to computer science, engineering, and laser cutting are taught with support from technology faculty.
- Social Studies
- Visual and Performing Arts
- World Language
- Computer Science
- Physical Education and Wellness
In English 7, readers and writers develop their literary sensibilities through focused exploration of genre, studying specific forms through models and experimentation. Building on established reading and writing habits that prioritize choice, growth, and process, students unpack and craft poetry, vignettes, short stories, and literary analysis. The course teaches language and sentence structures through whole-class lessons, asks students to identify examples in the books they read, and supports them as they implement learned structures in their writing. Students hone their skills through group discussion, regular conferences with their teacher, incorporation of lessons, revision, and reflection. In addition to regular mentor-text discussions, frequent book-talks, students’ presentations of their writing, peer-reviews, and more foster healthy class communities.
In Social Studies 7, each unit centers on a topic, which we study through local, regional, and global lenses. For example, during the study of water, students examine the Mississippi River and Great Lakes region before looking at places around the world with their own water resources challenges. Other topics include a sense of place, new urbanism, natural disasters, climate change, globalization, and a culminating multi-continent research project. Throughout the year, students develop the skill of crafting critical-thinking questions which stimulate curiosity about our world and its inhabitants, and about local, national, and global issues.
Social Studies 7 builds on skills introduced in Grade 6 while introducing and reinforcing new skills. These skills include: reading non-fiction texts for comprehension, main ideas, and supporting details; effective note-taking; organizing and budgeting time; critical video viewing; collaborative group activities; research projects; public speaking; review strategies; and thesis-driven expository writing. Students practice other social studies skills ranging from civic discourse and geospatial skills, to economic reasoning and historical analysis. Perhaps most importantly, the class taps the creative energy of students while encouraging perseverance, risk-taking, and increased confidence in their ability to express an understanding—orally, visually, and on paper—of the relationships between people, places, and the environment.
Mathematics Course Placement
Placement in all courses for both new and returning students is at the discretion of the mathematics department. Recommendations are based on past performance in mathematics; level of interest; ERB scores; and placement tests and/or exam scores.
Math 7 completes the mathematical background that students need before taking a first course in algebra. Students will be challenged to solve problems that foster an understanding of key prealgebra concepts as well as the application of those concepts to problems from the everyday world. Students will explore rational number operations, algebraic expressions, solutions to equations and inequalities, proportion, percent, angle relationships, circles, composite figures, and prisms. They will build their understanding of these mathematical ideas using concrete and pictorial models (e.g, bar models, algebra tiles, and other manipulatives). Problems will vary in levels of difficulty, giving each student the practice needed to develop the mathematical foundation for a first course in algebra.
Textbook: Math in Focus 2020, Course 2
Honors Math 7
Honors Math 7 completes the mathematical background that students need before taking a first course in honors algebra. Students will be challenged to solve complex problems that foster an understanding of key prealgebra concepts as well as the application of those concepts to problems from the everyday world. Students will explore rational number operations, algebraic expressions, solutions to equations and inequalities, proportion, percent, angle relationships, circles, composite figures, and prisms. Students in honors math may also be exposed to the Pythagorean Theorem, statistics, and probability. They will build their understanding of these mathematical ideas using concrete and pictorial models (e.g, bar models, algebra tiles, and other manipulatives). Students will progress through the material at an accelerated pace and use enrichment materials to explore challenging problems.
Textbook: Math in Focus 2020 Course 2
In Science 7, the overarching theme is environmental science with a focus on Minnesota Ecology. Earth science, life science, and physical science is grounded in the environment surrounding St. Paul, with an emphasis on data analysis, modeling, application, and problem-solving. Students test samples from local bodies of water while they study pollution and its impacts on animals and plants. Using a variety of chemical tests, students record and analyze the data to search for trends in the greater Twin Cities areas. They build on this by designing and testing biofilters with the goal of removing these pollutants. During this ongoing project, they learn about and connect the biogeochemical cycles in nature to one another to form a bigger picture of how ecology is interconnected. Students will hone their computer programming skills by creating their own computer simulations and models, allowing them to test variables related to pollution and climate change. They end the year by delving into a student-designed investigation in plant germination which informs their engineering design project related to rain/pollinator gardens and pollinator shelters.
All students in Grade 7 take a music class every day, in a band or orchestra instrument of their choice or in the choir.
Middle School Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble
The Middle School Orchestra is open to players of string, wind (including flute, clarinet, oboe, and french horn), percussion, and keyboard instruments at intermediate to advanced levels. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to music from popular movies is played while the students develop musical and ensemble skills and technical proficiency. High emphasis is placed on team spirit and an awareness of others within the ensemble. The orchestra will give two concerts during the year. In addition, the most advanced string students have the opportunity to participate in the Chamber Ensemble.
The Middle School Chamber Ensemble is a sectional group of the Middle School Orchestra. It is open to players of string and keyboard instruments at the advanced level. Participation is by recommendation only and students new to the orchestra program need to audition. Students will perform a wide variety of challenging literature in addition to participating in the Middle School Orchestra curriculum and ensemble. High emphasis is placed on individual responsibility, organization, and motivation. The Chamber Ensemble will participate in two concerts during the year. Students are expected to practice as necessary outside of class to achieve group success. Students participating in this class are encouraged but not required to take private lessons to accelerate their skill development.
Middle School Band and Jazz Band
The Middle School Jazz Band is open to saxophone, trumpet, trombone and drum set players who have successfully passed beyond the beginner level. In addition, a limited number of guitar, bass guitar, and keyboard players who have demonstrated the ability to play at this intermediate level may participate in MS Jazz Band. A wide variety of age-appropriate literature from jazz classics, to swing, blues, pop and rock is used for students to develop musical and ensemble skills as well as technical proficiency. Students are expected to practice as necessary outside of class to achieve group success. The Middle School Jazz Band plays a winter concert along with the MS Orchestra and a spring concert that is jazz only, along with the Upper School Jazz Band.
Middle School Choirs: Treble, Beginning Voices, and Cambiata
The Middle School Choir program is designed to teach students how to sing with healthy vocal technique through age-appropriate choral literature and pop arrangements. Middle School Choir is split into three sections: SSA Treble Choir, Beginning Voices for new singers who need a jump start, and Cambiata for students who are singing tenor or bass or whose voices are in the middle of dropping. Alongside the choral curriculum, students will engage in a music theory and fundamentals curriculum including note-reading, sight-singing, basic keyboard skills, and audio recording and mixing.
Art 7 will expand on the foundations and technical applications learned in Art 6 while creating more complex projects than the previous year. Students are introduced to each project using the most effective and present-day techniques while learning about art in contemporary and historical contexts. Current events and cultural awareness will be highlighted through artistic expression and individual modes of working. An inclusive and diverse selection of artists will be featured with each project. A focus on individual choice will be present. Students will study the following units: photography, ceramics, drawing and painting, and digital art.
In Theatre 7, students will be introduced to technical theatre & design, physical theatre, and sketch comedy. This class introduces students to the craft and duties of stage technicians and their contribution to the total aesthetic effect of a dramatic production. We will study physical theatre and dance; improve physical control and expressiveness, and tap into our imaginations through movement. Finally, in this experiential writing and performance unit, we will explore and develop our comedic voices by creating comedic sketches. Each student is assessed by their willingness to keep an open mind, personal commitment to doing their best, active participation in class, and taking part in the creative process.
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Students completing this course typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students in Chinese IB converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in Chinese, building on the information and vocabulary that they acquired in Chinese IA. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the integrated Chinese I textbook. After successful completion of Chinese IB, which completes Level I, students move into Chinese II.
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving activities, foods, clothing, city life and home life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs). Themes and grammatical structures align with the Voces Français Level I series, including narration in present and near future time frames. After successful completion of French IB, which completes Level I, students move into French II. Students completing this course typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines.
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Students completing this course typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students in German IB converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in German, building on the information and vocabulary that they acquired in German IA. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Deutsch Aktuell 1 text series, including narration in the present,and future,. After successful completion of German IB, which completes Level I, students move into German II.
Students in Spanish 1B learn to communicate about leisure activities, spending habits and clothing, homes and chores, and fitness and athletes in the Spanish-speaking world. They read a short beginning level novel. The grammar centers on present tense verb conjugation, including stem-changing and irregular yo verbs as well as ser v. estar. Students completing this level typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students in 1B converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in Spanish, building on the information and vocabulary that they acquired in 1A. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs).
Students in Spanish IIA kick off the year learning about natural disasters and weather as they read a short novel about students traveling to Argentina. They continue on to reading fairy tales and Mexican legends. Students then delve into comparing daily routines across countries and how to handle illness and trips to the doctor. Sharing childhood accidents and mischief is a highlight of this unit. Students also learn about the contributions that Latino musicians have made to a variety of musical genres in the U.S. The grammar focus during Spanish IIA is on the present perfect, preterit, and imperfect verb tenses and learning to interpret and use pronouns (reflexive, indirect, and direct). Students completing this level typically demonstrate proficiency in the Novice High to Intermediate Mid range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students in 2A converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in Spanish, building on the information and vocabulary that they learned in 1B. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs).
Based on concepts in the CSTA Standards for grades 6-8, Computer Science 7 is a trimester-long course taken by all seventh graders. In this course, students explore three distinct areas of current interest in computer science: composition and editing of electronic music, text-based computer programming using Python on both laptops and physical computing devices such as the BBC microbit, and digital 3D modeling and printing. In each unit, students learn the basics of the technical tools and create independent projects to demonstrate their understanding. Throughout the trimester, students also discuss the ethical implications of emerging technologies based on current news stories.
Physical Education 7
The Middle School Physical Education program is designed to expose students to a wide range of individual and team sports as well as fitness and athleticism activities. Skills, strategies, and safety are taught while instilling self-discipline, cooperation, and sportsmanship as life skills in sport. A positive self-image is nourished by developing students’ full range of physical attributes to include: muscular strength, endurance, coordination, flexibility, grace, and agility.
Compass 7 builds on the skills introduced in Compass 6, with an emphasis on social and emotional health and identity development. Topics in 7th grade include emotional regulation, healthy communication and self advocacy, character development, and intercultural competence. Class is interactive and exploratory, and rooted in the community norms of mutual respect and valuing difference. With no take-home assignments or tests, the evaluation of a student's performance in Compass depends on class involvement and effort to support an atmosphere of mutual learning.