Grade 7 is a time when children begin to need 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 his or her 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 new 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 work-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 his or her 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 clarifiction.
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 and February, 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 mid-point 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
- Fine 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 an issue, 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. As the year progresses, students become increasingly comfortable formulating answers to questions which help to 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 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 skills, to geospatial skills, to economic reasoning and historical analysis. Perhaps most importantly, the class hopes to tap 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; effort; level of interest; grades; 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 the real number system, rational number operations, algebraic expressions, solutions to equations and inequalities, and topics from three-dimensional geometry. 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.
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 the real number system, rational number operations, algebraic expressions, solutions to equations and inequalities, topics from three-dimensional geometry, statistics and the Pythagorean Theorem. They will build their understanding of these mathematical ideas using concrete, pictorial and abstract 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.
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 boys' or girls' choir.
Middle School Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble
The Middle School Orchestra is open to string, woodwind, brass, percussion, and keyboard musicians at intermediate to advanced levels. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to movie music 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.
Middle School Band and Jazz Band
The Middle School Band is open to woodwind, brass, and percussion players of intermediate to advanced skill. In addition, bass, guitar, and keyboard players may participate in Jazz Band. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to movie music 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 Middle School Band plays two concerts during the year. In addition, the most advanced players have the opportunity to participate in the Jazz Band.
Middle School Girls’ Choir and Middle School Boys’ Choir
The Middle School Choir Program is designed to teach students how to sing with healthy vocal technique through age-appropriate choral literature for both Middle School Choirs. The Middle School Boys’ Choir and the Middle School Girls’ Choir both study and perform music from various genres, learn about music theory and vocal terminology connected with the choral curriculum, and perform in a Winter and Spring Concert each year.
Grade 7 students rotate through two trimester-long fine arts classes over the course of the year.
This Grade 7 art experience emphasizes the fundamentals inherent in creating both realistically rendered and imaginary images in a two-dimensional form. Beginning with abstraction, while using a wide variety of materials, all basic concepts of drawing and design are introduced and fostered. Projects include totally abstract collages, contour and modeled still life and self-portrait drawings and surrealistic watercolor paintings--using the self as a metaphor in the creation of imaginary figures. Each student is assessed by the same criteria we would like them to use to evaluate themselves: a personal commitment to their process, constructive participation in group discussions and a willingness to stretch their potential.
The Grade 7 3D course is designed to familiarize students with the processes of ceramics. Students explore a variety of ceramic techniques that will build confidence and a vision for the variety of starting points with this complex material. The class pushes students' to consider ideas, content, and narrative as they relate to developing one's personal visual artistic voice. Students learn to talk about art and have periodic group critiques to discuss what they have accomplished. Students' different learning patterns are celebrated and recognized as a gift to their creativity.
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. The emphasis in this course is on gaining specific speaking and writing proficiency about daily life related to self, family, and school while making beginning comparisons with similar aged children in French-speaking countries. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Bien dit! Level 1 series. After successful completion of French 7, students will move into French 8 to complete Level I.
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. The emphasis in this course is on gaining specific speaking and writing proficiency about daily life related to self, family, and school while making beginning comparisons with similar aged children in German-speaking countries. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Deutsch Aktuell series. After successful completion of German 7, students will move into German 8 which completes Level I.
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. The emphasis in this course is on gaining specific speaking and writing proficiency about daily life related to self, family, and school while making beginning comparisons with similar aged children in China. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Zhen Bang I (真棒) textbook. After successful completion of Chinese 7, students will move into Chinese 8 to complete Level I.
By the end of this course, students can participate in conversations and present information on a number of familiar topics using increasingly complex sentences. They can handle short social interactions in everyday situations, write messages about familiar subjects, and recognize the main topic and some supporting details heard or read. Students completing this course typically demonstrate proficiency in the Novice High to Intermediate Mid range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students in Spanish IIA converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in Spanish, building on the information and vocabulary that they learned in Spanish IB. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the first half of the Avancemos II textbook, including narration in present and past time frames. After successful completion of Spanish IIA, students move into Spanish IIB to complete Level II.
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 micro:bit, 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. Students who have successfully completed Computer Science 6, 7, and 8 in the Middle School have met the outcomes of the Upper School introductory course called "Programming and Problem Solving" and are prepared to take any Upper School elective for which it is a prerequisite.
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 the Compass 6 wellness class, 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.