The midpoint of the journey through Middle School, Seventh Grade is a time of consolidating academic skills and developing deeper interests and friendships. One minute, students are looking upward and outward at the future before them — discussing high school, college, and the big world beyond Aspen — and the next minute, they are laughing together at recess about a silly memory from the September Outdoor Ed trip. Seventh Graders are a busy group at ACDS, with many special projects and activities throughout the year.
Seventh Graders are deepening their skills and understanding in all their core academic subjects. They have a busy schedule to follow as they balance their academic work, extra-curricular activities, and friendships. This is a time of tremendous intellectual growth as they grapple with new concepts and content.
From the course description for fall semester 2020:
During the first semester of Seventh Grade English, students read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders as a springboard to explore the essential question of what factors help create a person’s sense of identity. The novel is the primary resource for developing their reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills. Students are expected to read and annotate actively and with proficiency. In addition, Seventh Graders develop their writing skills through daily journal prompts as well as expository and creative assignments including poetry and narrative fiction writing. Students use a research-based online vocabulary application to help develop and broaden their vocabularies. Class discussions challenge students to develop, express, and defend their ideas.
From the course description for spring semester 2021:
During the second semester of Seventh Grade English, students read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men as their principal text to investigate the themes of friendship, dreams, and discrimination. This novel is the primary resource for developing their reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Students are expected to read and annotate actively and with proficiency. The students also engage in a poetry unit where they produce short poems, found poetry, and a research-based occasional poem. The summative assessment for the semester consists of writing a short story about the year-long theme of identity.
All Seventh Graders take a pre-algebra course in Seventh Grade. As students move into a formal study of algebra, they are required to think more abstractly and use flexibility to apply concepts to multi-step equations. Middle School students do this at different developmental points, so we provide instruction at two different paces, and there is additional differentiation within the small groups. In Seventh Grade, students study integers, decimals, fractions, proportions, percent, solving for x, and basic geometry.
Seventh Grade Science is full of new discoveries and hard work. The class focuses on cells, genetics, evolution, microorganisms, and the human body. Seventh Graders explore the structure and function of a cell and how it can maintain homeostasis, as well as how plant and animal cells are similar and different. They finish the first semester with an introduction to heredity, starting with mitosis and meiosis and ending with DNA and protein synthesis. Students create impressive 3D cell models and explain the makeup of a cell, the transport of material across the cell membrane, and cell division.
Students write lab reports as well as more creative pieces to demonstrate not only their understanding of scientific content, but also their ability to use scientific thinking to assess a problem or investigate an area of interest. The remainder of the school year the Seventh Graders study cutting edge genetic research, evolution, plants, and the human body. They investigate a select few human body systems and then become experts on a system, writing and presenting their first science-based research paper — a deeper look at a disease affecting one system in the human body.
The focus of Seventh Grade is world history. Students explore important moments, movements, events, systems, and individuals throughout various eras. The course follows a thematic approach. This year’s themes include conquest and colonialism, revolutions, faith, and conflict. Students also participate in National History Day, a nationwide history exhibition. We study history so that we can understand the past, put the present in context, and imagine a better future.
Seventh Graders most often enroll in Spanish II or French II, where they become more adept in their language of choice. More of the class content, including instructions, is delivered in the target language. Students develop understanding of verb tenses by focusing on present progressive, preterit, and reflexives. They learn about direct and indirect objects and demonstrative adjectives. Students read and write more complex texts.
Seventh Graders are becoming more skilled in their pursuits in the arts, creating sculptures, making presentations to accompany their National History Day research, drawing with pastels, and shining on stage in the All-School Play.
Each assignment in Seventh Grade Art class gives students an opportunity to explore the different concepts and benchmarks associated with their grade level. Students are introduced to sculpting in soapstone. They use files, rasps and chisels to carve into a solid block of stone. The process is physically demanding, but satisfying as each student creates a unique sculpture. Students conclude the semester working on costumes, props, and sets for the play.
Students work collaboratively on long-term performance and recording projects. This is a “no experience required course” that asks students to step out of their comfort zones and try new things. At the heart of this course is a hands-on, active approach to getting students excited about playing instruments and performing and recording together as a group. All students will try out a variety of contemporary instruments including but not limited to drums, bass, guitar, piano, organ, percussion, and vocals. Students learn arrangement and rehearsal skills while also building vocabulary that will help them communicate in diverse musical situations. They will also cover the fundamentals of multi-track recording and learn about the processes involved in modern recording studios. Students are expected to be helpful and respectful of others in the room, engage in each project with a positive attitude, be flexible and adaptable if they’re asked to try something that new, participate in performances as required, and above all, enjoy making music.
From the fall 202o report card course description:
Theater is always a stage, always a performance, always a place of improvisation, and this attitude comes in handy during a pandemic. Seventh Graders work on scene development, taking a deep dive into scenes that prompt them to explore varied dialogue of characters in dynamic roles. For these scenes, we use material from female and minority playwrights. One of the students’ favorite scenes was Till Voices Wake Us by Louella Dizon. The students perform their scenes for their peers with maturity and respect, often drawing upon skills developed in the earlier grades in Shakespeare Festival performances.
From the spring 2021 comment to parents:
For the All-School Play this year, the Seventh Grade was given a challenge. They were tasked with learning songs, dances, and lines, all while following the many restrictions and protocols that were in place this school year. This meant that rehearsals that were usually with the whole middle school had to be done in small groups. This proved challenging for many reasons. We had to meet in smaller rehearsal spaces in smaller groups. This also meant that the students would have to rehearse during their lunch recess and study hall times.
In a “normal year,” the Seventh Grade participates in the play but observes the Eighth Graders so they are ready to take the lead the next year. What ended up happening this year was that the Seventh Graders learned more songs and dances to fill in for the scenes that would normally feature the Lower School. I am impressed with the way this class rallied to make the live show possible. They gave extra time and energy to ensure that the show would indeed go on.
On most days, Seventh Graders will be found outside on the turf field in a spirited game of soccer or climbing the hillside behind campus on their telemark skis. They also love heading to the gym for volleyball during recess or PE class.
Seventh Graders build their skills in traditional team sports: volleyball, basketball, soccer, handball, and hockey, with a focus on development of strategy and fair play. They are also introduced to ultimate frisbee and other non-traditional sports and games. In preparation for their winter hut trip, Seventh Graders practice ski touring with climbing skins and telemark skiing. In Middle School, students ski in multi-grade groups with teachers as chaperones; we ski every Friday from mid-January until March break.
Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade students participate in the fall backpacking trips in small groups that venture out into the backcountry for peak climbs or point-to-point expeditions. These multi-grade groups develop bonds among grade levels and build community in the Middle School. Eighth Graders play a special role as leaders of their teams. The fall trips give students essential lifetime skills in backpacking, the most accessible of mountain sports. Seventh Graders’ second Outdoor Ed trip of the year is a hut trip in midwinter. They ski in to the Sangree Froelicher Hut at 11,650 feet above sea level, and spend four days studying snow science, writing in their Outdoor Ed journals, and enjoying all the classic ski touring traditions.
One of the highlights of the Seventh Grade year is the chance to compete in the National History Day program, which is a natural match for the research and presentation skills that Aspen Country Day School students develop over their years of project-based learning. Left, students traveled to the statewide championship round in Denver.
World Leadership School travel program
Aspen Country Day School is fortunate to be a longtime partner of World Leadership School, an innovative organization that offers transformative, immersive travel experiences for students. Seventh Graders have traditionally traveled to Peru on a June program that sets them up to take on their responsibilities the following fall, when they become the student leaders of the school in their Eighth Grade year. For two years during the pandemic, this trip was not possible, but we continue to value this partnership and explore future trip scenarios. For more on the ACDS/WLS program in Peru, click here, page 18.
Signature projects & traditions
In the school’s Buddy Grades program, Seventh Graders are buddies with the Third Graders, and the two enjoy a wide variety of activities together. Highlights of the Seventh Grade year include National History Day, when the students create interactive projects to display at a competitive forum, and the four-day ski touring trip to a backcountry hut. Many Seventh Graders are getting involved with more demanding activities outside of school, and they learn a lot about time management.
The Aspen Country Day School Middle School Advisory Program matches each student with an advisor who serves as a mentor and advocate. This faculty member acts as the facilitator of communication between home and school for any issues related to a student’s Middle School experience. In addition to daily meetings, advisories meet throughout the week for academic coaching and relationship and community building. Advisors also serve as mentors as students prepare for the parent-teacher-student conversations held twice per year.
Working with a small group of approximately ten advisees throughout the year, advisors help students incorporate each of the Aspen Country Day School graduate outcomes into their daily lives. The advisory program promotes healthy relationships, academic progress, and solid communication between home and school. Overall student wellness is a team effort, and the intention at Aspen Country Day School is for all students to experience a supportive community where they are known and loved. With this foundation, they become prepared to foster and contribute to the common good.
One-to-one Chromebook program
Middle Schoolers are issued a Chromebook, which serves as an academic tool throughout Middle School. Students access online text books, teacher blogs, videos, TED talks, primary sources, and other resources to curate the information necessary to participate in the curriculum in each class. They also use technology to create presentations which may include Lucidchart, films, blogs, podcasts, or original TED Talks.