Along with the changes brought about by puberty, adolescents begin to turn inward to seek themselves. The child at this age experiences a conflict in wanting to be accepted by the group, yet recognized as an individual. New powers of intellect emerge as critical thinking blossoms. The seventh grade curriculum aims to meet these developments through the themes of discovery, exploration, and transformation.
The students study the Middle Ages and the dawning of the Renaissance, when, just like the budding adolescent, the individual was no longer content to accept things on blind faith or authority, but had to prove and discover things for oneself. Through the biographies of the great Renaissance figures, the students are inspired by the creativity and ingenuity that flourished in the area of art, politics, culture, and science. In addition to the writing and reading assignments, the students also spend time on their own renderings of the works of the great masters.
In connection to the history study, the students learn about the “Age of Exploration” in Geography. The focus is on the physical and cultural geography of South and Central America. The ancient Aztec, Mayan, and Inca civilizations are explored, as well as the impact of European exploration and colonization. The students also learn cartography and how the explorers used longitude and latitude.
Astronomy is introduced in seventh grade as it relates to the study of the Renaissance. The students compare the theories of Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Galileo. They learn about the other planets and major constellations as well as the relationship between the seasons, moon phases, the tides, and the earth’s rotation. The students discover how to use the stars as a navigation tool.
Physics focuses on the study of mechanics. Through experimentation, the students learn about simple machines. They apply algebraic equations to the physical laws that underlie the science of mechanics and learn about the invention of these machines in the context of history. The students also further their study of acoustics, optics and electricity, which began in sixth grade.
Chemistry is introduced, focusing on the process of combustion. The students perform experiments that demonstrate the transformation of metals to salts and learn about the lime cycle.
Seventh graders are introduced to human physiology and anatomy, a field of study sparked by Renaissance thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci. The students learn about the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and reproductive systems. Sexual education, health, and the effect of drugs are addressed in context, usually by a visiting nurse or physician.
In mathematics, the students are introduced to negative numbers, venturing into more abstract thinking. Algebra begins, including variables, expressions, and equations, as well as scientific notation, bases, exponents, and radicals. In geometry, the students learn to use the Pythagorean Theorem, the Golden Section, and the Fibonacci Series. The students use tools in perspective drawing, a synthesis of art and science originating in the Renaissance.
With their growing capacity for critical thinking, the seventh graders read analytically, adopting techniques in their own creative writing and poetry. Additionally, lessons focus on essay writing, including organization of paragraphs, sequencing, and transitions. Grammar, spelling and vocabulary continue.