An All-Girls Middle School for Young Women of Promise

In the spirit of Cornelia Connelly, an Oak Knoll young woman perseveres “with all her might,” to achieve her God-given purpose.

Grades 7-8 Program

When Oak Knoll young women enter the Upper School, they are welcomed into a unique sisterhood where they receive encouragement as they develop a positive self-image and champion the same in their peers.

Students experience the environment of an inclusive Upper School (our all-girls middle and high school grades 7-12), and they also know the advantages of a small, student-centered program, which highlights the enthusiasm and extraordinary accomplishments of students in the middle-grade years. Faculty in English, world language, math, science, history, and theology have created an integrative program that promotes connections across disciplines and holistic learning. With the advantage of learning in our Upper School environment with access to cutting-edge labs and facilities, the curricula are coordinated, and shared projects reinforce essential themes.

We look at our seventh and eighth grades as a “head-start” for Oak Knoll’s college preparatory high school courses and as a time for a young woman’s first strides toward the sense of individuality and identity that will be hers in adulthood. Our demanding but nurturing program in a Catholic environment is designed to foster self-worth, cooperation, accomplishment, and a sense of community.

Middle School Courses

Computer Studies

This course provides students with the skills needed to integrate computers into other courses. Proficiency in word processing, presentation, and digital media software is emphasized with additional lessons, as time permits, on web design, movie-making, Internet, and desktop publishing skills. Digital citizenship is addressed through class discussions and activities in which students contemplate real life ethical dilemmas in today’s digital world.

Creative Arts

The seventh and eighth grade creative arts program introduces students to the broad spectrum of the fine and performing arts and provides curricular and extracurricular opportunities to develop and showcase talent. Sparking creative interest during this formative period cultivates young artists for our extended arts program at the upper levels. Performance groups such as Dancers and Chimes welcome auditions of talented and interested seventh and eighth graders.

The seventh and eighth graders explore movement and the creative and technical levels of ballet, jazz, modern dance and dance conditioning. Videos, study of technique, written assignments and projects create the total dance experience. Both beginning and advanced students benefit from these classes.

This course familiarizes students with fundamental skills and techniques in a wide range of both fine art and applied art forms. The seventh grade program focuses on twodimensional projects (drawing, painting, collage, and printmaking) and the eighth grade program centers on threedimensional projects. The usual format for each unit includes introduction to various art forms and concepts, activities in individual techniques and processes and a final project which allows students to synthesize knowledge and skills. While the General Art program provides different learning experiences for the seventh and eighth grades, it is a continuing program that builds upon information and skills gained each year.

This course explores the unique characteristics and historical developments in musical and theatre history while encouraging theatrical introspection and expression. Engagement in self-expression is encouraged through drama warm-ups, improvisation and class projects. Interactive classes in drama and scene study invite the student to explore the performer’s tools and mind.

Photo Arts introduces students to the fundamentals of photography through hands-on darkroom and camera work, including photograms and 35mm black-and-white film development. A long-term photo flip book project integrates storyboarding, teamwork, pre-visualization, and basic camera, printing, and graphic design skills.

This course invites students to develop their acting technique through stage presence, movement, and voice. Students use their dramatic skills and talents to synthesize ideas from other content areas and innovate within their craft. They are expected to work as a team of artists, playwrights, directors, choreographers, designers, and actors to produce scenes, skits, and monologues. Through this process, the students learn the importance of teamwork, individual responsibility, and self-confidence.

English

This course emphasizes speaking, active listening, and writing through a focus on various genres of literature. Writing exercises are linked to reading assignments as students begin to explore literary analysis, and all work relates to the schoolwide grade 7 academic themes of identity, journey, and home. Units of study center around literature (including a historical fiction novel, selected short fiction, and poetry) and writing workshops. Grammar and vocabulary skills are emphasized on a daily basis. Texts in English 7 may include Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, and Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.

The eighth grade English program integrates writing, grammar, and vocabulary skills with dramatic and literary study. Students take a close look at themselves as adolescents as they discover the identities of the main characters in literary works which include Lyda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree, Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Oral presentations and creative and expository writing assignments are an integral part of this course, as is an interdisciplinary project. Major assignments include scriptwriting, moviemaking, research, interviews as well as traditional essays.

History

World Geography enables students to develop an understanding of and appreciation for our planet’s lands and peoples. From a foundation of the five traditional themes of geography (location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and region), particular emphasis is placed on how geography has shaped history, indigenous peoples, and the relationship between geography and current events.

In this class, students immerse themselves in the study of the practical aspects of government and Wall Street beginning with the U.S. Constitution and the operations of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the U.S. government. As the year progresses, the basic principles of the U.S. mixed market economic system will demonstrate the workings of business.

Mathematics: Pre-Algebra

Pre-Algebra is designed to give students the fundamental skills necessary to succeed in the eighth grade class of Algebra I. In Pre-Algebra, students explore order of operations and properties of exponents and radicals. They also solve and graph linear equations, inequalities and systems of equations. The course emphasizes a problem-solving approach by using information given in the form of equations, graphs and charts. Mathematical concepts are taught with an emphasis on real world applications and cross-curricular interaction.

Algebra I is designed to give students the requisite skills that provide a foundation for all future mathematics courses. Topics from the seventh-grade Pre-Algebra course are reinforced and covered in more depth. Students learn how to solve equations, both linear and quadratic, and to use these equations in applications and modeling settings. Emphasized skills include factoring, laws of exponents and radicals, and operations with rational expressions. The curriculum investigates systems of equations and inequalities in various ways including graphing and modeling.

Physical Education and Health

The seventh and eighth grade physical education program follows the national standards set forth by the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE). This program off ers a wide variety of experiences which support the development of motor skills, lifetime health fi tness, critical thinking, and responsible social behavior. Providing opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and social interaction, the activities rotate each year and may include soccer, volleyball, team handball, ultimate Frisbee, fi tness assessment, basketball, and wiffl e ball. Individual and dual experiences may include tennis, badminton, paddle ball, project adventure activities, track and orienteering. All students utilize a fi tness log to track their physical activity and fi tness goals.

The seventh and eighth grade health curriculum centers on the young adolescent woman and concepts of wellness and mindfulness. Students begin with the Path to Wellness which integrates physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, communal, social justice and social wellness. Topics include mindful eating and sustainability, mindful behaviors, mindful relationships, and mindful living. Content examines substance abuse, nutrition and eating disorders, teen sex issues, stress, decision-making, and health fi tness. Students reinforce their critical thinking skills as they learn to interpret health data and information, evaluate the impact of health behaviors and choices, and examine teen fads.

Religion

Religion 7 begins with an introduction to Cornelia Connelly’s life and the impact she has had on the world through the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and Holy Child education. Students are then introduced to the four Gospels and their unique theological perspectives. Students begin this unit by comparing Jesus’ birth narratives, followed by examining and discussing Jesus’ many teachings. It is through this lens that students then use their understanding of empathy and justice to examine key figures throughout history who have worked to bring Jesus’ message of love to the world.

Students begin the course by exploring the history of the Catholic Church, with focus on the origin of the Church, the Holy Spirit’s role in the Church, and the mission of the apostles. The course continues with a study of the Marks of the Church. In the second half of the course, the students learn about Catholic Social Teaching. Students discuss the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching and are challenged to consider the practical application of these principles.

Science

This course will explore a wide range of topics in earth science, including meteorology, plate tectonics, volcanism, glaciers, and natural resources. These topics will provide a springboard to examine physical science concepts important to each process. The application of scientific tools to real life examples will enforce the understanding of both components of the course. When possible, local and global examples will be studied as well. An emphasis will be placed on data gathering and analysis, including graphing, map reading, and other forms of data visualization, while honing skills that will be valuable in future science courses.

This is a survey course of the biological and environmental sciences. In this course, students gain a complex understanding of the interactions between living organisms and the non-living environment, with a special focus on the role of humans in environmental challenges and solutions. Coursework begins with the exploration of the six kingdoms of organisms, including structure and function of viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. Further units of study explore cellular structure and function. The course culminates with a detailed study of environmental science including ecology, natural resources, weather and climate, and conservation biology. Mathematics involved in each unit include data collection, analysis, and graphing, which are central to inquiry-based laboratory experiments. Other coursework includes creative projects, activities, and microscopy, which, collectively, prepare students for subsequent biology courses.

World Language

In grade seven, students choose either French 7, Latin 7, or Spanish 7. Students are expected and highly encouraged to continue with this language in grade eight; however, on the rare occasion when a language change is necessary, permission from the World Language department chair is required. These courses introduce or build upon linguistic knowledge and provide a sound basis for continued study in the eighth grade and beyond. Dynamic and student-centered, our French and Spanish classes stress speaking, listening, reading and writing and encourage direct communication. The culture of the French and Spanish speaking world is integral to these language courses.

The skills that students have acquired in grade 7 in French, Latin or Spanish serve as a solid foundation for a deeper study of these languages in grade 8. Students continue to build communicative skills through the daily, practical use of the language. A variety of real-world activities ensures growth in reading, writing, speaking and listening. In Latin, students read adapted myths from Ovid. Projects on varied topics such as Roman architecture, Roman names and mottos, gods and goddesses, Roman food and dress help the students appreciate the rich variety and power of ancient Roman culture and its connections to their own.

Middle School Enrichment Programs

Advisory

Because we commit to educate the whole child, Oak Knoll’s advisors foster positive relationships with and between students and promote personal growth to cultivate self confidence, respect and generosity toward self and others, and a faith-filled response to the world.

Advisors live out this mission by meeting with their advisees as a group twice per cycle to engage them in activities and conversation that encourage and challenge them to:

  • Achieve harmony and balance in her life
  • Communicate confidently and articulately
  • Believe and acknowledge God’s presence in herself and others
  • Trust and revere the dignity and uniqueness of each person
  • Engage with the challenges of the world to meet the wants of the age.

In addition, advisors meet with their advisees individually once per month to foster intentionally a positive relationship between adult and student. It is our hope and goal that the student know that her advisor is there to support her over the course of her time at Oak Knoll.

Campus Ministry - Grades 7 and 8

All seventh and eighth graders participate in the campus ministry program throughout the school year. Many campus ministry activities are integrated into religion classes, especially during Advent. Additionally, class time is provided to prepare for and participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Lenten Season. As opportunities arise, students serve as ministers of hospitality and readers during liturgical celebrations. Finally, students have opportunities to pray, refl ect, and bond with their classmates at mandatory day-long refl ection days and optional retreats. Seventh and eighth graders also participate in various outreach and service programs sponsored by campus ministry. Service projects include the schoolwide service day, ministering to residents at a nursing home, and preparation for Bridges “runs,” which provide basic necessities to homeless men and women.

Concert Choir Junior - Grades 7 and 8

The aim of this class is the development of the voice and musical talent of the student. Although much of the emphasis is on learning to sing two-part and three-part harmony, the program also encourages the development of good choral habits. During the course of the year, the choir prepares for and performs in the Christmas Concert, the Spring Concert, and events such as Masses and special assemblies. All seventh graders are part of this choral group. Eighth graders elect participation. In addition to rehearsing as a whole choir, students will meet in separate sectionals by grade level.

EmpowHER

A unique Oak Knoll program that teaches girls to take risks, build confidence, and be themselves. It is based on principles outlined in The Confidence Code for Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. The program is facilitated by grade 7 and 8 teachers and incorporates a variety of class bonding and self-discovery activities. Learn more.

Guidance - Grades 7 and 8

Student support at Oak Knoll is an integral part of the school. Students in grades 7, 8, and 10 meet once a cycle in scheduled guidance classes with a member of our student support team. The program helps students adjust optimally to their classes as they realize the highest possible achievement of their aptitudes. In these classes students participate in activities focused on wellness living, values clarifi cation, decision-making, peer relationships, test-taking strategies, school-related concerns and grade-level needs. The deans and other members of the Upper School administration also conduct classes during the year to discuss academic and social issues, promote community building, discuss course selection, and college planning.

Peer Leader Program

The Peer leader program comprises two seniors working with small groups of seventh and eighth graders. The Senior Peer leaders meet once a cycle. The meetings include discussions about social and academic pressures; relationships with peers, parents, and faculty; and any problems or concerns that need to be addressed. The younger girls develop a special rapport with their “older sisters” and emulate their behavior and attitude. Seventh and eighth graders gain a sense of comfort and belonging and more connectedness to the high school.