The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Upper School

Grade Eight

Grade Eight Overview

Both eighth grade boarding students and day students benefit from challenging courses that enhance essential skills in reading, writing, quantitative reasoning, scientific thought, and world language. The curricula in English, history, and science are standard for all students, while courses in mathematics and world languages require placement tests. By eighth grade, students have internalized fundamental skills and habits such as organization and time management, and they are refining their thinking, speaking, reading, writing, and listening abilities throughout the year in all classes. Students are also focusing on problem solving and design in our Innovation Lab, with our Creator’s Class. Courses in visual and performing arts and a developmentally appropriate wellness class round out students’ schedules. The work of eighth grade allows students to demonstrate academic and personal independence as they prepare for each day. Throughout the year, life skills such as discernment, adaptability, and collaboration help students establish a solid foundation for the coming year.

List of 10 items.

  • Mathematics

    We recognize that students at this age develop at different rates and appreciate that there is more than one path through the math curriculum; for that reason, we conduct careful student placement in the spring of each year to ensure that each student is appropriately challenged. Click here to see a full list of Upper School math courses.
  • English 8

    Eighth grade English emphasizes literature, grammar, writing, and vocabulary. Students read from a selection of major literary works that in recent years have included MAUS I by Art Spiegelman, American Street by Ibi Zoboi, The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Eighth graders begin their year with a study of Tonya Bolden’s Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls, exploring themes of empowerment, self-advocacy, and perspective. The course includes a broad survey of international poetry from Czeslaw Milosz’s A Book of Luminous Things.

    Through discussion and reflection, students participate in a close examination of the literature and reflect on each book or play with an analytical essay. Students focus on using grammar as a tool for good writing, and they practice incorporating more complex sentence structures, including verbal phrases and subordinate clauses.

    Writing assignments are frequent, and students learn to move from the free writing stage, through the process of revision, to final drafts of longer essays. The emphasis in class discussions and in student essays is on a more abstract examination of the work rather than on plot description, and students learn to identify themes and literary devices as well as specific details in the reading. Students study vocabulary in context in order to develop a more sophisticated written and spoken command of the English language.
  • Modern World Cultures

    Modern World Cultures is a comprehensive study of 20th-century post-colonial civilizations. Students examine what happened as the colonial era ended and new societies and cultures evolved in places like Ireland, South Africa, India, and Palestine, as well as the Balkans, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Students learn about the cultural, economic, and political roots of each society’s independence movement before examining each nation's transition to autonomy. Students focus on the challenging and sometimes rocky process of state-building, including systems of justice, government structure, and cultural influences. Students annotate, interpret, and analyze primary source documents; identify key terms and seminal themes; and use evidence to support written and verbal arguments. Students participate in class discussions, writing activities, and project-based assessments to develop their analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills.
  • Physical Science 8

    Upper School science practices have been adopted from the National Resource Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012) and directly build upon the practices from the Lower School. Students who demonstrate success in upper school science courses will be able to:
    • Ask questions (for science) and define problems (for engineering)
    • Construct explanations (for science) and design solutions (for engineering)
    • Plan and carry out investigations
    • Analyze and interpret data
    • Use mathematics and computational thinking to solve problems
    • Develop and use models
    • Participate in evidence-based arguments
    • Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information

    Physical Science is a lab-based course that covers foundational content related to physics and chemistry. It includes three units: coding, motion and forces, and chemistry. Using Zulama, developed by Carnegie Learning, , students learn how to write code to manipulate movement and data collection. They develop computational thinking skills as they design rockets to collect data over the course of simulated rocket flights to study the relationship between speed and acceleration and calculate the force of gravity. Later in the year, students learn about motion and forces, starting with motion as related to a position, building to define speed and acceleration, and ending with an examination of the force of gravity. Through focused laboratory experiments, students learn to isolate variables, work with large sets of data, graph their findings, and extract information from graphs. In the final term, students learn about the structure and properties of matter and chemical reactions. Students design investigations where they control variables to provide evidence for the law of conservation of mass and energy, while taking into account variables that affect the rates of reactions.
  • World Languages

    Upon entering the Upper School, students select a world language to study. Students choose from French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Latin. Placement in all levels is based upon the student’s prior experience in the language, teacher recommendations, and a placement test. Click here to see a detailed list of all Upper School world language course offerings.
  • Music

    The music faculty is committed to the concept of "learning by doing" and recognizes the value of performance in every student’s experience. Each year, Upper School students choose a music course from an array of options that include bass or treble chorus, bells, string ensemble, band, and music exploration. The courses are designed to extend the theory and performance skills developed in the Lower School, but students new to Fay will also find that they can succeed in a beginning-level ensemble with little or no previous musical experience. Click here to see a complete list of music offerings.
  • Art

    The Upper School visual arts curriculum encourages personal expression and fosters the development of cognitive, motor, and social skills. Interdisciplinary and multicultural projects, art history, and resources within the school and community are integrated through the program.
    Students learn basic art skills as well as the elements and principles of design. In all grades, students have regular opportunities to draw from life and imagination; they also work in a range of media that includes paint, collage, ceramics, cut paper, sculpture, printmaking, origami, digital media, and other two- and three-dimensional media. Eighth and ninth graders have the option to participate in art electives that allow them to focus on specific areas of interest. Click here for a complete list of course descriptions.
  • Creators Class

    The Creators Class takes place in Fay's Innovation Lab. The course is designed to build each student's creative confidence and focuses on the following themes:
    • Design thinking, an empathy-based problem solving mindset and process, to help students identify problems and possible solutions
    • Basic electronics, to do basic programming of circuit boards
    • Digital fabrication, to design and build 2D and 3D objects using the school's laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and 3D printing technologies
    Our ultimate goal is to give students the ability to isolate a problem they want to solve and to spend the latter part of the year designing and building solutions.
  • Wellness 8

    Students in our co-educational eighth grade Wellness classes delve more deeply into a range of topics that includes sexual development, nutrition, accepting others’ differences, stereotyping, bullying prevention and response, mindfulness, conflict resolution, boundaries, cyber safety and responsible use of technology, keeping oneself safe, stress management, and tobacco and alcohol awareness. Students also explore how outside influences such as the media affect decision making. Other topics include resisting peer pressure, dating and relationship violence, practical ways to address temptation to use substances and become involved in premature sexual experimentation, alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug misuse prevention, and the development of leadership skills. The relatively small, mixed-gender classes allow for discussion aimed to help students understand others’ points of view and to prepare students for the social dynamics of high school.

  • Athletics

    The athletics program takes place every day following academic classes. All students in grades seven through nine are required to participate daily in all three terms. Students choose from an array of interscholastic sports and intramural activities (one per term). Students may try out for competitive interscholastic teams or join an intramural team or activity. However, all students are required to participate in at least one interscholastic sports team each year. Click here for the complete list of athletic options.