At 14, the pupils are "into" adolescence: bodily and psychological changes are well under way so that, in general, the young person seems more robust and the tenderness of the previous two years has lessened somewhat. Autobiographies, biographies, histories of people who have contributed to world history in any way, are the subject of deep study in Grade 8. How we are in the world, how we react to injustice or need, how we transform what needs transformation and conserve what needs conserving, how we relate to others and how we treat our environment? These are important themes as the students move more deeply into the puberty crisis. This finds a very strong place in the block on Revolutions such as the French Revolution or the American Revolution. Working on developing a language and vocabulary that is capable of expressing the increasingly complex ideas, thoughts and feelings that a person of this age can have is of extreme importance. Awareness of the body and how all the organs work together to allow life to exist are subjects in anatomy. Human sexuality and the ability to have balance and healthy relationships to ourselves and others are examined in physiology.
Now is the time to give the students as many opportunities as possible to see how people who have had exciting, difficult and/or privileged lives have dealt with what came towards them. Well-known people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevara, Mao Tse Tung, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jaques Lusseyran, to name but a few, are the subject of conversation in the 8th Grade.
Students are asked to read and write about a person of their choice, bring back their findings and are offered opportunities to discuss in class why someone behaved the way he/she did, the implications of their choices and so on. This, again, is an ideal way of allowing the students to explore their own questions and struggles without forcing them to share something that they might not be able to (or might not be ready to) from their own personal experience.
Love stories are of course very important. Shakespeare is an ideal author. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example, offers ideal opportunities to talk about what love might really be. Creative writing, writing reports and the difference between scientific writing and storytelling is explored. Each student’s style is examined and suggestions are made on how to improve and enhance one's writing abilities.
All grammatical phenomena will have been examined by the end of 8th Grade and co
mparisons will have been made to the grammars of the other two language the students are learning.
Additional Blocks in Grade 8 are:
A sweep of history up to the present day including the Industrial Revolution and its consequences
The remaining work on the four continents
Magnetism, electricity and modern inventions
The experiences the students have had during the eight years outside in the environment is used as a basis to study the impact of our human life on the planet. Substances that we create that do not come naturally from the earth, how they are created and what is their impact is an important part of this work.
The local and global climate is studied. We ask how weather “comes about," what are we doing to affect the weather, what occurs naturally, how do I recognize what the weather is going to be like.
The human body is further studied so that the students have a thorough and clear picture of their bodies and a good understanding of how to keep the body healthy. The question of sexuality, reproduction and all the implications of this is a part of the conversations in this block.
These questions are addressed as they come up so that the students feel comfortable coming to the teachers with any theme that is causing them unease or distress of any kind.
Hopefully the curriculum will have supported the children throughout their time in the grades. The physical, emotional and spiritual health of the child will have been at the heart of the teacher's work. Thus, we hope that there will have been tremendous preventative work done – unobtrusively but thoroughly – so that when the questions of substance abuse arise, the children will be able to ask, will be able to listen to information with open minds and will have inner responses to any situation in which they will be offered a substance that is harmful.
Information on substances that are available will of course be given to the children. The emphasis is, however, on prevention and preparation.