At Grymes upper schoolers receive the respect, admiration and love of the entire school community – and the happy, excited buzz of energy that fills the classrooms of Gardner Hall speaks volumes.
The upper school is where our students truly find their voice and let it be heard.
With a curriculum designed to help students master the skills necessary for success in secondary school, our well-rounded upper school program incorporates traditional class offerings enhanced by daily physical education, weekly Visual Arts, music and library classes. Recess twice daily on the dedicated upper school playground allows socialization, physical activity and a breath of fresh air, while a 25-minute activity period for all upper school classes gives teachers and students time for class meetings, study halls, club meetings and individual support.
While fifth and sixth grade classes are still fairly self-contained, math classes are split developmentally, and seventh and eighth graders move from class to class with each subject. Most academic classes at the seventh and eighth grade levels are split into two sections to allow for smaller class sizes and individual attention.
Starting in the sixth grade, technology is integral to the curriculum. Sixth, seventh and eighth graders enjoy 1:1 student:device technology – starting with school-issued iPads in the sixth grade and Chromebooks in the seventh and eighth grades. Student class work, homework and assignments are all completed and saved to the cloud, and managing online assignments, using digital textbooks and learning digital citizenship becomes a developmental focus as students prepare for high school and beyond.
Art class in the Visual Arts Center offers the opportunity to develop technical skills in a wide variety of media while providing the opportunity for creativity and self-expression.
Music classes weekly become band practice for Upper Schoolers, who select an instrument of choice and join the 5th & 6th Grade Band or the 7th & 8th Grade Ensemble
Drama & Public Speaking
Drama, declamations and leadership opportunities in the Upper School offer the opportunity to develop confidence and poise in public speaking roles on stage.
School-issued iPads in the sixth grade and Chromebooks in the 7th and 8th grades mean that school work and homework are managed on the cloud.
Fifth grade literature includes selections from a basal reader along with novels such as The Boy and the Painted Cave, Door in the Wall and The Whipping Boy. Spelling is taught through word study, and writing workshop allows students to practice different styles including personal narratives, character sketches and expository writing, with a special focus on detail, clarity and proofreading for accuracy. Students are guided through the selection of sources, note taking, outlining, writing, editing and documenting their work as they complete two research papers that coincide with the history curriculum.
In math, students explore whole numbers, decimals and fractions, with accuracy, problem solving and creativity emphasized in the search for the correct answer. Science instruction includes a study of customary and metric units of measurement. In life science, the study of plant and animal cells and body systems, including immune and endocrine systems, is followed by a look at the earth’s layers and its ecosystems in earth science, and matter and electricity in physical science.
The fifth grade history curriculum carries over into the Visual Arts Center, where fifth graders create cave paintings and pottery during their study of early man. Students trace the beginnings of early civilizations in the Fertile Crescent, Egypt, Greece and Rome, and off-campus excursions to Montpelier, the Science Museum of Virginia, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the State Capital, Monticello and the Washington National Cathedral provide opportunities for experiential learning to supplement what is happening in the classroom.
Sixth graders learn to juggle assignments from their various teachers as their study skills, organizational skills and discipline are put to the test. Students travel from Gardner Hall to the main building for science and take math in different classrooms, carrying their materials with them like true Upper Schoolers.
An appreciation of the written word lies at the heart of the sixth grade language arts curriculum. More than just reading and writing, this course focuses on the integration of composition and literature to give each student opportunities to express, review and reflect on good writing. An inquiry-based approach allows for rich expression in both individual and group work. Class discussions highlight literary elements of a wide variety of genres, and personal expression is cultivated through weekly journal entries. Writing workshop fosters a supportive environment to compose and revise narratives, poems and essays. Using the Word Voyage curriculum, students expand their vocabularies, and Word Study in developmental groups allows students to improve spelling and grammar.
Sixth grade mathematics serves as a transition between the more discrete operations-based math of the lower school and the more conceptual, abstract topics of upper school math. Students are exposed to, and given directed practice in, working with percents and ratios. The concept of negative integers is introduced, and algebraic notions are inserted wherever possible. Students develop an understanding of variables, and higher-level concepts such as graphing linear functions are introduced. Through activities such as school-wide surveys, class projects and group work, students in sixth grade master fundamental arithmetic operations and prepare for their transition towards Algebra.
The Pre-Algebra curriculum builds upon the concepts of the Math 6 curriculum and not only increases the difficulty of the topics covered, but also demonstrates how they fall into the wider scope of Algebra.
The sixth grade History curriculum begins with the Renaissance in Italy and throughout Europe, with an in-depth look at the Age of Exploration, The Reformation and the French and Industrial Revolutions. The year culminates with a study of the continents, countries, religions, geography and important historical events of Russia, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Africa and India. Students learn the all-important skills of note-taking and test-taking. At the end of the year, they write and present a research paper on an African country. The Visual Arts Center becomes an extension of the classroom as many art projects bring the history curriculum into full color. Past art projects have included ceiling panels for the art room based on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, a life-sized replica of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and projects based on Russian architecture, African weaving and Chinese watercolors. Field trips include visits to Wat Lao Buddhavong, a Buddhist temple in Catlett, Virginia, the National Gallery of Art, the African Museum of Art and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum.
Sixth graders discover the mystery of weather and water by launching a solar balloon, making anemometers and building a convection chamber in science class. In the Diversity of Life course, they take a deep dive into the study of cells as the basic unit of life. The science curriculum culminates by students literally getting their feet wet as they conduct an investigation of a neighboring creek’s water quality and life, ending with a study of pollution and conservation for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The seventh grade is a journey of self-discovery, a turning point in which children define and take responsibility for themselves. Small classes allow for each individual to get the support he or she needs to develop the confidence and self esteem to have an opinion, speak up, take risks and think independently. Students work hard and play hard in the classroom, on the playing fields, and on the stage.
Students study both classic and modern literature through poetry, short stories, plays and the novel. Much emphasis is put on responding to the literature, both in writing and in discussion. Writing is at the heart of the course. Students work toward mastering the three paragraph expository essay as well as creative writing. Students fill portfolios to the brim with every genre as they learn to weave all of the threads of fine writing together. Grammar study provides the foundation for effective communication, and the power of words is explored at every opportunity through literature and the Word Voyage curriculum.
The small class size provides an arena where everyone has a turn all of the time. Therefore students learn to articulate their thoughts. They are taught to project, pace, enunciate and use inflection to express their subtext as they read aloud, act, recite, discuss, debate and give reports or speeches throughout the year. Discipline, risk taking, character development and teamwork are emphasized during the performance of a full-length class play, the highlight of the year.
The Pre-Algebra curriculum is intended to provide a transition from more concrete, mechanics-based mathematics to the abstraction of Algebra. Building upon the concepts in the Math 6 and Math 7 curricula, the topics covered increase in difficulty and connections to the wider scope of Algebra are constantly reinforced. The Pre-Algebra curriculum provides a broad overview of fundamental concepts, such as ratio, proportion, and percent, working with negative numbers, solving simple equations, graphing linear functions and doing simple probability. The fundamentals of two- and three-dimensional geometry are also introduced.
A high school-level class, Algebra 7 covers a complete Algebra I curriculum. Topics covered include simplifying and evaluating algebraic expressions, solving equations with increasing levels of difficulty, working with inequalities, linear functions, systems of equations and equations,as well as quadratic, rational, and radical expressions and functions. Methods of modeling real-life situations as algebraic expressions and equations are practiced throughout the school year, and individual and group work is used in working through solving various complex problems. The goal of this course is to give students a solid foundation in Algebraic methods and to give them a taste for the complexity and beauty of mathematics as a field of study.
Seventh grade history begins with the Age of Exploration through the following two centuries, with an in-depth exploration of the various colonial experiences. Attention is paid to regional differences, developing cultures, conflicts and the evolution of political institutions, and a study of the French and Indian War sets the stage for an in-depth look at the subsequent Revolutionary War. The Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights serve as the framework for an intensive focus on national government and the role of citizenship in America. During this exploration, students have the opportunity to develop and hone essential skills such as reading for information, two column note taking, outlining and organizing information for later access. Writing for identifications, short answers to historical questions and longer essays in response to specific historical questions and a major biographical research paper in the spring teaches students to defend their positions, and field trips that include visits to Jamestown, Williamsburg, Montpelier and Washington DC make the curriculum come alive.
In seventh grade, science comes to life with the study of populations and ecosystems by creating mini ecosystems. The class grows a milkweed population in a hands-on exploration of adaptation, genetic variation and natural selection as well as population size and dynamics. An Earth sciences study introduces students to the geologic time scale, and practical application includes making rocks, creating a stream table and an earth time line. Seventh graders also study the human brain and senses, gaining an appreciation for the complexity of routine brain activities. Seventh Grade science is made incredibly memorable with a class trip to one of the education centers run by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, where students spend three days exploring Bay history, tradition and ecology through crabbing, oyster dredging, water testing, marsh mucking and living in low-impact accommodations.
In eighth grade all roads lead to high school and much emphasis is put upon academic and emotional readiness. Eighth graders at Grymes become leaders with a well-deserved sense of pride and confidence. Eighth graders have earned their spot at the top of the bleachers during assemblies and are looked up to – and celebrated – by the rest of the students. Eighth graders are chosen to be officers of the Student Leadership Council, and their leadership is prominent as they organize events including fundraisers, dances and school programs. Each member of the class is recognized by a faculty member at a memorable Eighth Grade dinner just before graduation. As they receive their diplomas, their maturity and self-assuredness makes everyone at Grymes feel like a proud parent.
Eighth grade English is a year-long conversation about the nature of mankind. By the end of the year, students emerge seasoned travelers in the Socratic Method. Classic and modern literature are discussed thoroughly and thoughtfully, and writing develops in sophistication as writing workshop helps to deepen students’ understanding of each other. An in-depth study of a Shakespeare play includes participation in the Folger Secondary Shakespeare Festival in Washington DC, and a full-length performance at the end of the year is a highlight. The class also participates annually in the “Writer’s Eye” competition, sponsored by UVA’s Fralin Art Museum. Students become invested in a class that depends on them for direction. Rather than a transfer of knowledge, eighth grade English is a class in which students hypothesize, criticize, analyze and argue in support of his or her ideas.
Algebra 8 is a high school-level class that covers a complete Algebra I curriculum. Topics covered include simplifying and evaluating algebraic expressions, solving equations with increasing levels of difficulty, working with inequalities, linear functions, systems of equations and equations,as well as quadratic, rational, and radical expressions and functions. Methods of modeling real-life situations as algebraic expressions and equations are practiced throughout the school year, and individual and group work is used in working through solving various complex problems. The goal of this course is to give students a solid foundation in Algebraic methods and to give them a taste for the complexity and beauty of mathematics as a field of study.
The Grymes Geometry course is designed for eighth grade students who have excelled in Algebra. The pace is comparable to a high school level Geometry course and students investigate geometric concepts with a strong emphasis on reasoning and proof. The values of thinking logically and presenting ideas in a logical order are stressed. Proofs and applications are presented for parallel lines, perpendicular lines, congruent triangles, quadrilaterals, similar figures, right triangles and trigonometry, transformations, circles, and surface area and volume. The Geometer’s Sketchpad application is integrated throughout the course to provide tangible results to concepts studied.
History in the eighth grade is the second part of a two-year sequence begun in the seventh grade, beginning with George Washington’s first administration. Throughout the year, the class traces the political and geographic development of the republic as it struggles with foreign entanglements, territorial expansion, economic growth and emerging sectional conflicts. A comprehensive study of the Civil War moves into an exploration of a very different nation that developed afterwards with rapid industrial growth, political changes and social polarization and the economic boom – and crash – of the 1920’s. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry onto the stage of world war are the culmination of the year. Throughout the course, popular culture is emphasized, and the development of essential note-taking, organization, research, analytical and writing skills are of particular focus.
Force and motion, speed, distance, acceleration, gravity and momentum are the focus of eighth grade science, followed by a course called Chemical Interactions which studies transformations of matter. Planetary Science rounds out the year with a look at Earth, the moon and the solar system.
Personal Development is an age-appropriate seminar course designed to identify the broad spectrum of physical, social and emotional issues that arise during each stage of adolescent development. Topics discussed include values, stress management and emotional wellness, family issues, relationships, internet safety, communication, good vs. bad touch, psychosocial issues of puberty, birth control, saying and accepting “no,” review of reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases, smoking, substance abuse and transition to high school.