An Independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, D.C.

Curriculum

Grades 7-8

Art

Seventh and eighth grade students become familiar with a variety of art and design concepts, mediums, and ways of working with materials. Within the two years that they are in the Intermediate School, they explore drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, digital photography and technology, textiles, and sculpture. Students draw with coarse and fine tools from observation and from their imagination. They relate projects to their changing identities and personal experiences through independent and team assignments. In addition to direct experience in the art studio, field trips to local museums and galleries, lessons about art and culture, as well as references and conversations about particular artists or techniques complement the students’ understanding of their own studio practice.

Athletics

The athletic programs in the Intermediate School offer students a full range of opportunities and experiences. Students participate in sports during each season and benefit from their introduction to the many educational merits of interscholastic competition. The program is designed to develop conditioning, sport-specific skills, tactics and strategies, teamwork, and sportsmanship. The number of teams in each sport varies according to the level of interest. Every effort is made to provide each student the opportunity to participate on a team, and when more than one team is offered, students are grouped according to ability.

The following options are offered:

Boys

  • Fall: Football, Soccer, Cross Country, and Lifetime Sports
  • Winter: Basketball, Wrestling, Conditioning, Squash, Musical (see Theater)
  • Spring: Baseball, Lacrosse, Tennis, Track and Field, and Lifetime Sports

Girls

  • Fall: Field Hockey, Soccer, Tennis, Cross Country, and Lifetime Sports
  • Winter: Basketball, Conditioning, Squash, Musical (see Theater)
  • Spring: Softball, Lacrosse, Track and Field, and Lifetime Sports

The Potomac School values healthy rivalry, encourage spirited and fair play, and appreciate the positive support offered on the sidelines and in the stands. To continue the positive traditions that have been established and recognized, we ask our community to renew its efforts to embody the ideals of our athletic department and school. Players and coaches will at all times represent themselves, their teams, and their school with pride and poise.

English

English Grade 7

Seventh grade English introduces students to literary analysis and emphasizes effective strategies for communicating opinion. Students practice crafting thesis statements, finding textual evidence, and structuring arguments in an accessible way. Students learn writing traits to achieve high quality writing; assessment of these traits, including ideas, organization, word choice, voice, fluency, conventions, is ongoing. The curriculum also features plentiful opportunities for narrative, analytical, descriptive, reflective and creative writing and poetry, as well as public speaking and theatrical performance.

Each work of literature focuses on some aspect of how individuals develop their identities within a larger society, which is also the focus of the Social Studies curriculum. In this way, the content invites students to discuss and analyze personally relevant issues in different literary and historical contexts. Text annotation also encourages students to record their reactions and observations. Vocabulary and grammar studies involving parts of speech and sentence structure are important elements of the class routine.

Texts include: Animal Farm, Orwell; A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare; A Long Walk to Water, Park; Hattie Big Sky, Larson; Nothing But The Truth, Avi; The Circuit, Jimenez.

English 8

Eighth grade English builds on the seventh grade studies of language, grammar, and literary themes regarding the roles of the individual in a society. Students are invited to examine, question, and critique a variety of social environments and, in the process, their own. Analytical writing instruction emphasizes selecting the best evidence to support a given point, coordinating the focus and scope of a thesis statement and supporting details, and crafting introductions and conclusions that compel the reader to care. Other types of creative writing, such as poetry, narrative and personal reflection, also play prominent roles in the curriculum. The literature is selected to connect with the American History course both historically and thematically. Consequently, the core texts include historical fiction, memoirs, and allegories. Through group discussion, journal writing, text annotation, and a variety of projects, students develop a vocabulary of literary terms and an appreciation of the author’s craft. The grammar curriculum reviews basic sentence structure before focusing on how to recognize and manipulate phrases and clauses. Vocabulary exercises and small-group literature circle discussions are also regular components of the class.

Texts include: Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury; Little Words, a collection of short stories; Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare; The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Kamkwamba; The House on Mango Street, Cisneros, and Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck.

Life Skills

Adolescent Brain and Body Studies (ABBS) is designed to equip students with the skills necessary to adopt, practice, and maintain health-enhancing behaviors as they grow physically, socially, and emotionally in an ever more complex world. At the beginning of the seventh grade course, students focus on gaining an understanding of how their brains function, learn, and remember. Students then investigate the social, emotional, and physical changes of puberty. In the eighth grade course, students gain skills to become better prepared to do what they believe is right in the face of conflicting social pressures. The primary areas of exploration in eighth grade are identity and influences, drug and alcohol abuse prevention, and adolescent sexuality. In addition to learning developmentally appropriate factual information about these topics, students explore personal and family values, interpret media messages, and identify the impact of peer pressure as they relate to the three areas of study. Throughout the course, students demonstrate their understanding of the topics of study in their written work, small group presentations, contributions to small group discussions, and participation in classroom activities.

Frameworks of Identity
Frameworks of Identity strives to give students tools with which they can better understand themselves, the people around them, and the dynamics of groups. The seventh grade course helps nurture well-rounded students of character who know themselves deeply, can empathize with others, and have a thirst for growth and learning in their lives. Topics include: mindset; motivation; introversion and extroversion; multiple intelligences and learning styles; roles in a group; leadership and followership; and perseverance and resilience. The eighth grade course equips students with the tools and resources to be culturally competent global citizens. Students will begin to appreciate and identify the complexities of 21st-century American culture and be encouraged to understand and support each other’s unique identities and contributions to the culture that exists in their immediate environment. They will learn how to engage in meaningful conversations about their own identities using common language that is both safe and transparent, while also acknowledging that not all aspects of a person’s identity are readily visible or known. Through a deeper understanding of historical and present cultural norms, students will be better equipped to validate and nurture the diversity within our community and feel secure in their own identities.

History

History Grade 7

Seventh grade history is the study of early American history (from colonial America to the Civil War) as guided by two essential questions: What compels people to sacrifice for freedom, or sacrifice comfort and safety in search for a better life? What happens when two freedoms, or two ideas of freedom come into conflict? In addition, the course focuses on essential skills needed for all students to become successful young historians, including the ability to summarize, formulate an opinion based on historical evidence, and communicate one’s position both in written and verbal form. Writing, debates, and simulations are vital to the study of early American history, and students learn to think critically using multiple perspectives and historical evidence in an interactive, hands-on manner. Students travel through the research process numerous times composing research questions, finding and evaluating sources, taking notes, synthesizing information, and formulating an argument. Students also explore current events as they arise and connect to the study of early American history.

History Grade 8

Eighth grade history studies American history, beginning with the era of Reconstruction through the twentieth century, while uncovering connections to the students’ own lives and current events. The course explores the themes of freedom and its possible limitations. Students consider how the United States expanded its global power, experienced domestic upheavals, and dealt with an increasingly diverse population during this era. Students further develop their skills of summarizing and annotating texts to analyze and form a historical argument through the use of historical evidence. Using their research, students engage in a variety of debates, discussions, presentations, and role play. In the second semester, all eighth grade students engage in a culminating research-based analytical essay for which students choose a topic relating to twentieth century American history.

Mathematics

The Intermediate School math department aims to ensure that each student takes coursework appropriate to his or her developmental needs. Pushing too far, too fast potentially creates a weak foundation for growth, but material must stretch students. Therefore, we are committed to placing each student in the course that will provide both a strong foundation for growth and a stimulating and challenging learning experience.

Math 7

This course seeks to develop each student’s algebraic and spatial reasoning at the appropriate pace and level of abstraction. Students are exposed in an accessible way to many topics not typically covered until high school. Models are used to create a smooth transition from the concrete to the abstract. With the course’s focus on depth of understanding and non-routine problem-solving, students establish skill in linear equations, graphing, percents, functions, area, volume, ratio, fractions, and integers. Math 7 Accelerated sections cover the material at a greater depth and faster pace, allowing time for study of additional topics. Students in this course are expected to work more independently and handle challenging and unfamiliar problems more comfortably.

Algebra 8

This course incorporates material not typically included in an eighth-grade curriculum. Students study algebraic topics in a geometric, visual, and graphical context. The course seeks not only to establish proficiency in the core topics of quadratic equations, systems of equations, linear equations, ratios, and early rational expressions but also to develop depth of understanding, willingness to experiment, and the persistence necessary to solve unfamiliar problems. The Algebra 8 Advanced course moves more quickly than Algebra 8 and demands a higher level of abstraction. Students in this course are expected to work more independently with less teacher support and to solve unfamiliar problems more comfortably. Algebra 8 Accelerated is designed for the student who is ready for an intense, fast-paced algebra course. Topics and projects not normally covered in Algebra 8 Advanced are integrated into the curriculum to challenge students to think in three dimensions, see connections between math and the physical world and model problems graphically. Consequently, three-dimensional graphing, parametric equations, projectile motions, and physical experiments are included. Students are expected to be very independent learners who relish non-routine problem-solving.

Algebra Readiness is a course intended for students who are in need of extra support and differentiated materials in their study of mathematics. The course is designed to prepare students to take Algebra 1 in the ninth grade. Class size is kept small to allow for adequate individual attention and appropriate levels of differentiation. Each concept is introduced at an accessible level of complexity and the pace of instruction is adjusted to best meet the needs of individual students.

Music

The music program in the seventh and eighth grades emphasizes musical literacy through performance. Students learn the fundamentals of music, including basic music theory, while singing or playing an instrument.

There are four choices available for Intermediate School students:

The Intermediate School band program continues to develop the music literacy and musicianship of its members. Students learn more advanced articulations, scales, and perform music in a wider range of keys. Ensemble skills are fostered at the intermediate level, including focus on balance, dynamics, and scoring.

Intermediate School Chorus focuses on developing reading, aural, vocal, and ensemble skills that will enable its members to perform anthems in 3 or 4 parts for changing voices. Singers are encouraged to develop these abilities, learn new techniques, become co-performers in the ensemble and make creative musical decisions. As they progress and gain facility, they will be assigned to more advanced harmonies and semi-choruses, and eventually solos, duets, and trios.

The handbell ensemble strives to first development students’ proper motor skills and basic rhythms, and then turns to a focus on the concepts of complex melody, harmony, and rhythms. Students develop ownership over the ringing of many different pitches and develop an understanding of how their pitches correlate together within the full ensemble.

Finally, Intermediate School String Orchestra members learn the techniques required to play string orchestra music from many musical periods and in varied styles. Performance repertoire includes symphony orchestra classics arranged for string orchestra, classical pieces originally written for strings, and contemporary string compositions. Multiple performance opportunities occur throughout the year, both on campus and off.

Individual instrumental lessons also may be scheduled through the Private Lesson Program.

Science

The Intermediate School science program instills in students the idea that science is not just a body of knowledge, but also a way of viewing the world. The curriculum encourages each student’s appreciation for methods and subject matter, develops independent learning skills, and seeks to foster a lifelong love of science. Students are challenged by a wide variety of laboratory exercises, learning the essential skills of observation, precision, safety, problem-solving, and data synthesis. Hands-on activities, such as bay grass restoration, biome research, the projectile project, and underwater ROV design, teach students how to formulate questions, use scientific literature, and find answers through experimentation. They develop effective communication skills through lab reports and other technical writing exercises. Current events are also an integral part of science classes, as is an appreciation for the practical applications of what is learned. Special events, such as the seventh grade Caroline Furnace trip and the eighth grade Chesapeake Bay trip, encourage students to extend their science education outside the classroom. Courses in both grade levels are enriched by seeking connections among the sciences and across disciplines.

Life Science (Grade 7)

In the seventh grade, life science is approached primarily through an inquiry study of organisms and their environment. Major topics include ecology and conservation, classification, cytology, genetics, and botany. Frequent field studies in the Environmental Science Facility, throughout the ninety-acre campus, and during the seventh grade class trip ask students to apply the concepts they have studied. Laboratory work stresses observation, using technology for data collection, data analysis, and critical thinking skills. Students use these skills in a variety of assessments including formal lab reports, research projects, presentations, a research paper, and various shorter writing assignments. Students engage in a restoration project in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation which connects their experience to real world ethical and scientific issues. This curriculum is designed to encourage each student’s appreciation for both the methods and the topics of the living world, and it seeks to foster a lifelong love of science in our students.

Physical Science (Grade 8)

Eighth grade students will continue to refine their laboratory techniques and apply the scientific method as they investigate the basic principles of chemistry and physics. In the first semester, students will hone their measurement skills and explore atomic structure, organization of the Periodic Table, basic properties of elements, chemical bonding, and chemical reactivity. The second semester will introduce students to energy sustainability and the fundamentals of Newtonian physics, including: velocity, acceleration, laws of motion and conservation of energy, momentum, projectile motion, and buoyancy. Students will experiment with real-life phenomena and utilize computer simulations to link core chemistry and physics concepts to their everyday lives. Through collaborative inquiry and experimentation students will increase their ability to understand and convey data in graphic form. Students spend the year working on these topics of study through a series of formal lab reports, written assessments, projects, presentations, simulations, and debates.

Technology

The Intermediate School approaches technology as an integral tool to promote research, collaboration, and communication in the 21st century. Each Intermediate School student is provided with a Chromebook laptop to use throughout the year, for all academic subjects, both in school and at home. Utilizing Potomac’s wireless network, the Chromebook allows for more authentic integration of technology and course material. Students learn and use increasingly more sophisticated word processing, editing, and formatting skills as they develop their writing techniques and analyze data for their classes. Graphics and digital imagery expand what students are able to incorporate into projects. In their academic subjects, technology is regularly integrated into students’ learning about producing presentations, brochures, web pages and artwork. Students learn about fair use laws, appropriate citations of Internet sources, and acceptable use of computers at school. In addition, they learn strategies for conducting research on the Internet.

Theater

Every winter, a group of Intermediate School actors presents the junior version of a well-known musical in our Langstaff Auditorium. Students sign up for the musical in lieu of participating in a winter sport. Recent productions have included Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie, Guys and Dolls, and The Pirates of Penzance. Students perform the show once for their classmates and then for a weekend run: two evening performances and one matinee. In the month following the musical, the cast participates in a different theater activity, such as improvisational comedy, script writing, a variety show, or a Shakespeare competition.

World Languages

All students in the Intermediate School choose a language as part of their course of study. The options are French, Latin, Spanish, or Chinese. The goals of these courses are to attain confidence and competence in these languages at an introductory level and to develop a comprehensive understanding of the target cultures, their histories and their customs. We believe it is crucial to promote study skills that allow students eventually to read, write, and speak proficiently. Placements may be made in differentiated sections based on students’ previous foreign language study. In the spring of eighth grade, we also offer travel experiences to France, Italy, China, and Spain.

Chinese

Through oral and written communication, students learn tones, pronunciation, grammatical structures, and reading and writing characters. Assignments include translation, as well as oral and written presentations in Chinese to develop comfort and independence with speaking Chinese. The course includes cultural and historical material on China to help students learn about modern and historical issues. Through authentic sources such as songs, movies, tv shows, excursions to local Chinese exhibits, and in-class celebrations of different rituals, students will learn about and participate in Chinese cultural activities in a fun and engaging way. In their two Intermediate School years, students develop skills in: understanding Chinese spoken by other students in their class, their teacher, and targeted video presentations, to speak and be understood in Chinese, to write Chinese, and to read it in a variety of assessment projects including essays, dialogues, presentations, research projects, and short essay assignments.

French

The two years of Intermediate School French amount to a high school level one course. Instruction is generally in the target language at the level that students feel comfortable. The two-year curriculum fosters the love of common language and culture of France and other French speaking countries, and helps students begin to attain confidence and competence in studying a foreign language. Students practice conversation which they can use in their daily life. Students also engage in many different types of readings, which reinforce the study of culture and provide new vocabulary and structures. The textbook series also includes an audio component. which helps students listen to a authentic voice, contributing to the overall acquisition of a strong pronunciation skills. The writing of short compositions and the presentation of skits crown the whole process. Verb conjugation and grammar are woven in themes and are introduced progressively in daily exercises in class and at home.

Latin

The two sequential Latin courses are designed to equip students to read Latin prose. With the use of stories, grammar explanations, and cultural readings, the students gain exposure to the Latin language and lifestyle of ancient Rome. Through a series of short narratives, dialogues, and readings, students listen, read, write, speak, and dictate in Latin. This course stresses analytical thinking, grammar, and vocabulary helping students to develop basic language acquisition skills. The students learn to recognize increasingly complex Latin roots in English words, develop word‐attack skills, and learn Latin grammar as a basis for studying English grammar. Basic features of grammar, such as the five declensions, four conjugations, relative clauses, demonstrative adjectives, ablative absolute, and construction are covered over the two years. A wide variety of cultural topics, integrated with the Latin prose, are supported by a series of short narrations.

Spanish

Spanish study in the Intermediate School focuses on continuing to create a solid foundation of Spanish communication skills for each student. The course begins with a review of the fundamental grammar skills and vocabulary sets covered in the Middle School program. The course then uses the Descubre 1 textbook and accompanying online supersite resources to provide students with a variety of dynamic learning tools as they work with new vocabulary and incorporate increasingly complex grammatical structures into their spoken and written expression in Spanish. The course engages each student in the practice of the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The program accommodates different learning styles and ability levels, and it helps students to continue to develop these four skills while exposing them to a variety of places in the world where Spanish is spoken. Upon completion of Spanish in eighth grade, students will have mastered the proficiency needed to carry on daily conversations in Spanish using the present, future, and simple past tenses while also having attained a heightened linguistic and cultural understanding of Spain and Latin America. Ultimately, this course allows students to appreciate and participate in the Spanish-speaking community that they may experience locally and globally with increasing accuracy and fluency.