Upper School Curriculum
Overview: Grades Six Through Eight
Intellectual engagement, character development and the ability to work with others are core values of a Harbor Country Day School education. The key to this is the people who are instrumental in creating a safe, nurturing, creative and challenging environment - our teachers. The relationships that develop between each child and his or her teachers are critical in inspiring that student to become an independent, self-aware, and joyful member of our school community. We believe that every interaction between teachers and students contributes to creating a school environment in which students can feel comfortable in taking risks, asking questions, and stretching themselves to go further than they ever thought possible. Central to this are the vital building blocks we reinforce everyday: basic academic and organizational skills. It is by knowing how to write, organize, compute, create, problem solve, discuss, collaborate, listen and share that students become independent, self-reliant learners. In challenging students to reach beyond their expectations, we encourage them to stretch out and achieve as excellent writers, readers, mathematicians, athletes, artists or musicians.
At Harbor, we strive to create a place that is thoughtful, vibrant and natural; this is one of the beauties of a Preschool through Eighth Grade school model. There is a striking difference between our structure and a stand-alone Middle School, or Middle and Upper School. With 3- to-14-year-olds living and learning together under one roof, children quite naturally avoid feeling the rush to grow up quickly. Our mission states it best, we “cherish childhood” – and this mission is reflected in everything we do.
- Advisory Program
- Community Service
- Fine and Performing Arts
Upper School students participate in a unique Advisor Program designed to support and guide them through their years at Harbor.
Every Upper School student has a faculty advocate and a small group of four to five students with whom to connect. This small group dynamic allows for dramatically improved communication between Harbor and home through ongoing discussions between the advisor and parents. Advisors are aware of their advisees’ academic, social, and emotional wellbeing at all times and serve as the “first line of communications” between Harbor and home.
In grade six students are assigned an advisor that will stay with them through the year. In grades seven and eight, students may choose from available advisors. This opportunity for input into their own paths further empowers the students to grow as leaders of both their advisory groups and the school as a whole.
Advisors meet with their advisees every morning before school and once a week during a weekly Advisory Period. The advisors come together at the beginning of the school year and plan lessons and activities based on the needs of the incoming group of students. Subjects for study in Advisory include character building, leadership skills, educational skills, and respect for differences- a subject so critically important in their everyday lives.
The goals of our athletic program focus on teaching sportsmanship, team play and teamwork, and developing an appreciation for life-long physical fitness, nutrition and health. Grades six through eight meet daily for a sports practice, in preparation for interscholastic games in soccer and basketball. We have lacrosse as a club program in the spring. Our newly refurbished gymnasium and locker facilities are adjacent to our soccer/lacrosse field. Teachers and outside coaches lead our teams under the guidance of our Athletic Director.
From contributing goods to food shelters and clothing to those in need, to visiting sites in our local communities, giving back and helping others is an essential part of our students’ experience. Students reach out to help others in our community through visits to Headstart and the Sunrise Convalescent Home, or by stepping in to assist our own Early Childhood students and teachers.
The primary goal of Harbor’s English program is the development of students who are strong writers and speakers, and have an appreciation, if not a love, of literature. With a wide selection of books and resources, we examine and explore non-fiction, novel and short story fiction, and poetry. We regularly incorporate vocabulary and grammar programs into our English curriculum, but it is only through frequent writing exercises and re-writing that the art, craft and skill of writing are realized. Circled around a Harkness table, students explore literature with each other through the sharing of opinions and ideas about their reading and writing assignments. By learning how to express their opinions succinctly and with supportive evidence, students become confident public speakers. Listening, sharing, brainstorming, and respecting various and contrasting points of view are among the important communication skills on which we focus our attention. By investigating literature in a variety of ways, and through creative teaching methodologies that address each child’s needs, we strive to graduate students from Harbor with the strongest possible foundation in English, and as confident and creative writers, readers, thinkers and problem solvers. English meets for six periods each week, with one period designated as a writing lab.
This is a studio art course in which art history provides an introduction to each art project, and an inspiration for the students. Drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics and sculpture, as well as mixed media, are central to each student’s experience. While art history and the exposure to various mediums of expression are at the center of the students’ work; art theories regarding color and design are also integrated into their projects. Student artwork is continually displayed throughout the school. The annual All School Student Art Show at Stony Brook University and the Young Illustrators Challenge, in which student art work from around the region is judged, are two centerpieces for our year as well. Students have one block period for art and one class period each week.
Music history, music theory, chorus and band compose the four elements to our Upper School Music Program. Through listening, musical “exercises” and discussion in our twice-weekly music class, students learn about the history and theory of music. All Upper School students join the chorus for two periods a week. There they not only learn a repertoire of songs to be performed at our two yearly concerts, but also become part of a musical community and learn about their vocal “instrument.” Band, which also meets twice a week, is an Upper School elective for students who choose to play a brass, woodwind or percussion instrument. Group lessons by instrument section are scheduled once a week. There are two scheduled concerts a year for this ensemble.
The study of foreign languages is a requirement in the Upper School, and classes meet five periods a week. In Sixth grade students select either Spanish or Mandarin to study in depth through the eighth grade. Listening, speaking, writing and reading are the four core skills around which each language is taught. The department leads the school in our annual multi-cultural celebration where world cultures come to life through song, public speaking, art and music. Field trips to a museum, an ethnic restaurant or a relevant cultural event enhance the language program, and provide opportunities for students to learn about, compare and appreciate other cultures.
Tradition and innovation intersect and merge in our history classes, as students study peoples from around the world, beginning with the emergence of mankind and continuing through to contemporary times. Traditional skill building through note-taking, research, debating, writing and reading is a core elements to our history program. The annual research paper is a rite of passage in the Upper School. Writing a five-paragraph essay that includes topic sentences and essential supportive detail is a central part of our studies in history.
Innovation plays a strong role in our history curriculum with the weekly lab class, hands-on projects, field trips near and far and camp outs. Lab class is a project-based period for creative problem solving and collaboration, a block of time in which the pace of school life slows as we dig deeper into topics and assignments. By using a wide assortment of teaching strategies, we encourage students to think, wonder and work in many different ways. In the end, students will leave Harbor excited about history, confident in their ability to write a well-thought out essay, and with an understanding the importance of being able to work well with others.
These are critical years, as students build a launching pad for future success in mathematics. Students gain confidence in their math abilities through appropriate placement and the establishment of a firm foundation of skills, knowledge, and understanding. One of our math program's strengths is the ability to place children at the level that is right for them. Typically, students will follow this progression: Sixth Grade: Pre-Algebra; Seventh Grade: Algebra I (Regents-level); Eighth Grade: Geometry (Regents-level). In recent years, some students have completed, Algebra II/ Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus by the end of eight grade, but only through a deliberate and thoughtful assessment process.
The Life, Physical and Earth Sciences studied in a lab-based setting, are the three areas of study in our Upper School Science Program. We unite theory with practical applications through field trips to natural outdoor settings on our nearby coastline, and Long Island’s regional science centers. The scientific process forms the backbone for our laboratory work, and lab reports are the culmination of the students’ research and hands-on studies. Basic academic skills, such as note-taking, proper lab report writing, discussion and collaboration, are reinforced throughout the year. The sixth grade spends their year going into depth learning about Life Science and the seventh grade does the same with Physical Science. The Regents Earth Science course completes our program in eighth grade.