At University School of Milwaukee, 7th graders cross over into their first year of secondary education, when the educational philosophy changes from the primary education years. Simply put, USM expects more out of its 7th grade students, in terms of both preparation and communication. This process begins in this grade level, and will continue as students mature and move on in their academic careers.
USM’s 7th grade faculty work with students every step of the way to navigate this unique journey, as none of these students’ experiences will be exactly the same. Students are encouraged to become advocates for themselves when they need help. Trying and failing at something new in 7th grade is OK and even beneficial for students, as it helps develop resolve and perseverance and gives them the confidence to continue to safely experiment and explore. For the first time, 7th graders will be present at—and even help run—their parent-student-teacher conferences. Our 7th grade faculty truly love this age level, and as students grow, our teachers will be there to guide them toward success when the answers don’t come naturally. By the time they get to 8th grade, our students are well on their way to new leadership roles and opportunities.
As 7th graders enter their first year of secondary education, their curriculum expands and becomes more diversified, with core subject-area courses such as English Language Arts, Pre-algebra, Science, Economics, History, and World Languages (French or Spanish) supplemented with fine and performing arts and physical education and health courses.
Subject-area outcomes are an important part of how our curriculum is developed and how our students are evaluated. The following lists, broken out by subject area, provide some examples of student outcomes for the end of the 7th grade year.
Learning to work together and develop resiliency are important parts of 7th graders overnight fall retreat, where the focus is on challenge by choice. In addition, two experiences later in the school year serve to further enhance these skills. The Kiva Arcade, a service-learning experience, provides 7th grade students with the opportunity to engage with the wider school community and make life-changing loans to people around the world. Among many other simulations, writing workshops, and hands-on lab experiences, Dickens’ Streets of Victorian London, an event held ahead of winter break each school year, sees 7th grade students and teachers apply research, design, and presentation skills to turn a gym into 1856 London for guests to tour and learn about that time. Another incredible experience for 7th graders is the annual retreat to YMCA Camp MacLean in Burlington, participating in low- and high-ropes courses and their challenge by choice programming, as well as a courage retreat presented by Youth Frontiers.