We are excited to be piloting new, complementary curricula in eighth grade English and history this year. We spent much of the summer working together to create courses that work in concert to explore themes of citizenship, civic engagement, and civil rights.
The central theme of the eighth-grade humanities experience is citizenship. Students will explore many different iterations of civic courage and community, from the local to the global, and investigate concepts including justice, activism, and intersectionality.
Some of the many content areas with which we will engage in the first part of the year are: the U.S. Constitution, Harlem Renaissance poetry and art, and the Civil Rights Era. During the spring semester, we will consider courageous citizenship on an international scale, studying the World War II era.
Our courses will feature the stories of characters, both fictional and historical, who have faced hardship and injustice with courage and action. These stories help readers develop empathy and inspire courageous action in our own lives.
One of the main goals of our courses is to build in each student the crucial skill of developing strong, evidence-based written arguments. We will work hard at the fundamentals of research, analysis, and thesis construction. Student-led discussion will be a cornerstone of our classes.
Our wish is to encourage students to view the exchange of well-supported ideas as a life skill rather than one that is limited to academic use—something that will serve them well as they engage with their world and develop their own opinions and beliefs.
In our experience as eighth-grade teachers, students at this age are ready and eager to meet the challenge of weighty, significant subject matter. We are also very aware of the need to present potentially sensitive material in age-appropriate ways. We believe that this revised approach to eighth grade humanities will challenge and engage each of our students and help empower them to act as kind and courageous citizens of the world.