8th Grade Capstones
In their final year at Green Acres, 8th graders look forward to these unique opportunities, often seen as the "crown jewels" of their time at the school:
Week-Long Trip to New Orleans
Our 8th grade year is filled with capstone experiences for our students, both inside and outside the classroom. In May, our 8th graders take an unforgettable journey to New Orleans, where they engage in many kinds of meaningful learning experiences. Much of the trip is spent in service, working in public parks and gardens or helping in schools. They reinforce their 8th grade study of World History with a visit to the World War II Museum, and of course they experience many of the inimitable cultural features of this unique city such as the food, the architecture, and the people. They even take an airboat tour through the swamps around Des Allemands, meeting alligators and other wildlife along the way! It is a truly unforgettable experience of giving and learning that our students take with them as they head off to high school.
7th & 8th Grade Musical
At Green Acres, we want kids to learn by doing and to demonstrate their learning in meaningful ways. Our 7/8 musical gives them the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned in their arts classes by participating in the spring musical production. Of course, some kids are stars on stage. Others participate in the chorus. Students paint the sets, design marketing posters, and serve on tech crew. But one way or another, all of our students demonstrate how they’ve grown as artists by pitching into the musical. It is just another way that we encourage kids to engage meaningfully in their learning.
Climbing Old Rag
Our 8th grade students take a hike up Old Rag Mountain in the Blue Ridge, described by the National Park Service as the “most popular” hike in the Shenandoah. It is an adventurous hike, too, with a few steep stretches and some boulder scaling to boot. The physical challenge is fun and rewarding, even more so when they reach the top and see the panoramic views. The Old Rag hike is yet another memorable moment in their 8th grade year of memory-making as our students prepare themselves to shine in their respective high schools.
Model United Nations
As the culminating project for their last year at Green Acres, our students demonstrate their capacity to research and organize, their poise and intelligence, and their deep engagement in the world around them by representing a country in our Model United Nations. The students spend two days, giving speeches, engaging in debates and rebuttals, and struggling to find common ground on important issues of our day as representatives of a national player on the world stage. These debates are open to the public and even broadcast on the internet—so their drive to be prepared and to acquit themselves admirably is great. And it’s amazing to see the thoughtful, articulate, empowered people that they have become.
The "Red Blue Game" is a simulation of Cold War decision making. Students work in teams to make fateful decisions about diplomacy and conflict, while gaining insight into human nature. The simulation coincides with students' learning in world studies and enables students to experience high-stakes political negotiation as they navigate complex choices about trust, risk, competition, collaboration, and ethics. Having participated in the simulation, one student said: "We played the game to get a first-hand look at the emotions and creative thinking that took place during the Cold War. Now that we better understand the pressure and environment, we can start analyzing the patterns of American and Soviet decision making."
Taking the National Spanish Exam
Our 8th graders are challenged in exciting ways across the curriculum. In Spanish, they take the National Spanish Exam, an online exam offered by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. It gives them the opportunity to challenge themselves and measure their learning against other Spanish students across the country. Our 8th graders, who have learned Spanish throughout middle school, take the Level 2 exam, which measures them against many high school students who have completed the second year of high school Spanish. It is an exciting challenge that shows our students how much they can learn when they apply themselves fully to their work.
"This I Believe" Speeches
Another unforgettable moment for each student—and meaningful moments for all of us in the community—is their presentation of a “This I Believe” speech to our entire Middle School at our end-of-the-day meeting. Each 8th grader chooses something they believe in—a truism that they see in life and the world around them—to talk about as it has related to their life and belief system. They learn more about themselves as they articulate their reasons for choosing their belief, and they learn about how to be leaders and contributors to a healthy community by the practice of sharing their belief. It is a chance for all of us to appreciate the thoughtful, caring young adults that they have become, and the amazing people they are becoming.
Writing a Three-Chapter Memoir
One enduring focus at Green Acres is helping our students understand themselves, deeply. We have student-led conferences as well as reflective exercises throughout the curriculum and across the years. One of the culminating writing units in 8th grade is the memoirs unit. Throughout Middle School, students write a variety of personal narratives as they learn to exhibit higher-order thinking skills in discussions and in written responses. Our multi-chapter memoirs are a creative way for them to dig deeply into their experiences and accomplishments as children and tweens—a way for them to understand themselves as powerful actors in their relationships and communities as they make a thoughtful transition into adolescence and the responsibilities of high school and beyond.