Upper School (Grades 5-8)
Upper School Coordinator Javaid Khan
Serving students aged 10 through 14, the Upper School program builds on a range of competencies and strategies begun in earlier years but is uniquely targeted to the interests and socio-emotional and cognitive abilities and needs of older children.
Each Upper School classroom is team-taught by one teacher for the humanities (social studies and language arts) and one for math and science. Classes are often taught in small groups. In addition, specialists teach art, music, shop, drama, computers, library, and foreign languages. At age 11, children choose to study French or Spanish for three years.
Curriculum in the Upper School
An educational approach that addresses the entire emotional, social, physical and intellectual being of a child.
Through our work in social studies, we foster children's abilities to think analytically, make generalizations, pose and research questions, and integrate skills learned from other academic areas. Along with their cognitive growth, children develop a sense of caring and social responsibility through their collaborative and independent work.
As they become less self-involved, children grow in their appreciation of other perspectives, and are able to respect and consider lifestyles, values, and ideals different from theirs. For these reasons, Upper School students engage in cultural and historical studies that are geographically and/or temporally distant and compare and contrast these studies with their own experiences. Teachers also try to match topics to the particular social and emotional life tasks of the students. When the curriculum mirrors the children's developmental abilities and interests, the studies become relevant and engaging.
Our literacy program is designed to produce readers who read for pleasure, information, and knowledge, and writers who write to communicate meaning. Since we believe that communication is the primary goal of literacy, children's experiences with language involve social as well as individual activities. To a great extent, literacy is learned across the curricula, in conjunction with social studies, science, math, and other subjects. The four communication skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) are practiced as children learn in these subject areas.
The Upper School literacy curriculum focuses on literature and writing. Students extend and practice a range of reading strategies and skills while developing an understanding of and appreciation for various literary forms and genres. Thus, they become effective speakers and writers, and lifelong readers and learners, as they achieve success in these goals.
Mathematics at Bank Street is thought of both as a language and a tool. As a language, it can be used to summarize patterns we see or to express relationships we investigate, both in the real world and in the world of abstract mathematics. As a tool, it is useful in dealing with problems we confront daily, whether we are measuring or buying a thing that we need. These two aspects of mathematics inform all our math curricula, and our goal is to help students develop strengths in both areas.
The Upper School mathematics program continues an inquiry-based constructivist approach to learning that encourages students to express themselves in mathematical language and to develop strategies for studying math.
The Upper School science program is based on direct observation of phenomena that are considered appropriate for each age group. Each topic of study builds upon the experiences and knowledge of the one that precedes it, and is logically related to the one that follows.
The program consists of a series of lab courses investigating various aspects of the natural world. Students design and work on experiments to answer questions raised in class. Mathematics is an important tool in this work; students make many measurements and analyze the data they collect. The culmination of each investigation is the result of analyzing data from experiments and making meaningful connections and generalizations. The Upper School makes extensive use of technology, including graphing calculators, CBLs (calculator-base labs), digital cameras, microscopes, flex cams, computer-generated spreadsheets, computer Internet research, and electronic balances.
Foreign languages in the Upper School continue to build on the language goals established in the Middle and Lower schools: to provide children with positive, enriching experiences that will help them become life-long learners and appreciators of other languages and cultures. All students in the 10/11s continue Spanish twice a week, for forty minutes in half groups. At the end of the 10/11s year, students elect to continue with Spanish or begin French. Students of French and Spanish, in the 11/12s to 13/14s meet four times a week, for forty minutes.
Honoring cultural diversity is a very important part of our program. In language classes at all levels, children are exposed to the richness and diversity of the cultures of Spanish and French-speaking countries. They do research and culture-related projects; they learn authentic songs and play traditional games.
The focus is always on meaningful communication. When it is developmentally appropriate, students begin to explore language as a system, to analyze and understand grammatical forms, to read culturally relevant texts and to write creatively. Whenever possible, teachers integrate curriculum with other subject areas in order to create bridges between languages and other school subjects.
Art & Shop
Increasing the levels of skill and exposure to the arts among Upper School children enriches their lives and leads them to a greater understanding of the world around them. Their heightened critical awareness makes students ready to study composition and color, as well as observation techniques that they can use for drawing, painting, clay, collage and construction, paper mache, printmaking, and wood.
By studying art from various cultures and periods, they investigate different ways of seeing and making drawings, paintings, and sculptures. While wood is the primary material in shop, children also work with more complex sculptural materials, such as plaster, wax, and wire. Projects draw on the numerous sculptural skills they have been developing over the years, such as assemblage, carving, and modeling.
The music history component of the curriculum differs for each grade. Each year, students learn about an era of music, not only the music itself but about the composers and the leading performance artists. They learn how to describe the recordings they hear by using the vocabulary of musical elements. After researching particular musicians' lives, they present their findings to the class.
Professional musicians visit the class, trips are taken to musical events, and videos of musical performances and musical documentaries are often integrated into their study of music history. Students often learn to play pieces they were introduced to in the classroom.
Working collaboratively with the Upper School’s classroom curriculum, the Bank Street Library staff works with teachers to helps students develop critical evaluation skills so that they can be independent learners, critical selectors of print and media materials, and lifelong readers.
Our objective is for students to become discriminating consumers of information by learning how to access, locate, use, analyze, synthesize, and produce information in many formats.
The library's instructional program:
- Combines information skills with literature evaluation and book selection.
- Provides reference material for classroom use to support current curriculum needs.
- Recommends books to students based on their expressed interests.
- Nurtures independent study skills in accessing, locating, evaluating, and synthesizing information.
- Refines critical thinking and public speaking skills by reading books eligible for a mock Newbery award.
Physical Education and Interscholastic Sports
Students in the Upper School take physical education classes four times a week. The major portion of class time is taken up with organized cooperative and competitive games, and individual and team sports. It is through these activities that students learn and practice physical and social skills. Some classes include warm-up routines that involve aerobic, strength, and stretch components.
Upper School students may sign up for interscholastic sports that meet after school hours twice a week for practices and games against other schools. The interscholastic sports program comprises soccer, running and volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter for 11/12s through 13/14s only, and co-ed softball in the spring. These team sports are offered to everyone in the appropriate age groups who is interested. The program offers an opportunity for those children particularly interested in competitive sports to practice skills and play games in a highly focused environment.