Upper School

The Upper School: Grades 4–8

Spanning five grade levels on two campuses, St. Patrick’s Upper School guides students along the path to adolescence as it develops their intellectual interests, their capacity for thought, and their academic skills. More than simply preparing students for success in high school, the Upper School program encourages students to continue to embrace learning with the enthusiasm of their younger counterparts, to recognize learning as a lifelong process, and to assume increasing responsibility for their own learning.

Language Arts (Grades 4–6)

In the first years of Upper School, the literature that students encounter becomes more complex. At the same time, students’ engagement with text grows richer. Reading becomes a social act as Grade 4 homework might involve calling a “book buddy” to chat about their shared reading. As students grow increasingly adept at comprehension, their reading expands across genres. They are also challenged to use their knowledge of genre to write their own works – short fiction, poetry, autobiography, biography, fantasy, and historical fiction. Students write creatively, persuasively, personally, following a process of planning, drafting, revising, and editing.

Social Studies (Grades 4–6)

In Grades 4 through 6, students explore American history, geography, ancient civilizations through reading, discussion, research, and simulation. Social Studies offers ways to understand and to represent change over time. It teaches us about location, space, and relationships. It confronts students with uncertainty. Which story is true? What sources can we trust? Through history, students realize that culture is historically bound and that an author’s point of view is shaped by the realities of a specific time and place. This understanding deepens students’ recognition of their own place in the world and of what has come before and is yet to come.  It also broadens their experience as readers and makes them more thoughtful writers.

Humanities (Grades 7 and 8)

Humanities for Grades 7 and 8 is a mature conclusion to the work of previous years. Humanities classes merge American history and literature. This interdisciplinary approach draws on students’ literacy skills in a comprehensive way that promotes thematic connections. American history units – which cover the Constitution through the Civil War in Grade 7 and the twentieth century through the Civil Rights Movement in Grade 8 – lead students to better understand the meaning of individuality and citizenship in a democratic republic.



In the Upper School, students further hone their powers of observation and methods of inquiry, practicing the teamwork, patience, and persistence that are marks of a scientific community. The intersections among science, mathematics, and language arts become increasingly pronounced as students make hypotheses, collect and chart data, and draw conclusions, recording and summarizing their efforts in written lab reports.


In Grades 4 through 6, teachers build on computation strategies and deepen problem-solving skills as strands to include algebra, data analysis, measurement, and geometry. By the end of Grade 6, students are practiced statisticians, able to read the charts, graphs, and statistical findings that are so important in the social sciences and sciences. In Grades 7 and 8, students follow a course of pre-algebra and algebra that will prepare them for either geometry or Algebra II in their first year of high school. for students who demonstrate exceptional mathematical skill, we provide individualized instruction in Grades 7 and 8.  Through Grade 8, students at St. Patrick’s have daily opportunities to talk and write about mathematics, building a community of thinkers around the exchange of ideas.


Upper School Spanish is more intensive than in the Lower School, focusing on language immersion so that students can begin to think in Spanish. Oral presentations build students’ confidence in speaking en Español. By Grade 6, classes are conducted almost entirely in Spanish, with an emphasis on speaking and proper pronunciation. Students in Grades 7 and 8 continue to develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, writing longer compositions and reading beyond the textbook.



The religion curriculum explores the ways in which our beliefs are reflected in our actions and in the choices we make. It includes a world religions class in Grade 6 and culminates in an ethics class in Grade 8.

Campuses, Homerooms, and Advisory Groups

Students in Grades 4 through 6 spend their days on St. Patrick’s main campus on Whitehaven Parkway, while Grades 7 and 8 students attend campus a half mile away on MacArthur Boulevard. Homerooms (Grades 4 through 6) and advisory groups (Grades 7 and 8) help to create in each student a clear sense of place within the larger institution, but students also travel to different specialized classes.

Growing Challenges and Responsibilities

While the Upper School program still recognizes and values students’ youthfulness, it also recognizes that students in these upper grades need new challenges and must assume new responsibilities. Therefore, the Upper School introduces exciting opportunities for students to broaden their perspectives. Interscholastic competition; curriculum-based trips to destinations such as Gettysburg, Lancaster, PA, and Atlanta; wilderness outings to southwestern Virginia and the Eastern Shore of Maryland; a service learning program; and an active student government allow students to learn about the world around them as well as about themselves—not only as individuals, but as members of a larger community.