The Grades 7 and 8 program, initiated in 2001, has become home to 50 to 60 bright, energetic, and enthusiastic students, “home” being an apt characterization of both the program and its primary campus. Students spend a significant portion of their days studying in a beautiful, fully renovated, century-old Victorian building approximately one-half mile from the Whitehaven Campus. Unified Upper School math and science departments are housed on the Whitehaven Campus, so Grades 7 and 8 students still spend a portion of their days there. They work in classes ranging in size from eight to twelve students, building on the skills and concepts introduced in Grades 4 through 6. The core academic classes (humanities, math, science) meet every morning, while specials (art, music, Spanish, health, religion, ethics, service learning) meet several times a week in the afternoon. Students also meet with faculty advisors and have one extended advisory period a week that addresses the unique needs of adolescent students. Of course, they progress with greater rigor as academic standards and independence increase in ways that match their personal and intellectual growth.
Highlights of the Grades 7 and 8 program go beyond the remarkable setting and impressive class sizes. Notable among these highlights is the expanded commitment to service. Throughout the grades at St. Patrick’s, students participate in a range of service opportunities. In Grade 7, they begin studying the issues related to the service in which they engage. Three times each week, they participate in preparation for, or evaluation of, a service excursion. Service learning classes provide students with the transformative experience of working with different community organizations and the intellectual stimulation of examining societal needs in a supportive setting, ideal preparation for Grade 8 when they continue their service work as part of a year-long ethics class.
Upon completion of Grades 7 and 8, students are ready to move on to high school with confidence, self-assurance, and ability, having gained solid academic and ethical foundations that show their new understandings of their roles in the world.