The Junior High Program

Literature & Composition

Language Arts
Language Arts curriculum for the Junior High is divided between the daily Word Roots class and the study of classic literature in the rotating afternoon blocks. It is a unique system that has been very successful for many years. Students focus on language arts, vocabulary development, study and organization skills on a daily basis and then delve deeper into the study of literature and the art of writing in the block classes.

Word Roots
English vocabulary studies based on Latin and Greek roots give students additional tools to comprehend and decipher challenging words as they encounter them in all their studies. This class is highly correlated with successful performance on college entrance exams such as the SAT and the ACT and provides a strong basis in English grammar, spelling, and word transference in preparation for high school foreign language studies. In addition, students read non-fiction and fiction books across the genres, write book report summaries and complete a wide variety of projects which incorporate arts and craft, poetry and drama to showcase their understanding of the themes, characters, setting, plot, and symbolism in these works of literature.

Classic Literature
In the Classic Literature studies, students continue their study of grammar, composition, creative writing, and poetry, and delve more deeply into the study of classic literary works. Through journaling and discussion students explore and gain understanding of various themes, plot, characters and symbolism in the novels. This class concludes with the writing of a well constructed theme paper. Each step of the writing process is explicitly taught and students work through the editing process with peers and individually with the teacher to hone their writing skills.

Seventh Grade Classic Literature Block draws from these possible works of fiction:

  • The Secret Garden by Burnett
  • The Prince and the Pauper by Twain
  • The Little Prince by Exupery
  • Treasure Island by Stevenson

Eighth Grade Classic Literature Block draws from these possible works of fiction:

  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee
  • The Tombs of Atuan by LeGuin
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway

Pre-Algebra I
Pre-Algebra I gives students the foundation they need to excel in algebra.  Students learn to solve one-step equations and become familiar with many of the properties that they will use daily in algebra, such as the commutative, associative, and distributive properties, and the laws of exponents.  We also address geometric concepts, such as volume of three-dimensional figures and the triangle sum theorem.  Activities encourage students to discover new material on their own, but this inquiry is followed up with instruction on multiple methods to solve each problem type and practice.  Students often move through this course at different paces depending on their level of comfort with the material – depending on the pace, students may move through the 7th grade Common Core Standards or the 7th and 8th grade Common Core standards during this course.

Pre-Algebra II
During Pre-Algebra II, students learn the material covered in the 8th grade Common Core standards.  Two full years of pre-algebra prior to moving into algebra can really solidify students’ understanding of the concepts that will provide the foundation for their work in algebra.  Some of the topics covered include probability, solving multi-step equations and inequalities, and an introduction to graphing lines.  Activities encourage students to discover new material on their own, but this inquiry is followed up with instruction on multiple methods to solve each problem type and practice.

Algebra is said to be the gatekeeper subject in math. Understanding algebra is a powerful tool that gives students access to higher-level math courses. In order to achieve deep understanding in mathematics, students need to connect new ideas with their prior knowledge of number sense and arithmetic skills. In order to make these deep connections, students are engaged in hands-on investigations and open-ended tasks.
In Algebra, students practice using symbols that represent specifics within math problems in order to find solutions. Identification of why a function or approach works as well as when and how to apply it is emphasized throughout. Class time is divided between group problem solving, which hones clarity in communication and analysis, and individual work on computation skills. Students emerge well versed in the skills necessary to succeed in higher-level Algebra courses.


Forest Ecology
In forest ecology we make daily trips into the forest on campus, learning to identify individual species and understand how they interact in the forest ecosystem. Students come up with their own scientific questions about some aspect of the forest, develop hypotheses, and design and conduct studies to test their hypotheses. We are also developing a permanent forest plot that will allow us to track changes in our forest and compare our forest to other plots around the world that have been set up in the same way. We spend some time in the classroom learning about topics including habitats, ecological interactions, energy flow, nutrient cycling, succession, and natural resource management. The forest provides a great lab where we can see the concepts that we learn about in the classroom in action.

Introduction to Physics
This is a survey class covering many topics, from Newton’s Laws to electricity to color and wave properties. Regardless of the topic, students focus on understanding ‘units’, manipulating formulas and solving for the unknown variable, and writing clear explanations of their ideas. The goal is to help 7th graders develop the skills they will need in future science classes, and to enjoy the beauty of physics.

General Science
In General Science we study some of the most critical components of science from the smallest scale to the largest scale. We begin with a study of the smallest basic building blocks of matter, atoms and molecules, in the basic chemistry block. This understanding provides an excellent foundation for understanding the crucial chemical reactions that keep us alive during our study of human biology in the next block. We finish the year at the largest scale, delving into the mysteries of outer space, with a focus on our own planet, earth, and how earth fits into and interacts with the rest of the solar system, galaxy, and universe. Throughout the year we continue to consider the importance of scientific evidence, and focus on elements of quality experimental design.

Social Studies

We expect students will leave with the knowledge and appreciation of the many diverse cultures of our world, and an understanding of the major issues that have led to each region’s unique identity.

Geography and World Cultures
The geography, general histories, and current events of Africa, Asia and South America are explored through stories, film, music, dance, art, food, field trips, and speakers. In each block, students research a country and create travel power point presentations, brochures or posters about their chosen country.

Skills focus: Source summarization, notation, and MLA citation for historical research writing; paragraph structure; identification of bias in writing.

Washington State History and Government
This class surveys Washington State History from pre-European contact to the 21st century including an introduction to state government. Original source materials are extensively used. Geography of our state and region is explicitly taught. Integrated into this class are opportunities for discovery and exploration through field trips and research. Each block culminates with the writing of a historical research paper. Each step of the writing process is explicitly taught and students work through the editing process individually with the teacher.

Sources that we draw upon include: Indians of Puget Sound by Haelberlin, Indian Legends collected from Pacific Coast Indians, Skid Road by Morgan and Nisei Daughter by Sone and The Pacific Northwest: Past, Present and Future by Lambert

Skill focus: Lecture outline form; summarization and notation; writing of historical research papers.


Fundamentals of Visual Art I (7th Grade)

Fundamentals of Visual Art is a studio course which lays a foundation of the basic principles of art and design, and introduces seventh-grade students to a wide range of media and techniques. Class time is spent on assignments falling roughly into three (often overlapping) areas of study:

  • Drawing/painting, including gesture drawing from life, contour line drawing, linear perspective, still life, and portraiture, using charcoal, pen, pencil, and watercolor;
  • Design/composition, including basic concepts such as positive/negative shape, balance, center of interest, and spatial depth, as well as applied design in printmaking, graphics, and calligraphy;
  • Three-dimensional crafts/sculpture, such as ceramics, bookbinding, weaving, paper crafts and sculpture, and jewelry making.

Besides their class assignments, seventh-grade art students keep a sketchbook, which they use for drawing practice both in class and at home.

Fundamentals of Visual Art II (8th Grade)

Fundamentals of Visual Art II is a studio course which builds on the foundations of art and design laid in grade seven. Eighth grade art students are introduced to new media and techniques, and further their exploration of material introduced in the previous year to develop greater mastery and expression. Class time is spent on assignments falling roughly into three (often overlapping) areas of study:

• Drawing/painting, again including both wet and dry media, with emphasis on building technique;

• Design/composition, applying basic concepts to practical design applications as well as more challenging fine art compositions;

• Three-dimensional crafts/sculpture, such as ceramics, bookbinding, weaving, paper crafts and sculpture, and jewelry making.

Besides the exercises and assignments given in class, each student is required to complete one personal project during the block. The personal project is an opportunity for the developing artist to pursue an interest that may not otherwise be covered in class, or to explore further in a medium we are already using. Personal projects should represent a minimum of 2-3 hours of effort, and should be challenging as well as interesting to the student. Each student, with the teacher’s help, chooses a personal project in the first few days of the block.

Eighth grade art students also keep a sketchbook to help develop the discipline of drawing practice; they are required to complete one hour a week of life drawing, some of which may be done in class.

Creative Dramatics

Students gather once a week for drama games, improvisation and acting exercises. This proves to be a cabinet of wonders – exploring issues of ethics and morality, studying relations from the interpersonal to the international – learning to tell original stories with imagination and wit. The lessons learned here are varied – the freedom and courage to risk, the power of the spoken word, emotional resilience and stability, and the ability to extemporize without fear.

Physical Education

Includes four periods a week of supervised, non-competitive physical activity. Hillside Student Community School offers a fencing club after school as a competitive sport open to the broader community.


Afternoon Block Electives
Taken in the month of September and again from May to June
Elective courses are determined by the students and teachers each year and draw upon community artists and resources. Mostly ungraded, these courses encourage student participation in a wide range of experiences. These have included, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Astronomy
  • Classical Greek
  • Community Service
  • Cooking/Sewing
  • Computer Science
  • Drama
  • Drawing and Painting
  • Film Making (Computer Editing)
  • Appropriate Technology
  • Rock Climbing
  • Creative Writing
  • Pottery
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Woodcarving

Drama Elective
Hillside drama teaches students a true discipline of self control and teamwork combined with profoundly creative self expression. Through classic plays of world theater students are immersed in natural sciences, history, dance, music, literature, language and philosophical discussion. In the process of finding and developing a character, each student discovers his or her own motives and learns to delve beneath the surfaces of human communication.

Recent productions include:

  • Bertolt Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle
  • Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Physicist
  • Nicolai Gogol’s Inspector General
  • Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth
  • Mikhael Bulgakov’s Black Snow
  • Tim Supple’s Grimm Tales
  • Jean Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot
  • William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It