A Year in the Life of Rivers Seventh and Eighth graders

The Journey Begins

The seventh and eighth grade experience at Rivers is one full of opportunity, challenge, and growth. From developing leadership skills during the first few days of school to sharing their learning with faculty and family, Rivers' seventh and eighth graders are never without something to spark their curiosity or explore their academic potential.

Leadership Lab

The Rivers Middle School has a long-standing commitment to teaching students about Rivers’ definition of leadership—to “be your best self and positively influence others”—so it is fitting that the first few days of school are dedicated to those values in the form of Leadership Lab.

A Middle School Family Group

Seventh and eighth graders are placed in "family groups" with fellow middle schoolers and take part in several icebreaker activities led by the eighth graders. These groups help students make connections across the grades and gives new students the opportunity to ask questions of those who have been through the Rivers Middle School before.

These families remain intact throughout the year and students meet with their families on several other occasions.

The Middle School Program

The Rivers Middle School brings together enthusiastic, caring teachers in a dynamic and collaborative atmosphere with the goal of educating early adolescents. The Middle School offers a challenging, integrated, and exciting program, creating a community of learners in which young people feel comfortable taking intellectual risks and growing both as students and individuals.

In addition to the core academic classes (humanities, math, science, and language) students in the middle school take classes in the visual and performing arts and are involved in semester courses including drama, media literacy and health and wellness.

Grade 7: World Through Story

Students explore the power of stories in relation to people and cultures. Stories help define individual and cultural identities, they unite and divide groups, and when taken away, their absence can have destructive effects on generations of people. Students also use the components of story as a lens through which to view literary and historical topics.

The social studies component includes current events as well as an emphasis on the role of geography in shaping the narrative of particular cultures. Literature selections expose students to a variety of genres such as novels, poetry, mythology, and short stories. Students also examine primary and secondary sources with particular attention placed on developing critical reading skills.

The writing component provides extensive opportunities for students to gain experience in personal and expository writing and emphasizes the process of revision in building communication skills. Students are encouraged to think for themselves and form opinions that they support with textual analysis in their writing.

As a culminating experience, students embark on individual research projects in which they apply accumulated skills and demonstrate their understanding of the major themes of the course.

Grade 7 Science: Life Science and Sustainability

Seventh grade science students are introduced to the study of ecology, the environment, and the human body. The year involves investigation of the complex interactions between all types of organisms and their environments. Students learn that ecosystems consist of communities of plants, animals, and various microorganisms that are dependent on each other as well as on the non-living parts of the environment.

Emphasis is placed on experiments, both in and out of the classroom. Projects with hands-on involvement, independent thinking, and innovative solutions are important components of the course. Topics covered include ecological, life, and nutrient cycles, introduction to viruses, bacteria, protists, plants, and animals, human influence on the environment, renewable and non-renewable energies, sustainable living, and human anatomy and physiology.

Seventh Grade Science Night

The culminating experience of the seventh grade science curriculum is Science Night. This evening event features student poster presentations on issues of sustainability and proposed solutions to those problems.

Grade 8: Systems of Justice and Injustice

In the eighth grade, Human Rights: Systems of Justice and Injustice integrates English and social studies into one course. Students examine human rights systems in the United States and on a global scale.

Through literature and the analysis of historical events, students examine the shaping of collective identities and the impact on individual citizens’ understanding of their own identities within a growing America. Using their understanding of government and human rights, students also pursue an interdisciplinary project to investigate an issue, understand the systems and perspectives connected to it, and design a potential real-world solution.

The English component of the course is designed to unite students with their peers and teachers in a community of writers and readers. Reading, writing, and grammar skills are taught, practiced, and honed in the context of their uses. The study of literature and literary elements includes extensive student response; student voice is integral to the program.

Grade 8: Introductory Physical Science

This course focuses on the scientific method as it applies to chemistry. The course takes students through experiments that allow them to gather data suggesting the existence of the atom. Discovery is an essential part of this laboratory-based course, and students gain extensive experience working with laboratory equipment. The course also places great emphasis on analytical and independent thinking skills, requiring students to come up with explanations and solutions to problems not previously considered.

At the completion of the course, students have a solid background in physical science, allowing them to continue in biology, chemistry, and physics.

Visual and Performing Arts

The arts program at Rivers offers students opportunities to explore a broad range of artistic disciplines and then to pursue one or more areas in depth. The Middle School arts program follows a pre-foundation curriculum in the visual arts and the performing arts.

Athletics in the Middle School

Middle School students are required to participate in the athletic program for three seasons during each academic year. Rivers believes that involvement in athletics is a meaningful and integral part of each student’s overall education, and that there is inherent value in teamwork, sportsmanship, self-discipline, community involvement, physical development, and individual responsibility as experienced through athletics.


The Fall celebration of Homecoming includes a great community night for Middle Schoolers with a football game under the lights on Waterman Field. The game is the first of several special events on Homecoming weekend and sets a great tone of school spirit and excitement.

Grade 8 Portfolio Night

Portfolio Night is the culmination of the Middle School year and, for the eighth graders, a ceremonial end of their time in the division. Eighth graders choose pieces of their overall experience - art projects, papers, uniforms, pictures, etc. - that they feel represent them and their time in the Middle School.

Portfolio night features one student speaker who speaks at length, but also features reflections from every eighth grade student.

New Challenges Await

At the end of the year, new opportunities and challenges lay ahead for seventh and eighth grade students. For seventh graders, they are now the leaders of the Middle School and will begin thinking about and planning the Leadership Lab activities for the following September. For the eighth graders, the Upper School awaits.

We look forward to seeing you at the Reception for Admitted Families on April 3 and our revisit days on April 1, April 4, and April 8.

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