Upper School Curriculum

Distinctive Programs

Service Learning
Ridgefield Academy’s Service Learning program combines community service opportunities with classroom lessons and advisory programs in order to teach civic responsibility, strengthen our school and neighboring communities, and enrich the academic experience. Through guest speaker events, field trips, organizational partnerships, and discussion groups, our Service Learning curriculum addresses broader citizenship matters ranging from hunger, poverty, and homelessness to developmental differences and environmental awareness. These programs encourage and empower students to become thoughtful, reflective citizens who are inspired to serve as active change agents in their community.

Ridgefield Academy’s Service Learning program differs from many schools in that our students are encouraged to find their own voice and use it for the good of others. Passion drives action, and when our students are passionate about a particular cause, they are more invested in the work needed to make a difference. Each year we ask students what changes they wish to make in the world, and help them create an action plan. Student-led programs such as our “Stop Hunger Now” school wide meal-packing event and cooking elective were born from our students’ passion to make a difference in their world. For a complete list of the many Service Learning activities our students engage in and the organizations with who we partner, click here. (this will link to a page with a list of our service learning partnerships and links to websites)

Interdisciplinary Week
Students in Grades 7 and 8 greatly enjoy our Interdisciplinary Week, which features weeklong, whole-day interdisciplinary courses on a variety of topics. Faculty members collaborate together to create course offerings that fall outside of their usual subject offerings for this fun and immersive week of learning. Students self-select courses, allowing for deep interdisciplinary dives into topics such as the civil rights movement, the space race, and popular culture. A showcase of student work is featured at the culmination of the week for all to enjoy.

Athletic Program
As part of our approach to develop the whole child, Ridgefield Academy requires students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 to participate in one of our many competitive sports offerings each of the three seasons. We believe all children should experience the sense of belonging that comes from being a team member and the challenge, reward, humility, spirit, and pride that participation in competitive athletic competition offers.

Our coaches, the majority of which are faculty and staff members, encourage development of sport-specific skills and strategies, confidence, self-discipline, teamwork and leadership in addition to proper sportsmanship conduct. Ridgefield Academy student-athletes compete in the Fairchester Athletic Association League.

Upper School Trips
Upper School overnight trips are one of the highlights of the fall at Ridgefield Academy. Students enjoy the opportunity to take an adventure as a class, spend the night away from school and home, and form deeper connections with classmates and faculty. Each trip extends learning that has taken place in the classroom.

In Grade 6 students travel to Frost Valley, a YMCA educational facility in upstate NY to learn about environmental science.

Students in Grade 7 travel to Boston to see historical sights and walk the Freedom Trail.

Grade 8 students travel to Washington, DC to visit historical sights and museums.

Upper School Musical
Students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 may elect to participate in the Upper School Musical each spring. Try-outs are conducted, and parts are given (and sometimes even created!) so that everyone interested in performing in the play has a role to play. Each lead role is double-cast to enable more students the opportunity to perform in a leading role. The musical is performed for the entire school and during a special evening performance for parents.

Electives
Enrichment and exploration are an important part of Ridgefield Academy’s Upper School curriculum. Students enroll in two electives per trimester from a variety of selections such as digital storytelling, yearbook, food service, peer leadership, and photography. Electives provide students with choice, and an exploratory experience in a variety of disciplines. Electives take place on Tuesday and Friday afternoons enable our faculty and staff to share their passions, talents, and hobbies with their students.

Leadership Opportunities
RA offers numerous leadership opportunities across our curriculum to help students develop leadership skills and become confident role models for our community. From leading our all-school Monday morning assemblies, to our Kindergarten buddy partnership, to sports team captains and lunch room leaders, to organizing service learning projects, our students have the unique opportunity to work around the RA campus in a leadership capacity in a variety of capacities. Through our Peer Leadership Elective, peer leaders can be found working alongside students and teachers in Lower School classrooms twice per week, assisting in the classroom. RA students often move on to take leadership positions in their high school after leaving our campus.

Grade 8 – Kindergarten Buddy Program
Ridgefield Academy unites students across the Lower School and Upper School by partnering each Grade 8 student with a Kindergartner “buddy” for the school year. This special program brings a sense of community to our school, gives younger students a role model, and offers our oldest students the opportunity to experience responsibility and inspired leadership. Grade 8 students are introduced to their buddies in September and meet biweekly to share in the joy of reading, work on projects, play, and enjoy one another’s company. In June, our Kindergarten buddies escort their Grade 8 buddies to the Graduation Stage.

Faculty/Staff versus Grade 8 Athletic Competitions
Students in Grade 8 engage in friendly and competitive games of soccer, basketball, and softball against a team of faculty and staff members. Coached by our Head of School, the Grade 8 team looks forward to showing off their skills in front of the student body. Anyone is welcome to play on the faculty and staff team, which often includes teachers, cooks, members of the maintenance team, staff members, and administrators.

Secondary School Placement
Ridgefield Academy offers comprehensive secondary school admissions counseling to help our students and their families plan for the years after Grade 8. As students enter Upper School, our Head of School and Head of Upper School lead each student through an individualized process designed to consider a wide range of options.

We want Grade 8 students and their families to make an informed decision about their future schooling. To help them we provide a step-by-step calendar guide and a directory of schools that includes current admissions contact information as well as data on selection criteria. In addition, we prepare students for school visits and the questions that may be asked of them during interviews. Each student has a mock interview with his peers and an RA faculty member.

Our students enjoy a 90% success rate for their first and second choice of secondary schools. Graduates of Ridgefield Academy go on to attend some of the top boarding and day schools in the country.

Graduation
The Graduation ceremony at Ridgefield Academy is an intimate and celebratory event that involves all students, faculty, and staff in our school. Each graduate delivers a personal reflection speech in front of their audience of family and friends. Our comprehensive public speaking program, which begins as early as Preschool, has prepared our students for this task. Graduates are escorted to the stage by their Kindergarten “buddies” and ring the Patriot Bell to signal their final day at the Academy.

Advisory Program
Upper School students enjoy our advisory program as a way to develop meaningful relationships with the faculty and a group of their peers. Each child is assigned to a faculty advisor, and attends weekly? meetings to discuss important topics, play games, and discuss challenges …(need help here!). Advisory programs promote open communication and connectedness within the school and provide students with another caring adult with whom they can contact should they need advise. Feeling connected to the school and others in our community is important during these years when children are forming opinions about themselves.

Wellness Program
The goal of our Upper School Wellness program is to meet the social and emotional needs of students as they grow and mature. RA is committed to providing children with the information required to make sound decisions, feel good about themselves, build healthy relationships, and develop into well rounded young people. Once students are provided the tools, they are better equipped to handle challenging situations as they move forward in their lives as adolescents and into adulthood.

In Grade 6, students focus on navigating relationships. Students are given tools to manage such things like self esteem and self confidence, understanding and communicating emotions, recognition and understanding how one’s behavior can affect another, problem solving, and following rules.

In Grade 7, students study body and self image. Grade 7 is a time of heightened social awareness and vulnerability. It is also a time where there can be a range in children feeling comfortable with whom they are as individuals. The focus in this age group is on both girls’ and boys’ self image. There is also a focus on Media Literacy. Students talk about different messages they are getting through the media and how those messages affect their sense of self.

In Grade 8, we focus on prepping students to face the more challenging decisions once they approach high school and simply, understanding what it means to make good choices. It is important that our students have the solid decision making skills that align with their values so they will feel prepared to know what to do in particular situations. Children focus on a sense of self, their identity, their values, and what is important to them. Students also discuss how to feel a sense of empowerment to stand behind their values and beliefs.

Food Service Program
Ridgefield Academy’s farm-to-cafeteria food program is a point of distinction. Chef Paul Desiano and his staff are dedicated to providing nutritious, locally grown lunches (when possible) for our students, and work each day to source available food for preparation on-site. In fact, over 90% of every mal is made from scratch at Ridgefield Academy. We believe learning how our food is grown and the way in which it nourishes our bodies is an important part of every child’s education. We encourage all children to try new foods and embrace new tastes in an effort to broaden a child’s knowledge and appreciation of food and help him or her become better prepared to make healthy choices in the future.

Every Monday the school participates in the nationwide “Meatless Monday” movement, and every Wednesday international cuisine is served. Children with food allergies are treated with care and kindness.

Core Programs

Language Arts

Grade 6
  • Comprehend and analyze readings
  • Identify literary elements and devices
  • Write expository and creative pieces in response to literature
  • Incorporate supporting textual evidence in essays
  • Develop and effectively apply grammar and mechanics
  • Build vocabulary through contextual and structural analysis
  • Apply vocabulary in written work
  • Actively participate in Harkness-style discussions

Grade 7
  • Read and annotate texts in a variety of genres
  • Explore historical and cultural context of literary works
  • Identify and interpret literary elements and devices
  • Write literary analysis essays
  • Use textual evidence to support an argument in the form of a thesis
  • Build vocabulary through context and structural analysis
  • Effectively apply knowledge of grammar and mechanics to revise and edit writing
  • Actively participate in Harkness-style discussions

Grade 8
  • Read and annotate texts in a variety of genres, including contemporary non-fiction
  • Explore historical and cultural context of literary works through self-guided projects
  • Identify and interpret literary elements and devices
  • Write literary analysis essays
  • Use textual evidence to support a stance
  • Build vocabulary through context and structural analysis
  • Apply complex vocabulary
  • Effectively apply knowledge of grammar and mechanics to revise and edit writing
  • Actively participate in Harkness-style discussions
  • Public speaking and presentation skills using a variety of mediums and methods

Math

Emphasis on building skills and deeper levels of math understanding through application

Grade 6
ON-GRADE
  • Number patterns
  • Order of operations
  • Patterns in geometry
  • Single and multi-step problems
  • Data and graphing
  • Number theory
  • Problem solving
PRE-ALGEBRA
  • Variables, expressions, and integers
  • Solving equations
  • Multi-step equations and inequalities
  • Factors, fractions, and exponents
  • Rational numbers and equations
  • Ratio, proportion, and probability
  • Percents
  • Linear functions
  • Real numbers and right triangles
  • Measurement, area, and volume
  • Data analysis and probability
  • Angle relationships and transformations

Grade 7
ALGEBRA
  • Identify variables, expressions, equations, and functions
  • Solve, graph, and write linear equations and functions
  • Solve and graph linear inequalities
  • Work with exponents and solve exponential functions
  • Work to solve operations of polynomials and use factoring
  • Identify and use the quadratic formula and solve quadratic equations and functions

Grade 8
GEOMETRY
  • Identify and use the essentials of geometry
  • Use inductive and deductive reason
  • Write formal proofs using theorems and postulates
  • Identify and use parallel and perpendicular lines
  • Triangles: congruency. similarity, relationships within, and right triangle trigonometry
  • Properties of circles
  • Quadrilaterals
  • Transformations
  • Measurements of figures and solids

Social Studies/History

Grade 6
  • European cultures from 300 CE - 1600 CE and their historical, social, physical, religious, and governmental structures

Grade 7
  • Two-year intensive study of American History
  • Emphasis on understanding and connection-building
  • Project-based/hands-on, experiential
  • Simulation
  • Reading/writing skills
  • Research skills
UNITED STATES HISTORY
  • Exploration Colonization
  • 13 English Colonies
  • Causes of Revolution
  • American Revolution
  • The Early Republic

Grade 8
  • Two-year intensive study of American History
  • Emphasis on understanding and connection-building
  • Project-based/hands-on, experiential
  • Simulation
  • Reading/writing skills
  • Research skills
UNITED STATES HISTORY
  • Reconstruction
  • American West
  • Industry & Unions
  • Immigration
  • Progressives
  • Roaring 20's

Science

Grade 6
Laboratory based science using the scientific method to design, conduct, and analyze experiments. Students study topics in Earth, Life and Physical Sciences each year, but focus on how to:
  • Ask questions
  • Conduct lab experiments
  • Gather, organize, and interpret data
  • Draw/articulate conclusions
  • Demonstrate understanding
LIFE SCIENCE
  • Invasives
  • Ecosystems
  • Body Systems
EARTH SCIENCE
  • Soil Science
  • Rock Cycle
  • Weather

Grade 7
Laboratory based science using the scientific method to design, conduct and analyze experiments. Students study topics in Earth, Life and Physical Sciences each year, but focus on how to:
  • Ask questions
  • Conduct lab experiments
  • Gather, organize, and interpret data
  • Draw/articulate conclusions
  • Demonstrate understanding
EARTH SCIENCE
  • Erosion and Deposition
  • Weather
LIFE SCIENCE
  • Cell Biology and Disease
PHYSICAL SCIENCE
  • Energy
  • Force and Motion

Grade 8
Laboratory based science using the scientific method to design, conduct and analyze experiments. Students study topics in Earth, Life and Physical Sciences each year, but focus on how to:
  • Ask questions
  • Conduct lab experiments
  • Gather, organize, and interpret data
  • Draw/articulate conclusions
  • Demonstrate understanding
EARTH SCIENCE
  • Nuclear waste disposal
  • Earthquakes
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Solar System
LIFE SCIENCE
  • Evolution
  • Genetics
PHYSICAL SCIENCE
  • Chemistry of Materials

World Languages

Interactive course work with a focus on culture and emphasis on the spoken and written language

Grade 6
FRENCH
  • Conversational French
  • Themes
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar: present tense, adjectives as nouns, possession, present tense, expressions
  • French culture
SPANISH
  • Conversational Spanish
  • Vocabulary
  • Form and use of regular AR verbs
  • Present tense
  • Grammar: Indefinite articles, possessive adjectives, stem-changing verbs, prepositions

Grade 7
FRENCH
  • Conversation
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar: partitive, demonstrative and interrogative adjectives, present tense
  • French culture and geography
SPANISH
  • Geography of Spanish-speaking countries
  • Conversation
  • Grammar: stem-changing verbs, pronouns, commands, reflexive verbs, infinitive

Grade 8
FRENCH
  • Conversation
  • Presentations on France/French-speaking countries and French artists
  • Vocabulary related to holidays and travel
  • Grammar: commands/imperative, present tense of savoir and connaître, past tense of irregular verbs
SPANISH
  • Presentations on Spain and Spanish-speaking countries
  • Conversation
  • Use of preterit tense AR/ER and IR verbs
  • Differentiation of “to know"

Art

Students receive exposure to a variety of media and are challenged to think and speak as artists.

Grade 6
  • Drawing through the use of gridding
  • Pen & ink illuminated letters
  • Rendering light and shadow in drawing
  • Basic color theory: mixing primary, secondary, complimentary, analogous
  • Composition rule of thirds
  • Painting techniques in watercolor
  • Frescoes & wall reliefs as sculpture

Grade 7
  • Drawing techniques for charcoal, pastels and colored pencils
  • Composition mapping when planning a piece; central, unbalanced and a variety of other
  • Composition types
  • Color theory: establishing mood through palettes
  • Kinetic sculpture
  • Painting techniques in acrylics
  • Ceramics: throwing bowls

Grade 8
  • Drawing techniques from life, models and photos
  • Composition: mapping & the rule of thirds
  • Painting techniques in oils
  • Color theory: color as symbolism
  • Symbolism in Art: Kahlo
  • Ceramics: using molds, subtractive techniques, and advanced glazing techniques
  • Print making: photo emulsion silk screen

Music

Students in Grades 7 & 8 choose between Band or Chorus.

Grade 6
  • Students perform in choral concerts, band performances, and optional Upper School stage productions throughout the year.

Grade 7
  • Students perform in choral concerts, band performances, and optional Upper School stage productions throughout the year.

Grade 8
  • Students perform in choral concerts, band performances, and optional Upper School stage productions throughout the year.

Drama

Grade 6
  • Upper School drama students focus on the spring musical and select from other elective offerings throughout the year.

Grade 7
  • Upper School drama students focus on the spring musical and select from other elective offerings throughout the year.

Grade 8
  • Upper School drama students focus on the spring musical and select from other elective offerings throughout the year.

Athletics

Grade 6
  • Students compete on interscholastic sports teams including: soccer, field hockey, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, and cross country track. Flag football and winter fitness are offered as a club sport.

Grade 7
  • Students compete on interscholastic sports teams including: soccer, field hockey, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, and cross country track. Flag football and winter fitness are offered as a club sport.

Grade 8
  • Students compete on interscholastic sports teams including: soccer, field hockey, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, and cross country track. Flag football and winter fitness are offered as a club sport.

Technology

Grade 6
  • Cross curricular work with digital arts-based projects
  • Advanced graphic design: resizing and manipulating images
  • Script-writing
  • Film-making and editing
  • Audio recording

Grade 7
  • Cross curricular work with digital arts-based projects
  • Service Learning-related film project
  • Story-boarding
  • Advanced film editing

Grade 8
  • Cross curricular work with digital arts-based projects
  • Personal narrative through filmmaking
  • Graphic design and branding