Upper School (Fifth–Eighth Grade)

Eighth Grade (13/14s)

At Bank Street, our teachers rely on their deep knowledge of child development to facilitate dynamic learning opportunities that build on the academic skills, interests, and learning styles of students ages 13 and 14 to support their transition from childhood to adolescence.

Where are 13- and 14-year-olds developmentally?

Below are a few examples of documented behaviors and capacities of 13- and 14-year-olds that inspire the foundation for our eighth grade program, which prepares students for the challenges and excitement of high school and beyond. Our teachers recognize that each student develops in their own way and at their own pace, and understand how to individualize learning to leverage the strengths and experiences of each student.

  • Behaviors and Capacities of 13- and 14-Year-Olds


    13- and 14-year-olds often…

    • Respond well to a variety of challenging academic projects, especially if they are able to help structure and organize the activities
    • Are more willing to admit to an error and continue to try again
    • Are very aware of problems in the world and in their community and feel motivated to learn more and find solutions
    • Consider electives, extracurricular classes, service projects, and sports as vocations


    13- and 14-year-olds often…

    • Enjoy physical outdoor and indoor activities, as well as brain breaks in the classroom
    • Need lots of regular meals, snacks, and sleep
    • Continue to have growth spurts


    13- and 14-year-olds often…

    • Learn better in small discussions and cooperative environments, where they can deeply engage with ideas
    • Enjoy talking about current events more with family, peers, and teachers
    • Feel like they have the answers and might need to be reminded to listen to longer explanations
    • Welcome opportunities to exercise independence

    Note: The patterns above are research-based and draw on the experience of Bank Street teachers and those that were documented for each age by Chip Wood in Yardsticks (Wood, Chip. Yardsticks: Child and Adolescent Development Ages 4 – 14. Center for Responsive Schools, Inc.; 4th edition, January 2, 2018)

How does our eighth grade (13/14s) program support your child’s development?

  • Program Overview

    13/14s student smiling at classmateProgram Overview:

    The 13/14s social studies curriculum centers on the concept of constitutional democracy and provides students with opportunities to consider what it means to live in a democratic society. Through a rich array of inquiry and hands-on activities, students investigate and discuss core questions of democracy. Who holds authority? How do we balance our individual rights with our responsibilities towards others? What actions can we take to protest inequality and injustice?

    In the Mock Supreme Court unit, students play the roles of justices and lawyers and confront dilemmas drawing on several constitutional amendments, ultimately presenting their cases to actual lawyers. The spring trip to Washington, D.C. is the culmination of an eight-week Mock Congress simulation. Students give presentations on current events throughout the year that keep the government study tied to present-day events.

    Students expand their use of technology in the 13/14s and build a foundation for responsible technology use. Each student is assigned a Chromebook and all classrooms have interactive boards and document cameras. Each class creates its own technology agreement, which serves to guide the use of school technology and advises students on the use of social media.

    The Human Growth and Development curriculum for 13/14s is titled The Teenage Years: Potentialities in Human Growth and Social Justice. While exploring their own sense of identity, students learn to see and confront injustice, to be upstanders rather than bystanders, and to engage difference through curiosity, decency, and respect.

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  • Language Arts, Library, and World Languages

    Language Arts:

    13/14s student smiling while holding bookStudents explore literature, journal writing, and creative and expository writing. They study Greek mythology, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and read Sophocles’ Antigone, as well as portions of The Iliad and The Odyssey. They continue to deepen their enjoyment of reading by reading and discussing a range of literary genres in class and through independent reading and book reviews.


    Students in the Upper School are free to visit the library independently for classroom or pleasure reading purposes. The librarian helps them find books, authors, and subjects, and makes recommendations based on students’ expressed interests. On an as-needed basis, the librarian also provides reference materials and classroom visits to teachers to support curricular needs.

    Throughout the Upper School, students are comfortable using the library on their own and asking for help when needed, and are familiar and comfortable with the responsibilities of being a member of the library community.

    World Languages:

    The 13/14s World Languages Program is the culmination of the World Language experience at Bank Street. All the pieces come together now that students have acquired foundations in elementary French and Spanish that prepare them for their high school experience. Nearly all Bank Street graduates get high school credit for their language work and are placed accordingly.

    In Spanish, students increase their command of grammatical structures and writing and communicating about their own experiences, consolidating their speaking and writing skills. They also study topics ranging from pre-Columbian civilizations to Hispanic culture in the United States.

    In French, students create their own version of Greek myths in skits and dialogues and keep weekly journals in which they can write poems, dialogues, continuing stories, or simply record the events of their lives. Frequent dictation and written tests help them consolidate all that they have learned in their years of French at Bank Street.

  • Math, Science, and Technology & Coding


    The 13/14s math program is the culmination of a school-wide approach to inquiry learning in math education. It’s the second half of a two-year study of algebra, with components drawn from geometry and algebra II. The curriculum focuses on teaching the algebraic concepts underlying each topic, rather than rote learning of procedures for solving specific problem types.

    Students use a variety of technology in the curriculum ranging from the use of scientific calculators, internet-based graphing software, geometric drawing software, and school-provided graphing calculators. While teachers support students in preparation for high school entrance tests, test prep is not part of the curriculum.

    13/14s students during science experimentScience:

    Introductory Physical Science is the focus of science in this year, as students try to answer the question, “What is matter?” In this laboratory-based curriculum, students explore the fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics to prepare for more advanced classes in high school.

    Through a process of guided inquiry, students gather evidence, make observations, and draw conclusions about the basic nature of matter. Throughout the year, students build towards the atomic model of matter through their study of physics principles.

    Technology and Coding:

    In the fall, 13/14s students conceive, design, plan, and execute a project utilizing a microcontroller to create a series of lighting effects controlled by code. They explore how to design programs for a microcontroller that responds to changes in the environment, such as sound or light levels. Students continue to explore competencies in four inter-linked areas of computational thinking, including:

    • Decomposition: Students learn the components of basic robotics (servos, sensors, LEDs, displays, buttons, etc.) and develop proficiency with translating and rotating shapes using code to create 3-dimensional shapes
    • Pattern Recognition: Students create complex 3-dimensional models by composing simple shapes, such as cylinders, cuboids, spheres, etc.
    • Abstraction: Students create modules that complete a task efficiently while hiding the underlying complexity
    • Algorithms: Students incorporate loops, variables, and comparisons in a variety of block-based coding languages
  • Art and Shop

    Art & Shop:

    Upper School student cuts paperIn Upper School art and shop, students explore new concepts and increasingly complex techniques. Activities in the 13/14s year promote self-discovery (a particular concern of the adolescent). They emphasize the chance to experiment with materials and tools, develop technical skills, and hone creative problem-solving. Students explore artistic concepts, styles, and cultural contexts and sharpen their ability to think objectively, abstractly, and critically. The goal is to help students build a sense of competence and confidence in themselves and their artistic abilities. Offerings include:

    • Art Portfolio supports students applying to arts-oriented schools as well as those who are interested on exploring a broad range of projects and sharpening both their creativity and technical skills.
    • Set/Tech Design (Technical Theater) is for students who love working three dimensionally and are interested in interpreting literature visually for the stage.
    • Drama is offered to all students interested in the dramatic arts. The Contemporary Monologue and The 13/14s Greek Myth in the fall allows students auditioning to the LaGuardia Drama program to work on individual monologues as well as solo and ensemble performances.

    The spring 13/14s musical engages students in many aspects of production and performance. This combined music, art, and shop experience is the culminating tradition of Bank Street’s arts program and is a community-building activity for the graduating class. The annual musical is a beloved Bank Street 13/14s tradition, along with the Washington, D.C. trip and the 13/14s graduation celebration.

  • Music


    Upper School student playing guitarIn the 13/14s, the Music curriculum focuses on the history of American musical theatre. Students who choose music as their arts elective learn about Broadway composers such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Rogers & Hammerstein and study famous Broadway shows and performers. The program supports students who are auditioning for LaGuardia or other arts-oriented high schools.

    Music History teaches students about different eras of music, their leading artists, and their music. They learn how to describe the recordings they hear by using the elements of music. They do their own research and present to the class, learn from videos of performances, and go on trips to musical events. Music history is also used a motivation for making music; students often learn to play pieces that they were introduced to in the classroom.

    Music Theory teaches students about the essential elements of music: melody, rhythm, harmony, form, and expressive elements. These concepts are explored through a variety of activities and homework is tailored to each students’ knowledge in music theory. Music theory is integrated with playing instruments, singing, and the use of music software.

    Extracurricular Musical Groups:

    There are two choruses in the Upper School—one for 10/11s and 11/12s and one for 12/13s and 13/14s. Both groups learn a diverse array of music, including classical, spiritual/gospel, folk, and contemporary pieces. Students in chorus work on vocal concepts such as proper breathing, vowel placement, diction, posture, and harmonizing. The choruses perform at the Upper School Winter and Spring Concerts.

    In addition to chorus, Upper School students can participate in a variety of instrumental music opportunities, including eight rock bands, a string ensemble, and a wind ensemble.

  • Physical Education

    Physical Education:

    Upper School student holding basketballThe program in the 13/14s year seeks to meet the interests and capacities of all students through a wide range of physical activities. Gym is intended to be an enjoyable, exciting, and safe place for all students. By exploring a broad range of activities, students can discover activities and games they can enjoy throughout their lives. In the 13/14s year, students are expected to make responsible choices and to organize their own games, with a goal of involving all students in every class.

    Offerings include a wide variety of sports and games, including team handball, football, soccer, basketball, badminton, hockey, volleyball, softball, and frisbee. Stretching, aerobic exercise, and upper body strength training increase fitness levels and prepare students for fitness exams.

    Students also participate in cooperative games that stress teamwork, communication, and sportsmanship. In addition to building sport-specific skills, students are expected to participate with effort, practice on task, take risks, apply skills to scrimmages or games, and understand rules and strategies. An after-school interscholastic sports program of soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball, and track and field for those who wish to participate.

Mock Congress

The Bank Street School for Children’s approach to teaching and learning is experience-based and collaborative. See how our eighth graders encounter social studies through our Mock Congress study, which culminates in a special trip to our nation’s capital.
Upper School students learn about social justice

Social Justice and Advocacy

Students study gender and civil rights, spanning Reconstruction to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. There is a special focus on the role of ordinary people and the extraordinary leaders in initiating campaigns for lasting social and racial justice. Over the course of the year, students gain a deep understanding for ways in which the civil rights movement was a primary force for the expansion of democracy for all people.
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