Upper School: Fourth to Eighth Grades

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Making a model of DNA

The Upper School is where it all comes together, the point of it all.  This is the time to bring to fruition the seeds which have been so carefully sown and nurtured in the lower grades. With their solid foundation in reading, writing, and math, our students burst into bloom, studying science, literature, mathematics, and the history of civilization in much greater detail.

Our goal is to graduate students who are literate about their culture, knowledgeable about the history of art, music, science, technology, and human events, familiar with the great achievements of world civilization, and prepared to be creative innovators in their own rights.

We aim to produce students who think clearly and write well, and who are confident of their ability to solve problems. We expect our graduates to be able to plan long-range, work independently, and organize their time and effort in high school, college, and career. But perhaps most important, we want our graduates to be naturally curious and unafraid to follow that curiosity wherever it may lead them, for the rest of their lives, so that they never stop seeking to learn.


Upper School students excel as they master mathematics at their own pace. 4th graders are often ready to begin Pre-Algebra, and 8th graders, before entering high school, may have completed Algebra II and be working on Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus.

Mathematical experiences are hands-on, and include work with measurement, graphing, and statistics.

See how our math curriculum compares to other schools.

Literature & Language Arts

Students read novels and learn about genres of literature, plot, main ideas, themes, inferences, and about how characters change over time. They read poetry and drama, too (including classics such as Shakespeare.)

They expand their writing skills with the use of similes and metaphors. They organize their writing with topic sentences and supporting details. They learn to persuade with cogent arguments in writing and in public speaking and debating.

Students perfect their manuscript and cursive handwriting and learn to type properly.

Writing is thinking. We emphasize the basics. A knowledge of grammar adds clarity to thought.

4th and 5th Graders Diagramming Sentences

History – America and The World – A Five Year Cycle

Students will leave 8th grade with a deep understanding of the history of our country.

Our curriculum covers five periods of American History in a level of detail not seen elsewhere before Advanced Placement high school courses:

  • Exploration, the Columbian Exchange, Colonies, and  the American Revolution
  • The Constitution, American Government, Early Republic, and  Industrial Revolution
  • America Expands and the Civil War Becomes Inevitable
  • The Civil War, Reconstruction, Settling the West, and the Second Industrial Revolution
  • America and the World in the Twentieth Century – An Age of Dictators

Each year, the entire Upper School, 4th through 8th grades, studies the same time period, although, of course, at different levels of difficulty appropriate for each grade. This means that all the students can be fully immersed in the time period (whether it is the Revolution, the Civil War, or whatever the topic is that year) and work together to create pageants, history fairs, wax museums, and other dramatic experiences. So, while a student’s first year in the program is not necessarily at the beginning of American history,  over five years, he or she will cover it all.

Students read widely in both secondary and primary sources, including the entire U.S. Constitution, and letters and addresses of Jefferson, Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, and many others. They enjoy biographical films which give insight into key persons such as Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson.

They become excellent essay writers after writing a multitude of essays, both factual and interpretive.  They construct detailed illustrated timelines for particular periods of great interest, such as the American Revolution, or the History of Russia (when studying the Russian Revolution as part of the 20th century.)

They participate in overnight field trips such as visits to Boston, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Mystic Seaport, and Washington, D.C.

Many of our alumni have told us that they learned more history at the Spring School than in high school or even college courses. They comment also that they are better prepared at taking notes and at writing essays than anyone else in their high schools.

Philadelphia Field Trip 2018 – 4th and 5th Grades:

Proud Student Displays Her Timeline of Russian History


Timeline Studies

Upper School students have TWO history courses! At the same time as they are studying American History, they work on another five year cycle of world history. The entire Upper School will be involved in the topic for a given year. Here are the five years of our curriculum:

  • Timeline of Life on Earth: How our planet and the life on it came to be, from the first stars to the first humans
  • Ancient Civilizations: From the Stone Age to Ancient Egypt
  • The Classical World: Ancient Greece and Rome
  • From the Dark Ages to the Renaissance
  • The Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution

Students learn through a variety of hands-on experiences and field trips, reading, and research. Literature, art, science, and technology are all part of the history of humans, so when we study Ancient Greece, we read from the Iliad and the Odyssey and Greek myths; we lean about the musical and mathematical discoveries of Pythagoras; we build models of the Parthenon; we study the Peloponnesian War and Alexander the Great’s battles; we experiment with Archimedes’ screws and levers; we design our own Greek pottery and visit the Metropolitan Museum’s collection; all while reading the wonderful Oxford Children’s Ancient History by Roy Burrell.



Our unique science curriculum is integrated with our Timeline Studies of the History of Civilization.

  • Year One: Astronomy  and Earth Science
  • Year Two: Chemistry, Biology,  and Genetics
  • Year Three: Physics – Forces and Mechanics – Galileo and Newton
  • Year Four: More Enlightenment Era Science- Optics, Telescopes, Microscopes
  • Year Five: Physics – Electromagnetism – Power and Engines

The entire Upper School – 4th to 8th grades – explores the same topics at the same time, although, of course, at a level of detail appropriate to each grade.

So when we are studying the Industrial Revolution in our Timeline Studies, for instance, we are experimenting with fossil fuels such as anthracite and lignite coal, kerosene, and oil; we are exploring static electricity; creating copper/zinc batteries as Volta did; building series and parallel electrical circuits; constructing a generator and an electric motor; and investigating the workings of steam engines and internal combustion engines.

When we are learning about the Enlightenment, we explore Galileo’s pendulum experiments and time the rate of falling bodies as cars race down ramps; we investigate Newton’s laws of motion with collisions and rockets; we use “ray boxes,” lenses, and prisms to learn the optical laws of reflection and refraction. At the same time, in the allied Timeline Studies class, we are studying the life and times of Galileo and Newton: for instance, how Galileo was accused of heresy after concluding that the Earth circles the Sun, and how Newton escaped the Great Fire of London.

How did Archimedes build his famous “claw,” that reputedly could lift ships from the water? Inquiring Greek History students apply their knowledge of the laws of levers, assisted by their Science teacher, Marc Sorondo.

We make our own astrolabes as part of our studies of the Renaissance explorers.

Practical Life

Understanding the basic skills of every day life helps us become confident adults. Both boys and girls practice cooking, sewing, carpentry, and auto mechanics, among other useful skills.

We grind wheat and bake bread. We study nutrition. We prepare, each year, an entire Thanksgiving Feast for our parents, from soup to nuts, with everything in between.

We look under the hood of a car and learn about filters, spark plugs, and oil changes, at the same time studying how an internal combustion engine works.

We make our own jigsaw puzzles using scaled down machine tools. We cut, sand, fasten and tile to make useful things like benches and coat racks. We learn to read architectural plans and to create scale drawings. We even wire our own lamps.

Making butter by shaking heavy cream!

Carpentry projects with Coach Ralph

Baking bread (and learning about the living microorganisms in yeast!)

Preparations for the Feast!

Health and Nutrition

Foreign Language

4th to 6th graders study Spanish under the guidance of a native Spanish speaking teacher. Besides practicing conversational skills, they study grammar both with a textbook and using an interactive audiovisual laboratory program created by Middlebury College.

7th and 8th graders study Latin grammar and vocabulary. This builds on the grammatical competence they are developing in their Language Arts classes, and greatly expands their English vocabulary through the knowledge of classical word roots, so important when taking tests for high school and college admissions.

Upper School Violin and Orchestra

Private violin lessons are offered during the school day by arrangement with the violin teachers. Our orchestra enjoys performing in concert for the entire school.

We invite professional musicians to perform for our school, as well. Recently we enjoyed a visit from a trio – horn, violin, and piano – who performed the Brahms Horn Trio and Debussy’s “La fille aux cheveux de laine.”

Fine Arts

Students’ creative impulses add depth to their Timeline Studies of world history.

When studying the Timeline of Life on Earth, students have made prints of trilobites, drawings inspired by cells, spheres made of pottery clay, and tempera paintings of trees to show positive and negative space.

We designed our own red and black Grecian urns and created them out of clay.

The Medieval and Renaissance eras were the inspiration for clay castles (facades or three-dimensional models); illuminated manuscript letters; and watercolor rose windows, demonstrating radial symmetry. Students have also made paper and bound books. We learned to draw in perspective and to use proper proportions in our self-portraits.

When we studied the Industrial Revolution, we learned the technique of sand casting as practiced in foundries, though we used plaster instead of metal to make our industrial parts.

As you can see, we work in many media: clay (we have our own pottery wheel and kiln;) printmaking; tempera and oil paints; pastels; batik and fabric arts. We enjoy drawing nature studies “en plein air” in our own natural woodlands. And we never do the same project twice!

Special Events

Field Day


Frost Valley

“Reward” Field Trips – Skiing; Six Flags; Bounce…


Computer Science


Each Upper School student is given a state of the art laptop computer to use in school.

Fourth graders use “Scratch,” a programming language designed at MIT for young students.  Here is a  project created by one of our students.

Older students code in the Python programming language.  We use a curriculum designed by Edhesive.com

Advanced 7th and 8th graders can work in a higher-level  Python curriculum in Edhesive which will help them place into AP Computer Science in High School.

Standardized Test Scores

Our students, on average, perform many grade levels above their peers on national standardized tests. In the spring, 2nd- 8th graders take the national Terranova Exams.

Extended Hours & After School Clubs

Extended Hours are available before school from 7:30 AM and after school until 6:00 PM.

Individual tutoring and help with homework are also offered after school hours by  Upper School teachers.

There are a variety of after school clubs to choose from each trimester. Here are some pictures from a recent Drama Club production of  Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”


Our 8th grade graduates are accepted to all the best high schools, public and private, in New Jersey and New York.  Often they receive impressive scholarships. Students are placed in high school courses based on their performance on achievement tests, and many of our students are placed in all honors classes.

In the past three years, here are the schools which our graduates have chosen to attend:

  • Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, NJ
  • Bergen County Technical High School, Teterboro, NJ
  • St. Peter’s Preparatory School, Jersey City, NJ
  • Peddie School, Hightstown, NJ
  • Avenues: The World School, NYC
  • Ethical Culture Fieldstone School, NYC
  • Academy of the Holy Angels, Demarest, NJ
  • Montclair Kimberly Academy, Montclair, NJ
  • Northern Valley Regional High School, Demarest, NJ
  • Hudson High Tech High School, Secaucus, NJ
  • Saddle River Day School, Saddle River, NJ
  • Leonia H.S., Leonia, NJ
  • Bergenfield H.S., Bergenfield, NJ
  • Glen Rock H.S., Glen Rock, NJ
  • Paramus Catholic H.S., Paramus, NJ
  • Tenafly H.S., Tenafly, NJ
  • Don Bosco Preparatory H.S., Ramsey, NJ
  • The Community H.S., Teaneck, NJ
  • Dwight-Englewood HS, Englewood, NJ


Katherine Dai is a Presidential Scholar! Two Scholars are chosen from each state, based on their grades and test scores. Katherine will be attending Yale University next year.

Here is the billboard in front of the Bergen County Academies! Katherine visited us recently, and took this picture with her beloved math teacher, Ms. Virani


Mark Choroszucha graduates from Rutgers:


Alumni: Please write to us and send us news and pictures.