Upper School

Middle Students study Science, STEM and math in Princeton, NJ


The middle school years (Chapin’s Upper School) cover an extraordinary period of growth, development, and excitement in a child’s life.  Students are seeking the independence to stretch beyond the home (and homeroom), while at the same time seeking the approval of the adults and peers around them.  They are beginning to think analytically and critically with a growing level of sophistication.  While each year spent in the Upper School has its own challenges, passions, and issues, we seek to build a program that encourages the best in children by sparking interests and providing skills for a lifetime of learning and healthy decision-making.

Chapin’s Upper School students are a unique group of learners and require a program that challenges them in an age-appropriate manner.  Through the blending of academic rigor with character development, the Upper School seeks to bridge the primary years in Lower School with secondary school.  Likewise, our Advisory Program, Honor Code and Honor Council, Elective offerings, Leadership Class, and Community Service initiative provide opportunities to broaden and enrich our strong commitment to personal development.  This is done, keeping in mind our two prevailing goals:  to encourage the development of respectful, responsible, honest, kind, hardworking young people and to guide them in becoming independent, engaged, enthusiastic, life-long learners who possess the skills necessary for future academic and personal success.

The Upper School faculty, administration and staff are all deeply committed to working with students in this age group and seek to build a strong partnership with you so that we can make your child’s Upper School experience fulfilling and successful.

Curriculum Overview


Fifth Grade Language Arts 

Novels, short stories, picture books and poetry are used during the year in reading class.  Recurring themes throughout the literature include survival, relationships with family and peers, decision making, prejudice, independence/interdependence and friendship.  These themes foster a better understanding and awareness of different cultures and people.

Click Here to Learn More About Chapin's English Program


Grades Five through Eight

Chapin’s mathematics program is based on the premise that all students can and need to learn, master and apply mathematical concepts.  We recognize that mathematics plays an important role in developing the ability to organize and analyze information; to think critically; to generalize and apply concepts; and to solve problems.   Chapin’s mathematics program seeks to equip students with the skills necessary to meet personal ambitions and career goals in an ever-changing, information-based and technologically rich global society.  To that end, Chapin teaches both computation and concepts by emphasizing their application in problem solving contexts.  

Grades six through eight progress to Pre-Algebra, Introduction to Geometry and Algebra, Algebra I and Geometry.


In a world filled with scientific achievements and rapid technological developments, science and scientific thinking play a vital role in the lives of students.  Students need to be fully aware of and skilled in science and its related fields in order to succeed in their further endeavors in education, careers and everyday life. 

Additionally, scientific reasoning remains the backbone of critical thinking and analysis in many diverse areas of study besides science and applied science such as economics, sociology, and even in some forms of philosophy.  A good science program should also create an interest and excitement in science itself leading to future contributions to the fields of science by some of the students. 
Finally, the study of science with its great scope should contribute to a student’s understanding of the diversity of all that exists and an appreciation of the balance and value of that diversity.  To these ends, a program emphasizing scientific inquiry should be at the core of the school’s science curriculum. 

Social Studies

Fifth Grade

In fifth grade social studies, there is a balance between history, geography and the study of cultures.  The students will build a foundation of knowledge about physical and cultural regions of the world, and they will learn how historians and archaeologists work to discover the past.  Map skills will be incorporated into each unit, as the children study land and water features.  Throughout the year, there will be many activities and projects that will provide the students with hands-on involvement.  Students will also use resources other than the textbook when individual reports and group projects are written.

Sixth through Eighth Grade

The need for an enlightened citizenry for our pluralistic society and shrinking world has never been greater than it is in the twenty-first century.  Therefore, it is the primary goal of Chapin’s Upper School Social Studies Program to promote the intellectual and social growth of our students to meet that need.

Intellectually, students are presented with the opportunity to study a wide variety of topics, including the growth of Islam, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asian civilizations in sixth grade.  This is followed in seventh grade by studies of Medieval Europe, Europe 1300-1600, pre-Columbian civilizations of the Americas, and the effects of European arrival in the New World.  Students conclude the program by studying U.S. history in the context of modern world history in eighth grade. Based upon the knowledge that children both want and need to know as much as they can about their own world, the study of current events is a major part of the curriculum in all three grades.  Whenever possible, the recognition of connections between events of the past and the present is stressed.

In addition to the content to be covered, skill development is emphasized in all classes.  Good speaking, writing and listening skills are of the utmost importance.  These are developed by several means, including note taking, class participation and essay writing.  The required keeping of a social studies notebook helps the students to acquire needed organizational and study skills.  The regular assigning of homework fosters these skills while at the same time reinforces learning.

World Languages

Fifth through Eighth Grade
It is our philosophy that learning a second language can and should be an interesting and engaging endeavor.  Delving into the study of another language provides the learner with new insights into the people and customs of the countries in which the language is spoken.  It also enables students to develop a clearer understanding of the English language.  We believe that world languages can be taught in a manner that addresses a variety of learning styles, thus making the language learning experience accessible to all types of learners.

Fifth grade studies Spanish. Grades six through eight can choose between Mandarin, Spanish and French.


Art (Grades 5 - 8)
Creativity through the arts is an essential component of the educational process.  Students are imaginative by nature and create works of art through drawing and painting, constructing and manipulating, molding and building.  The Chapin art program is designed to encourage, teach, support, and enhance the techniques and skills needed to foster life-long creativity and appreciation of the arts.

We emphasize process by building on the skills learned the preceding year. Printmaking, painting, drawing, pottery, collage, weaving and paper maché are explored at each grade level.  Art vocabulary, techniques and skills are presented with each medium and we work closely with grade level and subject-matter teachers to extend and enrich their curriculum. Through these processes students learn to think creatively, employ critical thinking skills, express ideas and come to recognize and appreciate the aesthetic qualities inherent in art.

Choral and Instrumental Music (Grades 5 - 8)
Based on the understanding that all children are musical, and that music is a way of knowing and understanding one’s self and the world, the Chapin School music curriculum employs a sequential and developmentally appropriate curriculum, which nurtures in students the qualities of self expression through music, cooperation with others to create and perform music and a lifelong appreciation and enjoyment of music.

Central to the music curriculum are the fundamental music processes in which humans engage:  performing, creating and responding to music. Through these activities, students learn to think creatively, employ critical thinking skills and come to recognize and appreciate the aesthetic qualities inherent in music.  Emphasis is also placed on music literacy, providing students an important tool with which they can explore music independently and with others.  Finally, because music is reflective of human culture, students are exposed to a diversity of musical styles; are led to understand music’s relationship to history, culture, and units of study in other academic disciplines; and are given the tools to make informed musical judgments throughout their lives.

Upper School Music Ensembles include:

  • Fifth Grade Chorus—students learn healthy vocal technique, ensemble singing, music literacy, and performance of various musical styles; students participate in both Winter and Spring Concerts; students rehearse twice a week during the school day.
  • Show Choir—open to students in grades 5 – 8; students prepare scenes and choreographed musical selections from a major musical; students participate in both Winter and Spring Concerts, as well as the Music in the Parks Festival; students rehearse Wednesdays after school.
  • Chamber Choir—open to students in grades 6 – 8; students learn and perform more challenging choral literature, reflecting diverse musical styles; students participate in both Winter and Spring Concerts, as well as in the Music in the Parks Festival; students rehearse twice a week during the school day.
  • Students in grades 6 – 8 may join the following instrumental ensembles:

Chamber Strings (meets during one period of Electives)
Wind Ensemble   (meets during one period of Electives)
Jazz Band (by audition, time TBA)

Drama (Grades 6 - 8)
As stated in the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Visual and Performing Arts, "Experience with and knowledge of the arts is a vital part of a complete education.” At Chapin, we believe drama is an essential element of a comprehensive academic curriculum.  The drama program allows students to transform, reflect and act upon the human condition.  A collaborative art form driven by inquiry, drama actively engages students in the process of creation, and encourages students to implement their ideas while simultaneously responding critically to a variety of work.  

Drama helps students understand how the arts shape the diverse cultures of both past and present societies.  Students learn to take risks and express their thoughts and feelings.  Drama develops the “whole child” through physical, emotional, intellectual and social interaction.  Winifred Ward, a pioneer in the field of educational theatre, explains: “Its objectives are to give each child an avenue for self expression, guide his creative imagination, provide for a controlled emotional outlet, help him in the building of fine attitudes and appreciations and to give him opportunities to grow in social cooperation.”  Through the process of ensemble rehearsal and performance, the ultimate goal is for students to learn how to give to the audience rather than just take from the play.

Community Service (Grade 8)
Chapin School is deeply committed to providing a variety of meaningful community service opportunities for its students.  Our commitment is based on the belief that we all have a responsibility to look beyond ourselves and to reach out to others.  Community service links students to the wider community, exposes them to people and situations outside their previous experiences and helps prepare them to take a productive role in society. 

Every eighth grade student is required to take a trimester course which focuses on service learning.  Service learning is a teaching method that enriches learning by engaging students in meaningful service to their schools and communities.  Students apply academic skills to solving real-world issues, linking established learning objectives with genuine needs.  The intent of each activity is to change both the recipient and the provider of the service.  This is accomplished by combining service tasks with structured opportunities that link the task to self-reflection, self-discovery and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills and knowledge content.

Study Skills (Grade 5)
Study skills has been defined as “…learned abilities that one uses for the purpose of acquiring knowledge and competence.”*   The purpose for the inclusion of study skills in the curriculum of Chapin School is for students to learn how to learn more proficiently by directly instructing them in techniques and processes which can be applied in any given situation.  The ultimate goal, therefore, is the development of responsible, independent learners.

*Study Skills Program.  National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1989.

Life Studies (Grades 6 – 8) 
Healthy living requires a commitment to making healthy choices.  The life studies program places a strong emphasis on the development of the student beyond academics.  The purpose of the life studies program is to develop within students an in-depth awareness of the factors that contribute to physical, social and emotional well-being.  Within a supportive and nurturing environment we aim to empower students with the tools necessary to make healthy decisions and communicate effectively.  These life skills are essential for a student's successful participation at Chapin and constructive involvement in the greater community.

Physical Education (Grades 5 - 8)
The physical education program at Chapin revolves around the joys and benefits of movement.  Beginning in Pre-Kindergarten and continuing through Eighth Grade the students participate in an exercise program designed to challenge each student to improve strength, flexibility, agility, speed and endurance.

Age appropriate activities, games, skills and sports are introduced to enhance the student's physical, social and emotional development.  Good sportsmanship, fair play, doing one's best and respect for self and others are stressed and encouraged throughout the athletic program.

Interscholastic Sports

  • Boys' Soccer
  • Girls' Soccer
  • Boys' Cross Country 
  • Girls' Cross Country
  • Boys' Basketball
  • Girls' Basketball
  • Boys' Lacrosse
  • Girls' Lacrosse

Technology (Grades 5 - 8)
The Technology Curriculum seeks to ensure student success by supporting the integration of curriculum and technology in a way that encourages conversation, innovation and developmentally appropriate educational practices.  It challenges students and teachers to develop new strategies and skills in meaningful applications.  Educators become facilitators in this process, which creates an atmosphere that values the individual, encourages critical thinking and supports the idea that by working together, students become productive members or our global community.