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Upper School (5-8)

Designed to Help Students Thrive

Valley School’s Upper School is designed to help students thrive during the exciting stages of pre and early adolescence. We challenge our students with a rich and balanced academic program and provide many opportunities to explore interests outside the classroom. Beyond our core curriculum, they participate in visual and performing arts, athletics, technology, and a variety of clubs.  

Upper School teachers and students place a strong value on community. As a division, Upper School meets each morning to build community, foster self-awareness, develop healthy social, physical, and academic habits, and celebrate our successes and areas of growth. Regular “check-ins” with adults through our Advisory program promote healthy relationships and remind each child that they are valued. 

Teachers take great care in adapting the school experience for each developmental phase. As our students transition from the self-contained classrooms of the Lower School to the rigors of a college preparatory curriculum in the higher grades, they are granted more choices and greater independence and responsibility. In the Upper School, we work to meet students wherever they are in their unique learning trajectory, and if supplementary challenges or academic support is needed, our teachers and Learning Specialists are ready to provide tools for success.
At Valley School, we aim to help every child to discover and become their very best self.

List of 13 items.

  • ELA (English Language Arts)

    In ELA, Valley School students practice, demonstrate, and master a wide variety of reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary skills. Using Columbia’s Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Projects as the foundation of our instructional model, we focus on skill sets within each unit, model those skills with the use of anchor and mentor (reading and writing) texts, provide ample time for practice, and conference with students to evaluate progress and address individual needs. Opportunities for self-assessment, peer review, and collaboration with teachers elevate students’ engagement with texts and advance their reading and writing skills.

    As readers, students interact with a broad range of genres—memoir, fiction, short story, drama, and poetry. A research unit at each grade level provides students with opportunities to explore topics deeply and learn how to find and use nonfiction texts to gather credible information. As writers, they creatively and formally articulate ideas through the four main modes of writing: Narrative, Informative, Opinion/Argument, and Poetry. Each grade level introduces students to genres within these modes. 

    Students at Valley School also experience many opportunities for public speaking. ELA classes are discussion-based. Each year, students build upon the oratory skills they developed in previous grade levels, gradually assuming more responsibility for the creation of meaningful and productive discourse. 
  • Mathematics

    In grades 5-8, math classes are divided into three sections by ability and learning style. This format allows for small class sizes and targeted instruction. As in Lower School, Upper School math students use Math in Focus: Singapore Math program, which employs hands-on-learning, visualization, and pictorial representation to convey concepts and deepen understanding.   

    The Upper School Math Department utilizes a spiraled curriculum. This means that topics repeat from year to year, but with increased breadth and complexity. Through this format, students encounter a wide range of ideas while making connections between concepts and deepening their appreciation for the beautifully interconnected world that is mathematics. Valley School’s math teachers foster an environment that values risk-taking and learning from mistakes. 
  • Social Studies (Grades 5 & 6)

    Valley School’s Social Studies program uses the holistic process of project-based learning to create opportunities to master and demonstrate a wide variety of skills through the lens of history. Our curriculum applies the National Geographic Learning Framework, which provides the common language that defines learning along three dimensions: the attitudes, skills, and knowledge of explorers.

    5th- and 6th-graders study the origins of cultures and civilizations up through modern history. Hallmarks of the program include several intercurricular projects such as Settlement, World Civilization Museum, and Global Civics Project. 
  • History (Grades 7 & 8)

    Valley School’s History curriculum builds upon the National Geographic Learning Framework foundations established in 5th and 6th grade. Our students focus on early America, including settlement colonization, the American Revolution, and the establishment of our political system. 
    Through our Civil Conversations Program, students make meaningful connections with the world around them. As they research current events, they develop a complex understanding of selected global topics, learn to express their opinions articulately, and hone their respectful debate skills. Enjoying a forum within which to evaluate the significance of current events, students come to appreciate and respect diverse perspectives, and become inspired to engage in civic matters.

    Students seeking an accelerated curriculum that enables them to develop their research, writing, and verbal skills, can apply to take 8th-grade Honors U.S. History, an accelerated course designed to develop skills they will utilize in high school, college, careers, and civic life. This course provides enriched opportunities to practice and demonstrate collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Students who apply for enrollment in this course must demonstrate a strong work ethic, ability to consistently engage and share their voice during class discussions, and a willingness to advocate for additional opportunities for growth. 
  • Science

    Valley School aims to develop a high level of scientific literacy in our students. Throughout Upper School, students utilize the scientific method to investigate and understand the natural world. It is not uncommon to find our students in the woods and stream getting their hands dirty and their feet wet while learning about the environmental elements surrounding the school. Additionally, in our classrooms and labs, we stimulate students’ curiosity and nurture a lifelong love of learning about science. Our hope is that through deep connection with our natural world, our students will become future stewards of a healthy environment.
  • Technology

    Our Technology program enriches and broadens our students’ understanding of technology through collaborative project-based learning experiences. Students create solutions to real-world engineering problems, use coding skills for game design, learn programming for robotics, develop engineering skills for 3-D Blender modeling, and more. In partnership with InSpirit AI Pioneers, Valley School 8th-graders connect with programming engineers from top universities to learn up-to-date Artificial Intelligence technologies and create projects for social good. Throughout all levels of technology education, Valley School focuses on responsible digital safety and conscientious digital citizenship.
  • World Language

    The Upper School World Language curriculum familiarizes students with the language and the cultures of various Spanish-speaking countries. Students practice written and oral language skills including vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. The units covered throughout the year are scaffolded to help students become proficient writers, readers, and speakers of Spanish. Ultimately, our goal is for students to be culturally competent and to feel comfortable practicing their Spanish speaking skills in real-world contexts. The program incorporates the Somos curriculum and Realidades text books, as well as native Spanish literature.
  • Performing Arts

    Upper School Performing Arts students work individually and in groups to learn, practice, and develop their musical skills including rhythm and pitch recognition and response, tone production, sight-reading, listening and analysis, and composition. They also develop a deep appreciation and understanding of the cultural and historical contexts of musical traditions from around the world. Students have the opportunity to apply their learning in formal and informal vocal and instrumental performance settings including choir, orchestra, handbell choir, musical theater, percussion ensemble, world drumming ensemble, ukulele and guitar classes, and digital music production. Our hope is for each of our students to embrace a growth mindset, develop their musicianship daily, and understand the importance of respect, collaboration, and empathy as they learn how to make music with others.
  • Visual Arts

    The Upper School Visual Arts program guides students as they explore the artistic process through hands-on art experiences that require creative thinking, innovation, and project-based learning. Valley School’s Art Studio includes indoor and outdoor spaces. Inside, students have areas where they can work and create with the tools and equipment they need, while our outdoor spaces elicit creative exploration, reflection, and inspiration. Our goal is for all Valley School students to develop a comfort with creative self-expression.

    Upper School Elective Visual Arts offerings include Mosaic Design and Process, Printmaking, Painting, Architecture, Foundations of Design, Ceramics, and Sculpture. Our Fort Days Parade Float elective is a signature course through which students collaborate on an interdisciplinary large-scale project that fuses U.S. history, costume design, 3-D art, and performance.
  • Physical Education

    In Upper School, Physical Education activities provide a framework for the development of team concepts, including game strategies, competition, sportsmanship, and collaboration. In order to derive the optimal benefits from physical activity, coaches design challenging sport-specific experiences that help our young athletes achieve success on the court and playing fields. 

    At the 5th- and 6th-grade levels, developmental field hockey, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse skills are emphasized during the athletic seasons. Team strategies and game rules are implemented, and intrasquad scrimmages and games are sometimes played near the end of the season. In 7th and 8th grades (Athletics), interscholastic participation in these sports is compulsory.
  • Character Development: Advisory

    The Valley School Advisory Program is a community-within-a-community designed to foster self-knowledge, academic success, and beneficial decision-making skills. With a focus on our Valley Core Values, Advisors create lessons that promote thoughtfulness and guide students toward academic, social, and emotional success. By cultivating positive peer and student-adult relationships, the Advisory program also strengthens students’ sense of belonging and contributes to a positive school culture. Advisors provide added support as they monitor students’ progress and act as a liaison between home and school.
  • Clubs

    Outside of Valley School’s core curriculum, Upper School Clubs are designed to provide students with enjoyable opportunities to explore interests, develop passions, and express themselves creatively. In the interest of diversity of experience, multiple Club options are available every other Friday. Though students may choose to attend the same Club multiple times, many enjoy mixing it up. Club offerings are student-driven, and in the past have included: Indoor Gym, Outdoor Sports, Fly Fishing, Card-playing, Chess, Board Games, Trivia Club, All About Art, Bracelets & Beads, Legos, Build & Explore, Origami, and more.
  • Community Service: Doing Good Works

    In keeping with our founding mission, Valley School is committed to supporting individuals and causes through service. We want our students to become compassionate and philanthropic young adults who will contribute to our future world. Therefore, community service—“doing good works”—is fundamental to the Valley School experience. Each year, beginning with Day of Caring in September, our students are actively engaged in many hands-on community service projects—both on campus and in our local community. Our partnerships with regional organizations like STAT Ligonier Therapeutic Center, Loyalhanna Watershed Association, Ligonier Country Market, Laurel Area Faith in Action, Bethlen Home, and a number of volunteer fire departments, demonstrate to our students that there are countless opportunities to make a positive difference in our world.

Valley School of Ligonier

Address: 153 Lupine Lane, Rector PA 15677
Mail: PO Box 616 Ligonier, PA 15658
Phone: (724) 238-6652  Fax: (724) 238-6838
In an environment that is safe, challenging, nurturing, and disciplined, Valley School provides a balanced and strong program of study for a diverse group of children. Our goal is to stimulate in each young person lifelong habits of moral behavior, seeking wisdom, and doing good works for others.
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