Our Upper School, comprised of grades fifth through eighth, is the culminating experience of Advent's academic curriculum. Expanding on the recurring themes of community, culture, confidence, compassion, and continuity from the lower school curriculum, upper school students study a variety of subjects across various disciplines. Building on the strength of program from the Lower School, Upper School students grow in their analytical, critical thinking, and creative skills.

Our Upper School students continue to develop their leadership skills and grow in their independence. Our Upper School program seeks to build on the early foundations of our Pre-K, K, and Lower School program as students prepare for high school, college, and beyond. 

Upper School Curriculum

Language Arts

List of 4 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    Fifth grade students write short analytical pieces to demonstrate understanding of their reading while producing longer compositions in creative genres. Long term writing projects in 5th grade include memoir, fiction, and poetry; writing is supported by the reading of mentor texts in each genre. Fifth grade students learn frameworks for better understanding of both fiction and non-fiction texts; by recognizing certain deep textual features, students are able to develop thoughtful questions that lead to more complex analysis of their reading. In addition, fifth graders engage in a significant amount of independent reading to continue building confident and consistent readers with strong reading identities. Reading and writing is supported by vocabulary instruction focused on classic Latin and Greek roots and by grammar instruction to improve syntax.
  • Sixth Grade

    Sixth grade students expand their meta-cognitive understanding of writing through assignments and projects that invite reflection on the writing process and the different layers of effective writing. Writing includes concise summaries; research-based exposition; argumentative writing; and an introduction to multi-modal composition. Students demonstrate synthesis of information from multiple sources through writing, and they learn to make complex editorial choices while composing. In addition to independent reading, students embark on their first study of a Shakespearean play and read classic and contemporary novels paired with non-fiction texts about related themes. Grammar instruction focuses on increasingly complex syntax with attention to clauses; vocabulary draws from high-frequency SAT words with attention to precise usage. As a special project, students engage in a mini-unit on film studies and apply what they learn to the composition of a graphic novel adaptation of the Shakespeare play they’ve read. The final component of their Shakespeare study is a week long performance workshop culminating in live performances of scenes from the respective play.
  • Seventh Grade

    Seventh grade language arts focuses on narrative structure. Students learn different frameworks for analyzing the structures of stories and apply those frameworks to novels, films, and even nonfiction writing. In addition to ongoing independent reading, students read a whole class novel to support their study of narrative structure. In writing, during the first semester students encounter nonfiction journalistic writing such as feature stories, profiles, and critical reviews. Students have an opportunity to write using the forms and styles of these genres through projects such as faculty profiles. In the second semester, students complete a long-term book podcast project that incorporates reading, writing, and technology. For this project students choose two fiction novels by a single author and write, record, edit, and publish a podcast exploring the literary elements of their selected books. Vocabulary instruction is expanded to etymological inquiries into our word lists, and grammar studies focus on the logical relationships between words and phrases in a sentence.
  • Eighth Grade

    Eighth grade language arts students are well prepared for high school after a year of critically evaluating classic literature while extensively writing and revising literary analysis essays. Students undergo an intensive research process related to literature and master elements of MLA style. Also in eighth grade, students complete their cycle of Shakespeare with a study of Romeo & Juliet and a special trip to see the play performed at the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta.


List of 6 items.

  • Fifth Grade (Course I)

    Fifth grade math begins the study of higher level math concepts and thinking. Utilizing a traditionally sixth grade course (Course I), students dive deeper into the concepts of number operations, properties, data, fractions, and functions.This course is an important foundation in higher level math thinking.
  • Sixth Grade (Course II)

    Course II math is an amazing opportunity for students to hone in on their mathematical basics of algebra and geometry.This seventh grade course book covers a variety pre-algebra and geometry concepts. Students are able to build on the concepts learned in fifth grade to dive deeper into both pre-algebra and geometry.
  • Sixth Grade (Course II/Pre-Algebra)

    6th Grade/Pre-Algebra is an accelerated hybrid course designed for students who show exceptional ability and work ethic in mathematics. The course brings together content from previous years with algebra topics to prepare students to take Algebra 1 in 7th grade. The first semester takes topics that students are familiar with from previous years and infuses them with algebraic thinking. In the second semester, students begin to learn some of the most important building blocks of the secondary math curriculum. This strong foundation equips students to be successful in Algebra 1, Geometry, and beyond.
  • Seventh Grade (Pre-Algebra)

    Pre-Algebra students begin to lay the foundation for the secondary math curriculum. Students are introduced to integers, fractions, square roots, step equations, linear equations and decimals and are taught how to solve basic equations using variables. Students are exposed to the fundamentals of algebra and build a foundation for future algebraic exploration.
  • Seventh & Eighth Grades (Algebra I)

    In Algebra I, students learn many new things that lay a foundation for the rest of the secondary math curriculum. Taking what they learned in Pre-Algebra to a different level, students learn about characteristics of various functions and how they help to solve problems. While the Algebra I course builds on prior knowledge, much of the content of the course is typically new for students. Since algebra is a relatively new language for students, Algebra I helps students become familiar and comfortable with various algebraic phrases (expressions) and sentences (equations). The skills students learn in Algebra I prepare them for math in high school and are directly applicable in all future math courses.
  • Eighth Grade (Geometry)

    Geometry is a course that requires careful examination of the logic behind mathematical realities. Students must justify the truth of statements in order to prove logically that certain conclusions are actually true. Some of the geometric relationships that students discover along the way are intuitive while others can be surprising. Geometry is a logical thinking course that promotes detailed analysis of the foundations of 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional space. It also teaches students to think for themselves and to figure out why formulas work and how we know what we know about shapes and their fascinating properties.


List of 4 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    Fifth grade science is based on a series of STEM missions. These missions consist of Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth Science.The students work through each mission, and then review their findings. In the spring, students complete a twelve week project studying the photo periods of ten mystery locations around the world.This helps the students to understand seasons, the rotation of the earth around the sun, and learn about new cultures around the world.
  • Sixth Grade

    Sixth grade science is devoted to the study of the Earth.The class starts with the very beginning of our universe.Students learn how the Solar system was created and how Earth became our planet.Students then begin the study of the Earth itself.These topics range from plate tectonics to how weather is created.Students also study land animals and sea animals.
  • Seventh Grade

    Students expand upon their abstract thinking skills in 7th Grade Life Science. As much of the material in this course focuses on processes that cannot be seen with the naked eye, students develop higher level critical and abstract thinking skills. Association and application to daily life and processes they are familiar with is prioritized, as is further self-awareness from a biological perspective. Students develop greater proficiency in note-taking and problem solving within the context of individual work and also group laboratory projects. Major topics in Life Science include cellular biology, microbiology, genetics, taxonomy, zoology, anatomy, physiology, and botany.
  • Eighth Grade

    Students in eighth grade undertake a lab-based, inquiry-based physical science course, with heavy emphasis based on writing within the context of formal scientific lab reports. The scientific method is constantly reinforced throughout the year via experimentation, recording of data, and interpretation of data. Students at this stage have acquired enough math and writing skills to make cross-curricular connections at every stage of the process, in addition to learning new concepts about the physical world. As in 7th grade science, much of the material in this class focuses on processes that are too small to actually observe in real life; therefore, further development of abstract thinking skills is reinforced and emphasized. In addition to the lab-based portion of the course, students also focus on basic concepts in chemistry and physics, including balancing chemical equations and determining electron-ground states.

Social Studies

List of 4 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    Fifth grade social studies focuses specifically on American history with an emphasis on the Constitution of 1787. Students discuss current national and global events in tandem with their study of American history in order to further develop their understanding of living history. Fifth grade social studies builds on many of the ideas and events that have been covered in the Lower School such that students begin to put together the historical pieces they have learned into a cohesive whole.
  • Sixth Grade

    Sixth grade social studies focuses on world geography and cultures around the globe. In addition to their study of different world regions, students regularly discuss current events and the ways in which those events relate to their overall understanding of diverse regions and cultures. Students are guided through a process that encourages them to appreciate their life and their place in humanity.
  • Seventh Grade

    Seventh grade history presents a time-line oriented approach to the bigger picture of world history. Building on concepts covered throughout the Lower School and during their sixth grade year, students dive deeper into world history through the study of the five millennia. Active discussion around current national and global events is a critical component of students' studies.
  • Eighth Grade

    Eighth grade students have the opportunity to examine and analyze their identify as Americans. Students in eighth grade social studies focus on American history with an emphasis on the twentieth century. Students learn that history is something that must be practiced, not just read about, and students are put into the process themselves.


List of 4 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    Fifth grade French focuses on speaking development. During the first semester, students learn and produce a play about the morning of the first day of school in the life of a family. Students focus on learning vocabulary around commands, breakfast, clothing, and furniture. Additionally through the continued lens of the first day of school, students learn the names of French accent marks, the vocabulary of school subjects, the content of a backpack, classroom commands, interrogative words, and some question forms. The second semester introduces a study of French culture and expands students’ French vocabulary and understanding of more complex interrogative words. Students learn how to express what they know how to do, likes and dislikes, and an introduction to telling time.
  • Sixth Grade

    Sixth grade French students build on the vocabulary acquired in previous years of study. Students are introduced to expressions with avoir and the near future with aller. Students learn about café foods, ordering in a café, preferences, forest animals and what they eat, buildings in a town, directions, question formation using inversion, interrogative adverbs, and an introduction to the past tense. Readings and cultural elements include an exploration of the fables of La Fontaine. Regular and irregular verb conjugations are learned. Students are introduced to the story-telling method of language instruction. They learn to introduce and talking about themselves.
  • Seventh Grade

    Seventh grade French focuses on the francophone world which includes: French regions, including typical architectural styles and products, world travel and exploration of arctic, North African, and Asian countries. Grammatical structures include the imperfect tense, the simple past tense with avoir and être of regular and irregular verbs, the demonstrative adjective, questions with Quel, additional practice with interrogative adverbs in questions, professions. Seventh grade students also have the opportunity to join the French Club and participate in the French Convention as members of the group choral presentation.
  • Eighth Grade

    Eighth grade students participate in a verb “boot camp” with a review of the present, imperfect, and simple past forms of regular and irregular verbs. There is a cultural focus on French food and dining, the history of Paris, and the Second World War. Students watch the films Le voyage de Fanny and Les Choristes and retell elements of the saga orally and in writing. Students receive a class participation grade based on a self-monitored rubric that they submit weekly. Highlights of the eighth grade year French curriculum include a French dinner at a student home, membership in the French Club with participation in a skit, song(s), and related competitions at the annual French Convention in Tuscaloosa.


List of 4 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    Fifth grade students learn irregular time signatures, all major and minor key signatures, all musical intervals, chord qualities, and basic cadences as well as expanding upon musical forms.
  • Sixth Grade

    Sixth grade students further analyze music in terms of forms and application of concepts and terms learned throughout their studies so far. They also apply ideas of expression and musical intent to their studies of the Baroque period.
  • Seventh Grade

    Seventh grade students continue to expand on chordal building and analyzing through the movement of inner parts, identifying and composing basic chord movement and cadences using the rules of tonal harmony. They also begin to learn about the Classical era of music, expanding on the forms of the Baroque period into those of the Classical period.
  • Eighth Grade

    Eighth grade students are able to analyze and compose music using tonal harmony in four parts for either voices or instruments. They also learn about the Romantic era and its composers, forms, and most famous pieces. Eighth graders are able to sight read any age-appropriate piece in one and two parts.


List of 4 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    Upper school students continue to utilize the artistic skills they have developed in lower school. Fifth grade students incorporate the elements of art (line, shape, color, texture, value, space and form) in their creations. Instruction focuses on major art making processes of drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, photography and ceramics. Students continue to use a sketchbook and/or sketching activities to develop and reflect on their art creations.
  • Sixth Grade

    Sixth grade students further develop the skills from lower school and fifth grade, utilizing the elements of art (line, shape, color, texture value, form and space) in the exploration of drawing, painting, collage, photography, printmaking and ceramics. In sixth grade students begin to practice basic techniques on the pottery wheel. Students also use more advanced tools such as linoleum carving tools in printmaking and exacto knives and protractors in collage making.
  • Seventh Grade

    Seventh grade students expand upon the skills they have developed in lower school and the previous upper school years. Students create artworks in major art processes such as drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, ceramics, and photography using the elements of art (line, shape color, texture, value, form and space) to create artworks reflecting teacher and individually selected themes. Students study contemporary artists as well as artists from art history and begin to work on visual journal activities incorporating illustration and writing to respond to open ended prompts.
  • Eighth Grade

    In the final year of visual art class at Advent students continue to work with all of the skills that have built from previous years. As in previous grades students produce drawing, painting, collage, photography and ceramics projects as well as sketching and visual journal responses. Students create a self portrait as a capstone project utilizing drawing skills that they have developed over the years. Students are also exposed to more advanced painting techniques and often have the opportunity to use oil paints.


List of 4 items.

  • Worship

    Students learn the basic of participation in and leadership of a brief service of worship from the Book of Common Prayer. Students learn to identify the seasons of the liturgical year. Students also learn about specific feasts and fasts of the liturgical year and their significance.
  • Bible

    In addition to the specific Bible lessons, scripture is used throughout students' studies for support and enrichment. Students learn to identify Hebrew (Old Testament) and Christian (New Testament) scriptures and major components of each. Students also become familiar with and comfortable using the Bible with a focus on locating passages and reflecting and discovering the meaning of them. Students learn about literary and liturgical forms found in the Bible as well as the formation of the Biblical canon.
  • Tradition

    Students learn about the saints of the church and explore biographies of different saints each year. Students also learn about martyrs, specifically various Christian martyrs.
  • Outreach

    Students research, select, plan, implement, and evaluate at one outreach project each year.


Upper School students utilize the Explorium, our school library, for various research and writing assignments. They work through a formalized curriculum that addresses digital citizenship, research skills, and literary analysis.


All Upper School students participate in daily physical education classes. Students utilize both the indoor gym and rooftop gym. Instruction is focused on basic sports skill development (soccer, basketball, volleyball, etc.) as well as teamwork and sportsmanship.


Advent utilizes a 1:1 technology program in the Upper School. All students are required to bring their own personal Google Chromebook to school daily. Technology instruction is integrated into their core curriculum.

Upper School Field Trips

Field trips continue to play a key role in creating an authentic inter-curriculum experience for our upper school students. Just as our younger students benefit from understanding more about the world (and city and state!) around them, our older students continue to more deeply understand and apply the concepts they are learning about in the classroom through various field trips during the year. It is important that our upper school students understand the advantage of having the larger downtown "classroom" just outside their Advent classroom doors! While upper school students take a variety of trips throughout the year, below are some of the key field trips each grade takes.

Fifth Grade

List of 4 items.

  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

    Students build on their experience from the walking tour during lower school by visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to gain a deeper understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and particularly the importance that Birmingham has in that story.
  • Children's Theatre

    Each year, the fifth grade students attend an age appropriate production that is being showcased. Last year, the 5th grade attended Encore which is a collection from five great authors: Edgar Allen Poe, Washington Irving, W.W. Jacobs, Guy de Maupassant, and Mark Twain. The performance was held at the historic Alabama Theatre.
  • Red Mountain Park

    Utilizing our easy access to Red Mountain Park nearby, fifth grade students participate in the Magic City Hike. A guide walks them along the ruins of old mine structures and railroad beds learning how Red Mountain Park iron ore once fed the nations thirst for steel. This trip serves as a critical component of understanding our city's history.
  • Washington D.C.

    Every year the fifth grade travels to Washington D.C. Particularly complementing their social studies curriculum, This overnight field trip, which includes teachers and parents, allows students the opportunity to explore a variety of D.C. museums, tours, and experiences. The trip enhances their study of the Revolutionary War, the workings of Congress, and the dynamics and relationship of support that exists between various branches of government.

Sixth Grade

List of 3 items.

  • Camp McDowell

    A long tradition of the sixth grade year, this is a three day/two night trip to Camp McDowell, an Episcopal camp located just north of Jasper, AL. The Environmental Center at Camp McDowell has been in operation for over twenty years and has a mission to connect people to the environment, teach respect for the earth and its beings, and to promote a commitment to lifelong learning. Classes vary, but typically the students take classes covering a variety of topics including life science, earth science, American history, survival skills, and social skills.
  • Shakespeare Performance

    Sixth graders attend at least one Shakespeare performance each year.
  • Tuskegee

    The field trip to Tuskegee offers a wonderful historic perspective and reinforcement of the importance of Booker T. Washington and the early 20th century movement to foster social and economic advancement through education and job training.

Seventh Grade

List of 6 items.

  • Dauphin Island

    The three day trip to Dauphin Island takes place during the spring. While primarily a science trip, it also includes Alabama History. Students classify local flora and fauna while learning abut the significance of the barrier island on local ecosystems and geography. It also serves as an opportunity to foster independence among the students and continues to help develop the class's ability to work together before they begin their final, eighth grade year.
  • Montgomery Civil Rights Memorial and the Freedom Riders Museum

    Students travel to Montgomery to visit the Montgomery Civil Rights Memorial and the Freedom Riders Museum. The trip is designed to coincide with the study of black history and the struggle for equality.
  • Negro Southern League Museum

    Students are able to tour the museum and meet former players in the league as they learn more about the story of African-American baseball in America.
  • Regions Field

    The field trip to Regions Field offers students the chance to tour the facility which highlights trends in Birmingham's growth and the civic boosting power of sports.
  • Shakespeare Performance

    Seventh grade students attend at least one Shakespeare performance each year.
  • Sloss Furnaces

    Sloss Furnaces is a National Historic Landmark in Birmingham that operated as a large iron-producing blast furnace from 1882-1971. The students have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on iron pour activity.

Eighth Grade

List of 2 items.

  • Cahaba River Canoe Trip

    The canoe trip down the Cahaba River is a wonderful opportunity for eighth graders to celebrate the end of the year while also learning about one of the most biodiverse places in the country. The Cahaba River is literally in our backyard, but many students are unaware of how to access it. Students learn about canoing, seining, and collection of macro-invertebrates on this day long trip.
  • Shakespeare Performance

    Eighth grade students attend a Shakespeare performance each year held as a part of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery or the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta depending on which plays are being performed during the season.
Founded in 1950 and located in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, Advent Episcopal School is a coeducational, college-preparatory day school for students grades Junior Pre-Kindergarten through 8th.