A Living Curriculum
At the center of our academic approach is the simple idea that all learning is self-learning. Teachers bring the material to the students in a lively, pictorial way, which allows each student to take it in imaginatively, grapple with the concepts for themselves and truly make it their own. Teachers work carefully to keep all sorts of learners deeply engaged in the content. A single lesson might consist of a lively physical activity, quiet listening as an historical event is recounted in narrative, creating an illustration, expository writing or mastering a piece of music from the time period!
main lesson AND the block system
At MWS, the heart of the school day is Main Lesson, a two-hour academic intensive held each morning. Taught by the class teacher, Main Lesson is devoted to a single core subject over a three- to four-week academic block. This block approach gives students time for in-depth exploration of language arts, mathematics, sciences and social studies. Students create their own Main Lesson books that hold original writing, math formulas, lab observations and carefully rendered illustrations, documenting true academic reflections of learning and inquiry. These Main Lesson books become absorbing and treasured keepsakes for students and parents alike!
Students explore the beauty of language in speech, literature, poetry, drama and composition. In the early grades, students develop a sense for the musical nature of language as teachers focus on the oral traditions of stories, poems and verses. Reading instruction begins with writing as first grade students create their own book of the alphabet. In second grade, reading takes off naturally and with enthusiasm. A thoughtful selection of books enhances the curriculum in later grades and students receive careful instruction in grammatical concepts as well as both print and cursive handwriting. Students weave all these skills together in compositions, research reports and oral presentations. Every year, each grade performs a class play, where students explore literature, history and the beauty of the spoken word in truly remarkable performances, developing lasting skills and confidence in public speaking.
Through engaging, hands-on lessons, daily mental math practice builds powers of concentration and an understanding of mathematical concepts. In the early grades, students learn to write numerals, explore concepts of place value and borrowing, ponder big numbers and size up the world around us through weight, distance, measurement, time and money. Fourth and fifth grade students dive into the complexities of factoring, fractions, ratios, decimals and metrics as well as the study of ancient mathematical systems in conjunction with their course work in ancient civilizations. Middle school students are ready for more abstract concepts and begin a multi-year study of algebra and geometry as well as percentages, graphing and business math.
Our science curriculum is centered on direct observation and experience, from which the students arrive at some of the greatest scientific discoveries and theories themselves. In the early grades, children vividly experience the natural world around them through nature stories, celebration of the seasons and lengthy outdoor adventures. Fourth graders explore comparative zoology and fifth graders study botany as they observe plants over time in relation to their natural environment. In middle school, students pursue multi-year studies of geology, chemistry, physics, anatomy and physiology.
Students experience global cultures and historical themes throughout the grades, drawn from rich and diverse sources. First and second grade students hear engaging stories of people and places in folk tales, mythology and fables. Third grade students explore how human beings began living on earth and how they shelter, clothe and feed themselves across the world through farming, agriculture and building. Local geography and history are the focus of fourth grade, and geographic exploration expands further as students delve into North America in fifth grade, South America in sixth grade and Africa, Europe, and Asia in seventh and eighth grade.
World history is explored chronologically from ancient civilization to modern times, beginning with the ancient cultures of India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece in fifth grade. Sixth graders study the Middle Ages, including early Islamic history and the rise and fall of the Holy Roman Empire. Seventh graders explore the inventions and art of the Renaissance and the age of Exploration. In eighth grade, students trace the major political and cultural revolutions that shaped the modern world from the Industrial Revolution to current day.