The development of students as mathematicians is fostered through an emphasis on skills, content, problem-solving strategies, and communication. In alignment with California State Standards, the material spirals, with the expectation of mastery and a continuing development and integration of concepts.
A new Lower School math curriculum, Bridges in Mathematics, was introduced in 2010-2011 and is now used in grades kindergarten through five. In 2010-2011, the College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM) curriculum used in the sixth through eighth grades was updated and enhanced by the authors of CPM. Eighth graders may take an advanced elective in geometry.
The student as scientist is the focus of the science program and, as such, the curriculum is rooted in project-based inquiry and experiments. Mastery is achieved through intertwined content strands that include knowledge of scientific explanations of the natural world; generation of scientific evidence; and sophisticated discussion of the development of scientific theories.
Course work includes units developed by St. Paul’s faculty, as well as by Lawrence Hall of Science, Science Education for Public Understanding, and Interact. The Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Environmental Award for Excellence in 2004 to Susan Porter, sixth grade science and math teacher, for her science curriculum related to Lake Merritt.
|Reading and Writing|
The curriculum begins with the core principles of reading and writing, taught in kindergarten, first, and second grades, and moves into increasingly complex comprehension and writing skills. Grammar and spelling skills are explicitly taught. In grades three through five, students explore, analyze, and create in multiple literary genres. Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders hone their skills in presenting arguments in five- or eight-paragraph essays. Students become literary critics and aficionados of irony.
The Lower School Librarian and the Sixth Grade and Middle School Librarian work closely with each student to find books that are well suited in content, interest, and ability.
Acting in the roles of geographers, historians, and social scientists, students explore a range of cultures through projects, simulations, readings, artistic renderings, and research papers. Students simulate pioneer life, pan for gold, design a civilization and bury its artifacts, and collect oral histories of family members.
Informed by California State Standards, the social studies curriculum emphasizes the development of critical reading and thinking skills through a study of important periods, events and patterns in U.S. and world history. Students analyze common themes that continue to appear in political and social history, such as racism, xenophobia, economic stratification, and political disenfranchisement.
Instruction in Spanish begins in kindergarten and first grade with an exploratory program, led by classroom teachers. Spanish language specialists formally teach Spanish in grades two through eight. Dance, music, art, workbooks, and interactive online learning engage all kinds of language learners, including those who learn best through kinesthetic, auditory, or visual means. Students develop the ability to conduct increasingly nuanced conversations.
Spanish instruction increases from two classes per week in the Lower School, to three classes per week in sixth grade, and four classes per week in seventh and eighth grades. In grades six, seven, and eight, students use the Realidades series of textbook, workbook, and interactive website.
Service Learning is core to the mission of St. Paul’s and is an integrated part of classroom instruction. Projects may extend over the course of the school year. Service Learning includes first graders making sandwiches for a family homeless shelter in Berkeley; second graders assisting elders at the weekly St. Paul’s Food Co-op; third graders conducting the longest running waterfowl census at Lake Merritt; and sixth graders studying the eco-system of Lake Merritt.
The National Association of Independent Schools in 2004 awarded the Leading Edge Award to the St. Paul’s Service Learning curriculum.
|Music, Performing Arts, and Fine Arts|
All students at St. Paul’s are singers, rhythmic musicians, and performers. Students develop vocal technique, an ability to play rhythm instruments, and experience with music theory, movement, and drama. Students produce music individually, in small groups, and in the St. Paul’s Band, as well as in whole class ensembles. Music and performing arts classes typically meet twice a week in the Lower School, three times a week in sixth grade, and as an elective in seventh and eighth grades. Performances are held several times a year.
The study of visual arts is cumulative and sequential. Students learn techniques for two-dimensional and three-dimensional media, including drawing, collage, clay, fiber, and wire. Art history is integrated into instruction.
Through games and activities, students develop agility, strength, balance, and cardiovascular fitness. Physical education classes meet three times a week in grades K-6, and at least twice a week in grades seven and eight, where PE classes are supplemented by once-a-week electives that include athletic activities.
Positive physical experiences offer students the opportunity to learn leadership, cooperation, and teamwork.
St. Paul’s welcomes students and families from all faiths, or none. Weekly Friday morning Chapel presentations, coordinated by the School Chaplain, do not teach any one belief system, but introduce students to the spiritual mind and its wisdom.
These student-led presentations celebrate teachings and holidays from the world’s major religions, as well as ethical themes.
The student as a respectful, open-minded, and empathetic citizen is the focus of the social curriculum. The Responsive Classroom approach is used in grades K-6, including morning meetings, student goal setting, and logical rules and consequences. Students in grades seven and eight are assigned to small, same gender advising groups, which meet once a week for two years and provide a forum for teaching problem-solving skills
In 2010-2011, the Connected and Respected curriculum began to be integrated into the social curriculum in all grades, K-8.
|Reporting Sort-Of Live from Earthquake Disasters, 4th Graders Display their Knowledge|
Possessing the knowledge base of seismologists and the calm of foreign correspondents, fourth grader weather reporters last week aired their broadcasts of powerful earthquake disasters around the globe. Unfazed by background images of raging fires, a car leaping out of building, and a grisly search for survivors, the young reporters explained the causes of these dangerous seismic events and offered tips for preparedness.
Among the fascinating "explainers" provided by the news teams were lucid descriptions of P (for primary) waves and S (for secondary) waves (ask a fourth grader or click on this explainer from the Tech Museum), as well as aftershocks, tectonic plates, and epicenters (ask a fourth grader or click on this explainer from US Geological Survey.)
The project brought together science research and writing, video production, and presentation skills. Working with technology teacher Ms. Malabed, the fourth graders filmed each other reading from scripts in front of a "green screen" - which later was filled in with disaster images. Film production sessions had the ring of Hollywood.
"Ready talent?" asked fourth grade producer Maceo.
"Ready," replied fourth grade news anchor Dezia, script in hand, sitting calmly before the green screen.
|Fifth Grade Historians Display Their Books About Civil Rights|
After months immersed in primary and secondary sources about the Civil Right Movement, fifth graders last week presented their research projects — hard-bound books they had written and illustrated for children. Fifth grade classrooms became exhibit halls, with books arranged on rows of desks and students moving quietly, stopping to read about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Children's March, among other topics, and to write comments.
On hand was historian Andrea McEvoy Spero, Ed.D., a curriculum consultant at Stanford University's Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, who in the fall brought primary source material to students. To aid students' research into the era, Dr. Spero had shared with students a 1954 letter to the mayor of Montgomery from Jo Ann Robinson, president of the Women's Political Council and a typewritten 1956 list of "Integrated Bus Suggestions," among other artifacts. Students were thrilled to show her their final projects.
"i'm so glad I could be here," said Dr. Spero.
The students' research also included meeting and talking with Don Jelinek, a lawyer who worked in the South for three years, beginning in 1965. Mr. Jelinek, who spoke to the students in the Lower School library, talked candidly of the dangers of working to enforce the legal rights of black citizens at that time. Mr. Jelinek's account of his work in civil rights may be read here.
|Dear Pres. Obama: Kindergartners Write Their Hopes |
"Dear President Obama," the letters from kindergarten students began. "Thank you for being my president and for doing such a good job! In the next four years, I hope that you will...."
In a week when newly inaugurated President Barack Obama was barraged with advice, St. Paul's kindergarten students added their opinions about what they'd like him to do in the next four years. On Wednesday morning, the kindergartners watched a video about Pres. Obama, discussed the role of the president, and then put marker to paper.
"The letters are actually going to the White House," observed kindergartner Maya. Indeed. Next week, kindergarten teacher Ms. Mandrapa will send the letters in a bundle to Pennsylvania Ave. (As a side note, St. Paul's Board Co-Chair Jim Dorskind served as Director of Presidential Correspondence under former Pres. Bill Clinton. "Every president particularly likes kids' mail," he said about the kindergartners' missives.)
When it comes to declaring one's hopes for the near future, where does one begin? Some of the students quickly and succinctly articulated their goals for the president — "End war" — while others took a moment to respond to the enormity of the question. Pres. Obama would be reading their words and ideas, so they wanted to get them right.