Upper School Special Subjects
The Grade 4 curriculum is organized around the study of sacred spaces, symbols, and stories, beginning with those within our own families. The course begins with students sharing sacred family stories, exploring the sacred space of St. Patrick’s, and finding their voices in that space. Students read and explore different themes of covenant, community, responsibility, and the goodness of God as expressed in sacred stories found in the Hebrew Bible. Through primarily student-led class discussions, art and art history, scripture readings, and videos, students explore the formation of the Hebrew people, the ethical lessons of their sacred stories, and the teachings of a loving God. Course discussions honor the variety of religious expressions among students.
The Grade 5 curriculum is organized around social justice. Students explore the ways in which history, the parables of Jesus, and sacred texts from Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism inform our understanding of serving others. Students explore how empathy, compassion, and justice can be fostered in the school community and the larger world. All students participate in our annual Gifts for Good alternative holiday gifts fair and hear from guest speakers from throughout the greater Washington area about what it takes to serve and uphold the dignity of every human being. Close reading and discussion of scripture from many different faiths, writing projects, class discussions, and videos frame the subject matter and enhance the classroom experience. Ultimately, students will learn the essential link between faith and action.
Through the study of world religions, the Grade 6 and Grade 7 curriculum seeks to encourage understanding of, and respect and appreciation for, the pluralistic world in which we live. The class begins with an exploration of what religion is, followed by an in-depth look at a number of the world’s religions. Using religious artifacts, reflection, note-taking in a world religions journal, creative writing projects, film, and guest lectures, Grade 6 students explore Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Grade 7 students expand their inquiry to Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as additional faith traditions chosen by the students as time permits. Studying the people, dimensions, principles, and worship life of adherents of the world’s major religions, the class seeks to broaden the students’ cultural and religious understanding, while deepening their own sense of spiritual identity.
The Grade 8 religion course is a study of ethics. Embedded in the humanities curriculum, the course examines the social, cultural, and spiritual influences that inform our personal ethical decisions as well as the values that have shaped our history. This introductory study of ethics and moral formation challenges students to identify the values that they hold and the origins of those values. Through philosophical arguments, literature, historical documents, and personal reflection, students examine the many ways in which individuals and communities live their values and then compare these values with their own. In doing so, students are challenged to examine the complexities of ethical decision-making and the various value systems that have shaped the human experience in general and American history in particular. Students therefore apply an ethical framework to their study of the Progressive Era, the response to the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the Civil Rights Movement.
Students in Grade 4 continue their study of Spanish language and culture. Meeting three times in a six day cycle, they immerse themselves in a multi-sensory environment. Through conversations, activities, and the use of technology, students continue to build a working knowledge of the Spanish language. Students continue to learn everyday vocabulary and incorporate this vocabulary into conversations. Students learn to express likes and dislikes as they begin to form complete sentences. At the end of the year, students read a short novel, which supports and strengthens their understanding of how to ask questions, form proper grammatical structures, employ basic verb conjugations, and expand their vocabulary. Students learn about various traditions and customs in the Spanish-speaking world and, by year’s end, are able to express basic ideas in Spanish, both orally and in writing.
Students in Grade 5 continue to become familiar with speaking and listening while learning grammatical concepts and building on their existing vocabulary. Classes are multi-sensory and provide haptic, auditory, and visual input with the goal of helping students become confident in reading, writing, listening, and participating in conversations and discussions that employ the vocabulary learned in the course. Following a comprehensive review of the previous year, students embark on a more intensive Spanish course, which eschews English in the classroom. During the year, students have several oral presentations geared toward developing confidence in speaking Spanish and, at the end of the year, they read a short novel in Spanish, which provides multiple opportunities to use the language orally and in writing.
The Grade 6 course is conducted primarily in Spanish. The main goal is to continue to develop the skills of listening, speaking, writing, and reading while building knowledge of Hispanic culture. Grade 6 students also develop their reading and writing skills through class projects, which allow them to acquire and solidify vocabulary and grammar concepts. Other activities include reading short novels in Spanish, participating in dialogues, role-playing, games, songs, and projects related to holidays, culture, and geography.
The Grade 7 course, which is conducted primarily in Spanish, is centered on improving both oral and written communication. It emphasizes listening comprehension and the use of basic conversational patterns of Spanish. Elementary grammatical and idiomatic structures, as well as appropriate reading material, are introduced. This year is critical for students as they solidify the structural foundations upon which future progress is based. Topics covered include articles, numbers, nouns, possessive adjectives, interrogatives, and regular and irregular verbs in the present and preterite tenses. Understanding proper sentence structure and incorporating daily vocabulary are both essential to building a strong foundation in the language. Students also acquire a wealth of cultural knowledge and awareness about the areas of the world in which Spanish is spoken.
As the culmination of the study of a second language at St. Patrick’s, the Grade 8 course builds on students’ Spanish language skills acquired to this point. The class is centered on refining four essential skills: Listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Following on the Grade 7 grammar study, students learn many new tenses, including the imperfect, future, and present progressive. Students also learn to use reflexive verbs, demonstrative adjectives and pronouns, and double-object pronouns with various verb structures. In addition to regular class exercises, students learn about different Spanish-speaking countries, focusing on geography, history, and cultural attractions. By the end of Grade 8, students are able to express themselves orally with more confidence, and they begin to write longer and more complex compositions.
The Grade 4 curriculum further develops students’ observational skills, use of the elements of art, and proficiency with tools and materials. It integrates with some classroom units such as geometry and the concept of journal-keeping. Students deepen their understanding of realistic work with a variety of drawing exercises as well as a still-life unit and a unit on drawing geometric forms accurately. Students also study and complete projects related to the work of artists Andy Goldsworthy and Wassily Kandinsky, whose diverse styles and artistic perceptions inform students’ understanding of abstract work. Students work with contour, line, proportion, positive/negative space, color mixing, and the use of value to create light, shadow, and volume.
The Grade 5 curriculum continues to reinforce the development of observational skills while refining students’ understanding of the elements of art and principles of design and use of these ideas to achieve personal expression. Projects are completed in a variety of materials with more advanced techniques introduced for each. Students behave like artists, practicing the thorough development of ideas and options for thoughtful execution using paint, ceramics, printmaking, and pen. Many units ask students to discuss and reflect on the compositional decisions artists make and how those decisions can communicate ideas and influence the viewer. Grade 5 students play with the concept of self-portrait, learning how to represent themselves realistically as well as experiment with showing aspects of personality in more abstract pieces. Units also connect with language arts and the Archeological Dig.
The scope of learning in Grades 6 to 8 studio art involves exploring a variety of art materials, increasing artistic repertoire and skills, cultivating original self-expression, and developing storytelling ability. By revisiting materials with a new set of cognitive, emotional, and physical faculties, students rediscover distinctive properties of each art medium and develop a new array of visual and plastic repertoire. Progressing from their childhood artistic repertoire, students are challenged to develop more advanced and sophisticated creative language that is more suitable for their new ideas and feelings. The primary subject matter for artistic exploration and creation in studio art is one’s unique adolescent life experience. Through artmaking, students are encouraged to reflect on and foster a deeper understanding of their own life experiences and those of others around them. Through active individual observations and collective discussions of the works of various artists from diverse cultures and periods, students build a strong art vocabulary and learn to analyze and appreciate the artwork of others as well as their own. Students have the opportunity to explore five major genres—portraiture, still life, landscape, figurative art, and abstract art—in the visual art domain across various cultures and time periods. The program also promotes interdisciplinary learning, connecting art with humanities.
The studio art elective course is designed to offer students a more in-depth opportunity to explore the visual art forms. Recognizing art as essentially a form of self-expression, students reflect on their own life experiences, which are part of the fabric of humanity, and represent them in their own individual ways. Throughout the course, students independently make a series of creative decisions—from choosing a subject matter to selecting an art medium, method, size, and style, to name a few—and produce a body of artwork (minimum three) that manifests their distinctive artistic visions. Students are required to write artist statements that describe their artistic intentions and the processes behind their creations.
The Grade 4 curriculum continues to build on the music concepts of melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, timbre, texture, and form through vocal exploration, instrument-playing, movement, improvisation, notation, and creation of elemental melodies, rhythms, and chants. Students increase their repertoire to include rounds, two-part songs, American folk music, and world music. Soprano recorder instruction continues with an emphasis on music-reading and improvisation. In connection with the social studies curriculum, students learn about the important role music played in eighteenth-century America. Through folk dances, hymn tunes, play parties, song games, and dulcimer-playing, students experience life in colonial times.
The Grade 5 curriculum continues to build on the music concepts of melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, timbre, texture, and form through vocal exploration, instrument-playing, movement, improvisation, notation, and creation of elemental melodies, rhythms, and chants. Students continue to learn soprano recorder with an emphasis on increasingly difficult music-reading and improvisation. Using traditional drum-circle techniques, students create layered rhythmic patterns through rote learning as they respond to each other as an ensemble. The Winter Trimester encompasses musical and dramatic skills, collaborative work, and community-building skills as students create a full grade-level performance opportunity to be shared on stage. The students are responsible for making decisions about choreography, script, ensemble work, music arrangement, and staging. The final product is an arts-integrated performance accomplished with the support of their music, art, and homeroom teachers.
The purpose of the general music program in Grades 6 to 8 is to continue to develop the students’ knowledge and perception of music. Students become actively involved as listeners, creators, and performers while they explore the world of music. Their understanding of the structure and aesthetics of music increases as their musical skills strengthen. Students learn to express their knowledge and to communicate musically with others. Through the use of a variety of music and musical experiences, students continue to gain greater knowledge and understanding of music; increased perception of the structural and expressive dimensions of music; an awareness of the relationship of other art forms with music; independent performance and group-participation skills; and the ability to use their knowledge, perception, and skill to refine their understanding and to facilitate communication with others. Students examine the elements of melody, rhythm, harmony, texture, tone color, dynamics, and form through guided activities in listening, performing, creating, reading, and notating, with an emphasis on experiential learning. Listening materials come from a variety of cultural, historical, and stylistic examples. Classroom instruments include drums and percussion instruments from around the world, keyboards, ukuleles, guitars, and a synthesizer/ sequencer. Students become versed in the computer programs NoteFlight and Audacity as they write and edit their own music. Classroom activities include group and improvisational drumming ensembles, ukulele and guitar ensembles, and songwriting work incorporating a variety of electric and acoustic instruments.
Grade 6 units of study include exploring the Greek modes in melody-writing, understanding Gregorian chant and the development of Western European music, and studying the dance rhythms of Latin America. The Grade 7 research focus includes a GRAMMY unit study and a unit on a musician. The latter results in a student-created podcast that includes research, a short script, representative music, and a final project that has students editing voice and music together. Students also study West African singing and dancing and share their songs and dance with Grade 1 students. Grade 8 focuses on exploring and researching early American music from the period of Reconstruction through the advent of Blues, jazz, country, and American popular song. Grade 8 students also create and perform a short opera adapted from a folk tale, complete with libretto, costumes, staging, simple melodies, and accompaniments. Their compositions are realized by performing for the Nursery School students
This elective is for students who are interested in theatre performance. After the musical has been selected, students audition for parts. As part of the process of auditioning, students explore elements of acting through games and character development. After the musical is cast, students work on proper singing techniques, learn and assist with blocking, learn choreography, and practice acting skills as they work to memorize the script. Students also assist with set design and construction, program cover design, writing short biographies, and creating a playbill for the show. The culminating activity is the stage performance at Performing & Studio Arts Night in May.
Grade 4 students refine their research skills and meet for scheduled library research and technology classes once a cycle. Continuing the process of research, they practice reading informational material for comprehension, developing the skills to identify relevant sections and features of an article or nonfiction book, and recasting the ideas presented into a form that serves their purpose. Grade 4 students also learn about other useful forms of reference, how best to use encyclopedias and online databases for mini-research projects, and more academic databases, such as World Book Online. Students are introduced to monthly book talks with a librarian to find literature that complements their work in language arts and social studies.
In Grade 5, students expand their research skills. They continue using print references, encyclopedias, and online databases. They consult more than one source to verify information and cite their sources. Monthly book talks continue to acquaint them with a variety of good books that complement the genre they are studying in their language arts class, including nonfiction.
In Grades 6, 7, and 8, students reinforce and consolidate research skills that they learned in Grades 4 and 5. They consult a variety of sources and cite them using proper bibliographic format. Librarians work with teachers to support collaborative research projects in the library and in the classroom. All Grade 6 students participate in Green Star Books, a Newbery Award-style process in which students read books that are noteworthy and eligible for the annual Newbery Award then vote for a winning title at the end of the school year. Grade 6 students also meet every three weeks with a librarian for book talks based on their genre units. Librarians support Grade 6 units of study, research, and inquiry. In Grade 7, students work closely with the librarian on a number of research projects, most notably the Sustainable Cities project that requires academic research, professional interviews, and Washington, D.C. neighborhood visits. Much of the Grade 8 year is spent on the Capstone project, a three-part research project that spans the year. Librarians work closely with the teachers to provide research lessons during classes, work as mentors to students, and provide reference materials for student use.
Service opportunities provide a vital part of the curriculum. Serving others teaches students to move from their own world into the larger world to explore how important, fulfilling, and life-giving the experience of helping others can be. While service opportunities are numerous and varied, they all serve one purpose: To inspire a spirit of compassion and understanding, not only of oneself, but of those we serve. Service activities have included:
- participating in the award-winning Salvation Army Grate Patrol program in which members of the St. Patrick’s community prepare and distribute soup, sandwiches, toiletries, and snacks for the homeless twice each month;
- reading partnerships that draw together Nursery School, Lower School, and Upper School students;
- managing the Grade 6 Cake Raffle and Grade 8 Family Fun Day lunch fundraisers to purchase class gifts for St. Patrick’s;
- conducting drives and fundraisers for our sister school in Haiti, St. Etienne (Hoops for Haiti, school supplies, scholarship sponsorships, underwear and socks, toiletries, prescription glasses), along with other relief efforts;
- singing holiday carols at Mologne House at Walter Reed Army Medical Center;
- visiting Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home for seniors in Washington, D.C.;
- supporting the Dream Dog Foundation in partnership with America’s Bookshelf;
- supporting D.C. Dress for Success, which helps women return to work; and
- making quilt squares for St. Peter’s Love Quilt Project, which provides quilts to orphaned children in South Africa.
A more structured approach to service emerges in Grade 7, where students participate in a service learning class for one trimester. Service learning provides students with opportunities to develop civic engagement abilities and personal experience working with diverse members within their communities. Relying on four overarching questions—What is service learning? What is my service role within my family, my school, and my community? How does marginalization affect society? and How can we be agents of change?—the course complements classroom learning about critical social issues with experiential learning by providing them with opportunities to engage in service in the larger community. Prior to engaging in service activities, students examine the root causes of hunger, homelessness, and poverty and learn about local organizations that combat these social conditions. Students then participate in the work of these organizations by spending time partnering on specific projects. Upon completion of a service project, students take time to reflect on their experiences. This process of class preparation, engaged service, and thoughtful reflection is accomplished through a variety of methods, including internet research, class discussions, creative presentations, and regular writing assignments. Finally, Grade 7 students champion one of the causes they have learned about by hosting a booth at our annual alternative gift fair, Gifts For Good.
At St. Patrick’s, service learning means that students become actively involved in concrete activities that enhance the community; that students work in a shared space with others from the community; that they work in a respectful, collaborative manner on dilemmas related to life in cities; that they enhance their academic skills as they work on the project; and that they transform their own perspectives, relationships, and understanding of self in the process.
To date, St. Patrick’s students have engaged in service projects with organizations that include Iona Senior Services, So Others Might Eat (SOME), Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place, City Year D.C., Capital Area Food Bank, Claggett Farm, Martha’s Table, D.C. Central Kitchen, THEARC, Shalom Farms, and the Lisner-Louise-Dickson Hurt Home for seniors.
Grade 5 Human sexuality is taught for the first time in Grade 5. Students meet in their homeroom groupings for general information sessions and then meet in separate groups according to biological sex, led by a same-gender faculty facilitator, for more information and discussion on changes during puberty. School nurses and science teachers lead this portion of the SEL curriculum.
Grade 6 This trimester course explores the anatomy and physiology of the human body and its life functions. Students examine the structure, function, and relationships of these systems, including reproduction, to healthy growth and development. Students also investigate the developing teenage brain’s prefrontal cortex as it relates to individual critical thinking, decision-making, and emotional wellbeing. Other areas of concentration are lifetime fitness, disease prevention, and self-management skills. Hands-on activities include learning hands-only CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, building models of the digestive system, and creating 3-D printed joint models.
Grade 7 In the growth and development strand, topics include physical and social-emotional growth and development. This strand also covers human sexuality in its broadest context, including an examination of the emotional and physical changes brought about by sexual development, as well as the cultural and social forces that influence our own self-perceptions. Other topics include reproductive health, feelings, abstinence, and gender roles. In the healthy-eating strand, topics include nutrition, diet, eating disorders, body image, and exercise. The program encourages students to think critically about what it means to be healthy physically, mentally, and socially. Students also learn about the prevention of diseases and the effects of drugs—prescription and non-prescription, tobacco, and alcohol—and the consequences of their use
Grade 8 This course thrives on student-centered learning involving individual and group inquiry, collaboration, and critical thinking. Student-chosen topics utilize open-ended questions and discussion formats providing students with the knowledge and subset skills that allow for reflection on and integration of what they have learned. By making health more relevant and applicable, the course enables students to gain a deeper understanding of important topics while acquiring the tools needed for making healthy personal decisions. Topics include:
- the developing teenage brain;
- what it means to be, and our responsibility to be, global citizens in the twenty-first century;
- global human rights;
- tolerance and expectations;
- the role the media plays in how we view the world and each other;
- sexual assault and personal responsibility; and
- the effects of alcohol and drug use.
- Grades 4 and 5: Orff Ensemble
- Grades 5 and 6: Young Singers
- Grades 6 to 8: Handbells/Handchimes
- Grades 7 and 8: MacArthur Campus Choir
- Grades 7 and 8: Chamber Singers
The Orff Ensemble, open to students in Grades 4 and 5, develops necessary ensemble skills such as playing independent parts, appropriate mallet technique, and the ability to listen. Orff Schulwerk, as envisioned by composer Carl Orff, is a way to teach and learn music through singing, movement, and playing instruments. Our Orff Ensemble, which has grown out of this process, uses a variety of pitched and unpitched percussion instruments, including body percussion, xylophones, metallophones, glockenspiel, drums, and bass tubes. Performances for this ensemble include special Chapels and all scheduled school concerts.
The Young Singers of St. Patrick’s consists of all Grade 5 students and Grade 6 students on an elective basis. Choir members are expected to make a commitment to attending all rehearsals, which occur during school hours, and to singing at all performances, several of which are outside school hours. Membership in the choir provides an exciting opportunity for students to develop good vocal techniques (sight-reading, ensemble, and choral literature skills), self-confidence through performance, friendships, and leadership skills.
The handbell program, which begins in Grade 6, features three ensembles. In Grade 6, students can choose to participate in the fall or spring. In Grades 7 and 8, participants can ring year-round. Being a member of handbells provides an opportunity for a small number of students to continue to participate in an instrumental ensemble begun in the earlier grades with the Orff Ensemble. Ringers develop strong rhythm and counting skills as they learn how each individual bell part fits together to create a whole. Rehearsals are normally scheduled before or after school. Performances for these ensembles include all scheduled school concerts. Individual groups also perform for special Chapels for Grandparents & Special Friends Visiting Day, the Christmas Pageant, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter and for Admission Parent Programs throughout the year.
The MacArthur Campus Choir, which follows a structure similar to that of the Grades 5 and 6 Young Singers, is open to all Grades 7 and 8 students who choose to join and participate in rehearsals and performances both during and outside school hours. This non-auditioned group is featured at the Holiday Concert and the Spring Concert.
The Chamber Singers, a unique leadership opportunity available to select students in Grades 7 and 8, comprises a small group of auditioned singers from the choir who have shown exceptional commitment to singing during their St. Patrick’s careers. In addition to performing in concerts, these students lead singing in Chapels as needed, sing for special school events, and travel to local venues to perform during the school year.
Every March, St. Patrick’s hosts a Middle School Choral Festival that includes several area independent schools. At other times, the choirs participate in special events around the city
Physical education classes are part of the regular program in Grades 4 to 6. Grades 7 and 8 students are required to participate in a sport. The goal of the physical education program is to help children develop a love of and respect for physical movement and fitness. Within that goal is a continual emphasis on individual effort, team cooperation, and social awareness. Ultimately, students establish patterns and habits that allow each of them to have a physically active, healthy, and enjoyable lifestyle. Upper School physical education classes develop the five concentration areas of the Lower School (body awareness, spatial awareness, locomotion skills, manipulative skills, and social interaction), often using similar, yet more advanced, movements. In addition, students take part in more formalized games and other activities that develop cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility. Examples include field games such as football, soccer, and lacrosse; advanced manipulative skills such as juggling and intermediate gymnastics; and cardiovascular exercise such as running, jumping rope, and aerobics.
Athletic activity is an integral part of St. Patrick’s effort to nurture the mind, body, and spirit. Competitive interscholastic sports enable students to practice and understand the values of teamwork, commitment, and sportsmanship and to develop a positive work ethic. Sports are an opportunity for our students to learn how to work with others for a common goal, to discipline themselves mentally and physically, and to gain confidence in their abilities.
St. Patrick’s is a member of the Capital Athletic Conference. The conference, which comprises like configured independent schools in Maryland, Virginia, and the District, provides a safe and compatible level of competition among its members. St. Patrick’s also plays non-conference schools, and our teams have faced every major school in the area that sponsors competition for Grades 5 and 6.
All students in Grades 5 and 6 are encouraged to try out for a team sport. The school offers soccer, cross country, basketball, lacrosse, and track and field as competitive sports.
In addition to interscholastic competition, St. Patrick’s offers students the chance to participate in seasonal instructional clinics and intramural team sports, including developmental lacrosse, soccer, and basketball, which are available to students in Grades 3 to 6.
Athletic activity is an integral part of St. Patrick’s effort to nurture the mind, body, and spirit. Competitive interscholastic sports and other physical activities in which Grades 7 and 8 students participate enable them to understand and practice the values of teamwork, commitment, and sportsmanship and to develop a positive work ethic. Sports and other physical activities provide an opportunity for students to work with others toward a common goal, to discipline themselves mentally and physically, and to gain confidence in their abilities. Rather than take a physical education class during the school day, students in Grades 7 and 8 participate in required athletics at the end of the academic day, four days a week. St. Patrick’s uses its own gymnasium and playing fields on the Whitehaven Campus and the Foxhall Campus for practices and games.
St. Patrick’s plays in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) at the varsity level for Grades 7 and 8. The conference, made up of like-configured independent schools in Maryland, Virginia, and the District, provides a safe and compatible level of competition among its members. St. Patrick’s teams also compete against schools that are not in the CAC.
The Grades 7 and 8 athletic offerings for the fall season are soccer and cross country. Basketball and conditioning are the winter options. In the spring, students may choose lacrosse or track and field. In any given season, a small number of students may participate in an off-campus athletic activity that meets St. Patrick’s requirements.
The goals of the Student Leadership Council (SLC) include serving the school and its students, serving the greater Washington, D.C. community, and acting as leaders in the St. Patrick’s community by setting a good example for others. The SLC comprises representatives from each homeroom in Grades 4 and 5 and two representatives each from Grades 6, 7, and 8. In Grades 7 and 8, student leaders are elected to the SLC by their peers after candidates submit applications, which are screened by faculty. Grades 7 and 8 SLC members hold leadership roles intended to help them promote and model leadership and honor at St. Patrick’s and also take on additional duties. Serving on the SLC is the highest student office at St. Patrick’s. Being a good member of the SLC involves time, commitment, energy, cooperation, good judgment, and a willingness to work for the benefit of St. Patrick’s.
- SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL)
- LEARNING RESOURCES PROGRAM
- THE WRITING & LEARNING CENTER
- STUDY SKILLS
- SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, MATHEMATICS
An expression of St. Patrick’s commitment to character education, the SEL curriculum recognizes both the individual and communal dimensions of good character. SEL is aimed at teaching children fundamental skills necessary for healthy social and emotional functioning. The Upper School-wide curriculum helps students develop greater emotional intelligence, their awareness of themselves and their own emotions and how this awareness, along with other social skills, is so crucial to interpersonal success. The SEL curriculum reflects St. Patrick’s determination to achieve wholeness in the school’s approach to education. Taking a proactive approach to teaching these important skills allows St. Patrick’s to contribute further to the social and emotional development of Upper School students. Our SEL work, which occurs regularly during morning meetings and Advisories across the year, focuses on topics including emotional intelligence, identity, self-esteem, communication, friendship, and conflict resolution. Instruction proceeds through discussion, in-class writing exercises, presentations, and role-playing. An additional goal of these sessions is to build cohesion and cooperation within classes and among students.
The aim of the Upper School Learning Resources Program is to provide academic and organizational support to students who demonstrate specific needs. Learning specialists communicate and collaborate with classroom teachers, special-subject teachers, and parents to identify the current strengths and needs of students and to determine the most effective learning strategies and instruction to ensure maximum academic success. While the goal of the program is to meet students’ needs primarily in classroom settings, there are times when specialized instruction is necessary to assist students in advancing their academic skills. Beyond whole-group instruction in the classroom, students may work individually or in small groups with a learning specialist to strengthen or expand skills and/or learn specific content at any given time. Recognizing the fluid nature of student learning at the elementary- and middle-school level, the program’s structure is flexible in nature. Learning specialists use ongoing observation, work samples (quizzes, tests, projects, written work, etc.) and, at times, informal assessments to make informed decisions about students’ instructional needs.
The MacArthur Campus Writing & Learning Center offers students instruction, guidance, and feedback on their evolving student skills and writing needs. Led by the Director of the Writing & Learning Center and supported by the MacArthur Campus learning specialists, the program coordinates a study skills scope and sequence for students in Grades 6 to 8, provides support for students with executive-functioning and organizational challenges, works with teachers to monitor student progress and create and implement individual learning plans, and guides all students through writing work with extra support available either at student request or by teacher direction. In addition, the Writing & Learning Center offers parent programs to help parents navigate the middle-school transition to greater student independence.
Based in the work of the Writing & Learning Center, and meeting intensively at the beginning of the year and periodically thereafter, study skills classes taught in the context of academic subjects by the Grades 6, 7, and 8 learning specialists review executive-function skills like organization and long-term planning, as well as note-taking, research skills, and assessment preparation
The technology program empowers students to create, communicate, collaborate, and consume critically as they explore the content they learn in math, language arts, science, social studies, and other classes. By the end of Grade 8, all students will have had experiences with technology and digital resources in the following ways. Students will:
- apply engineering and design strategies while creating software and building physical machines, vehicles, and robots;
- select and apply digital tools to collect, organize, and analyze data;
- create three-dimensional models, video games, simulations, movies, digital presentations, and other products to demonstrate understanding in content areas;
- conceptualize and manage individual or group projects using digital planning tools with teacher support;
- evaluate digital resources to determine the credibility of the author and publisher and the timeliness and accuracy of the content;
- organize research and cite sources digitally;
- select and use appropriate digital tools to solve problems;
- use collaborative electronic writing and editing tools to explore ideas from multiple perspectives;
- make responsible and ethical decisions about how to use social media; and
- create limited, positive digital footprints while acting as good digital citizens online.
Performance expectations for technology are based on “Profiles of Technology Literate Students” from the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for Students and several authorities on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education including Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Capitol Region Education Council, the Massachusetts and Minnesota departments of education, the Next Generation Science Standards, Teaching Tolerance, and Common Sense Media. Students learn to become advanced users of software to which they were introduced in the Lower School and apply their software skills to enhance their learning. For three-dimensional modeling, students learn to use computer-assisted design (CAD) programs.
Students learn to create videos using WeVideo, an online, multiple-track collaborative editing tool. Our school-wide subscription enables students to access WeVideo’s tools and tutorials from any computer at school or at home. In recent years, student work with coding and video editing has earned awards at regional technology competitions.
St. Patrick’s teachers have developed interdisciplinary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) units throughout the grade levels. One example of this project-based work in the Grades 7 and 8 program is a STEM class that meets at least once per six-day rotation and engages students in activities such as SeaPerch, where they learn and apply the concepts and skills necessary to build an underwater robot. Students have been highly successful in regional STEM competitions.