In the Episcopal tradition, we believe in creating an environment that encourages children to actively engage with their learning by questioning, creating, and reflecting. This approach allows space for differentiated instruction and for students to immerse themselves in their investigations. Providing students agency throughout the learning process helps them acquire the skills necessary to take responsibility for their own growth as students. By including project-based learning as a standard part of our curriculum, we cultivate experiences that sharpen students' critical-thinking skills and build their capacity for health risk-taking and self-confidence.
MAKE! @ St. John's celebrates science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math by providing a venue for students to share their learning with others, explore forms of creation through hands-on projects, and learn from community experts.
This School-day event involves all students and faculty; it stretches students to participate fully in the creation process as they invent, plan, build, adjust, refine, and discover. With a theme of Momentum, the 2021-22 MAKE! event will showcase student work from science and other classes as students become the presenters.
Students will also choose from among many age-appropriate maker-type workshops, and our outdoor education program will organize guest speakers for Primary, Lower, and Middle School students.
The IDEA Lab is an experiential learning space where prekindergarten through fourth grade students enjoy foundational technology classes and teachers engage students in the use of technology in the broad areas of design thinking, coding, robotics, keyboarding, productivity, digital citizenship, and media literacy. The IDEA Lab serves teachers and specialists who develop and deliver technology-related curriculum and develop appropriate uses of technology and pedagogical best practices within the entire School curriculum.
In prekindergarten and transitional kindergarten, students explore real-world questions by expressing their existing knowledge, asking questions, and sharing their new knowledge of particular subject matter. PK and TK students learn to think like scientists through exploring their environment, working in centers, and participating in teacher-directed activities. These include sand, water, sensory activities, experiments, and data collecting. PK and TK have two PBL units that include spiders in the fall and birds in the spring. Many of our unit themes are aligned with Animals Two By Two from the FOSS Next Generation curriculum. We use Mystery Science to enrich our science units. We also utilize our outdoor education specialist to explore the world around us.
At the beginning of October, kindergarten students are asked, “Do you think bats are helpful or harmful?” Throughout the month, they learn all about bats by reading books, watching video clips, and even hear from a bat expert that visits our campus.
Students add content to their science journals each day and create a bat house at the end of the unit where they choose a favorite bat, write bat facts, and ultimately decide if they wanted to change their original answer to our helpful or harmful question. Kindergarteners then share these bat house projects to excited first grade students.
Second graders study insects, their life cycles, and their roles in the environment during an engaging and hands-on way to start the year. Each classroom raised and observed ladybugs, mealworms, Painted Lady Butterflies, Praying Mantis, and Harvester Ants. The Director of Outdoor Learning came into classrooms throughout the unit to reinforce these topics.
Highlights of the study included the field trip to the “Bugtopia” at the Dallas Arboretum and a visit from Mr. Sean Fitzgerald, a local Monarch migration expert and wildlife photographer. The capstone project was each student researching an insect and creating their habitat. The students enjoyed having the St. John's Art Integration Specialist come to classrooms to construct realistic clay models of their insects.
Our third grade Immigration unit focuses on tracing the immigration process at Ellis Island during the late 1800s and early 1900s. We center our study around our driving question: How can we as historians, recreate the journey of European immigrants as they travel through Ellis Island?
This is a simulation of the immigration process experienced by millions of people who came through Ellis Island during its peak years. Faculty and staff play the roles of immigration officers, baggage inspectors, medical inspectors, judge, legal inspectors, Human Aid Society Representatives, By playing the roles of immigrants, students have an opportunity to experience what was felt by those entering the United States. Students recognize how interaction with others affects feelings of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. They demonstrate empathy with persons who have experienced an immigration process.
In an effort to bridge the third grade Water and Weather unit with our Life Science units, students were able to take the inaugural field trip to the JB Sands Wetlands. After learning about the properties of water, students traveled to learn more about how the ecosystems in this habitat effect the water cycle and natural filtration process.
Third graders took water samples from the wetlands, learning about macroinvertebrates, went on a nature walk to learn more about the Wetland ecosystems, and discussed the different Habitats around the state of Texas that lend itself to survival of different animals and plant life. While this is a cumulative project to our water unit, it also acts as great inquiry-based experience and jumping off point for their upcoming animal adaptation unit.
During the Fractured Fairy Tale PBL, third graders can choose a classic fairy tale and fracture it. They can keep the aspects from the classic fairy tale that they like and change the parts that they do not. They can change the characters, setting, point of view, hero/villain, and much more. However, they are met with one criteria that they must figure out how to include in their fairy tale, and that is digital citizenship. Students spend time learning the rules of digital citizenship and considering how to include one of those rules in their fairy tale as the moral.
During the first quarter, fourth grade scientists explored soil, physical and chemical weathering, erosion, landforms, and three types of rocks. We started the unit off with Director of Outdoor Education Mr. Adler leading an investigation into the components of soil. Students performed several experiments, including testing the soil in the garden, and our soil exploration culminated with a trip to the Dallas Arboretum.
In fifth grade, students work together in groups of four or five to recreate some of the hardships and excitement experienced by early American colonists. They must collaborate to make their colony the biggest, richest, and most successful colony in the New World. The groups create a colony name, flag, a constitution, and must prepare to sail. Colonists choose quantities of ships, food, people, and animals, then must keep track of what they gain and lose and how much it costs. They learn how geography and resources were important to survival. There are also interactions with other colonies and the native people already occupying the land. It takes, creativity, imagination, and strong problem-solving skills to survive and help the colony grow.
In sixth grade, students will build on their knowledge of hydrology (hydrosphere) and geology (geosphere) as they explore the creek and rocks and land around it. They focus on Earth science and Earth’s processes and observe weather, wind, water erosion, and rock and mineral deposition as they walk through the creek.
After taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Test on themselves, students read a self-selected biography, figuratively put themselves in their biography individual’s shoes, and then took the personality test again. With these perspectives, they compared themselves with their biography individual and noted an important lesson they learned from their individual.
In seventh grade students become documentary filmmakers as they interview an older family member or friend about historical events that took place during that person’s past experience. From that footage, they select a topic for their documentary and use it as the basis for a primary source research, which then leads to the creation of a research paper. They turn this into a documentary using their research and original footage to tell the story of a significant historical event. The project culminates with a film festival which we screen students’ original works.
The Mock Trial is consistently one of the most interesting and exciting projects that our students undertake all year in Eighth Grade Social Studies. Aided by parent-lawyers who will provide them with legal expertise, they work with materials produced by the Constitutional Rights Foundation to develop prosecution and defense arguments for cases highlighting contemporary legal issues. The students argue these cases before an actual member of the bench or experienced attorney who then renders a verdict, scores the performances, and critiques their arguments. In just a few weeks of preparation, students reap benefits from this lively unit: working collaboratively in a team, gaining skills in public speaking and debate, using close reading skills, and presenting a solid argument with facts and evidence. This is also a wonderful opportunity for them to experience the justice system “from the inside,” as well as a chance for them to display their knowledge and critical thinking skills in a setting where they can really shine.