The middle school at SWWFS follows a Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP) curricula of instruction led by experienced instructors who specialize in the respective content areas.
Advanced Placement courses in high school are college level curriculums that often grant placement and course credit to students who obtain high scores above a certain number on the examinations. The AP curriculum for the various subjects is created for the College Board by a panel of experts and college-level educators in each subject. SWWFS middle students are exposed to pre-AP curricula that prepares them for taking the AP courses at college preparatory high schools that offer advanced courses.
The middle school math program entails Math I, Math II, Pre-Algebra and Algebra I classes. These courses are taught in alignment with the Common Core Standards adopted by DCPS. Thinking about mathematical problems in a critical way enhances students’ abilities to see mathematics as a life skill to solve real-world problems.
The sciences are taught through the philosophy that scientific progress is made by asking relevant questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept, and to address the content in any grade, students develop their own questions and perform investigations. Additionally, students are encouraged to explain why accuracy and openness in record keeping and replication are essential for maintaining an investigator’s credibility with other scientists and society and participate in group discussions on specific topics.
Following the philosophy of preparing our middle school students for AP classes in high school, the Language Arts Program is designed to meet the needs of students at their individual levels of instruction, and, in so doing, provide for greater depth and complexity in the literacy curriculum. Instruction may include compacting curricula so that individual students’ needs may move through a fast or above grade level pace. The writing process, a complex skill in and of itself, is also elevated in terms of its complexity and output.
This year students at School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens will participate in an integrated Early American History and English course called “America: The Experience.” In social studies, students will study early American history based on the 8th grade District of Columbia learning standards. These learning standards explore American history from colonization through reconstruction. In English, students will read historical fiction, poems, and short stories based on the same themes that the students are learning about in social studies.
Each unit in both English and social studies is based on a shared thematic question that students will respond to in class discussions, formal writing assessments and unit projects. Examples of the shared thematic questions include: What happens when different societies meet? What are the different perspectives of liberty during the American Revolution? How do you build a government? Which events have the biggest impact on identity? What is the impact of change? Do the ends justify the means? What divides people? How do you reconstruct the American experience?
In addition to following the 8th grade District of Columbia learning standards for social studies, the social studies curriculum supports the common core standards in English. The English and Social Studies instructor is part of small cohort of teachers working with the Center for Inspired Teachers to implement literacy and writing into the social studies curriculum. With the support of this program, students will respond to challenging essay prompts supported with evidence from primary source documents.
Students will also participate in a pilot program with Discovery Education where they will be using a digital techbook in addition to their traditional textbook.
The elementary curriculum and instruction is based on teaching skills and objectives through content areas. There are five ELA (English Language Arts) units throughout the year; each one is tied to either Science or Social Studies content. The Literacy Block lasts 90 minutes and covers the following elements: phonics and morphology, close reading, literacy workstations, and writing instruction. Teachers provide guided reading and differentiated instruction to meet all students’ academic needs and to support their ongoing learning.
Elementary math instruction is based on the GO Math! Curriculum, which meets the goals of the Common Core State Standards. Teachers support students as they move from concrete to abstract mathematical thinking. GO Math! is a rigorous curriculum, which provides teachers with flexibility to personalize instruction and meet the demands of 21st century instruction.
Early Childhood Education
Tools of the Mind is a research-based early childhood program that builds strong foundations for school success by promoting intentional and self-regulated learning in preschool- and kindergarten-aged children. Tools’ instructional philosophy is inspired by the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky and his students, and at the same time, is rooted in cutting edge neuropsychological research on the development of self-regulation/executive functions in children.
The goal of Tools of the Mind is to help young children acquire the skills they need to set a foundation for long-term success in school through play and self-regulation. In a Tools of the Mind classroom students work together with each other and theirs teachers throughout the day. Because students are so engaged in learning and having fun while they do it, studies show that students have higher rates of academic success throughout their school careers.
More information on Tools of the Mind.
SWWFS offers a rigorous academic program that integrates art, computer technology, library services, Latin, music, and physical education to educate the whole child. By linking content and skills from various disciplines, students receive a balanced curriculum and possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities to transfer and connect ideas and concepts across disciplines.
All children are artists. The Art Room at SWWFS is a creative environment nurturing every child’s artistic expression.
Instead of learning technology skills in isolation, computers can be found in school’s library space so that students can work on research in the library under the supervision of our full time library aide. In addition, Smartboards a touch sensitive screen connected to a computer, can be found in every classroom. Using the interactive whiteboard, teachers can create lessons, write or draw on it, move images around, show video, do a PowerPoint presentation, or surf the Internet.
Library Media Center
The school library program plays a crucial role in preparing students for informed living in the 21st century. SWWFS’ library program provides learning opportunities in multiple literacies that enable students to become efficient and effective in the pursuit of information. Beyond its curricular role, the school library program gives each student a venue for exploring questions that arise out of individual curiosity and personal interest.
Latin may be considered a dead language but it has tremendous value. Because Latin is taught entirely through its grammatical rules, not through it demotic use, as students learn it, they gain an understanding of the mechanics and structure of language in a way that you cannot get from studying modern languages. Any other language, not just Spanish, Italian, and Portugese, but German, Russian, and Arabic – becomes easier for a child with a grounding in Latin. A student can use Latin to grasp the bones and sinews of any language.
Learning music facilitates learning in math, reading, and language skills, and, involvement in music leads to positive personal, social, and motivational effects. Music is an outlet for self-expression and creativity and fosters team work and critical thinking skills.
Physical Education (P.E.)
Physical Education is an important educational component of all grades. Research has shown a strong correlation between physical activity and improved academic success. Plus, healthy students have fewer school absences, which also contributes to increased academic success.
FRESHFARM FoodPrints integrates gardening, cooking, and nutrition education into the curriculum at School Without Walls at Francis Stevens and other partner schools in Washington, DC. FoodPrints’ expert educators teach hands-on, standards-based lessons that get students excited about growing, preparing and enjoying fresh, local whole foods. Our lessons bring science, math and social studies to life with the goal of improving health outcomes of children and families.
FoodPrints experiences provide students meaningful opportunities to engage with academic content and build social-emotional skills, and hands-on experiences with where food comes from and how wonderful nutritious food can taste. As a result, students are more engaged with academic content and know how to make positive changes in what they and their families eat.
FoodPrints began at Francis Stevens in 2015 and continues to provide lessons for PreK through middle school students throughout the school year in our flourishing school garden and beautiful teaching kitchen. FoodPrints classes are offered during the school day, and generally run for 1 to 2 hours. There are also occasional garden-based activities for families in the evenings and on weekends throughout the year.
To reach our FoodPrints teacher, Ms. Ibti Vincent, directly, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Program for Blind Students
Given an environment rich with high expectations, blind and visually impaired students at SWWFS will learn the skills and undergo the experiences needed to achieve educational successes to the same standards as their sighted counterparts.
Students are taught skills in reading and writing Braille, using assistive technology, and other areas of the expanded core curriculum. Teachers of the blind collaborate daily with classroom teachers to adapt and modify lessons and materials to be accessible to blind/visually impaired students.
All students in the Program for Blind Students learn to read and write Braille. Braille is vital to the development of literacy skills for blind and visually impaired students. Students also receive Orientation and Mobility training to learn skills in the long white cane and independent travel skills around their school and community.