Science, Geography and Culture
SMS uses a curriculum that integrates the broad topics of science, geography, culture, and history. Elementary students study themes in a rotating three-year cycle. For example, a Lower Elementary class may study the Middle Ages in year one, Ancient Greece in year two, and Ancient Egypt in year three. Similarly, in Upper Elementary, students study Early Human, Ancient Civilizations, European Explorers, Colonial America, Westward Expansion, and Immigration. In studying these topics, an effort is made to look at events from multiple perspectives and to learn about non-Western cultures. For example, students learn about people native to South America and North America during their study of explorers and Colonial America.
Throughout the year, the study of the natural world can be seen throughout the school. Walking the halls, one can learn about the attributes of each biome; diet, habitat, and hunting practices of a range of animals; and experience a larger-than-life mural of the tunnels of an ant colony. Inside the Lower Elementary classrooms, insects made of recycled materials may hang from the ceiling and honeycombs made of egg cartons can be found on the shelves. The student-made posters are carefully researched and written, and the artwork is both creative and representative of the real world. Living and nonliving natural artifacts can be found in each classroom as well. For example, students in Lower Elementary classrooms measure caterpillars as they learn about metamorphosis, while students in Children’s House examine seeds under magnifying glasses and devise plant-related experiments. In the Upper Elementary classrooms students examine living and nonliving organisms as part of their studies of plants, flowers, and the human body.
In addition to learning about relationships such as cause and effect, experimental design, and the natural world, teachers pose scientific questions and encourage students to ask questions and generate explanations during non-academic times. Teachers can be heard discussing the wind and weather with students or discussing how gravity acts on a cup to make it fall and spill.