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At Sheridan, we believe that students invent the world they want to live in and create the communities of which they want to be a part. Technology is a defining aspect of life in the 21st century and a vehicle for students to better understand the world around them. The technology program at Sheridan develops students who become:
- ethical global citizens
- ready for collaborative work
- proficient data analysts
- critical consumers of information
- creative information architects
Technology is taught throughout the Sheridan curriculum and integrated into all courses. Sheridan students experience programing using MIT’s Scratch and Python 3.0, 3D design using Autodesk CAD tools, spatial and data analysis using Geographic Information Systems and, as a Google Apps for Education school, Sheridan students work completely in the cloud. Multimedia creation experiences, including image and video editing, are a core component of work in the upper school.
Consistent with our progressive roots, technology experiences at Sheridan are scaffolded by a design thinking approach to technology integration in the classroom. Design thinking encourages students to deconstruct a problem, understand its individual elements and then research, prototype, experiment and reflect on their creation. Using this approach, students focus on working through problems, critical thinking and the creative process rather than on an end product. The end result is a student who not only understands technology, but also understands how to use it to explore further, ask more meaningful questions, and create the world they want to live in.
Social Justice Education
Sheridan’s teachers and staff work multiculturally in order to make the academic and the social-emotional experiences of our children rich, inspiring, and responsive to the world and to our community. We believe that at its heart diversity brings academic excellence and rigor to the classroom. A multicultural curriculum teaches critical thinking skills and challenges children to consider multiple perspectives and see beyond “a single story.” It provides students with an opportunity to see themselves in our curriculum and with windows that open them up to the larger world. Through our diversity work, we hope to develop empathy in our students, to teach them to always seek a fuller, broader understanding of issues and to inspire them to notice injustices and act to make the world a better place. Working multiculturally also lies at the heart of our commitment to ensuring that all of our children feel known, safe and understood so they can blossom and reach their full potential.
Sheridan students practice this approach throughout the school. Our math courses teach critical numeracy, a way of viewing mathematical concepts through social contexts to holistically understand an issue. Elements of social justice abound in our humanities courses where literature, music and art are used to help students understand the concepts of power and privilege. Student groups such as the Sheridan Gay Straight Alliance and Students of Color group allow students to be advocates and peer support on campus and in the community. Sheridan is a welcoming environment that challenges students to think and act with a focus on social justice.
We believe that a diverse and inclusive learning environment is integral to achieving academic excellence. Sheridan’s commitment to diversity is grounded in our school mission and the principles of progressive education. We offer a curriculum that promotes social justice and challenges prejudice, within a school culture that embraces and celebrates difference. We recognize and value the experiences that diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, age and ability within our school community contributes to a Sheridan education. We ultimately strive to prepare our students to understand the nature of a complex world and to thrive in a multicultural global society.
Equity Education in Action:
Examples from Sheridan’s classrooms during the 2012-13 school year
The library plays a critical role in preparing students to be active, engaged citizens and learners. It supports the academic curriculum and provides a creative space for inspiration, exploration, and thoughtful research. The carefully curated collection offers fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, e-books and digital resources.
In the lower school, the library program focuses on nurturing a love of reading. Students in K-5 visit the library weekly, learning to navigate the collection and select materials appropriate to their reading levels and interests.
In the middle school, the library becomes a place to create, analyze, and better understand information. Students hone their research and library skills by learning how to identify biased perspectives and judge the credibility of textual – and digital – resources. Students visit the library in whole classes as well as use the space for book clubs, group project development and individual research.
In all grades, students develop strong reasoning skills, a sense of empathy, and learn how to make cross-curricular connections during their time in the library. The collection offers books specifically focused on social justice and a growing collection of Spanish-based texts to support the Spanish immersion program at Sheridan.
Curriculum at Sheridan
CONCEPT-BASED CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
Sheridan’s curriculum is academically challenging and conceptually based. Throughout the grades, the curriculum guides teachers in supporting students’ acquisition of key skills, understanding of overarching concepts, and knowledge of critical content. Students examine case studies, wrestle with overarching essential questions, and explore the big ideas that are foundational to each discipline. Teachers explicitly teach students how to think conceptually by making connections, noticing patterns, making generalizations, and revising theories. As a result, students develop a deep understanding of the world in which they live as well as critical thinking skills that prepare them to be lifelong learners.
A concept based curriculum:
- preserves the integrity of each subject area while encouraging cross-discipline connections
- is vertically aligned so that students’ knowledge, skills, and understandings grow each year
- explicitly supports students’ critical thinking skills
In a concept-based curriculum, students:
- understand ideas rather than memorize facts
- use critical content and facts to understand key concepts and principles
- transfer understandings from one context to other contexts
- develop specific skills according to national standards, including the Common Core Standards, for each discipline
Sheridan’s outdoor education program incorporates the Mountain Campus, a residential facility that promotes learning, cooperation, responsibility, environmental awareness, community spirit, and resourcefulness through experiential education and adventure challenges. We provide a safe community in which participants are encouraged to deepen their understanding of each other, themselves, and their natural environment through problem solving, exploration, and communication.
Through unique, engaging, hands-on learning experiences, students are challenged and inspired to enhance their sense of self. Our setting fosters trust and confidence in a way that encourages risk-taking and creates space for both personal and academic growth. The curriculum unites classroom disciplines and outdoor education with the spontaneity of exploration and cooperation. It brings intangible skills to life through problem solving, effective communication, leadership initiatives, successful failure, and community living. Students’ knowledge, skills, and understandings are built upon each year. They play an active role in the learning process through “challenge by choice,” a philosophy that encourages students to participate in challenging activities but respects individual decisions not to participate.
Over their years at Sheridan, students develop a deep connection with the Mountain Campus and a sense of belonging. Beginning in kindergarten, each class visits the Mountain Campus once in the fall and once in the spring. In kindergarten through second grade, family members are encouraged to attend with their children. In third grade, a small group of parents/guardians attend with the children, and in fourth through eighth grades, the students attend Mountain Campus with only their teachers. The duration of the trips grow in a developmentally appropriate sequence, from day trips at the start of kindergarten to week-long trips by eighth grade.
Sheridan’s physical education program is committed to preparing children to be physically active and to make healthy choices throughout their lives. The physical education curriculum includes a balance of skills and concepts in the areas of health, games, gymnastics, and rhythmic activities. In order to achieve these goals, teachers establish a learning environment that supports students at all skill levels and fosters healthy self-concepts.
Students are encouraged to take risks and are asked to try, fail, and try again! Teachers provide opportunities for students to work towards common standards at individual rates of development, and students are recognized for their success at their individual levels. Instructional decisions are based on ongoing assessment of the children’s skills, needs and understandings in order to individualize instruction and promote progress towards the learning goals.
The curriculum is based on the National Association for Sport and Physical Education standards, and lessons are designed with the children’s physical and cognitive development in mind. Cooperative and competitive activities are designed so that students learn how to work as part of a team and how to deal constructively with competition.
Students study physical education for three or four class periods each week from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Sheridan’s art program supports students as they develop an individual artistic vision informed by their own experiences, ideas, and understandings and grounded in the fundamental elements and principles of art. Each step of the process, from conception to creation, is valued and encouraged. In collaboration with the teachers and their classmates, students seek to comprehend and communicate visual ideas in their own unique manner through a process of observation, discussion, exploration, revision, and reflection. Additionally, students work toward social justice in their creation of art.
Students consider the role of art and of the artist in a variety of ancient and contemporary cultures as part of their investigation into artistic techniques and media. The curriculum is based on the National Art Education Association standards. The art classroom is rich with opportunities for exploration, critique, innovation, and reflection, encouraging a respect for the materials, tools, and ideas the community shares. This learning environment facilitates students’ inquisitive and open journey through the world of art.
Students study art for one class period each week from kindergarten through eighth grade and can also participate in art electives from fist through eighth grade.
Sheridan’s music program fosters a love of music, an awakening of musical creativity, and an appreciation and deep respect for the music of many cultures. Music instruction follows the Orff Schulwerk philosophy, a hands-on approach to movement, singing, playing instruments, and dramatic expression, and assessment is based on the National Standards for Music Education. Through this hands-on approach to music, we embrace and facilitate student learning and personal growth through both individual expression and cooperative collaboration. Basic music concepts and skills are incorporated through the introduction and exploration of the music of many cultures, including folk, popular, and classical genres.
Students regularly perform for peers and families. Several “Students in Concert” assemblies each year allow students the opportunity to share musical skills learned in class, during individual and small group lessons provided by the school, or through outside experiences. Music is also incorporated into several grade-level performances, and a middle school musical is produced each spring.
Students study music for two class periods each week from kindergarten through eighth grade and can also participate in music electives from third through eighth grade.
Sheridan’s Spanish program equips students with skills, knowledge, and understanding to communicate effectively and comfortably in a culturally and linguistically diverse world. Through our lingua-cultural program, we build students’ speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills in a coherent, developmentally appropriate curriculum based on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages standards. Students enter the Spanish program with a wide range of skills and experiences, and teachers differentiate instruction in order for students to reach learning goals. Students practice the target language in authentic settings and are given ongoing, specific feedback to improve their performance.
In Sheridan’s Spanish classes, students and teachers communicate almost exclusively in the target language (over 95%). Teachers utilize the Organic World Language approach to engage students, lower their affective filter, and inspire them to take risks in their communication. Outside the Spanish classroom, students participate in teacher-designed interdisciplinary learning experiences in music, art, and homeroom.
Sheridan also develops students’ understanding of world cultures and their impact on communication. Students deepen their understanding of cultures by forging personal and curricular connections and gaining the confidence and skills to use their language knowledge beyond the classroom doors—for personal enjoyment, enrichment, and active participation in other multilingual communities.
In Sheridan’s science program, students learn to think like scientists as they explore their world. Aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, our program focuses on scientific practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts that have applications through a wide range of science topics. It includes a balance of earth and space science, life science, physical science, and engineering. We encourage students to ask questions, plan and carry out investigations, analyze and interpret data, and support their conclusions with evidence. In our engineering challenges students define problems, design and test solutions, then communicate their findings. We get messy, make mistakes, and delight in discovery.
Students construct their understanding by actively engaging in scientific inquiry in the classroom and in the field. Sheridan’s science teachers lead aspects of our Outdoor Education program to provide opportunities to extend our curricula by investigating the water quality of Jeremy’s Run, experiencing the physics involved in the ropes course, and helping students immerse themselves in exploration of natural ecosystems.
Students study science for two or three class periods each week from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Sheridan’s mathematics program provides students with the necessary skills to problem solve effectively, reason mathematically, communicate their math thinking, and apply their knowledge to real-life situations across disciplines. The study of mathematics provides content and practices that help students understand how mathematics explains real-world phenomena and helps us make informed and wise decisions as consumers and citizens in a diverse, global, and collaborative environment. Through differentiated instruction, the curriculum builds conceptual understanding, knowledge, and skills in the areas of number and numeration, operations and computation, data and chance, geometry, measurement, and algebra.
Sheridan utilizes several curricular resources to deliver an engaging, rigorous, and differentiated program. In grades K-8, Math in Focus, an authentic Singapore Math curriculum, builds a strong mathematical foundation for students by focusing on the mastery of fundamental concepts in younger grades and revisiting these topics at a deeper level with older students. In K-2nd grades, Kathy Richardson’s assessment and instruction program provide ways for teachers to plan responsive instruction that is developmentally appropriate and exploratory as well as aligned with the common core standards. Also in the younger grades, Cathy Fosnot’s Contexts for Learning provide students with engaging, authentic, and complex problems that require collaboration and high-level problem solving. In the upper grades, students use online resources such as Kahn Academy to revisit concepts and skills as well as learn new skills in a fresh format. Projects, particular those that focus on the development of critical numeracy skills, are featured throughout the grades.
All of our curricular resources support students’ mastery of the Common Core State Standards for Math. With our approach, students are taught in a concept-based fashion that focuses on problem-solving and being able to apply what they’ve learned. Each grade has clearly articulated learning objectives that fit into the context of larger programmatic goals. Teachers frequently analyze students’ progress towards these goals through formative and summative assessments that take place within the context of lessons, and they differentiate and plan future instruction in response to these assessments.
Sheridan’s language arts program includes speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Sheridan provides students with the foundation to become skilled, thoughtful, and effective communicators. Students are taught to value both listening and speaking and are explicitly taught strategies to aid their development in each. Students have ample opportunities to practice their oral language skills, from morning meeting discussions and partner discussions to oral presentations and school plays.
A love of reading and writing is instilled in our students from an early age, and Sheridan students are immersed in good literature. Each classroom has its own library with a full range of “just right books” that cover a variety of genres, topics, and reading levels. Students and teachers make connections between reading and writing, using their insights in one discipline to deepen their understanding in another. Some of the concepts integral to reading and writing are audience, purpose, voice, structure, strategy, meaning, and craft. Additionally, critical literacy is a key component of our program; students actively analyze texts, uncovering subtexts, multiple perspectives, and issues of power and equity embedded in the stories they read.
Sheridan utilizes the reading and writing workshop instructional approach established by the Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and assesses students based on the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. In each class, we create a community of readers and writers. Teachers and students read, write, and talk together about their work. Teachers model the skills and strategies skilled readers and writers use and share their work with their students. Student learning is supported through read-alouds, mini-lessons, small-group instruction, one-on-one teacher conferences, strategy groups, peer conferences, partner discussions, and book clubs.
Students study language arts every day from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Social & Emotional
Sheridan strives to create a warm, nurturing, and inclusive learning community within which students feel known, valued, and understood. Sheridan believes that the social and emotional education of children is of equal importance to their academic learning, and that children must feel comfortable and confident in order to take the risks necessary for both personal and academic growth. Students in all grades and subjects are explicitly taught to empathize, solve problems, and self-monitor their emotions and behaviors. Through our wellness curriculum, direct instruction and modeling in social and emotional concepts and skills, including mindfulness practices, provide support for students’ independent decision-making. Sheridan’s community is built on the foundation of our community rule: we respect ourselves, each other, and the environment. Morning Meeting provides an opportunity to recognize each student and gather as a class community at the beginning of each school day. Student-generated classroom covenants provide age-appropriate expressions of community values. Logical consequences help students learn from both positive and negative choices.
The Sheridan community extends beyond the classroom doors. Connections are fostered between students at different age levels and in the neighboring community. Through a buddy program, younger and older students teach, learn from, and play with each other during scheduled monthly activity periods. Students also participate in a variety of service-related activities over the course of the school year. The Student Council organizes school-wide activities in support of a local organization, and each classroom develops programs that are developmentally appropriate, meaningful, and inspiring and that expand student understanding of service, community, and responsibility.
Sheridan’s social studies program prepares students to become competent and actively involved citizens with the ability to make informed, reasoned, and thoughtful decisions in a diverse and globally interdependent world. Through active inquiry, collaboration, and problem-solving, students build the necessary skills, knowledge, and conceptual understanding to explore political, social, and economic issues from multiple perspectives and to be change agents. Students apply their knowledge to confront multiple dilemmas, speculate, think critically, and make responsible personal and civic decisions as productive participants in a democratic society. As a part of their studies, they analyze history, cultures, and current events through a multicultural, social-justice oriented lens, identifying inequities and working toward making the world a better place.
The social studies curriculum reflects the ten strands of the National Council for the Social Studies, and skills assessment is based on Common Core State Standards for Literacy in Social Studies. Classes come to life through in-depth research projects and hands-on, engaging learning experiences. Students act out time periods, create museums, engage in authentic research, and take part in simulations including the Silk Road in Ancient China and a model United Nations. The curriculum is rigorous, engaging, and social-justice oriented.
In kindergarten through third grade, students study geography and its influence on the formation of culture. In fourth through sixth grade, students explore what happens when cultures meet and look critically at the concepts of trade, power, and expansion. In fifth through eighth grades, they develop deeper understanding of the political, economic, and social landscape of the modern world. In seventh grade, students apply many of the concepts and skills from their prior studies to an in-depth exploration of American history, and, in eighth grade, students look critically at contemporary issues and conflicts.
Students study social studies three to five days a week from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Electives and Intersections
All students in grades 1–8 have the chance to explore their passions and interests in a weekly elective class. Art and music electives frequently culminate in school-wide exhibitions. Specific offerings change each year; following is just a sampling of the many choices Sheridan has offered:
- Acting and Improv
- African and Cuban Drumming
- Digital Media
- Green Art
- Modern Dance
- Race Car Engineering
- Recycled Art
- Reverse Engineering
- Rock Band
- Sheridan Newspaper
- Team Games
- Young Chefs
Intersections is an annual exploratory, experiential, cross-grade program for students in grades 5–8 that takes place for one week in March. Each student chooses from a variety of courses and 7th and 8th grade students also set up their own apprenticeships. The courses are generated by our faculty and staff who want to share personal passions, interests, or expertise as a way of modeling lifelong learning. Courses range from survival skills to social justice in street art. Intersections builds the learning community, creates new collaborative partnerships between faculty, staff, parents, and community members, and provides our middle schoolers with transformative experiences beyond our regular academic curriculum.