Re-envisioning the Elementary Specialist Programs

A key area of focus this year has been on re-envisioning the specialist programs, and more specifically, how to more intentionally attend to the whole child and create opportunities for students to engage deeply, fully, and frequently with the sciences, arts, and holistic wellness practices.

We have spent the past year on this restructuring work, aiming to ensure students get the same deep, sustained exploration of the fine and performing arts that they already get academically through their Units of Exploration, improving their scientific literacy, while also sustaining our commitment to making, moving, and mindfulness practices.

What will these changes look like in the coming school year?

  • We will move from trimesters to quarters, aligning with our Units of Exploration and revised report card schedule (mid-year and year-end).

  • Each day students will engage in:

    • Two periods of outdoor recess

    • A new 30-40 minute movement/mindfulness class

    • One special class: Maker/Science Lab, Performing Arts, Visual Arts, or Multimedia

  • Each special class will last an entire quarter, allowing students to engage deeply with the subject matter and allowing teachers to develop closer relationships with each student.

Sample of the Specials Structure

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When children move, they learn, and the new Movement/Mindfulness class will integrate social-emotional learning, fitness, and health, giving students the chance to be physically active while also becoming more attuned to the ways their bodies and minds are interwoven. This class will be a mix of traditional PE and sports activities, as well as mindfulness, dance, kung-fu, and yoga, incorporating research in neuroscience and occupational therapy to help students move their bodies, build their brains, and develop the foundations needed for a lifetime of learning.

The special classes, several of which will be co-taught in English and Mandarin, will be a mix of old, new, and re-imagined subjects.

  • Maker / Science Lab: Making classes will help students develop their creativity; build concrete scientific and engineering skills; grow from failure; create new inventions; and learn design thinking and the scientific process.

  • Performing Arts: Based on the Orff Approach, performing arts will combine music, movement, drama, and speech, with students having the opportunity to perform at the end of each quarter.

  • Visual Arts: PKS students will have the opportunity to create and experience the visual arts through an experiential and comprehensive curriculum. In general there are three domains of visual arts at PKS:

    • Making art, with students working two and three-dimensionally using a range of materials and techniques.

    • Appreciating art, by looking at artwork from various cultures and historical periods and discussing the design, content, context, technical skill, and aesthetics of each piece.

    • Social-Emotional Learning through art, with art providing a means for children to try out new ideas, make their own decisions, share feelings, convey personal interests, and communicate things that may be difficult to say with words.

  • Multimedia: A school library media program that encourages a love of literature and story-telling and addresses digital citizenship, information, media, and technology literacy.

We are excited to roll out these new specialist program changes next year, and to welcome faculty who will be joining us on this journey including Lizette Greco, Adrienne Losch, Katie Stable, and Leo Laoshi (the last teacher who many of you may remember from your child’s preschool years).  As always, we welcome your questions.