Project Based Learning opportunities using thematic integrated curriculum are prevalent in the classrooms on a daily basis. The individualization of instruction, student choice, public exhibitions of achievement, and community service are vital aspects of the school’s Project Based learning pedagogy. The MVPCS uses the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks to structure and guide curriculum at all developmental levels.
The Guided Reading instruction is an opportunity to work with small groups focusing on specific topics or stages of literary development using a variety of literacy games that help promote peer learning.
The goals for beginning writers include recognition of lower and upper case letters, recognition of letter/sound correspondence, and the use of inventive spelling to understand picture/text relationship. Fine motor, prior knowledge; attention level and interest areas are the focus areas of these beginning writers.
The Everyday Math textbook series introduced at this level facilitates understanding of math concepts, which include number sense, patterns, and geometry. Math concepts are introduced throughout the school year through a variety of activities and games.
The students are encouraged to focus on building a healthy and unified community. Cooperation, responsibility, respect, and trust are daily areas of focus as they relate to the school’s Bill of Rights. Throughout the thematic studies during the year, the students explore varying global attributes to help them understand their relationship to others.
A number of activities encourage students to investigate, question, experience, and experiment through the process of discovery and inquiry. Critical thinking and research skills are goals of the program.
The island community plays a large role in the entire classroom experience. Visits to people and places on the Island enhance our studies. For example, journeys to fish markets, boat builders, commercial fishermen, and a charter boat fishing trip augments the classroom study of oceans.
Six - Eight Year Old Program
The language arts program is based upon Guided Reading principles. The students work with a teacher in small, flexible, multi-age teams based on similar needs. Reading skills addressed include phonics, decoding strategies, fluency, and comprehension. Language arts centers offer the students self-directed activities around the room that develop their skills and enjoyment of literature. In addition, the students participate in author studies and library visits. The students write throughout the curriculum addressing penmanship, spelling, and vocabulary. Writing Workshop involves drafting, using inventive spelling, conferencing, editing, revising, illustrating, and publishing.
The Everyday Mathematics program is used at this level. The students are divided into first and second year groups. The continuous two-year program introduces, revisits, and reinforces numerous concepts and skills. Daily whole group discussions encourage the use of mathematical vocabulary, and guide the students as they make connections and learn problem-solving strategies. These are followed by hands-on activities, cooperative math games, and independent journal work. Components of the curriculum include geometry, measurement, data, diagrams, graphs, numeration, patterns and algebra, operations and computation.
Social studies is interwoven within thematic studies and the two-year curriculum coincides with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks of history and geography, economics, civics and government. At the beginning of each year, the children are introduced to the school’s pillars and bill of rights. These founding principles guide the children as they conduct themselves independently and interact with others in the learning community. Social studies based themes include exploration of heritage and the world, patriotic signs and symbols, and famous historical figures. Literature such as folk tales, historical fiction, and non-fiction texts help the students to research within these themes. Map skills using a variety of maps and globes are used in both social studies and science.
Inquiry based learning drives the science portion of the thematic studies curriculum. This involves the children in questioning, predicting, exploring, observing, and recording the world and experiences around them. Research skills using nonfiction texts along with hands on science experiments and activities are included. Within the two-year span, the themes include the study of Earth and Space, Dinosaurs, The Ocean, Simple Machines, The Human Body, and Nutrition. The class uses the Island community to complement its science studies.
Physical Education, Music, Art, Drama, and electives (Artists in Residence) are part of each student’s week.
Eight - Ten Year Old Program
The curriculum integrates content area themes with language arts skills. ’Quick Writes’, which are brief responses to a topic or question, help increase writing comfort and fluency. Compositions that are more formal include focused correction areas during which students practice general and individualized writing skills. Reading takes place independently as well as in supervised small groups everyday. Read aloud is tied to content areas with selections from many genres. The spelling program utilizes the close ties between spelling and phonics and allows each to reinforce the other, using words that have been chosen for structural as well as phonetic generalizations.
Students are organized into two grade level groups that meet five days a week using the Everyday Math Program. The program is organized into units of study that spiral back throughout the year, which gives students the opportunity to be repeatedly exposed to previously learned skills. Components of the curriculum include measurement, multiplication, and division, place value, decimals and fractions, algebraic formulas and geometry.
The social studies curriculum focuses on themes during the two-year cycle to study Massachusetts and its cities and towns from the time of the arrival of the Pilgrims, North American political and physical geography, and one early civilization. The students work on writing and research skills, cooperative learning, and citizenship through the social studies curriculum.
Thematic units are the core of the science curriculum revolving around the study of plant and animal life cycles, adaptations, electricity and magnetism, rocks and minerals, matter, weather and climate. Inquiring, observing, predicting, questioning, hypothesizing, and drawing conclusions are present in all scientific investigations.
Physical Education, Music, Spanish, Art, and electives (Artists in Residence) are part of the weekly activities for each student.
Ten - Twelve Year Old Program
The English language arts program is focused on literature, composition, and word study. Classics, Fantasy, and the Poetry Anthology are major components of the literature program during this two-year cycle. Composition includes narrative, persuasive, and expository writing. Word study involves vocabulary, spelling, Greek and Latin root words, prefixes, suffixes, phonics, and dictionary skill work. Thematic units used during the two-year cycle are Courage, Historical Fiction, and School Literacy Publication. The students’ understanding of literacy is assessed using the Leslie, Caldwell, Gambrell, and Ekwall-Shanker assessment instruments.
The mathematics program uses a hands-on problem solving approach guided by the Connected Mathematics Series. Number sense, statistics and probability, patterns, relations and functions, and geometry and measurement are focused whole-group units during the two-year cycle. Weekly assessments of student understanding in the form of ’warm-ups’ direct individualized and whole-group instruction. In the course of two years, students become adept at reading and interpreting their own MVPCS Math Assessment Tool to set independent math goals for themselves. Individualized lessons and practice materials help students meet these goals. Fifth grade students meet as a group twice a week to practice computation skills using teacher-designed worksheets and math games and sixth grade students meet as a group an additional two times a week for Math MCAS preparation.
The thematic driven curriculum includes US History, exploration, colonization, slavery, World Geography, the American Revolution, colonization, and Native American studies. Research and analysis of nonfiction texts, secondary and primary sources, oral presentations, art, theater, music, poetry, chart and map study are all used to gain a greater understanding of history, economics, civics and government, and geography.
The Science program uses an active, inquiry-based approach to discovery. The two-year cycle studies Electricity and Magnetism, Astronomy, Environmental Science, Geology, Physics, Life Science, Physical Science, the Island Ecosystems, Molecules, Sound, and Light. Active exploration, experimentation, observation, class discussion, nonfiction literature, writing, and projects are the strategies used to enhance learning. The Island and its resources are an integral part of this curriculum.
Each student’s week includes World Language, Art, Physical Education, and Electives (Offerings and Artists in Residences). Each student is invited to participate in the school’s Mentorship Program.
Twelve - Fourteen Year Old
The program uses a reading and writing Workshop Model in which large blocks of time are designated to reading and writing. Short story, essay, memoir, grammar, poetry, biography and autobiography, literary analysis, and individual research projects are units of study. Language arts lessons focus on spelling patterns, etymology, vocabulary, and parts of speech.
The math text, Connected Math, sets the course of study of the strands of Number Sense and Operations, Patterns, Relations, and Algebra, Geometry and Measurement and Data Analysis, and Statistics and Probability. Students study elements of graphing linear equations and inequalities while exploring the workings of a graphing calculator. Small and large group instruction is consistently part of the pedagogy.
During the two-year cycle students begin with an exploration of the Americas and the first human inhabitants of the North American continent. Students examine the transformation of America from an agrarian to industrial society. The group searches for the meaning and evidence of the beginnings of American democracy through reading primary source documents such as the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. Students explore the Africans in America, the development of slavery, and take an in-depth look at the causes and effects of the US Civil War. During the second year students examine the archeological and genetic evidence for African genesis and human migration across the globe. A review of Geography concepts and the development of Neolithic and the Early Civilizations of China, India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete and Phoenicia follow this. Major focus is devoted to the transformation of cultures over time, religious and social connections between groups, and their systems of belief and government in Classical Greece, and Rome. After the group’s trip to Italy, the class begins Facing History and Ourselves. Students engage in an examination of racism and prejudice and the power of individuals to oppose hatred while creating a multi-media exhibition of courage honoring those who refused to commit crimes and fought against racism and fascism.
The program covers the strands of Inquiry, Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Technology and Engineering. Using the Island as a classroom, the learning experiences include scientific observations of different ecosystems. Investigation, lab and fieldwork, and individual research are cornerstones of this program.
Each student studies Art, World Language, Physical Education, and Electives (Offering and Artists in Residence classes) each week. Each student is invited to participate in the school’s Mentorship Program.
The High School program is divided into two separate programs with a set of distinct goals. The ŒFirst Years’ (ninth and tenth grades) program is classroom and curriculum centered offering a variety of project based learning experiences in preparation for the 10th grade MCAS tests. The ŒPenultimate and Ultimate Year’s’ program is driven by independent research experiences, referred to as portfolios and juried exhibitions, under the supervision of the faculty. In addition, the students are required to demonstrate 12th grade understandings as outlined in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
The First Years Program
The English program is literature-based using novels, short story, essays, poetry, and non-fiction. A Shakespeare study is an annual curricular component. Group and independent reading is an important part of the vprogram. Creative writing, mastery of narrative and expository writing, and literary analysis are aspects of the program. Opportunities to explore creative writing and poetry through the Writing Workshop Model are provided. Vocabulary and literary terminology are also emphasized.
Math is designed to be an integrated two-year program of algebra, geometry, number sense, and probability and statistics. Students study linear, quadratic and exponential equations, the rules governing geometric relationships among symmetry, volume, and area. The group solves and graphs linear equations throughout the year. Learning of the subject matter incorporates the use of the graphing calculator and geometry software.
The two-year course of study concentrates on World History from 500 CE to the present. History, politics, geography, and economics are constantly intertwined in the students’ research, projects, and activities. The use of primary and secondary sources to support research is the focus of independent research
The program investigates logic and the scientific method in the studies of evolution, expansion, geology, energy, meiosis and mitosis, genetics and DNA, Physical Science, and chemistry. Lab work, journal entries, observations, experiments, and oral presentations are demonstrations of student understanding.
Physical Education, Art, Electives, Community Service Learning, and World Languages are part of each student’s week. In addition, each student participates in a weekly mentorship with an Island adult in an area of interest to the student.
The Penultimate and Ultimate Years
World and American Literature are examined during this two-year program of study. Drama, novels, poetry, short stories, essays, and speeches are examined. Students are asked to write poetry, fiction, self-evaluations, review essays, author studies, and speeches. Vocabulary and word etymology are focused on in this program.
The course explores new applications to the standard curriculum and the four strands of number sense, patterns and relations, geometry, and statistics and probability. Pascal’s triangle, the binomial theorem and combinators, matrices, properties of number systems, geometric proofs related to finite networks, trigonometry, exponential and logarithmic functions, and properties of discrete and continuous distributions are concepts introduced and studied in this program.
The themes of civics, government, and America in the world are interwoven throughout this course of study, which specifically looks at the US in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Supreme Court, the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Constitution, the Depression, FDR, Cold War, Viet Nam, The Bill of Rights, terrorism, and propaganda are topics studied in depth during this course.
The class selects the subject of this course. The two most recent course syllabi were Environmental Science and Astronomy. A broad range of subjects is interwoven into each course including statistics, technology, economics, business law, history, and social science.
This course prepares the students to successfully complete their required five portfolios and one juried exhibition during their last two years of High School.
Each student participates in Physical Education, Community Service Learning, Art, Electives, and World Languages each week. In addition, each student is engaged in a weekly mentorship with an adult in an area of interest to the student.
In addition to addressing student interests during the daily classroom structure, the MVPCS put great emphasis on the afternoon Offerings, the two week Project Periods in January and June, and the ongoing Artists-in-Residence Program.
The Offerings are electives offered to the ten through fourteen-year old-students. They take place on Monday and Friday afternoons. During these classes, teachers share a variety of learning experiences with students, which often center on the teacher’s own interests and hobbies. Some of this year’s courses titles were: Homework Club, Math Minds, ABC Quilts, Theater Skills, Mentorships, Independent Art, Aromatherapy, Botball, Knitting, Comfortable Reading, Skate Park, Play Writing, Gardening, Yearbook, Out and About Photography, Hiking, Sketching and Reflecting, How Did They Do That?
Project Period takes place twice a year, the first two weeks of January, and the last two weeks of the school year. The students select a two-week course of study from an array of courses designed by the faculty. Curriculum connections to the MA Curriculum Frameworks as well as the assessment rubrics are the foundation of each course. Each course requires a public exhibition of the work accomplished during the two week, sixty hour course. Course titles during the 2003-2004 school year were: Shakespeare and the Renaissance, Community Service, Commedia D’elle Art, Walkabout 2004, Save Our Seas, Quest, ART!, Independent Study.
The Artists-in-Residence Program has existed since the school first opened. Every student in the school has the opportunity to participate in these weekly, Wednesday afternoons, multiage classes. Students engage in a variety of artistic endeavors while directly learning from the experts. Course titles for this year included: Wheel Throwing, Introduction to Photographic Design, Creative Memories, Art and the Small Farm, Knitting, Theater Skills, Black and White Photography and the Darkroom, Aikido, Drawing and Sketching, Introduction to Drawing, Experimenting With Art, Comedy Improv, Farm Life and Crafts, Gnomes and Their Homes, Animation Plus, Woodworking, Theater Skills, Introduction to Dance and Yoga.