At St. Michael’s, our students gain knowledge and understanding by participating in a challenging and carefully planned academic program with a strong emphasis on mathematics and language arts. In our Middle School, all seventh and eighth grade academic classes are honors classes, with high school credit classes offered in Algebra, Geometry, Spanish 1 & 2 and Earth Science.
The International Baccalaureate program is designed for ALL Middle School students. Enrichment activities ranging from music and drama to study skills and reading enhance students’ work and comprehension. Community service, meaningful extracurricular activities and school clubs build self-esteem and responsible and positive attitudes toward one another and their environments.
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In 2010, St. Michael’s earned authorization as an IB World School to deliver the Middle Years Program. The International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (MYP) is a broad framework for middle school education which encompasses many of the attributes of highly effective middle schools, outlined by the National Middle Schools Association. The IB MYP is creative, flexible and allows us to develop the program within the culture and philosophies of St. Michael’s. The MYP encourages students to embrace and understand connections between traditional subjects and the real world and to become critical and reflective thinkers. The MYP recognizes the importance of skill development in each discipline and encourages positive attitudes toward learning by inspiring students to ask challenging questions, to critically reflect, to develop research skills and to participate in service to the community and the world.
At St. Michael’s, students learn respect for others and develop an understanding of their own roles in the community through values instruction, chapel programs and service projects. Third grade students examine biblical history from the Old Testament. Fourth grade students pursue a study of New Testament history. Fifth graders study the five major world religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
To help students develop and practice trust, respect and responsibility in their daily lives, the sixth grade values class explores the importance of good character. The seventh grade values class challenges students to examine their identities and behaviors to form healthy relationships. Eighth grade values instruction fosters students’ discovery of their talents and the development of skills to identify and achieve their goals.
St. Michael’s Spanish program strives to meet the National Standards for Foreign Language Education established by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Students in second through fifth grades meet weekly to learn basic vocabulary and phrases to develop communication skills and study the culture of Spanish speaking countries. In the Middle School, the frequency of Spanish instruction increases each year, meeting four times a week by eighth grade. Upon graduation, most students have earned a high school credit in Spanish 1 and many are prepared to begin Spanish 2 at the honors level. Accelerated students complete Spanish 2 and proceed to Spanish 3 in high school. Most importantly, they have learned to communicate fluently in Spanish.
Both the Louise Fontaine Powers Library located on the Bon Air Campus and the Ann and Buddy Allen Library located on the Singleton Campus are open daily during school hours. The libraries provide multiple services to both students and faculty. Lower School classes visit the library once a week. The librarian works with each class to develop reading, listening and information literacy skills. Children also participate in fun and educational enrichment activities.
Visiting authors, like Tad Hills, James Preller and Newbery Honor Award Winner Cece Bell, engage children with the stories behind their favorite books and get them excited to read. Middle School students utilize the library individually, by class or in small groups, for special projects.
St. Michael’s embraces technology, always keeping in mind that the human interaction between a student and teacher is the most important component of education. At the same time, learning to utilize technology is critical to today’s educational environment and the world beyond the classroom. Meaningful and balanced use of technology is integrated into our classroom curriculum. Our emphasis is on how to leverage technology to solve problems.
Both of St. Michael’s campuses feature dedicated computer labs with high-speed Internet access. Mobile labs with laptops and iPads bring technology into the classroom. Students develop proficiency in word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software and digital research. Coding instruction utilizing Scratch, HTML, Wordpress and Gamestar Mechanic is incorporated in the Middle School technology curriculum. Additionally, students learn to apply technology in creative learning opportunities such as 3-D rendering, movie production, music composition and interactive science labs. Every student is required to sign the Acceptable Use Policy before receiving permission to use the computers .
St. Michael’s participates in the nationwide WeatherBug Achieve program. The on-site weather station transmits live data to the Lower School library, the Internet and NBC-12.
Our Fine Arts program is an integral part of the curriculum including instruction in art, music and dance. Visual arts classes are designed to foster an appreciation for fine artists and their work, to explore a variety of media and artistic techniques and to emphasize the principles of art. The program nurtures the unique creative abilities of each student by providing developmentally appropriate classes for each grade level. Music classes study composers and their compositions, aspects of music theory, singing, movement and various instruments. In third and fourth grades, students learn to play the recorder. The sixth grade curriculum includes a semester of dance and drumming. Beginning guitar is included in the seventh and eighth grade curriculum.
Our students are also offered a number of extracurricular opportunities to expand their musical and artistic talents. Mr. Brian Rollins, Trinity Episcopal School’s band director, provides beginning and intermediate band instruction to students in fifth through eighth grades. The band performs for the School community in December and May. The Middle School celebrates the Fine Arts with a drama production and an art show in May.
St. Michael’s physical education classes strive to help students master coordination skills and develop attitudes for a healthy lifestyle. Team sports stress teamwork and good sportsmanship. Beginning in third grade, girls may participate in intramural field hockey and boys and girls may participate in intramural basketball.
St. Michael’s faculty sponsors clubs which provide opportunities for students to explore individual interests in a supportive atmosphere. Middle School clubs meet weekly during the school day. Club offerings vary by semester and may include Rocketry Club, Shakespeare Club, Chapel Club, Canoe Club, Environmental Club, Cooking Club, Photography and Drawing Club, Strategia Math Club, FIRST LEGO League and Sports Club (frisbee golf, wiffle ball, bocce). The Student Council Association is led by student-elected representatives who coordinate service projects, social activities and school dances. The Lower School offers three clubs, Math Club, Bookworms, and Championship Chess.
Beginning in fourth grade, our students may participate in the FIRST LEGO League robotics challenge. Working in teams, students design and program a LEGO robot to complete the challenge tasks. Students investigate the challenge theme and propose solutions to the problem. Themes change each year and have included the exploration of Mars and the Arctic, climate change, nanotechnology and transportation. Awards emphasize gracious competition, the team’s creativity in approaching the challenge and the development of their robot.
At local and state competitions, the robot’s success is secondary to the students’ demonstration of teamwork and their research into the challenge issue. St. Michael’s teams have enjoyed much success in FLL competitions, including invitations to the Virginia state tournaments each year.