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, and Earth Science.
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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Every day, faculty members at St. Michael’s seek to challenge and inspire our students. Our teaching award winners provide a snapshot of the wonderful work that our distinguished faculty does every day in the classroom. Through their efforts to deliver a superior academic experience, they create classroom and learning environments which engage all students to fully develop their talents, discover their passions, and foster self-discovery.
• TIM WINKLER, Middle School science teacher, received the fall 2019 Virginia Association of Independent Schools Middle School Innovation in Education Award for his passion for outdoor learning, creation a large scale geodesic dome in his classroom for Astronomy lessons, and his innovative use of technology in the classroom.
• SAMANTHA FUTRELL, Middle School social studies teacher, received the fall 2019 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Excellence in Teaching Award by the Virginia Council for the Social Studies for her teaching focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as empowering students to research global problems and voice their findings, ideas, and potential solutions through podcasts.
• REBEKAH O’DELL, Middle School English teacher, was featured as an educational expert in a September 2019 New York Times article on resources for teaching young people to write. An accomplished author and speaker, Mrs. Odell has published two books on writing instruction.
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 and our St. Michael’s DRAGONS values (kindness, respect, acceptance, integrity, responsibility, resilience, and compassion.) 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.
SERVICE LEARNING: Whether they are supporting student-led projects or participating in classroom outreach opportunities, St M students from ALL grades participate in service learning opportunities to learn empathy, build character, and become more engaged global citizens. Each year, our 150 Middle School students complete over 2,400 hours of community service both at School and in the community.
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 to five days a week as a core academic class. 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. More importantly, they have learned to communicate fluently in Spanish.
Both the Lower School Library (located in the new Hubbard Hall) and the Ann and Buddy Allen Library (located in Singleton Hall) 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 R.A. Pratt, 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.
Along with interactive whiteboards and a dedicated MAC computer lab in Singleton Hall, 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 podcasts, 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.
DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP: The media content children consume and create has a profound impact on their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. St. Michael’s, in partnership with Common Sense Media, implemented a K-8 curriculum in 2018-2019 to educate our students on responsible digital citizenship.
We are pleased to announce that St. Michael’s was the FIRST INDEPENDENT SCHOOL IN RVA to be certified as a Common Sense School, an honor that recognizes our ongoing commitment and efforts in teaching digital citizenship to our school community.
COMMON SENSE MEDIA
St. Michael’s implemented a ONE-TO-ONE student computer program for our Middle School beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.
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 drumming and beginning guitar is included in the seventh and eighth grade curriculum.
Our students are also offered a number of opportunities to expand their musical and artistic talents. St. Michael’s is pleased to be partnering with the Richmond Ballet for the sixth year (pending Covid-19 updates/program changes) to bring their acclaimed year-long “Minds in Motion” program to our Lower School. In conjunction with physical education and reading programs, all of our fourth grade students receive instruction from Richmond Ballet professional teaching artists and musicians for one class per week. The program concludes with a truly memorable spring performance, alongside students from across central Virginia, at Richmond’s Center Stage!
Our Middle School presents a yearly drama production and our community comes together in May for an annual all-school “Celebration of the Arts” featuring art from every student and musical performances.
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 M also offers a mountain biking program —taking advantage of an exciting trail system on our 70 acre Campus.
St. Michael’s Middle School electives provide opportunities for students to explore individual interests in a supportive atmosphere. Middle School electives meet weekly during the school day. Offerings vary by season and may include:
The Middle School Student Council Association is led by student-elected representatives who coordinate service projects, social activities and school dances.
The Lower School offers many co-curricular opportunities including: art, fishing, tree climbing, mountain biking, yoga, intramural soccer, intramural field hockey, double dutch jump rope, guitar/ukulele/piano, chess, and more!
Beginning in sixth 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 also investigate the challenge theme and propose solutions to the problem though a strategic research project. Themes change each year and have included the exploration of Mars and the Arctic, climate change, nanotechnology, hydrodynamics, and space travel. Awards emphasize gracious competition, the team’s creativity in approaching the challenge and the development/engineering 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. During the 2019-20 school year, our Middle School Dragons went into battle at the November regional robotics completion at L.C. Byrd High School and came home with top awards for Robot Design, Robot Performance, and Project Innovation.
Our award-winning Robotics Team showcased their strategic thinking and technology skills at the FIRST LEGO League state robotics competition.
Buckeye, our reading dog, is a trained therapy Goldendoodle and beloved member of our Lower School. At school every day, he inspires our students to read, instinctively knows when someone needs cheering up, and puts big smiles on the faces of all he meets.
As emerging readers, our first graders participate in a “Read to Buckeye” program. This program has been successful in building confidence in young readers and increasing motivation to read independently.
“Perhaps the greatest benefit of therapy dogs in the classroom is the effect on students’ social-emotional development. Loving and lovable, dogs are friendly companions and good listeners who make no judgments. Children bond easily with these gentle creatures, helping them feel more connected and confident.
Therapy dogs not only have a positive effect on emotional well-being, they have an influence on cognitive development. Interacting with therapy dogs improves students’ reading skills, stimulates memory and problem-solving skills, and even optimizes executive-functioning skills." (Source: National Institutes of Health study)
As emerging readers, our first graders participate in a "Read to Buckeye" program. This program is successful in building confidence in young readers and increasing motivation to read independently.