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 that engage all students to fully develop their talents, discover their passions, and foster self-discovery.
• TIM WINKLER, Middle School science teacher, received the Virginia Association of Independent Schools Middle School Innovation in Education Award for his passion for outdoor learning, creation of 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 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Excellence in Teaching Award by the Virginia Council for the Social Studies (VCSS) 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. In March of 2023, she was recognized once again at the VCSS conference and awarded the Kaur Foundation Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award.
• REBEKAH O’DELL, Middle School English teacher, was featured as an educational expert in New York Times article on resources for teaching young people to write. She is highly regarded in education circles for her expertise in teaching writing skills to grades 6-12 and for inspiring students to become passionate writers. An accomplished author and speaker, Mrs. Odell has published three books on writing instruction.
St. Michael’s DRAGONS Values: kindness, respect, acceptance, integrity, responsibility, resilience, and compassion.
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. Second and 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.
In the Middle School, our “Explore, Serve, & Lead” (ESL) and Advisory programs provide social-emotional support for students during the Middle School years. The ESL curriculum aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of different religions, foster a sense of community through meaningful service outreach projects, and develop skills for planning and executing inspirational student-led chapel services. Students explore how they might build bridges within themselves, their community, and the world, all while learning leadership skills, responsibility, compassion, and respect for all.
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 2,000 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.
An Award-Winning Language Program: The National Spanish Exam recognizes student achievement in Spanish and is the most widely used Spanish assessment in the U.S. In the spring of 2023, 45 St M eighth grade students took the exam, with 19 students scoring 95% or higher (including four students who received perfect scores). St M also had 12 students recognized at the Silver level, seven students placed at the Bronze level, and six students received honorable mention honors.
Both the Lower School Library (located in 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 James Riley, Clay McLeod Chapman, R.A. Pratt, Tad Hills, James Preller, Ben Guterson, Mary Amato, A.M. Pace, 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.Search the Library Catalog
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.
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 starting in 2018-2019 to educate our students on responsible digital citizenship.
We are pleased to share 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.
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 eighth year 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 (to sold-out crowds) 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, students may participate in intramural field hockey, intramural basketball, and intramural soccer.
St M also offers a mountain biking program (a popular favorite with our students)—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 Community Association is led by student-elected representatives who coordinate service projects, social activities, pep rallies, and school dances.
The Lower School offers many after-school enrichment opportunities including: art, fishing, mountain biking, yoga, intramural soccer, intramural field hockey, coding, nature exploration, and more!
Kids belong outdoors! Our majestic 70-acre campus offers boundless opportunities for nature discovery on our trails, creeks, waterfall, bridges, and lake. It’s no wonder that our weekly outdoor education classes are a perennial favorite with our students. We continue to investigate ways to enrich the program, creating a unique offering that focuses on children’s emotional wellness which is so needed in these uncertain times.
Buckeye and Stanley, our TWO reading dogs, are trained therapy dogs (Goldendoodle and Bernadoodle) and are beloved members of our Lower School. At school every day, they inspire our students to read, instinctively know when someone needs cheering up, and put big smiles on the faces of all they meet.
As emerging readers, our first graders participate in our Reading Dog program, which is 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. 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 our Reading Dog program.
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. St M is proud that our students regularly receive top awards for Robot Design, Robot Performance, and Project Innovation.
In 2018, St M's Blue Dragons robotics team ROARED at state and regional competitions and was the ONLY Richmond Middle School team and one of only two teams in Virginia to advance to the FIRST LEGO League World Championship!