Carpe Diem Primary strives to create an academic environment where students develop an attitude of healthy risk-taking to learn new skills and concepts, and to set personal goals for achievement. Our students are encouraged to continue challenging themselves in all that they do. Our teachers believe there is no ceiling to learning. We set high standards for student achievement, and expect each student to work to their personal best.
We use the Singapore Math curriculum as an overall framework for our math program. Singapore Math is aligned with Common Core National standards, and ranks very high in OSPI curriculum studies. In math class there is a student teacher ratio of approximately 10:1.
Our students work in small groups for reading and comprehension activities. An average class size for reading is 10:1. Emergent and beginning readers are introduced to the visual/auditory format of Letterland characters to learn letter sounds, blends, digraphs, long and short vowel sounds, and silent letter patterns. Beginning reading instruction is primarily phonics based, but over time moves into both a phonics and whole language approach.
Our writing curriculum encourages students to discover the power of writing as a means to communicate their ideas as well as to develop their identity and voice. Emergent writers learn proper letter formation and handwriting skills through the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. In the writer’s workshop model, students are taught many genres of writing such as poetry, non-fiction, and personal narrative. Students learn to think critically about their writing as they move through each stage of the writing process from brainstorming to final publishing.
All students learn common spelling patterns that are appropriate to their ability level through the Words Their Way curriculum. Students take a spelling inventory to help identify their appropriate level. They complete weekly spelling activities that support their growth through the spelling stages.
Students engage in a variety of natural science experiments and explorations every week. Students participate in hands on activities to learn about topics such as magnetism, constellations, chemistry, and forces of motion. Science class is always a dynamic and tactile experience that enriches and extends our curriculum.
There are five main areas that focus on the development of language: reading, writing, listening, speaking, and the mastery of basic word processing skills. Students receive instruction in these five areas separately, as well as in an integrated manner through thematic science and social studies thematic units. Students write daily. Writing skills are taught to the whole group, as well as individually. Writers move through the writing process, taking their work from the planning stage, to various rough drafts and revisions, to a final product which is evaluated by both students and teachers. Language mechanics, Greek & Latin, and Spelling are included in the curriculum.
We use the Singapore Math Curriculum, with students practicing work at their grade and/or just-right level. Students work in small groups with a combination of direct instruction, independent discovery, group work, and hands-on practice.
Science topics are taught thematically and integrated into the math and language arts curriculum. The focus of the science curriculum is on exposure to hands-on projects and experimentation, where students learn to research and write descriptively about scientific topics. Students work individually and in various groupings to hypothesize, research, conduct experiments, and write about their findings. At the culmination of each unit, students demonstrate what they have learned by sharing it with the community and completing a formal self-evaluation.
Our curriculum employs a thematic, project-based approach in which social studies topics are closely integrated across the curriculum. Each topic is taught to students through a variety of experiences, activities, projects and writing assignments. In an effort to effectively reach the deepest understanding of a topic, student learning is developed through whole and small group discussions, reading assignments, art projects, presentations and field trips. Students work individually, in pairs, in cooperative small groups, and as a whole group to create meaningful projects that demonstrate what they have learned about a given topic.
In 6th grade, students broaden their understanding of the many purposes of the English Language. The most intent focus is on preparing the students for more advanced writing by mastering the writing process, by expanding compositional skills in technique and vocabulary, and by examining the work of master writers. In this quest, we touch each aspect of the study of English, striving to inculcate enjoyment, knowledge, and a full understanding of the language.
By 7th grade, students examine the components of various literary genres, as well as their functions and purposes. They learn to deconstruct works of fiction, drama, film and poetry, developing an understanding of how authors, dramatists, filmmakers and poets use the tools of their crafts to lure and keep readers, viewers and performers compelled. Reading and writing become the central focus of this course, and both increase dramatically from that of the previous year. Much of the literature is quite complex for the middle school level. Discussions and writing follow an analytical path where the students will divine, support, and explain the relevance of certain themes and ideas, practicing the art of literary criticism through active engagement with the texts.
By 8th grade, English is a time to hone and polish the skills that students will exercise in high school courses, with particular emphasis on reading, and writing about, literature in a critical manner. One of the most effective ways of developing those skills is to look at works which are thematically related, as they offer both a comparative basis and points for analysis which allow for critical thinking to take its natural path. Over the course of the year, this class examines works of both fiction and nonfiction, poetry, short stories, and film, each of which demonstrates the theme of the individual and society within American society. A central and overriding goal of this course is to produce independent students—both in their thinking and in their task execution—as well as students for whom critical and comparative thinking extends beyond the classroom. Written work has students drawing upon and refining their summative, analytical, and reflective skills. Grammar and vocabulary form additional components of this year. Students in their final year with us also complete a research paper – the Forum, the preparation of which will teach them methods of locating and documenting relevant and related information, evaluating the information for veracity and purpose, and citing the information in relation to their own work. They learn to draw upon information presented in lecture to help guide them in the acquisition of these skills, including learning to take effective lecture notes. Finally, students develop proficiency in a technique called “close reading,” a tool as necessary to literary practice as the novel or work itself. This is accomplished through continuous, broadly-based reading of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, including to essays, articles and literary criticism and more. Finally, the formal bundling of all of these skills occurs through the Forum, a supplemental course to the English curriculum during which students pursue research in a topic of original thought, culminating in the publication and presentation of a multi-page, MLA-style research paper.
Harbor School has adopted the Singapore Math curriculum, which follows the Common Core standards for the state of Washington. Singapore Math is known to be a vigorous curriculum offering both enrichment and remediation pieces. Course 2 by Prentice Hall is also being used as an intermediary text for students taking the traditional rather than the accelerated path offered with the three book series of Singapore Math for Middle School. With this adoption, the Harbor School math program becomes aligned K-8.
Traditionally, science content is offered in one-year, content specific packages such as “life science,” “physical science” and “earth science.” In contrast, Harbor School’s design utilizes an earth-systems approach where authentic connections within the natural world are emphasized. For example, instead of studying chemistry on its own, students learn many concepts of chemistry through various units of study such as “Cooking,” and “Waves.” When exploring science in this manner, students make real-world connections and are intrinsically motivated to understand the underlying scientific concepts. Our approach also allows many opportunities to explore local issues and environments.
Over the course of 6th, 7th and 8th grade, a majority of the Next Generation Science Standards (developed in collaboration by The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science) are explored in depth. Consequently, students will learn both scientific facts and develop abstract understandings of the laws governing the natural world. Middle School students in particular benefit greatly from curriculum that relates directly to their lives and integrates their innate curiosities and passions.
In 6th grade, the focus of the Science curriculum is on biology and earth science. In 7th grade, focus is on the physical sciences. In 8th grade, students focus on Earth systems – biological and chemical. All Middle School students conduct regular experiments and keep an interactive science journal for recording, analyzing and interpreting data as well as constructing scientific evaluations based on reliable and valid evidence.
Both the 6th and 7th grade social studies curriculum emphasize the acquisition of basic research skills. Students practice how to locate reliable information and how to read that information for salient points. In addition to reading for consequential information, students also practice listening for key information. Note-taking strategies go hand-in-hand with these reading and listening skills and will be practiced throughout the three-year social studies program.
In 6th grade, Social Studies focuses on “The Foundations of Western Thought.” Through their studies, student gain an understanding of how and why civilizations developed; identify and examine the five elements of civilization; and learn how ancient civilizations shaped our American society. Research, writing and presentation is built around four units – Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Ancient Chinese Wisdom. In 7th grade, Social Studies focuses on “Special Topics: A Global Perspective” which includes 5 units – American Agriculture, Comparative Religion, Introduction to the Middle East, Human Rights and Peace Makers.