THE ALEXANDER DAWSON SCHOOL AT RAINBOW MOUNTAIN
5-8 Curriculum Catalog
An Overview and Description of Curriculum Fifth through Eighth Grade 1
THE ALEXANDER DAWSON SCHOOL
Mission, Vision & Diversity Statement Mission
The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain is a nurturing learning community for boys and girls in preschool through grade eight that challenges students to achieve excellence in mind, body and character.
Our graduates will be ready to achieve their individual potential, savor life and meet the challenges of the world.
The distinct Dawson learning environment is reflective of the diverse community that surrounds us. The celebration of differences drives the Dawson mission and unifies the school-wide focus of self and social awareness. Students benefit from working with and learning from other students and teachers who are varied in learning styles, socioeconomic backgrounds, race, religions, ideology, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, culture and ethnicity. We are committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming learning community.Â 2
Dawson is Nevada's First Stanford University Challenge Success School! Back-to-back athletic games and practices, hours of homework every night, students falling asleep at their desks or suffering emotional breakdowns over grades or test scores...sound familiar? Challenge Success argues that our society "has become too focused on grades, test scores, and performance, leaving little time for kids to develop the necessary skills to become resilient, ethical, and motivated learners." So what exactly is Challenge Success and what does it mean for students at The Alexander Dawson School? Challenge Success is a program out of Stanford University's School of Education that aims to help schools create programs that value and foster interpersonal and collaborative skills, adaptability and resilience, and the critical thinking and ingenuity needed to solve complex problems through positive changes in curriculum and assessment, homework policies, daily school schedules, and health and wellness. From their website:
"At Challenge Success, we provide schools and families with the information and strategies they need to create a more balanced and academically fulfilling life for their kids. We believe that effective change happens when all stakeholders— administrators, faculty, parents, counselors, and students—come together to identify problems and work on solutions. Schools involved in our program send full teams to attend intensive conferences where they work with a coach to design action plans to implement best practices in areas such as curriculum, assessment, homework, school schedule, and a healthy school climate. Each school is unique, so each team designs an individualized plan for change. Our work with families is also based on best practices from research. Our courses, workshops, videos, and other resources offer parents guidelines and tools to help their children regain their balance, strengthen their sense of self, increase their motivation and critical thinking skills, and learn how to deal effectively with the inevitable challenges of life." The Alexander Dawson School, under the leadership of new Head of School Carola E. Wittmann, Ph.D., secured a partnership with the Challenge Success program beginning in the fall of 2017. Dr. Wittmann will send a team of Dawson educators and administrators to an intensive Fall Conference in September on Stanford University's campus. The goal of this conference will be the creation of a SPACE framework for Dawson, which looks at students' schedules, project and problem-based learning, alternative and authentic assessments, creating a climate of care, and the development of parent, student, and faculty education programs. The ultimate goal for Dawson? The development and implementation of policies and practices that increase academic engagement and well-being for our students - policies that focus less on grades, test scores, and performance and more on developing critical thinking, resilience, and growth mindset skills. Research shows these skills to be the most important for healthy child development and long-term life success.
Dawson’s Middle School knows some of life’s most important lessons are not found in books and lesson plans. Instead, our goals for each student include creating safe social situations and space for personal development. Because Middle School is a time for autonomy, the choice adolescents yearn for is satisfied by a wide variety of relevant and engaging choices. Students know why, as well as what, they are learning. Participatory models such as inquiry learning, labs, project learning, discussion and debate are the norm. Students move from small groups, to pairs, to peer-coaching opportunities within each period. Our small class sizes allow our talented teaching staff to differentiate instruction to match each child’s needs and optimal learning styles. Over the course of the Middle School experience, we foster metacognitive skills so students take advantage of the increasing choices found within the curriculum. There is more than one way to solve any problem, and our teachers are experts in guiding children to find their own paths toward mastery. We foster development of character with community-service projects and an advisory program that works to ensure each child makes the all-important personal connection to at least one educator on campus. A yearly highlight are the multi-day, off-campus trips for each grade level: We have adventures in the mountains and farms of Southern California, learn emergency medicine and how to surf in San Diego, and interact with our nation’s history with a week in Washington, D.C. Of course, our best indicators of success are our graduates. Many go on to local magnet programs and the region's top independent high schools, and some are recruited to the finest boarding schools in the nation. It is Dawson’s “whole child” approach to education – nurturing independence of mind, learning from mistakes, and enjoying self-discovery – that helps our students build greater resilience in the face of challenges both in and out of the classroom, and to make growth and learning a part of their life journey. 1
Reading and writing are not only tools for learning but are also a source of great enjoyment and are integrated throughout the fifthgrade curriculum. Interpreting and evaluating what is read will be emphasized over the course of the year. Writing is not only a skill that is practiced for it’s own sake; it is also an important vehicle for developing critical thinking. Through a daily humanities class and an integrated studies block, students are provided with opportunities to have influential and evaluative skills.
How well we communicate and how well others understand us often determines our success. Those who speak with conviction, write with clarity and read with comprehension find themselves launched to higher levels of thinking. They are also far more interesting and fun to be around. As technology becomes a greater part of everyday life, it is only natural that these tools become a central and essential component of the twenty-first century learning skill set in this course.
THEMATIC EMPHASIS: Social Structures, Survival and Sustainability
THEMATIC EMPHASIS: Anthropology and Analysis
Civilizations that have thrived and demonstrated sustainability exhibit common characteristics. In fifth grade, students will study the social relationships and behaviors of people who worked together to make their civilization thrive. From the Aztec civilization to the early American settlers, they will compare and contrast similarities and differences throughout these groups to identify key elements that contributed to their survival and sustainability.
The focus of the sixth-grade humanities content is the development, history and contributions of an ancient civilization that influenced the development of western civilization. There are three main goals upon which the curriculum focuses: for students to develop an understanding of the curriculum and content to make connections to the world today, to be more globally aware and understand the cultural implications of current events, and for students to learn how to think, write, and research like a historian.
In order to be successful in school and life, it is important for students to become proficient and confident readers and writers. Over the course of the school year, seventh-grade students will refine important reading, writing, analytical, and critical-thinking skills by reading text of various genres and crafting pieces of writing covering various modes. This class will follow a reader’s and writer’s workshop model, which will include whole-class reading, independent reading, and literature circle (small group) reading. Daily class time will be devoted to writing; students will follow the steps of the writing process and use 6 + 1 Traits of Writing as their foundation. Students will be provided with instruction in and will practice vocabulary and grammar in the context of the novels they read. Preparing students to be literate, articulate individuals is of the utmost importance as they prepare for eighth grade and high school.
This course is the students’ continuation of the study of Middle School language arts in preparation for high school reading, writing and research. Students will deepen their study of literature, writing, grammar and vocabulary development. Students will read from a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts in several literary genres, study classic works and authors, including modern literature, and study poets and playwrights. Students will increase their ability to develop, analyze, and express an idea persuasively through the writing process, as well as work on research for writing and multimedia projects. Students will explore how text shapes the human condition and our awareness of the world. Students will also collaborate on group projects and be given the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge in a variety of formats so all types of learners are accommodated.
THEMATIC EMPHASIS Voice and Power
THEMATIC EMPHASIS" Injustice and Inequality
The seventh-grader students will blend language arts skills with social studies knowledge, affording students the opportunity to comprehend and interpret the world around us keeping with a global perspective on how power shifts a culture, and with that voice comes with responsibility. Students will learn organization and research skills. Critical thinking and writing skills including comparing and contrasting, evaluating historical information, analyzing cause and effect, and identifying alternative outcomes will also be practiced. The development of public speaking skills through presentations and student-led discussions will also be an emphasis of the course.
Throughout time, injustice and inequality have remained a stable theme. Eighth graders will look at major United States events and issues from the lens of inequality and injustice to better understand the motivations behind conflicts and battles.
The fifth-grade math program is designed to help students develop a solid understanding of concepts through multiple methods and strategies. Students will engage in the exploration of concepts individually, in small groups, and in teacher-led settings. From concrete modeling to abstract understanding, students will derive real-world applications. Topics studied will include: number sense (number theory), operations and computation, data and chance, measurement and reference frames, geometry, and basic algebra (patterns and functions). Within all topics students will develop estimating skills and the ability to identify the reasonableness of their answers. By using concrete modeling, students will be able to build a deeper conceptual understanding of mathematics. With this, students will be able to make connections among concepts, procedures, and applications. Having made connections among these three key components, students will be able to derive their own strategies to navigate through mathematical challenges.
The sixth-grade mathematics program recognizes and builds on students’ capabilities by expanding the range of their mathematical experiences and ideas. Through the sixth-grade year, the program helps students begin to make the transition from concrete operations to abstractions and skills with symbols. By the conclusion of sixth grade, students have the foundation they will need for introductory algebra. A major theme throughout the curriculum is the study of function in the concrete, pictorial, and abstract for a meaningful learning of mathematics. Emphasis is placed on applications of these functions, many of which have a scientific and/or practical basis. Goals include an appreciation of the role of mathematics in society and other disciplines, mathematical reasoning and the ability to communicate mathematically, and a building of confidence and self-reliance to become mathematical problem solvers. Mathematics texts in the sixth-grade program do not, in themselves, define the curriculum. There is more emphasis on integrating science concepts into the math curriculum through physical science labs with particular emphasis on different systems of representing data and using mathematical formulas to help understand science concepts. There is also the introduction of longer-range projects that emphasize numerous math concepts presented throughout the school year.
Algebra I Algebra is a comprehensive course in which students learn about variables, equations, and how to create and interpret graphs. Students will also study the properties of equality and learn how to solve single-variable equations. The process of solving equations and communicating the appropriate steps will be just as important as finding the correct solution. Algebraic techniques will be a major focus of the class. The course will begin with one-variable equations, inequalities, and proportional thinking. The fall semester will begin in the linear world, closing with an exploration into how to set up and solve systems of equations and inequalities with problems involving two variables. In the spring, students will begin to work with exponents and develop their understanding of polynomials. Multiplying and factoring polynomials will be studied in detail. The course will revisit the concepts of graphing by studying how to represent quadratic functions. This will lead to the study of various techniques to solve quadratic equations including graphing a related function, using square roots, factoring, completing the square, and the quadratic formula. The concepts and skills developed when solving quadratics will be further applied to the study of exponential, radical, and rational functions. The course will finish with the exploration of statistics and probability.
Pre-algebra is an introductory algebra course in which students learn about variables and equations, and how to create and interpret graphs. Students will also study the properties of equality and learn how to solve single-digit variable equations. The process of solving equations and communicating the appropriate steps will be just as important as finding the correct solution. Algebraic techniques will be a major focus of the class. Each unit will begin with exercises of essential pre-algebra topics and progress into coordinating algebra content. The course will stay primarily in the linear world during the year, closing with an exploration into how to set up and solve systems of equations and inequalities with problems involving variables.
Advanced Algebra I and Introduction to Geometry Advanced algebra is designed to provide the student those skills necessary for the successful transition into Geometry and, eventually, Algebra 2. Topics include the language of algebra (vocabulary), linear equations and inequalities, polynomials, systems of equations, factoring, radicals, and statistics. Projects will be incorporated into lessons. By the end of the course, students will understand the properties of integers as they relate to polynomials, the relation between multiplying and factoring polynomials, and the reversal of operations in solving polynomials.
Fifth-Grade Science: Engineering, Technology and Applications of Sciences
Sixth-Grade Science: Earth and Space Sciences, and Engineering Design
Learning to think like a scientist is a major theme in this course. Throughout the year, students will observe objects and events, think about how they relate to what is known and test their ideas in logical ways to generate explanations that integrate the new information into understanding the natural world. In addition, the fifth-grade students will take on the role of junior engineers and apply their understanding to solve real-world problems.
What does it mean to be a scientist and behave like a scientist? This course examines how scientists use process and inquiry skills, tools, technology and resources, scientific methods, and collaboration to investigate claims and answer questions about the natural world. Likewise, engineers use knowledge of science, technology and math, the engineering design process, creativity, collaboration, and effective communication to solve problems within the designed world.
The physical science concepts of force and motion are explored while students gain an in-depth experience with scientific and engineering practice. Throughout this unit, students will ask questions about systems in the natural and designed worlds, including pendulums, springs, ramps, and balls. Students will design and conduct controlled experiments to find out what variables affect the transfer of energy. Furthermore, students will use data and logic to construct and communicate reasonable explanations about forces and motion. It is important for students to work with others as scientists and engineers to create conceptual and physical models and explain how something works. Students will plan designs, select materials, construct products, evaluate and improve ideas to meet specific criteria.
This course will educate students to recognize that discoveries in science impact engineering design and innovations in engineering, leading to empowering discoveries and the continued study in all fields of science. They will have the exciting opportunity to create and study models to investigate the Earth's movement, the Earth-Sun-Moon system, the Solar System, the Milky Way galaxy and the universe. They will simulate the study of astronomy and research the history of Earth's creation.
Seventh-Grade Science: Life Science "
Eighth-Grade Science: Physical Sciences and Engineering Design How can a person use the processes and skills used in the scientific method and/or engineering design in other facets of their lives, outside of science, to problem solve? Why is it is important to share our findings/discoveries with other scientists and researchers around the world? This course will empower students to collect data for analysis and craft solutions to a problem through observation and design.
Scientific inquiry refers to the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work. Inquiry also refers to the activities of students in which they develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world. This course will focus on teaching students to carry out an investigation to collect data for analysis, and devise an answer to an observation or find a solution to a problem through design. Students will learn about the characteristics of life, such as how organisms share common characteristics, as well as how life emerges due to the chemical organization of matter into cells. Focus is placed on cells and the cellular process as students assume the role of research scientists.
This course will educate students to know and understand matter and energy, including the structure of an atom, the properties of matter, physical and chemical properties, thermal energy and the Periodic Table. Furthermore, they will study chemical reactions, and the conservation of mass and matter.
World Language: Mandarin, Spanish & French The 5-8 world language program, which requires of students a four-year commitment, uses stories, drama and music to help students develop oral and written fluency as quickly as possible. Stories written in the form of plays become the focus for a range of motivating language activities that help students develop confidence and competence in the language as they progress through each unit. There is an equal emphasis on the development of both oral and written skills. Grammar is taught inductively, meaning students learn to acquire grammar in a way that resembles the way we learn our first language. Once the concept has been acquired, students learn the grammar rule so that it becomes meaningful to them and they learn to apply it during the editing process. Another component of this program is the Gesture Approach, a technique that uses hand signs to help students learn and remember this important vocabulary found in the plays, songs and other activities. There is an equally strong emphasis on the development of all four language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) through a program that meets the needs of all language learners and their learning styles. Activities are varied so that students have the opportunity to work individually, in partners, in small groups and as a whole class. Finally, students will also explore the many interesting aspects of Mandarin, Spanish and French-speaking culture through songs, movies, books and hands-on classroom experiences. As students progress through the world language program, the focus of these courses grows to include communication with the goal of expanding their ability to converse using accurate pronunciation. Grammatical structures will be introduced, and knowledge of vocabulary will be reviewed and expanded to allow the students to communicate at an intermediate level about real-life situations. Students will also continue to explore the many interesting aspects of culture and learn about the different countries in which their chosen language is spoken.
Fifth-Grade Technology Standards Overview
Sixth through Eighth-Grade Technology Standards Overview
5-8 Athletics Athletics are an essential component of The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain educational experience and is central to the School’s Mission of mind, body and character. Through athletics, students face both success and defeat, preparing them for the achievements and disappointments of life. Participation in competitive athletics provides students the opportunity to experience and the value of dedication, sacrifice, time management, and teamwork. Students also develop leadership skills and strength of character. The focus of the Middle School athletic program is for
students to gain exposure to various sports and skill development. This objective continues and progresses towards a balance between participation and competition. Coaches and athletes work together to create an inclusive, competitive team environment while thoroughly preparing for the transition to high school athletics. The Alexander Dawson School offers a no-cut policy that allows the student the right to participate and learn. However, selection for teams or representative roles are based on demonstrated ability and commitment. 12
Dawson Athletics: Fifth through Eighth Grade The focus of the Middle School athletics program in grades fifth and sixth is for students to gain exposure to various sports and skill development. This objective continues into seventh and eighth grades, and progresses towards a balance between participation and competition. Coaches and athletes work together to create an inclusive, competitive team environment, while thoroughly preparing for the transition to high school athletics. Dawson Athletics offers a no-cut policy that allows the student the right to participate and learn. However, selection for teams or representative roles are based on demonstrated ability and commitment.
Fall Season (August through November): flag football, volleyball, cheerleading and cross-country
Winter Season (November through March): cheerleading, basketball and swimming
Spring Season (March through May): soccer, tennis, and track and field
Program Goals • Develop sport-specific skills • Develop knowledge of game strategies and rules • Have the opportunity to work cooperatively toward team goals • Develop a positive attitude toward teammates and opponents • Promote sportsmanship on and off the court/field at all times • Promote the concept of “nothing without labor” • Encourage the development of leadership qualities • Provide each athlete the opportunity to work toward a healthy lifestyle
This is an overview and description of Dawson's curriculum for grades 5-8.