Third - Sixth (Upstairs Class)
At West Branch School, we acknowledge the individuality of our students and recognize that each child is at his/her own stage of development socially, emotionally, and academically. Our non-graded program is designed to honor the uniqueness and individuality of each student, allowing a child to progress at an appropriate rate, based on demonstrated abilities. Each student can then be challenged at a level determined by skill rather than age or grade.
Our goal is to nurture, guide, and teach the whole child. Learning at West Branch School is an integrated experience. This means that our academic program is complemented with a social curriculum that helps the child to develop interpersonal skills within a loving, safe, and caring environment. Respect for others and self, character-building, and global awareness are all recurring principles within our social curriculum.
The Upstairs: Third through Sixth Grade (Typically ages 8 -12) (Children that are older than sixth grade are accepted on a case-by-case basis.)
As of the 2013-2014 school year, West Branch School will adopt the Singapore Math curriculum school-wide. First developed in the early 1980s to improve math performance among Singaporean students, the program was developed by Marshall Cavendish in cooperation with Singapore’s Ministry of Education. Since the program was instituted, Singaporean students have ranked first in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study four times since 1995. This survey is conducted every four years to compare math and science achievement across countries.
Singapore Math emphasizes the development of conceptual understanding prior to the teaching of procedures. A powerful, hands-on, visual approach—a progression from concrete to pictorial to abstract—is used to introduce concepts, which at the core include strong number sense, place value, and problem solving.
Singapore math emphasizes conceptual understanding: the “why” not just the “how.” As it is not enough for students to just get a correct answer, multiple solution methods are encouraged and evaluated as to their advantages and disadvantages. Students need to be able to explain their thinking and understand and explain the thinking of their peers. The main goal of Singapore math is to foster problem-solving abilities in students, which helps in all subject areas.
Higher-level thinking, which is intrinsic to the Singapore Math program, is the goal of West Branch School teachers for all students in all subject areas. Singapore Math aligns with that goal.
The Language Arts curriculum in the Upstairs includes a balance of instruction in topics such as shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, grammar, and individual writing instruction in all genres. We incorporate cross-curricular literature in our literacy activities to further broaden our students’ knowledge in all subject matters while teaching and practicing critical reading skills. We strongly emphasize vocabulary in everything we do, and all students are exposed to a plethora of challenging words regardless of age. Writing is done on a daily basis. Creativity is fostered and cultivated amongst our students. We strongly believe that allowing students room to be creative and to have choices in what they write creates a love for writing and reading. Our writing workshops include individual daily conferences to further develop application of grammar, vocabulary and writing techniques. Students are provided with reading activities as part of their homework aimed at reinforcing the reading skills being taught. The students also set a weekly personal reading goal based on literature that they have chosen to promote a love for reading.
We also try to include a wide variety of cultural literacy activities into our instruction. We believe in creating well-rounded students by broadening their horizons to many fascinating areas of study. The students are taught basic Spanish vocabulary and conversational Spanish. They also are immersed in learning about different artists, composers, and world events.
The Science curriculum is a three-year rotation, which emphasizes Biology, Earth Science, or Physics. Although there is a yearly focus, science is treated as the essence of everything. Daily discussions revolve around questions/observations introduced by either students or teachers that might include such topics such as how things work, environmental issues, classification/identification, etc. The science curriculum also involves numerous field trips to sites such as Montour Preserve, PCT, Lycoming College, or to a large city museum i.e. New York or Washington. There are certain annual events and projects such as Monarch Watch, a butterfly conservation project done in conjunction with the University of Kansas, The West Branch Science Fair, and a three-day trip to Camp Susque focusing on environmental science. West Branch is also fortunate to have a relationship with Dr. Joseph LeBlanc, professor of physics from Penn College, who graciously offers to the students an ongoing array of science experiments and discoveries throughout the second half of each school year.
The Social Studies curriculum is also based on a three-year rotation of ancient history, United States history, and geography. Although there is a yearly focus, there are constant active discussions and activities that cover a broad range of topics such as current events, civics, active involvement in community events, and developing a broad scope of history. The Upstairs students carry on a role- playing simulation activity that presents numerous problem-solving situations, which challenge the group. Only by working together can the group progress. The activity builds itself on the application of many skills such as research, writing, reading, math, and presentation.
The Technology curriculum in the Upstairs is also a part of our daily instruction and includes educational studies and research using individual iPads, typing instruction, internet research, instruction in Microsoft Office Programs such as, Word, PowerPoint, and Publisher, and some basic graphic design skills. With a SMART Board, iPads, and brand new computers, the Upstairs is fully equipped to teach our students all the basic technology skills that they will need for further success in school and the workplace.
The Arts Curriculum for the older students at West Branch emphasizes exposure to many different types of art, materials, and media. Art is often incorporated in other academic areas, but is also included in the cultural literacy curriculum when discussing and studying artists. We encourage creativity and self-expression in everything we do, and it is a building block in every part of the curricula. The Upstairs also places a large emphasis on the dramatic arts. The students can often be seen performing skits, plays, and public speaking on a daily basis. The largest part of our dramatic art curriculum is our annual play. The Upstairs puts on a full-scale production at a professional theater. The students not only have the unique experience of performing at a professional theater, but they learn teamwork, self-confidence, public speaking techniques, as well as the background, history, authorship of the work itself.
West Branch School utilizes current teaching practices and technology, which are complimented by a variety of specialized hands-on experiences that enhance the development of the whole child. We not only focus on the academics, but there is an equal emphasis on the social emotional development of children. Leadership skills along with problem solving and taking responsibility are trademarks of our curriculum.
Our goal when students leave West Branch is that they are well-rounded individuals who excel at problem solving, communicating, and who demonstrate exemplary leadership skills.