At Mustard Seed School, students learn a core knowledge base and develop essential life skills.
Students become proficient in traditional subject areas such as language arts, math, social studies and science. More than that, they learn to ask questions, think critically, and reflect upon learning. Project work and thematic units allow for deeper study, from the Viking study in First Grade to the Academic Exhibitions in the Upper School. Students are held to high, developmentally appropriate standards. Select the links below for information on specific subjects or go to Lower School, Upper School, or the individual grade levels.
Language and Literacy
Social Studies and Science are integrated into yearlong themes of study, with a change of focus each term to help students develop a deeper understanding of the topic, as well as to highlight disciplines within each study – earth, physical and life science, cultural, geographical and historical strands of social studies. These integrated themes of study, called central subjects, are aligned with child development and often involve extended project work as well as studies in the field, including overnight learning experiences. The Shared Space is also extend the classroom in thematic learning. (See below for more information.) As the school developed the Shared Space, we noticed similarities to the Reggio Emilia Approach. Further study of the approach has deepened the work the takes place in Shared Space as well as in the classroom.
Reggio Emilia Approach
The Reggio Emilia Approach has informed the work of the entire school, specifically in the areas of thematic project work, documenting student work, designing space, use of the arts, and collaboration. This dynamic approach to schooling encourages students to pursue interests deeply, take ownership of their learning, and move beyond typical grade level expectations. The Nest and Lower School, in particular, have developed and grown with the implementation of the Reggio Approach.
Read More about The Reggio Approach
Creating art allows students to interpret and comment on the world around them. At Mustard Seed, music and art are more than an add on, but rather they integrate with classroom learning. The school consciously aims for each student to develop skilled perspective and creative expression through daily experience in the arts.
Shared Space: Extending the Classroom, Integrating Thematic Learning and Arts
Kindergarten through Fifth Grade students spend time each day in the Shared Space, a progressive learning environment developed at Mustard Seed that extends and supports the classroom through hands-on student activities involving the arts. These activities build upon thematic academic study and allow for cross-age groupings as students from different classes work together and learn from each other. Work in the Shared Spaces addresses multiple intelligences and learning styles; teaches self-management, sharing, reflection, and self-assessment; and develops creativity and imagination.
Music Education at Mustard Seed School is based on the educational pedagogy of the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967). The goal of Kodály philosophy is to lead children to love of great music by vigorous exposure to authentic folk music and parallel instruction in musical literacy. Since the first instrument of this instruction is the human voice, singing is often heard in the school's classrooms and hall. More information on Kodály.
The pursuit of life long learning needs to move beyond the classroom—the world is the classroom. The school expands upon city children’s natural experiences and also exposes students to new ideas and environments. Field trips and guest artists/experts are frequent and integrate with thematic learning.
Field trips have two major branches:
- Exploring the city. Teachers take advantage of the learning opportunities in the urban environment from local architectural walks to major museums in New York City.
- Connecting to the natural world. All children, but especially city children, need exposure and experiences in the natural world. Hiking trips, overnights at a farm, and outdoor education programs are just some of the trips that connect students to the earth.
The social curriculum is a major focus of the school. This is our starting point for the only way we come to fully know ourselves and the world. To live in community means that one needs to become skillful in knowing how to work and play with each other. The language of negotiation and problem solving, of affirming and confronting, of apology and forgiveness, of expressing thanks and acknowledging need are all part of the life of the community. But knowing and saying words is not enough, acting on that knowledge with justice and compassion are needed to build the community. A value for and a contribution by each member is essential for the community to thrive. These are skills not only for school, but for life as children belong to different communities as they grow.
As a part of the social curriculum, the school employs the Responsive Classroom Approach. This approach emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community. The guiding principles of this approach were developed through research by educational theorists and exemplary classroom teachers.
This is especially true for our older students who have unique needs as young adolescents. Through daily morning meetings and weekly class meetings, personal conversations, advisory groups, and community building activities, we understand and honor the developmental uniqueness of children in early adolescence (6th, 7th, & 8th grade). We also understand the curriculum, the effective learning and assessment strategies, and the personal support that students need at this age.
For the sake of students, we commit class time for:
- Nurturing collaborative leadership, which includes giving students multiple leadership responsibilities.
- Creating an inviting, supportive, and safe environment that promotes in-depth learning and enhances students' physical and emotional well-being.
- Explaining high expectations for every member of the learning community – teachers and students, alike.
- Motivating students to tackle challenging learning activities. (We recognize that young adolescents are capable of far more than adults often assume.
- Directly encouraging and supporting meaningful human relationships, including the practice of resolving personal conflict, making an apology of action, and coming to a group consensus.
- Promoting students’ health, wellness and safety in structured activities.
The grounding of the social curriculum and the academic curriculum is rooted in the Christian faith. We recognize that each person is a child of God, uniquely created to discover, develop, and serve our world. All truth is acknowledged as God’s truth and students are encouraged to seek this out in various disciplines of study. Religious education at the school is a multifaceted program encompassing daily worship, traditional and multicultural celebrations, prayer, opportunities for service, and study of the Bible. The school uses scripture to explore themes of community, peace, joy, love and forgiveness as children grow and mature.
God created a world of goodness and beauty and gave people, made in God’s image, the task of tending to it. We recognize also that our world is flawed, as are we, but by grace we aim for God’s ultimate vision of wholeness and harmony and restoration. It is this vision that empowers our board, motivates our teachers and inspires our students to become agents of positive change in our world.