Children are naturally full of questions about the world around them and we have cultivated a community that respects and celebrates these questions. In elementary school, students learn how to turn questions into answers and action. Students take the burgeoning observation, engineering, and mathematics skills they acquired in our early childhood program and put them to work creating hypotheses, designing and conducting experiments, finding meaning from results, and conveying their findings to an audience.
Simply knowing an answer is not enough. Side by side, teachers and students collaborate to design creative responses that showcase students’ learning and knowledge acquisition. Students are given opportunities to brainstorm further questions, impart their knowledge to others, and utilize this knowledge to create novel solutions to problems.
At Feynman School, STEM is not just a period during the day; it is a worldview that infuses every subject. It is a way of turning “Why” into “What if,” and “What if” into “What next.” Students leave Feynman School with the scientific literacy needed to question the world around them, seek answers, and create change in all disciplines.
Students at Feynman School are not scientists-in-training. They are scientists because the do the work of scientists every day.
Children are natural-born scientists from the minute they enter the world. We capitalize on this natural curiosity, guiding and encouraging gifted children to work collaboratively and creatively to solve problems, make and extend meaning, develop and test new ideas and learn about the world around them. Students are involved in daily hands-on science, using the thought processes, skills, and vocabulary of practicing scientists. As Richard Feynman learned from his father, who was his greatest teacher, our students learn early on “the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” Our students make observations, ask questions, formulate hypotheses, design and conduct investigations, collect and analyze data, draw and justify conclusions and present their research to their colleagues as well as to experts in STEM fields.
As a springboard, Feynman School uses a research-based curricular framework developed by the College of William and Mary’s Center for Gifted Education. Within this framework, teachers design innovative hands-on science investigations and experiments which teach essential concepts such as quantity and comparison as well as overarching scientific concepts such as change or systems. Teachers actively listen to their students’ observations and questions and use this information to incorporate students’ interests into the curriculum. Students are given many opportunities to improve upon investigations and experiments and to design their own as they develop their identities as practicing scientists.
The journey through science helps students not only become more self-aware and confident, but also fosters within them a sense of social responsibility.
In order to give time to dive deep into a subject and explore its complexities, each grade studies a specific scientific discipline.
- Kindergarten: Architecture, Civil Engineering, Urban Planning, and Meteorology
- First Grade: Space and Earth Science
- Second Grade: Physics
- Third Grade: Biology
- Fourth Grade: Chemistry
- Fifth Grade: Environmental Science and Ecology
Digital literacy is essential in our digital world. Technology, therefore, is an essential part of the elementary curriculum.
Just as students must learn proper handwriting, they must also learn proper keyboarding. Beginning in Kindergarten, students use the Keyboarding Without Tears program to practice efficient keyboarding skills. Keyboarding Without Tears has received numerous awards, including the 2017 Teachers’ Choice(R) Award for the Classroom, and is the only keyboarding program to have earned a Seal of Alignment for Readiness by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
Beginning in First Grade, every student receives weekly lessons in Computer Science during which they learn the principles of hardware and software. Over the course of their elementary years, students will learn how to code, build computers, create designs for 3D printing, and more.
Our mobile fleet of laptops allows for 1:1 computer access so that students can develop proficiency with online research, essential programs such as Microsoft Office, and digital citizenship. Our students learn how to effectively search for information, evaluate websites for bias and accuracy, and stay safe online.
Our mission is to help our students move beyond knowledge acquisition to become creative knowledge producers. Engineering, therefore, is a crucial part of our curriculum. Throughout the academic year, students in the elementary program learn and practice the fundamentals of the Engineering Design Process which is the process used by practicing engineers. Opportunities for creative problem-solving, design, and engineering are incorporated into STEM projects, Social Studies, Destination Imagination, and more.
At the end of every year, all elementary students participate in the Invention Convention. Invention Convention is an opportunity for students to create viable solutions to real world problems. Students begin by conducting interviews to gather information about common problems in people’s lives. After considering and researching issues that vary in size from everyday annoyances to worldwide problems, students choose a topic and brainstorm multiple novel solutions. They then choose a solution, create prototypes, and revise their inventions. During this time, students meet with a patent lawyer to learn about the process of seeking a copyright. The project ends with a school-wide convention during which students showcase their work.
Math infiltrates students’ everyday lives both inside and outside of school. Therefore math at Feynman is not taught in a vacuum. Our students understand that math is uniquely connected to different disciplines including but not limited to science, art, music, social studies and language. Students are engaged in authentic math discourse and collaborative problem solving, not just rote computation and fact recitation. Although memorization of facts is a critical skill for computational efficiency, it is not a substitute for deep understanding. Therefore, at Feynman School we put emphasis on both. Students learn the “how” and the “why” of math along with establishing solid foundational knowledge.
According to Advisory Board member Dr. Mark Saul, Director for the Center for Mathematical Talent at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University, there is no one-size-fits all mathematics curriculum that can adequately meet the needs of gifted learners. Therefore at Feynman School our teachers use best practices to meet the diverse needs of our accelerated learners. Students are pre-assessed to determine their level of mastery of mathematical content and reasoning. Based on these results, teachers engage in curriculum compacting, a method developed for eliminating unnecessary repetition of material already mastered. Frequent formative and summative assessment along with small group instruction allow for flexible grouping so students’ needs are effectively being met on a daily basis.
Feynman’s math program contains many features and a ceiling on achievement is not one of them. With two teachers in each classroom, we are able to effectively respond to the needs of individual students and help them achieve their fullest potential. Our goal as highlighted in Developing Math Talent (2011) is for our students to have “consistent exposure to new learning.”
Students in our Elementary Program are afforded daily opportunities to engage in authentic skills and processes of practicing mathematicians. They engage in math discourse allowing them to learn effective communication skills as well as flexibility of thinking when exposed to various strategies for solving problems.
Students at Feynman are among their intellectual peers which allows teachers to:
- design innovative curriculum with added depth and breadth
- compact the curriculum when appropriate and accelerate within certain topics
- provide deep and complex elaboration within topics
- encourage and support students’ application of math skills to other disciplines and to their lives outside of school
- integrate critical thinking throughout each lesson
Students are challenged in math to analyze data, draw conclusions, justify results, reason abstractly, question, and reflect both orally and in writing.