Curriculum

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Students need effective communication, mathematical, scientific, and reasoning skills to achieve success in today’s global economy.  The curriculum at the Academies of Math and Science guides students to develop these skills so that they may demonstrate lifelong success in whatever path of success they choose.  We employ challenging, research-based, and field-tested curricula that consistently meets or exceeds the standards set forth by the state of Arizona. All AMS curriculum aligns to Common Core and Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards.

 

Math

The Academies of Math and Science (AMS) infuse critical thinking and mathematical skills into every grade level.  From kindergarten, our students begin developing skills in number sense, algebraic operations, measurement, data analysis, mathematical reasoning and problem solving, connections, and geometry.   

At AMS we provide our students with access to curriculum that has been developed from a solid base of successfully proven and researched-based instructional strategies.  Our chosen math curriculum, Saxon Math, offers students the opportunity to develop a deep conceptual understanding of math by teaching concepts in structured increments that are distributed throughout the year.  As the year progresses, these concepts build in complexity, allowing students to develop a deeper understanding of content. Each increasing level of Saxon is built upon the cumulative knowledge taught in previous years.  This allows students to build a strong foundation of math over the course of their elementary and middle school academic career.  AMS students who participate in our Saxon Math program throughout elementary school are often ready for high school algebra instruction as early as the 6th or 7th grade!    

The Saxon program is structured to provide students with multiple daily opportunities to master mathematical problem solving skills and strategies.  All lessons begin with math meetings or warm-ups.  These meetings and warm-ups provide students with daily practice of critical, foundational math skills such as mathematical computation practice, fact fluency practice, measurement practice, and much more.  Following the math meetings and warm-ups are the guided math lessons that build upon prior knowledge to help students develop a deeper conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts.  Students receive daily homework practice that supports not only the daily lesson, but previous lessons as well.  This practice methodology ensures that students are continuously practicing a wide range of mathematical skills to mastery and making connections between previously taught math concepts and newly taught math concepts.

As part of our math program, students at AMS also utilize Study Island, a rigorous online learning program.  This program offers additional lessons and practice of the math concepts taught in the classroom.  The lessons and quizzes provide students with opportunities to apply their math knowledge to solving complex math questions using a variety of formats, including the format of questions commonly found on standardized tests.  The utilization of Study Island ensures that all students have been taught and are working towards mastering and surpassing the state mathematical standards for grade levels three to eight.

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Science

The science program at AMS is sophisticated and well-developed at all grade levels.  Students are immersed in earth science, physical science, and life science studies with an emphasis on how to use the scientific method to understand, explain, replicate, question, and design their own inquiries into different fields of science both inside and outside of the classroom.  Students study the relevance of these science concepts from both personal and social perspectives.  Students have the opportunity to practice their science skills not only in class, but also through participation in our after-school Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program. 

Our elementary science program consists of Singapore Math’s My Pals are Here (MPH) science curriculum and Delta Science Module (DSM) Concept kits.   MPH provides students with scientific concept knowledge learning that is both experiential and deductive. The MPH textbooks are written with the purpose of encouraging student curiosity in science and helping students apply their new knowledge to the world around them.  The DSM Concept kits are integrated into our science program to provide students with concrete, hands-on experience with the scientific concepts taught as part of our program.  Students study concepts such as the weather, life cycles, water cycles, the solar system, soil science, force and motion, states of matter, and many more!    

Our middle school science program gives students in-depth knowledge behind the essential concepts of Biology, Earth Science, Physics, and Chemistry.  Each area of study begins with a thorough review of the scientific inquiry method and its applications to each subject area.  Integrated into this review is the study of the history, nature, and both personal and social perspectives of each type of science.  This review gives students the opportunity to develop a common scientific background and learn how science is woven into the fabric of our society and their lives.  Once a solid background has been established, students move into the study of individual areas of science and the key concepts of each subject.  Biology units of study include cell processes, genetics, heredity, and more.  Earth Science units of study include the study of water molecules, atmosphere, climate, land formation, and more.  Physics units of study include motion, force, energy, optics, engineering concepts, and more.  Chemistry units of study include atomic structures, chemical reactions, solutions, stoichiometry, and more.  The program is designed to further student knowledge in these scientific areas each year.  At the end of 8th grade, students put their scientific knowledge to the test with a field trip to the Catalina Island Marine Institute located in California.  Here, students participate in a STEM-based, multiple-day program that provides opportunities for students to apply their scientific knowledge outside of the classroom. 

Our robotics club, Science Olympiad team, and our long-standing winning participation in the Southern Arizona Research, Science, and Engineering Foundation (SARSEF) science fair bring real-world, relevant experiences about the importance of science to our students a little bit closer to home.  Our students utilize what they learn in the classroom to construct robots, rockets, compete in science-based academic competitions, and build award-winning science projects through the scientific inquiry method they have learned and practiced in the classroom.

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Language Arts

The AMS language arts curriculum encompasses all the necessary skills our students need to become effective communicators and develop a life-long love of learning. Our program develops their skills in decoding, comprehension, writing, speaking, and listening.  Students explore the genres of poetry, plays, biographies, autobiographies, realistic fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, folktales, and much more.  Our writing program encourages students to hone their composition skills in both fiction and nonfiction genres. Our students go on to become award-winning writers in many local writing competitions in many different genres. 

Our elementary language arts program is based on two time-tested, researched, and proven curricula, Imagine It! and Write Source.  Both programs provide a solid language arts foundation that teaches students to read, comprehend, and write independently. 

Imagine It! provides students with a solid educational foundation in the five key areas of reading that support reading success: phonemic awareness, explicit instruction in phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension.   The program provides a logical progression of instruction, practice and support in these key areas.  Students learn not only how to understand and utilize the phonetic code of the written word through this program, but also the meaning and purpose behind what they are reading and writing.  Students learn to think, question, and investigate! 

Write Source provides both our elementary and our middle school students with a writing structure that includes the three most important components of any research-based, well-structured writing program: fluency, content, and accuracy.  Through the utilization of Write Source students learn the fluency skills of writing through the act of practice, the content of writing by applying meaning to their writing, and the importance of the accuracy of writing so that communication is grammatically correct, intentional, and purposeful.  Students repeatedly experience the writing process, learn and practice the conventions of writing, and practice writing meaningful written pieces that build their repertoire of writing skills. 

In Middle School, our language arts program is purposely and logically designed to develop language arts content knowledge within and across grade levels by content area experts.  Our program utilizes resources from Core Knowledge, a research-based program that fosters excellence and quality in multiple academic areas, especially language arts.  This program emphasizes sequenced learning from grade level to grade level that that is built upon a strong base of broad knowledge and vocabulary in cultural literacy.   The program stresses the development of a substantial store of background knowledge that helps create strong readers that can make connections as they read.  At AMS, students read Core Knowledge novel sets such as the Prince and the Pauper, and short stories and poems from Realms of Gold, another Core Knowledge resource, to study literature themes and components across many different genres.  Students study plots, themes, satires, figurative language, non-fiction main ideas and structures, inferences, points of view, and many other skills that help them to develop their abilities to become effective listeners, speakers, readers, and writers. 

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Social Studies

At AMS, we recognize that our students need to be global learners.  Students are immersed in a program that explores both historical and current global events, world history and US history and geography, and government and economics.  Students learn about the influence of past cultures from around the globe and in the US, and how these influences have shaped our country into the nation it is today.  Students explore their own roles in their communities and become aware of how people contribute to the well-being of themselves and others.  Government studies focus on the identification, interpretation, and analysis of how the US is governed as well as the functioning and issues of the US economy. 

Our elementary program incorporates the five state standards strands that support a well-rounded social studies curriculum - American history, world history, civics/government, geography, and economics.  Our elementary reading program, Imagine It! is used as a resource for teaching social studies.  This allows us to integrate our social studies program into our language arts program, which gives our students a broader base of knowledge from which to draw and make connections in their environments.  The more our students know, the more they are able to learn!

Our middle school program, which is also aligned to state standards, provides an in-depth focus on specific areas in social studies.  Our sixth grade program has a strong emphasis in world history.  The curriculum chosen for this grade level includes two programs – World Studies: Medieval Times to Today and World Explorer: The Ancient World.  Our seventh grade program emphasizes the study of American History.  The curriculum chosen for this grade level is The American Nation.  Our 8th grade program is based on a study in government and again, The American Nation curriculum is also used to facilitate student instruction.  Students spend the year learning, researching, and developing cumulative projects based on what they have learned about during each grade level.  Projects include three dimensional maps of ancient lands, dioramas of life in early America, and presentation boards about the Holocaust, to name a few.

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Technology

At AMS, we emphasize computer literacy and its applications in today’s technologically advanced world.  We provide grade-appropriate instruction in a multitude of hardware and software applications, ranging from various Microsoft Office programs and functions to introductory programming, with a focus on integrating multiple subject areas and STEM.  Students act as engineers and troubleshoot technological equipment such as Lego EV3 robots while building an understanding of how technology can have both negative and positive effects on their lives. Students build their computer and technology vocabulary while learning to apply their computer knowledge towards the creation of digital products.

Our computer instruction program also facilitates the application of the learner’s expanding knowledge pool by providing opportunities to actively and safely participate in internet research projects and activities.  Students learn online safety and proper researching techniques, and take on a personal project where they are tasked to develop their own beneficial piece of fictional technology.  Such activities are beneficial to other areas of the curriculum as these activities enable students to navigate through a wide range of reference sources.  AMS provides computer instruction as a tool for life-long learning, with the application of skills both inside and outside of the classroom. 

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Art

Our arts program is an integral part of our curriculum. Topics of study include elements of design, architecture, art history and methodology, and use various art mediums including drafting, painting, weaving, collage, and sculpture.  Students participate in art making, art history, critique and aesthetics activities.  Students look at art (critique/art history) to learn about other cultures, places, artists and works of art. Students talk about art (aesthetics) to discuss meanings, ideas, and feelings.  Students make art to create expressive visual images. 

Students also experience collaborative and integrated learning through the arts.  Most art lessons are connected to other subject areas such as science, history, language arts, and mathematics.  Students complete projects such as creating visual models and sculptures to represent different concepts in science or social studies.  Through the AMS art program, students will build confidence in their ability to communicate ideas through art, expressing themselves orally, on paper, and in visual project form.

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Music

The AMS music program provides students with a broad knowledge and appreciation of music.  Students are given the opportunity to attend music classes twice per week.  Students in grades K-2 learn piano; grades three and up have the choice to learn either the guitar or piano. Semester recitals allow students to demonstrate their skills to the community at large.

Students participating in our guitar and piano programs are immersed in learning about their chosen instrument, how to read and write musical notation, beginning through intermediate elements of musical theory, music appreciation, the study and acoustics and science of sound, and vocal training.  AMS provides separate facilities for the guitar and piano classes that allow the instructors to give more attention to the individual needs of each student.

In addition to learning how to play music, students are taught the history of music from our own culture and cultures around the glove.  Students learn audiation, the ability to think in musical terms. This skill prepares them for the rewarding appreciation of what music conveys. By learning the language of music as one learns any other language, students develop a life-long relationship with music.

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Physical education

AMS understands the importance of maintaining not only a healthy mind, but a healthy body as well.  As such, Physical Education (PE) is a very important part of our students’ education.  All grade levels participate in PE on a weekly basis.  Students at all levels play a variety of games which require them to use both their large and small motor functions.  They develop knowledge of how to build their cardio endurance and muscle strength.  Students learn the traditional rules of sports and are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular sport activities.  The ultimate goal of AMS’s PE program is to foster teamwork in a safe and fun environment while students develop physical fitness and an appreciation for a variety of sports.

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Foreign Language

AMS provides students with opportunities to develop and expand their language skills by means of a comprehensive, immersion-based foreign language instruction program.  Learning a second language is highly beneficial to a student’s progress because it enhances both language skills and logic abilities. All grade levels are given the opportunity to take Russian or Mandarin. 

Students begin their foreign language experience in the primary grades with learning how to respond to basic greetings, count, recite poetry, sing songs, and ask and answer questions in their chosen language.  In the intermediate grade levels, their foreign language experience continues with learning more commands, reading and understanding simple words and expressions, vocabulary development, and the study of the cultures in which the languages are used.  The middle school grade levels delve deeper into the cultural study of the languages, including exploration of the food, music, videos, and literature of the native populations, while also learning more conversational skills in their chosen language.

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Character Qualities

Through history, and in cultures all over the world, education has had two great goals: to help students become academically educated and to help them hold positive virtues. They need character for both. Character qualities such as strong work ethic, self-discipline, and perseverance are essential in order to do their best in school and to succeed in life. They need character qualities such as respect and responsibility in order to have positive interpersonal relationships and live in community. To support this philosophy, AMS uses a combination of Kagan strategies and quotations to develop and expand on the character traits of our students.  Each week, a new character value is studied and each day, a new quotation associated with that character trait is discussed in all homeroom classes.  Various weekly activities and reflection questions are performed in the classrooms to help support the instruction of these virtues. 

Kagan strategies are cooperative structures to discuss quotations, virtues, and the concept of character. These structures allow students to share with each other, reflect, and internalize the content. The process by which students interact with the content of the character quote is nearly as important as the content itself. What students remember and actually put into practice will depend largely on how they come to know and internalize the wisdom of the quotes.  For each quote, there is a suggested reflection question. The reflection questions are intended to unpack the quote by challenging students to interact with the statement, reflecting on their own experiences and the experiences of others. Students have a daily character journal in which they write and reflect based on the question.

As a character development strategy, quotations are most effective when they move students from awareness to action and influence the choices students make in their own lives. Action assignments are varied activities that help each student make the lesson of a quote part of his or her personal character. Many of these activities challenge students to set goals and assess their progress toward attaining them. When students, individually or as a class, plan and carry out ways to act upon a value, character comes to life in the culture of the school community. These assignments can be done throughout the week, one day out of the week, or at the end of the week.

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