At AMS, we encourage a climate of intellectual curiosity inside and out of the classroom, encouraging students to see connections between their studies and the world around them. Our active and experiential approach to learning teaches self-motivated curiosity and discipline, laying the foundations for a life of inquiry and creative problem solving. Hands-on academic classes allow students to explore how the material they are learning relates to the world. Small classes (6-10 students) enable teachers to focus on individual needs and allow for frequent class discussion and debate. Though our classes teach basic skills, we believe that teaching the core subjects of mathematics, language arts, social studies, and science involves more than just an accumulation of facts and techniques. To truly educate children is to inspire them to ask questions about the world. Human beings have a natural sense of wonder, and once we have learned to ask questions, we want to acquire the tools with which to answer them. At AMS, our students become independent lifelong learners.
Each academic unit, students take math, language arts and two electives, as well as one in-depth course of their choice. Students are offered a selection of classes to choose from, and while the specific material of the courses is different each unit, the larger concepts usually fall within the categories of science, social studies, art, and internships. A student who participates in all three years of our program will graduate with a wide knowledge base in these subject areas.
Our goal is that each student will come to understand his/her own learning style and will develop skills to deal with learning challenges. Because we realize that students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, we can usually offer individualized education for those requiring tutoring in the core subjects.
In keeping with our philosophy that education is a process and not a product, neither core subject classes nor electives are graded. Instead, students and parents receive detailed evaluations of the student’s work several times a year. Teachers are able to evaluate and encourage each student with reference to specific interests, problems, and goals.
Every student has an academic advisor who works with him/her throughout the year. Advisors meet with students weekly or bi-weekly to help students stay on track with schoolwork, address challenges to learning as they arise, facilitate communication between students, teachers, and parents, and to help students prepare their best work to present at academic open houses. Advisors also make sure each student’s academic choices throughout their time at AMS provide a well-rounded curriculum.
The Language Arts program treats reading and writing as processes, with an emphasis on the student’s own ideas and interests. At the same time, we pay attention to the development of basic skills in comprehension and mechanics. In addition to a student’s choice of reading material, the curriculum includes a wide variety of short stories, novels, essays, plays, myths, poems and biographies. These works introduce students to a range of literary traditions from around the world. Students are assigned many writing projects, both in response to, and also independent of, the readings. Short stories, poetry and essays are typical homework assignments. Students learn grammar, spelling and style in large part by editing their own work in pairs and with the help of their teacher. Discussions and workshops are valuable parts of these processes, and students are always encouraged to seek out their own ideas and to find better ways to express them.
Math classes use a hands-on and problem-solving based approach to learning mathematical concepts and strategies. The primary textbook is the Connected Mathematics series (www.connectedmath.msu.edu), although teachers use a wide variety of supplemental materials. Projects may include creating a scale model of the solar system, taking data on the growth of plants and animals in the garden, or building and testing variables of trebuchets . Practice of math as a language extends to student experiences in the kitchen, woodshop and elsewhere.
The students’ math skills are evaluated in their first week of academics. Students who are enrolled at the Arthur Morgan School for all three years most often begin with a pre-algebra course AND graduate with a credit in Algebra I. Occasionally students have completed credits in high school Geometry or higher. Ninth grade students can receive honors-level credit for their work.
The AMS Social Studies program emphasizes students examining their own lives in the context of history and today’s world. Students gain a deeper understanding of themselves, U.S society and politics, and current events through learning about other people, places, and time periods.
Lessons include hands-on activities and projects, role-playing games, lively discussions, and guest speakers in order to make history and foreign cultures come alive and feel real to students. Students complete several projects each unit that require them to develop skills in research (print and Internet sources), reading for main ideas and key points, critical thinking, and accurate use of information from class and research in written work and oral presentations. Our goal is for students to leave AMS feeling empowered to make informed changes to themselves and the world around them.
The Science program uses hands-on experience of the physical world as a jumping-off point for an exploration of the fundamentals of physics, biology and chemistry. For example, we use our garden, streams and expansive forest surroundings to awaken students’ interest in biology. Similarly, the study of physics can begin by looking at machines and how they work, or the compelling quality of fire can initiate the study of chemistry. A solid background in science is built from the careful examination and study of our immediate environment.
Fundamental skills in research, the scientific method, and field experimentation are collaboratively employed in the creation of group and individual projects throughout the year. A significant aspect of our approach to science is that we teach students to ask questions, and we try to impart both the factual background and the reasoning skills to develop solutions. One of the main objectives of the science program is to encourage students to look at the world around them and to try to imagine the mechanisms by which it operates.
Personal Growth class meets once a week and is the equivalent to health and sex education. Depending on the nature of the lesson, female and male instructors teach the entire student body or separate gender groups.
Instructors work hard to create a safe and confidential space for students to learn about themselves and their bodies. Topics covered include female and male anatomy and reproductive cycles, sexually transmitted disease identification and prevention, contraception, gender identity and sexual orientation, body image and self-esteem, peer pressure and drug and alcohol awareness, and personal hygiene.
Electives are an opportunity for students to explore a diversity of interests at AMS. Electives are usually less academic, and tend to be focused on arts, crafts, sports/games or other hobbies. While staff teach many of the electives, students and members of the extended AMS/Celo community also share their expertise and passions by leading electives. Some examples of electives are foraging, glass blowing, wrestling, chess, ballroom dancing, knitting, storytelling, bicycle repair, fishing, sketch comedy, archery, role playing, ultimate Frisbee, yoga and explosive chemistry.
Performing Arts are an integral part of daily life. Elizabeth Morgan believed in the power of song to build community. We begin each day with singing together for half an hour. We choose songs from the Rise Up Singing and Rise Again songbooks in addition to our own compilation of tunes. Students also have the option to further their musical practice by taking electives in either singing or learning to play instruments.
The student body chooses a play to perform each year at our Thanksgiving celebration, and much of the fall is filled with set design and rehearsals.
Visual Art is everywhere in our lives at school. Murals, drawings, glass work, quilts, tiles, chimes, and pottery made by students and staff are displayed inside and outside our buildings. We offer a variety of visual arts and crafts including ceramics , painting and drawing, woodworking, dark room photography, fiber arts, blacksmithing, basket weaving, screen printing, jewelry making, stained glass and more. Internships may produce crafts or pottery of use to the school. Core classes and electives in the arts provide an opportunity for students to further explore their creative expression while practicing technique.