The following are descriptions of the various specialty classes offered during the school year. Most, but not all classes, are offered throughout each year, and some are dependent upon interest.
The students at The Branch School experience a multitude of exciting and creative art projects throughout the school year. Guided by the National Visual Arts Standards, and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the arts play a fundamental role in developing our students’ minds and spirit. The students are encouraged to express ideas through original artwork that integrates a myriad of mediums, techniques and skills.
Lessons include art appreciation as well as the elements and principles of design. The four basic strands that will be covered through the year are:
• Creative Expression
• Historical & Cultural Heritage
• Critical Evaluation
Imagination and individual creativeness are stressed as each child uses his/her unique abilities in producing a work of art.
The standards for our fifth through middle school students emphasize exploration. Using the elements of art and the principles of design as a framework, students investigate a variety of experiences and concepts. Students explore various two-dimensional and three-dimensional art media using a variety of expressive and technical approaches. Students begin to understand the factors that distinguish artistic styles which clarify the role of art in American culture. Through critical examination, the students will determine how artists convey meaning through the use of forms, media, and symbols. Students will test and develop their own ideas regarding the nature of art and will encounter philosophical and ethical questions. Upon the successful completion of our visual arts curriculum, students will possess the skills that will allow them to evaluate the effects of various influences on the discipline of the visual arts.
The Branch School embraces the importance of computer technology in the 21st century and strives to create life-long learners through equipping the students with the necessary skills they will need both now, and in the future. K-8 students have a weekly computer technology class, guided by the International Society for Technology in Education standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. The students at The Branch School develop specific skills taught through activities and projects which facilitate competency in the four C's:
The Branch School participates in the Hour of Code, an international Computer Science event to promote the teaching of Computer Science.
Guided by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the A.D. Players Theater group instructs our students in creative expression through theatrical performances and basic theater skills. The focus for the year will concentrate on the following strands:
Students will develop proficient communication skills, build their confidence, and learn the skills necessary to interact effectively with their peers.
Guided by the American Association of School Librarians, we provide our students with opportunities that empower them to be critical-thinkers, competent researchers, ethical users of information, and passionate readers.
Students will learn how the library is organized, the Dewey Decimal System and research techniques. We will talk about the various kinds of books such as picture books, easy readers, non-fiction, fiction and the many genres of books. The students will understand what a Caldecott Medal Honor book is as well as the Newberry Award Books and Texas Bluebonnet Award Books.
We celebrate reading each year with the "Texas Bluebonnet Book Voting and Celebration" for grades 3-6.
Stories will be read to the children and discussions will take place to evaluate their understanding of the book and share thoughts and ideas.
"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all." – Jacqueline Kennedy
Creating art is the heart of our instruction. Students will investigate the power of music through movement, singing, playing instruments, creative improvisations and compositions. These musical experiences significantly impact your child’s learning through heightened senses, increased attention, refined gross and fine motor skills, and boosted cognitive function.
Music, as a valued part of culture, is a birthright of every child. Learning to read and write music contributes to student achievement in four important categories:
Guided by the National Standards for Music Education and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, music concepts are organized into four basic strands. Under the perception strand, students will develop their intellect and refine their emotions, understand the cultural and creative nature of musical artistry and make connections between music, the other arts, technology, and other aspects of social life. Under the creative expression/performance strand, students will apply expressive and technical skills of music, develop critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities, and increase their understanding and appreciation for different forms of music. Under the historical & cultural heritage strand, students will reflect on musical periods and styles and understand music’s role in history, thereby enabling them to participate successfully in a diverse society. Under the critical evaluation strand, students will analyze and evaluate music, developing criteria for making critical judgments and informed choices.
Our Outdoor Classroom (OC) program focuses on teaching the children to empathize with and feel comfortable in nature, and to understand its fundamental processes. We do this through a "working wildscape" partly accessible to children on the playground, through our off-playground habitats including pond, wildscape, and prairie, and through horticulture activities from growing vegetables to propagating plants. Each year includes a number of favorite activities, from pond organism collection and study to the Audubon Society birdathon in spring. All classes grow vegetables and herbs in their class tubs and beds. Second through fifth grade students will all have "adopted" a native grass, flower, shrub or tree from our wildscape to be their personal example of the ecology principles we'll be learning. Kindergarten and first grade will adopt a class plant to learn about. Our SunLighter indoor plant stands, now installed in the Middle School, are used for both cutting and transplant propagation and seed-starting.
Most classes have a long-term OC activity. Our preschoolers and kindergartners explore the wildscape and learn names and basic facts about the plants and creatures we encounter. Kindergarten manages the school's worm bin. First grade manages the playground bird feeder and participate in Cornell University Institute of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch over the winter. Second grade tries their hands at composting in the SE corner of the playground. Third graders manage the bulb garden. Fourth grade works in the wildscape. Fifth grade manages the school prairie. Our middle schoolers have a hand in native landscaping for their building area and run a horticultural business.
Guided by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, students develop an understanding and appreciation for a healthy life-style. Physical Education is essential to every student’s developmental growth and confidence. In our Physical Education program our students focus on the following standards:
All lessons and activities are age appropriate, provide opportunities to grow, and work on proficiency of basic skills.
Quarterly sports leagues and team sports are available for students in grades K-8th grade.
Guided by National Standards for Robotics Engineering Technology Education the Next Generation Science Standards, students experience STEM education using an inquiry approach to problem solving with robotics. Mission challenges require students to use and develop skills in:
Students are provided with interactive learning through Lego Mindstorms NXT robotics kits. Developed at MIT, the Mindstorms are one of the best teaching tools for programming and engineering concepts available for children. These exciting robots feature state-of-the-art ultrasonic sensors, servo motors, Bluetooth technology, and more. Children explore the fundamentals of programming and engineering while using technology, mathematics, science, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
Some students elect to participate in annual Robotic Competitions and participate in team events.
Language and communication are at the heart of the human experience. It is our goal to equip our students with the tools to be effective communicators. Beginning with our preschool, students are immersed in the Spanish language during their daily activities and with songs, games and interactive play. The ¡Listos! Elementary Spanish program is used and gives students a naturally fun, exciting opportunity to start exploring the language. This program provides age appropriate topics and multisensory activities that allow children to play and talk with friends about practical life situations. At the elementary level, students also develop their understanding of the language by learning to read and write in Spanish.
Guided by the National Standards for Foreign Language, and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, all grade levels integrate the five C’s into learning a language:
Our students also participate in a Spanish reading buddy program where older students read to younger students. We also offer a variety of on-line resources that allow students to move forward at their own speed to practice and develop language and build vocabulary skills.