Elementary Specialty Classes
The Branch School offers enriching specialty classes as an integral part of our STEAM-focused curriculum.
- Outdoor Classroom
- Peacemaking/Problem Solving
- Physical Education
- Technology Foundations
At The Branch School, our visual arts students actively engage in drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture and the study of famous artists, their lives and work. The elements and principles of design are incorporated into each lesson. Imagination and individual creativeness are stressed as each child uses his/her unique abilities in producing a work of art. They learn to coordinate their hands and minds in exploration of the visual world. Their natural inquisitiveness is encouraged and they learn the value of perseverance. Students develop skills of observation and grow in their ability to describe and respond to work in the visual arts. Student work is displayed throughout the school and during our annual book fair at Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
Students at The Branch School have a dynamic Lower School music program. Students enjoy signing and using musical instruments to help them understand the cultural and creative nature of musical artistry and make connections between music, the other arts, technology, and other aspects of social life. They also explore creative expression and develop critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities by increasing their understanding and appreciation for different forms of music. Students perform at least twice during the school year.
In both the classroom and our state recognized Texas Wildscape, students:
- Participate in investigations that develop the early skills of scientific inquiry through group and independent activities.
- Value, empathize with, care for and feel comfortable in, their natural environment.
- Explore the process of cyclical changes in matter, organisms and the environment.
- Plant and harvest vegetables and herbs.
- Develop an appreciation for wildlife and the interdependence of living things.
Our Outdoor Classroom (OC) program focuses on teaching the children to empathize with and feel comfortable in nature, and to understand its fundamental processes. This is done 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 several 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 all adopt a native grass, flower, shrub or tree from the wildscape to be their personal example of the ecology principles taught.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 kindergarten students 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 participates in the 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.
Research shows that students can think more deeply and creatively in a peaceful environment. Therefore, The Branch School is committed to modeling for our students the importance of engaging in peacemaking to resolve conflicts and improve communication skills with their classmates. The School embraces the steps of peacemaking through a willingness to honestly listen to understand and then be understood, and finally agree on a resolution that includes compassion for all involved. Routinely participating in this process inspires a desire for peace and encourages the student to become a life-long peacemaker. Our curriculum is based on Naomi Drew’s book, Learning the Skills of Peacemaking, the virtues from the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education and 7 habits from The Leader in Me by Stephen Covey.
Another program used by The Branch School to encourage Peacemaking and Problem Solving is Responsive Classroom. Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to teaching important life lessons. The lessons are taught during Morning Meetings. Morning Meeting Lessons focus on academics which are highly engaging. They foster and encourage a positive community, effective management, and developmental awareness. Teachers can create safe and joyful learning communities where students develop strong social and academic skills and every student can thrive.
Students in kindergarten through fourth grade acquire the knowledge and skills for movement that provide the foundation for enjoyment, continued social development and access to a physically active and healthy lifestyle. Our coach is a retired professional athlete and certified fitness instructor. Students participate in group games and develop individual character and the sportsmanship to resolve conflicts with peers, including responsibility, best effort, cooperation, and compassion.
- Students actively participate in physical activities that address each component of fitness including: strength, endurance and flexibility.
- Students follow activity-specific safe practices, rules and procedures.
- Students learn tips on healthy eating and living.
A young child’s acquisition of a second language is best accomplished through immersion. In our Elementary program, children receive 90 minutes of Spanish per week. Our native Spanish speaking teacher communicates only in Spanish while engaging the children in games, songs, dance, repetition and dialogue to help them naturally acquire a second language. Students also expand their appreciation of Hispanic culture, traditions and heritage.
Lower School students use a Spanish textbook titled ¡Listos! Elementary Spanish. In PK3 and PK4, the associate teachers speak to the children in Spanish during routine activities to help them develop “an ear” for the language while still quite young.
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. Kindergarten through fourth grade students have one 45 minute technology class per week. The students at The Branch School develop specific skills taught through activities and projects which facilitate competency in the four C's:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Creativity and innovation
Technology is present throughout The Branch School. Classrooms are equipped with projectors, Promethean boards and document cameras. In Third to eighth grade, students participate in a one-to-one school-owned laptop program. Kindergarten to second grade students use laptop carts whenever needed. Each grade also has an allocation of iPads in their classroom for the students to access as needed, and Middle School students can bring their own devices. Technology classes are fun and exciting places to explore.
Various online programs are available for student use. Students have access to Raz-Kids, an online reading program which allows students access to leveled reading material that can be both listened to and read. Students’ reading comprehension is also assessed and reports are available for the classroom teacher to keep track of student progress. Students also have access to IXL Math, an online skill and practice site, which allows students to get additional practice with the skills being taught in class. Students also have access to Discovery Learning.
The Branch School also participates in the Hour of Code, an international Computer Science event, to promote the teaching of Computer Science.