Elementary School (Grades 1-5)
Curriculum development is an ongoing dynamic at Villa Maria Academy. Embedded within the framework of National Standards, the Common Core and State Standards, and directives from the Curriculum Supervisors of the IHM Community, the Villa Maria Academy academic program values the natural tendency of children to inquire, experience, find patterns, integrate meaning, and generate new questions.
The Curriculum Council, whose members include teachers and administrators, oversee curriculum development, implementation, and additional learning opportunities. Curriculum Coordinators manage the implementation of the curriculum at the various grade levels.
The integration of technology and the writing process throughout all the curricular areas are vital components in teaching for understanding and in developing life-long learning skills.
In addition to serving as members of the Curriculum Council or as Curriculum Coordinators, teachers and administrators also engage in reflective practice opportunities at monthly grade level meetings.
This intentional approach to curriculum development and integration attests to the high value that the Villa Maria professional learning community places on continuous intellectual and practitioner growth for all its members.
The integration of spirituality with academics enables the religion program to become a lived-reality, rather than an isolated subject area. This program at Villa Maria Academy is comprised of both catechetical and religious formation dimensions. Traditional prayers, as well as meditative and formative prayer are taught.
The School Pledge provides the framework for the realization that there is a world beyond that of our personal existence. “I believe that Jesus is present in each of my classmates, and in all my teachers. And, therefore, all my actions will show my respect for Jesus.”
Internalization of this belief, as well as commitment to a school-wide goal of reverence for the person as a unique creation of God, motivates the student at Villa Maria to respect life at all levels and reach out to those in need. Students receive guidance in developing relationships that are rooted in respect and reverence for others. Mission awareness projects and outreach programs are presented throughout the school year. Volunteer opportunities are available as a means of encouraging students to develop the service component of the program.
In addition to formal religion classes, students participate in:
- Daily prayer
- Eucharistic adoration
- First Friday Liturgies
- Opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Advent and Lenten prayer services
- Stations of the Cross
- Retreat experiences
Consistent with the educational mission of Villa Maria Academy, the English Language Arts program supports the school wide goal of fostering and developing a lifelong love of learning. In a language rich environment, the program encourages the development and deepening of the essential skills of reading, writing, critical vocabulary development, listening, and speaking. The ELA curriculum provides a multidimensional approach to achieving the goal of developing competent independent readers, who possess an appreciation of varied genres of literature.
Whole group and flexible group instruction is an integral part of the program. This concept allows for teacher-directed grouping, partner work, cooperative learning group work, independent work, and whole group instruction to be incorporated within the classroom setting. The initial emphasis on phonics and whole language expands to include reading, grammar, spelling, handwriting, and an understanding of the writing process. These elements are then incorporated into written and verbal self-expression, and literary evaluation. Students learn to use and understand language and value its impact on all academic areas.
A strong emphasis on self-expression through the instruction and practice of the writing process further enhances the ELA curriculum. Communication skills are strengthened as oral presentations correlate to literary selections. Individual writing portfolios are developed through concentration on the writing process. Cross-curricular activities are provided to further develop a broad range of thinking processes, as well as spark creativity.
Cognizant of the intense relationship between mathematics and everyday life, the mathematics program at Villa Maria Academy plays a pivotal part in achieving the goal of preparing young women to assume leadership roles within the local and global community. The mathematics program is designed to enable students to view mathematics as a whole, rather than merely sets of rules and isolated skills.
At the earliest level, the program emphasizes the relationship that exists between numbers and the world around us. It balances computational skills, conceptual understanding, and problem solving. Through frequent use of manipulatives, students are introduced to number concepts and led to develop a firm foundation on which future math skills can be built.
The mathematics program at Villa Maria Academy meets the standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Common Core Standards. These standards are evidenced at each grade level and aid in preparing the students for a future where mathematical reasoning, critical thinking, and collaborative problem solving are necessary skills.
The mathematics program focuses great attention on the concept and strategies of Problem Solving and the development of critical thinking skills. Students employ reasoning and become convinced that math makes sense. Reasoning mathematically becomes a habit of mind that is only reinforced through consistent use in many contexts.
The mathematics program strives to achieve the school-wide goal of building self-esteem, as students learn to Communicate and express themselves clearly. They are encouraged to write about mathematical situations and concepts, and realize that they have much to gain from the insights of others.
The life-long love of learning is evidenced in the mathematics program from the earliest level. Students understand the far-reaching benefits of a solid foundation in mathematics, and are eager to make applications to daily life.
Consistent with the school-wide goals of Villa Maria Academy, the science curriculum affirms the school’s commitment to the “inculcation of a love for life-long learning.” Every grade level undertakes the exploration of the three major areas of this curriculum area – Life Science, Earth Science and Physical Science.
Through the implementation a spiral curriculum, the elements of each branch of science are presented in ways that encourage full engagement of the students. Villa Maria’s goal of “aesthetic appreciation” is heightened as the students use their five senses to marvel at the physical world around them. Students participate in the “inquiry process,” as they wonder, formulate pertinent questions, and explore evidence and possible explanations. The program emphasizes the opportunity to participate in scientific processes, rather than absorb a static content.
The science curriculum enables the students to develop a clear and practical understanding of the Scientific Method. At every level, students are encouraged to make hypotheses, gather data, follow procedures, and draw conclusions. In a society that underestimates the success of women in science, the science program “encourages students to perceive and maximize their capabilities” in this discipline.
Students in Grades K through 5 (K through 2 with special topics) are presented with a weekly opportunity for a science lab experience. With its hands-on approach, this deepens the goal of creating science literacy, whereby students understand science as it relates to their everyday lives.
Every grade level is also presented with an opportunity to participate in the annual Science Fair. Group projects are presented in Grades K through 5.
Villa Maria Academy is dedicated to the formation of young women who must assume leadership and service roles within the local and global community. Therefore, it is incumbent on the academic program to develop an awareness of the world around us.
The social studies curriculum is designed to broaden the horizons of our students, thus helping them to realize the impact of past and present events, in our country, and around the world. Our program fosters active participation in civic responsibility.
Highlighted in the daily instruction are the following areas:
Kindergarten: Focus on the world around us, and our place in it.
Grade One: Focus on areas that present themselves in daily subject matter, such as family, neighborhood, country, and famous Americans.
Grade Two: Focus on maps and competency in reading and using them.
Grade Three: Focus on community, and concepts such as citizenship, government, different cultures, historic events and people, transportation, and holidays.
Grade Four: Focus on the history of the state of Pennsylvania.
Grade Five: Focus on the geographical development of the United States and other nations in the Western Hemisphere.
According to the standards of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language, the United States “must educate students who are linguistically and culturally equipped to communicate successfully in a pluralistic American society and abroad.”
At Villa Maria Academy, we share the vision of a “future in which all students will develop and maintain proficiency in English and at least in one other language.” Who is quoted here? Our mission of preparing girls to become Christian women who assume leadership roles in society compels us to equip our students with the tools that will accomplish this task. Spanish is taught to students in Kindergarten through Fifth grade. This weekly instruction provides the girls with the basics of conversational Spanish, as well as exposing them to Spanish culture.