During the Intermediate years (Grades Four and Five), students migrate from a play-based approach to one focused on interdisciplinary, theme-based learning. Over time, children develop independence, agency, critical and abstract thinking skills, executive functioning and problem-solving skills, commitment to social justice, and the ability to navigate more complex social dynamics as they prepare to transition to Middle School. Students enjoy daily physical education, including swimming and dance, as well as specials, such as Spanish, music, drama, library, technology, and art.
Highlights of the Intermediate experience include:
- A two-night outdoor education experience
- A day trip to Springfield as part of their study of the Civil War study
- Baker Business School and Leadership, Citizenship, and Service units
Intermediate themes alternate between social studies and science on a two-year cycle and are often integrated with other core and specials subjects. Language Arts and Math curricula are rooted in these themes, and students collaborate in cross-grade groupings for particular units.
Through our thematic studies, students are empowered to use their voices and ingenuity to become agents of change and learn about diverse current and historical exemplars of activism and grassroots leadership.
Social Studies themes require students to examine diverse perspectives, systems of oppression, and cause and effect over time. Service learning, civic responsibility, and social justice are threads that run through all themes, and our studies are augmented by authentic field experiences, visits from community leaders, and analysis of primary source documents.
For example, the Baker Business School and Leadership, Citizenship, and Service units are part of a two-year process during which students learn from and serve the community. Students not only explore entrepreneurship, child labor, and free trade, but also design, market, manufacture, and sell their own products in order to raise funds for organizations they select. The following year, they explore the non-profit sector, identifying community needs and implementing the four dimensions of service learning. Additional Social Studies themes include: encounters between Native Americans and European colonists and the Civil War.
Science themes engage students’ inherent curiosity about the natural world and build foundational knowledge through engaging hands-on learning experiences, modeling, inquiry, problem-based learning, and field experiences. Students are challenged to evaluate the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and to come up with innovative solutions to current problems. For example, students learn about ecology in the context of the National Parks and analyze the impact of climate change on ecosystems, acting as “citizen scientists” by creating advocacy projects and biomimicry inventions. A highlight of this unit is a visit to a wild animal refuge, where students play with wolf puppies, skunks, and porcupines and learn firsthand the necessity of conservation efforts. Additional science themes include: Space Systems, Landforms and Earth Movements, and Energy.