A theme is a curriculum framework that is designed around broad concepts and essential understandings. Skills based on National Standards guide our approaches to content and instruction. A theme allows for the integration of subject areas that enriches children's learning by making it more natural, more connected, and more purposeful. At every grade level, the themes present the challenge of learning remarkable things and allow boys to take ownership of what they study. Boys learn by doing. In every classroom, boys are actively involved in constructing knowledge and developing academic skills. They learn to ask questions, make connections, collaborate, and problem solve. These are the very skills that students will need to be successful in the 21st century.
Themes tell a story—the story of Cleveland, the story of westward expansion, the story of the Ancient Egyptians, the story of whaling. Story is the fundamental instrument of thought. Most of our experience, our knowledge, and our thinking are organized as stories. Themes have a way of engaging young learners in a story and sending them on a journey. In the lower school on any given day, you will see boys who are knights, pioneers, Native Americans, Egyptians, whalers, and Greek gods. The journey they embark upon is always an intellectual one, but it occurs within the context of creating an authentic experience in which knowledge takes on meaning.
We engage boys in actively exploring their worlds where research and connection are key. Themes come alive as boys experience learning opportunities outside of the classroom. These experiences offer boys an enhanced appreciation of their theme as well as an opportunity to internalize concepts and information gained in the classroom. Whether it's visiting the sites of Cleveland, recreating, living, and experiencing a day in the life of Lewis and Clark, hiking to a real Native American campsite, being captivated and witnessing the beauty of humpback whales, sleeping on an authentic whaling ship in Mystic Seaport, or going back in time in Williamsburg, boys are making connections between what they are studying and the world in which they live. It is the living of life and the journey of the boys' minds that provide the greatest context for learning, and that is what an integrated theme-based curriculum provides for the boys in the lower school.