St. James Academy in Monkton is committed to a holistic approach to education, encouraging their kindergarten through eighth grade students to participate in a variety of enrichment opportunities. Students are not pegged into a certain activity or role but encouraged to make pathways for themselves to explore a wide variety of activities to inspire, challenge and help students discover and develop their interests. Each child is shepherded on their journey to become strong readers, scientists, artists, athletes and explorers.
In the Lower School, starting in Kindergarten, students are met with choices and learn to take risks, whether it’s the simple choice of playing with in the Imagination Gardens or building with whipped cream – the students learn choice and encounter the usual risk-taking when undergoing a project.
During the middle school years, their students undergo the challenging and prestigious International Baccalaureate Middle School Years Programme (IB MYP) in an effort to prepare students for the academic rigors of high school programs. St. James Academy develops IB learners through their 10 Learner Profile characteristics to be: thinker, risk-taker, inquirer, caring, knowledgeable, principled, communicator, open minded, reflective and balanced citizens.
According to Lisa Davis, Head of Middle School, there is a heavy emphasis on collaboration and determining what changes can be made to improve an outcome. “We approach learning regardless of the content area with inquiry, investigation and reflection,” she says. Lori Dembo, Head of Lower School, agrees. “We teach problem-solving in a way to help students develop a successful mindset when coming up against an obstacle. It’s not ‘I can’t do it,’ it’s ‘I can’t do it, yet.’”
Dembo also notes how students are met with a love of learning from the faculty, as they love to teach and they teach what the love, as evidenced by their backgrounds. “Our art teachers are artists, our science teachers are scientists, and our theater teachers are actresses,” Dembo notes. “The fact that they love what they do has a strong, positive impact on our students.”
Maureen Walsh, Interim Head of School, strongly believes in allowing children to develop their own identity, to keep all their options open by continuing their involvement in a variety of experiences. “They can continue to enjoy lots of different experiences so they don’t need to choose who they are,” she explains. “You don’t have to choose a lane or an identity, whether it’s an artist, an athlete or a scientist, they are allowed to be all of these things. Students will evolve their interests over time, so we allow you have the opportunity to keep it all going as you don’t know yet what you love or are good at.”
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