This is a transition year in many ways for fourth graders and their families. Moving to the North Wing brings increased expectations for academic growth and student accountability as Adam Lechner '87 and Kirsten Woods, along with Math Instructional Assistant Phil McFann and Student Support Specialist Cora Davidson prepare students for the rigors of Middle School and the world beyond. As part of this process, they focus on a growth mindset, resiliency in the face of challenges, self-awareness and empathy for others, independent study habits, effective interpersonal communication skills, appropriate risk-taking, and academic and personal goal-setting. Integral to their inquiry-based program are the four areas of emphasis in the Approach 2020 (STEAM, Leadership, Service Learning, and Agency), mindfulness, and the sixteen Habits of Mind.
Students’ thinking is deepened so that they are able to make connections with curriculum, seek additional information, and individually extend their explorations. This is also the year that parents step back and allow students to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and learn from their mistakes. Students enjoy the most success when their support team spans school and home, with consistent communication between all members of the team.
The fourth grade academic program consists of an integrated, standards-based curriculum that focuses on California and promotes cultural sensitivity, cultural awareness, cultural competency, and global effectiveness. Basic skill acquisition and critical thinking development are strengthened within a challenging, differentiated, and experiential environment that centers on inquiry and active engagement. Instruction, projects, and assessments are geared toward students’ visual/auditory/kinesthetic learning styles and their multiple intelligences (bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, musical, naturalistic, verbal-linguistic, and visual-spatial).
Students are exposed to a diverse group of authors and encouraged to think critically through both large and small group discussions. Public speaking opportunities become more polished and research skills are practiced. The fourth grade math program is guided by the following positive norms created by Stanford professor Jo Boaler and Youcubed Inspirational Math to encourage student achievement: Everyone can learn math to the highest levels; mistakes are valuable; questions are really important; math is about creativity and making sense; math is about connections and communicating; depth is much more important than speed; math class is about learning, not performing. Problem solving, decimals, multiple digit operations, measurement, and more work with fractions and algebraic thinking continue to build on the mathematical foundation put in place in the previous grades. California history is explored in depth through the written word, first-hand observations, and engaging historical re-enactments, including a Gold Rush Day simulation. Fourth grade students further increase their collaboration skills and resiliency through an overnight maritime living history experience aboard the Balclutha, a historic cargo ship docked in San Francisco.
The core academic components of Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies develop students’ intellect and are aligned with the most recent age-appropriate expectations and standards for fourth grade. An additional component of the program, character development, supports Seven Hills’ commitment to “ foster respect for, and responsibility to, our world.”