Students at Mandan's Christ the King School will learn from a new curriculum next year.
The school launched a Montessori approach to religion instruction last fall for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes. School staff plan to expand that style to all subject areas for those grades.
Older students will also encounter a new approach to their studies: project-based learning.
"We think the two fit together very well," Principal Mike Heilman said.
The school’s youngest students have grown used to completing activities at stations under the new Catechesis of the Good Shepherd religion curriculum implemented last fall.
They do those activities in a classroom separate from the one where they study math, reading, science and other subjects. Starting next year, their regular classroom will resemble the one where they learn about the Catholic faith.
"They'll receive most of their lessons through one-on-one or small group instruction in the classroom," the Rev. Nick Schneider said.
He said each subject area will receive its own space within the room.
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“Order, harmony and structure is really important,” he said.
In the math area, for example, students may take apart a “binomial cube” formed with blocks of various sizes and colors. At the end of the activity, they have to correctly piece the blocks together again to form a cube.
The lesson is a precursor to the “binomial equation,” which is an algebra concept students will learn when they are older.
By using the blocks, students see the equation visualized.
"When they learn the equation, they already know what it looks like," Schneider said.
Students ages 3-6 will participate in the Montessori curriculum next year. In addition to academic instruction, they will learn practical life skills such as cleaning, setting a table and preparing snacks.
Heilman said the Montessori approach will not spread to the other grades next year, and it’s undecided whether it will down the road.
Instead, Christ the King students in grades 1-6 will experience project-based learning, which requires them to apply the concepts they are learning to real-world problems.
For example, students learning about the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower might answer questions like: Who gets to go? What needs to be sent with them? How should they prepare for the weather?
Their answers will likely culminate in a presentation of the project to parents or the school community.
Heilman said such an approach allows students to put knowledge from multiple subject areas toward a common project.
"It's rare they come together as a whole," he said of subjects such as math and reading.
Other schools throughout the country have implemented project-based learning in recent years. Bismarck Public Schools began training teachers on it in 2011, and Christ the King teachers will join them for training this spring.
The school’s teachers already assign projects in the classroom, but Heilman said project-based learning will encourage more.
"We're very traditional in terms of the curriculum and how it is presented," he said.
Under the new curriculum, students will get out from behind desks more often and may even work with peers from other grades on projects.
(Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)