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Image by Alexis Brown


The goal of The Knox School’s Language Arts program is to develop engaged readers and writers who can acquire and evaluate information, explore their imaginations in meaningful ways, and express ideas with clarity and eloquence. The Language Arts program serves to develop students’ strong and clear communication skills and ability to formulate and express ideas and opinions through both oral and written expression. 

Writing Workshop
The Writing Workshop is designed to develop an understanding of the writer's process, from conception through execution, revision, and publication.  Through composition, students learn to follow the steps necessary to create well-organized and thoughtful pieces. Spelling and vocabulary lessons help students appreciate the beauty and power of the language they read and produce. Opportunities for various forms and purposes of writing are provided through the instructional time and independent writing time which facilitates the capabilities of the students to master higher level expressive skills.

Grades 1st-4th
In the 1st-4th grades, equal weight is given to developing foundational skills and free expression in writing. As students develop their understanding of phonics, spelling, and English conventions, some lessons are dedicated to the study and practice of these skills which include the usage of upper and lowercase letters, punctuation, parts of speech, tense, and spelling patterns. Where appropriate, these skills will be integrated into the organic writer’s process during the revision and editing stage. Likewise, students have ample opportunity to express themselves creatively within the forms of narrative, informational, and opinion writing, among others.

Grades 5th-8th
In the 5th-8th grades, more emphasis is placed on developing skills related to structure and style. Building off the foundational lessons in the earlier grades, students in the higher level writing workshops will learn to deploy the conventions of English to best suit the writing form they are practicing. Direct lessons on elements like phrases, clauses, compound sentences, and passive vs. active voice, give students tools to help them express more complex thoughts.

Writing Workshop in these grades will continue to directly address spelling and grammar skills within the organic writer’s process in the stages of revision and editing. Students will also continue learning to independently self-edit and to provide meaningful critique of their peers’ writing. 

By the time they leave the Knox School, students are expected to meet or exceed the 8th grade Common Core standards in narrative, informational, and argumentative writing, so they are prepared for high school English classes. Our goal is for students to have the skills and confidence to write expressively, purposively, and fluidly. We want them to know how to get themselves started, how to get themselves unstuck and clarify their ideas, and how to review and revise their work so that an audience clearly comprehends their purposes.

Reading Workshop
The goal of the Reading Workshop is to engage students in purposeful tasks and to learn about reading through the actual process of reading. Through their school years, students experience the full range of literature, including novels, short stories, and poetry, as well as readings in science, history, political science, and mythology, among others.

There are three different experiences that occur during Reading Workshops: 

• Independent Reading (students read and respond to a variety of texts, often of their own choosing, and teachers facilitate shared discussions to extend students’ understanding and enjoyment)
• Guided Reading (students with similar reading strategies work with the teacher to understand reading more deeply)
• Literature Study (in which a group of readers discusses various aspects of a text or a set of related texts. In this format, students create shared meanings that are more refined and complex than they might discover on their own.)

With increased maturity and skill, students are exposed to increasingly more complex and varied reading material, affording more opportunity to expand their comprehension and vocabulary. Students learn to recognize story archetypes, analyze character, understand plot development, recognize literary stylistic devices such as simile, metaphor, and onomatopoeia, and identify an author’s voice. Theme, symbol, and character development are explored. Making inferences, understanding literal and implied meanings, thinking critically, and evaluating meanings are important comprehension skills that are practiced.

Curricular Elements: Academics
Teacher Writing a Formula on a Blackboar


To ensure that our students may advance at a rate that reflects their growth and ability, math groupings are ability based. Therefore, a 5th grade student is welcome to join the Algebra course, if that is where the student's capabilities lie, even though that is above grade level in the traditional sense. Teachers assess the students to ensure they are not missing foundational elements while allowing them to advance at their own pace with no ceiling. Adhering to the standards set forth by the Common Core State Standards and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Knox School core math curriculum is enriched by offering a diversity of learning experiences from the traditional to the conceptual, to the online and digital.  The Knox School's math program gives equal weight to enrichment (i.e., learning and understanding the concept in multiple, varying ways and learning various applications of the concept) and advancement (i.e., systematic progression through the content of a course).  In order to speak to this duality, teachers incorporate various resources within the core lessons, ensuring a student will accomplish their grade level content (e.g., 4th grade) while deepening and broadening their understanding of those topics.  

The goals of the Knox School mathematics program are the following:

  • To pursue conceptual understanding alongside procedural skill and fluency

  • To develop abstract reasoning skills that will engender flexible and resourceful problem solving

  • To provide opportunity for students to advance at their own pace beyond the boundaries of their grade

Our curriculum allows both enrichment and adaptation in ways we feel are crucial to establishing a community of student mathematicians.  Our math program provides the most coherent progression through mathematics, pursuing conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and real world application with equal intensity.

Math Workshop
During Math Workshop, time is specifically dedicated to skill and concept acquisition, while these skills are then applied to the Unit study. Math workshop time is designed to build excitement and motivation for math concepts through a highly individualized approach. Students have long uninterrupted time to focus on mathematical study and instruction. “Math Games” provide students a real world opportunity to focus on problem solving, probability, a higher level concept, or just practice skills in a hands-on, meaningful way. As with everything within the curriculum, work is matched to the individual student’s capabilities, allowing the student to advance at their own pace, instead of being held back by the curriculum.  Mathematics from kindergarten level to calculus is offered.

Curricular Elements: Academics


The goal of the science curriculum is for students to develop an understanding of the scientific process, to foster an awareness of, and an appreciation for, the physical and biological world, and to prepare students for courses in science at the High School level and beyond. The science program allows for a balance of hands-on experimentation and science content. The processes of observation, investigation, recognition of patterns, formulating questions, collection of relevant data, discussion and confirmation of findings, and experimentation are emphasized throughout the program. Students learn scientific principles and procedures with an emphasis on the scientific method. Students develop an understanding of the core ideas within science related to physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, as well as engineering, technology and applications of science, increasing in sophistication in their studies and experimentation.

Students learn to correctly use scientific instruments like microscopes and computers to enhance a given study. Science time is spent both indoors and outdoors. Curiosity, respect for evidence, perseverance, and flexibility are encouraged.

Curricular Elements: Academics
Kids Reading Map


The social studies arena includes the study of humans’ relationships across cultures, both past and present, and draws its subject matter from geography, history, civics, economics, anthropology, and political and behavioral science. As a student progresses through the grades, they become increasingly aware of the larger world. The classroom provides the environment in which a student can inquire into and evaluate questions which deal with human behavior through a wide variety of historical and social events, focusing on the significant contributions various cultures have made to human development and the foundations of current civilizations, as well as the global exchanges and encounters that left a lasting impact on the world.

The Knox School Social Science curriculum is designed around critical thinking skills that engage students in evaluation, analysis, and synthesis. Essential questions prompt students to question and debate. The use of primary source material, either in its traditional or electronic form, requires students to evaluate the reliability of information. Working individually and in collaboration with their peers, students investigate our human experience through multiple lenses of politics, economics, and culture, as well as through the disciplines of history and social psychology.

Curricular Elements: Academics


Science, Technology, Engineering, Digital Arts & Mathematics

The STEAM workshop is offered twice weekly to all grade levels and is taught using developmentally appropriate practices. STEAM projects rotate each trimester to expose students to various materials and elements of Technology, Engineering, and Digital Arts, building skills over time. 

The Knox School’s STEAM program encourages the development of students’ critical, creative, and design thinking within the context of an integrated, inquiry based, hands-on curriculum. In workshop-style classes, students focus on Technology skills and software (e.g., robots, mobile apps, construction of video games, and artificial intelligence), study Mechanical and Electrical Engineering principles (e.g., 3D printer for simple and complex drafting; designing, fabricating, and assembling robots, boats, or other structures; designing and constructing simple circuits, and the use of circuits to complete larger projects such as light sculptures, solar powered objects, arduinos, and drones), and Digital Art projects (e.g., to create Prezis, websites, stop motion films, documentary films, and narrative films). Science and Math concepts and principles are integrated into all of the STEAM projects as well as into the integrated trimester Units. 

For example, during the 5th/6th grade Water Unit, students investigate the science of atoms in a water molecule (Science), practice geometry concepts by calculating and measuring volume (Mathematics), and design, build, and test a life-sized cardboard boat (Mechanical Engineering) using the engineering design process and mechanical engineering concepts learned in the STEAM class.  By learning and applying these skills through integrated, real-world, hands-on opportunities, students will gain competencies in STEAM disciplines and understand how they connect to their daily lives.

The goal of Knox’s STEAM program is that by the end of a student’s school career at The Knox School, students will be able to: 

  • Understand scientific methodology and precision

  • Be fluent in multiple programming languages

  • Know and understand fundamental electrical and mechanical engineering concepts

  • Develop competencies in multimedia and digital arts

  • Understand how to apply mathematics in real world settings

  • Implement the engineering design process to produce and assemble mechanical systems (using both low-tech production and 3D printing)

Curricular Elements: Academics
Image by Kadir Celep


Visual Arts
In partnership with The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, fine art is taught by one of the Museum’s experienced teaching artists. Students’ works are inspired by The Knox School’s curriculum and the Museum’s collection, focusing on tools and techniques used by artists, elements of art, principles of design, art history, cultural context and visual thinking strategies. Students attend Fine Art classes at the Ridley-Tree Education Center, across the street from The Knox School campus, whose studios are equipped with supplies, mediums, and materials to provide an optimal art experience for our students. Using the SBMA as an extension of the classroom, students take several field trips to view the Museum’s collections and to work directly with Museum pieces. Students also have the opportunity to showcase their creations at the Museum.

The Knox School’s Fine Arts program is designed for students to discover, explore, and expand their artistic identities. The Fine Arts Specialist serves as a facilitator in the exploration of fine art through interaction with a variety of mediums and techniques. Concepts such as foreground, middle ground, and background, symmetry, warm vs. cool colors, negative and positive space, and contrast are explored as well as techniques which include proper use of shading, double-loading technique of blending colors in paint, and using mixed media in composition. Lessons are child-centered and have multiple entry points for students with varying ranges of experiences and skill. This program allows risk-taking and self-expression, opportunities to make connections with their studies, notice patterns, and creatively problem solve. Students thrive in an environment where they are comfortable trying something new and making their work unique, and classes are designed to offer kinesthetic opportunities to do so. Students are exposed to a vast array of 2-D and 3-D art media and techniques, such as drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, assemblage, casting, woodworking, clay working, paint media and brush stroke, and photography. The emphasis is process-oriented. Individual and personal interpretation is prioritized through the process and manipulation of materials as opposed to product end-result oriented work. Emphasis is on imagination and developing confidence in creative expression.

In addition to hands-on fine art, The Knox School utilizes techniques from Project Zero (Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education) and the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) movement, which have both included viewing and thinking about art as a springboard to higher-order thinking across the curriculum. These strategies are used within the Fine Arts curriculum. Learning through art is a powerful way to enhance curriculum at every grade level and across subject areas. Teachers use a discussion-based approach and a blend of Visual Thinking Strategies as well as thinking routines to develop critical thinking skills, an approach which has come to be recognized as an essential component in the education of young people. Students become information-literate, not only in reading and writing, but also in visual, media, and library literacy. Within this framework of facilitated discussions, students take on increasingly complex ideas as they move through grade levels and show significant advancement in associating, comparing and contrasting, flexible thinking, supporting hypotheses with relevant evidence, and observing and interpreting as they construct both their own and shared knowledge.

Physical Education
The Physical Education program is designed to create positive experiences that will enhance students’ abilities to develop their bodies to the fullest and to provide students with the tools necessary to make healthy decisions about exercise and future athletic and recreational activities. The goal of the program is to provide maximum opportunity for children to enjoy physical activity and thus see the value in physical activity for health, challenge, self-expression, and social interaction. Children come to value teamwork, sportsmanship, the use of physical activity to manage and reduce stress, and the cultivation of control under pressure. Children are encouraged to progress at individual rates as they participate in activities that improve balance, endurance, strength, flexibility, and agility through yoga as well as creative and traditional games.

Curricular Elements: Academics


Affective (Social & Emotional) Education
This programmatic element focuses on learning through discussions, brainstorming, and role playing the affective and decision-making skills needed to make and keep friends, understand feelings, manage stress, and set personal goals. The basic skills essential for successful decision making include identifying feelings, choosing goals, thinking in terms of long and short-term consequences, self-control, and overall social awareness. As students mature, the role of peer pressure in decision-making is addressed. Students identify social support systems that they can go to when they need help with difficult situations in their lives.

Mindful Self-Discipline
Quality of life, learning, and performance all hinge on the skills of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral self-regulation. These fundamental skills are taught and practiced throughout the day at The Knox School. Instruction and practice focuses on the deliberate use of attention to be present, open, and purposeful in response to a wide range of circumstances. The inevitable challenges that come along with any intellectual, creative, or social endeavor offer opportunities to build greater capacity for resilience, perseverance, courage, and compassion. A mindful strategist works with the faculty, students, and parents to incorporate simple, high-leverage practices into daily activities. 

Through the application of neuroscientific principles, students internalize a mindset that allows them to accept setbacks and seek challenge as part of the growth process. By learning to listen and communicate respectfully, students develop a collaborative approach to creative problem-solving and conflict resolution. By using mindful approaches such as awareness of the breath and acceptance of uncomfortable physical sensations, students learn to reduce stress and cultivate positive emotional resources. These practices are woven into the way teachers run their classrooms, interact with students socially, and how they help students process the obstacles and opportunities that continuously arise. Instruction in these practices is available to all members of the Knox School community, including parents.

Curricular Elements: Academics


Real World
A focus on hands-on, real world applications and concepts is a critical piece of each integrated Unit of Study taught. It is important for students of all ages to understand the relevancy of the Unit topics and concepts. Real world connections introduce learning opportunities for depth and connection to the Unit information.

Research and Inquire
Research skills will be addressed through research projects. As students investigate Unit topics and themes, techniques related to inquiry are introduced and practiced. Integrated Units provide students the opportunity to learn and utilize these skills through formal and informal research, while gaining an understanding of the reliability and quality of available information. The use of inquiry based models and questioning techniques provide students the opportunity to learn how to ask questions, the types of questions to ask, and how to understand various perspectives through data.

Careers/Role Models
Gifted students benefit from the recognition and awareness of a variety of careers. Oftentimes gifted students show multi-potentiality and are good at several things. Introducing careers and role models through the Units and related context provides students with an understanding of careers and the recognition of being able to find a balance with a variety of interests.

Imagine and Create
Providing open-ended opportunities for students to complete projects and display their knowledge in unusual ways is critical for gifted students. Skills related to creative thinking and creativity are taught within the context of the environment and activities. Students are encouraged to think beyond the scope of what is expected and pull on their strengths and develop their weaknesses. Creativity is seen throughout the curriculum and is not just an aspect of the arts.

Problem Solving
The concept of problem solving is tied to the concept of researching or understanding a problem and then using critical and creative thinking skills to develop solutions and understand multiple perspectives related to the problem. This is critical to 21st century learning and embedded into real world integrated activities, which may be small in scope (school community) or very large (city or state problems). Problem solving skills are consistently tied into the curriculum and learning environment, allowing students to connect to real world issues or concerns.

Human Rights
Utilizing the Human Rights Educational Model (Institute for the Development of Gifted Education, 2012), the purpose of human rights education is to provide awareness and the ability to focus on positive outcomes to make change in one’s community and the world. Human rights topics are integrated into the Unit and presented in developmentally appropriate ways.

Analyze and Compare
Utilizing the 21st Century Skill of critical thinking, which includes analyzing and comparing, students will be able to focus on various perspectives, discover how to discriminate fact from fiction, and how to balance various viewpoints. These skills may be applied across various content disciplines as well as problems or issues. The skills within the critical thinking framework, provides students the skills to make judgments and decisions through effective analysis and comparison. 

Gifted children often have a deep concern for global issues, such as pollution and hunger, which may in turn lead to frustration and/or existential depression due to the students’ perceived inability to effect change. Students are encouraged to engage in varied volunteer opportunities and through those efforts will learn about the importance of service to others and to the greater community. A hands-on approach to making a positive social impact can relieve students’ sense of helplessness. 

Units also tie directly to volunteerism as students fully understand issues and concerns within the Unit that impact them locally, nationally and internationally in an emotionally safe and developmentally appropriate way that supports empathy and the importance of making a difference. The expectation is that this introduction becomes a life-long commitment to utilize their giftedness in the service of their community and the world.

Students spend approximately three months learning and being immersed in a Unit of Study. The knowledge gained from the Unit study is important to recognize and to share with the community. Culminations may take many forms as communication of learning can be varied. Examples of culminations include dramatic performance, centers with experiments or activities, hands-on activities to display concept (archeological dig), classroom museum, author tea, or a presentation by the students. 

Curricular Elements: Academics
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