By Marrie Stone
“Arts and sciences should be like mines, where the noise
of new works and further advances is heard on every side.”
—Sir Francis Bacon
Yesterday's child used to wonder why it was necessary to struggle through all those years of math. “When am I ever gonna use this?” was a common refrain. Today we know that showing students the practical applications of what they’re learning ignites their enthusiasms, cross-pollinates their interests and begets more learning.
The artistic child, for example, learns to understand how math guides proportions and dimensions in a piece of visual art. The mathematically minded child, in turn, appreciates how numeric equations can translate to scaled drawings, sculptures, stage designs or even choreographed dance routines.
In Grade 8, students are exposed to a unit called “The Mathematics of the Artistic Process.” “Students create an artistic portfolio that demonstrates how equivalence and space affect form,” says Zulanas. They incorporate math principles—including ratio, proportions and geometry (volume and surface area)—and mathematical representations using the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. The unit demonstrates how a blend of mathematics can be used to enhance art. Their mathematical mind learns measurement and equivalence, while their artistic brain understands balance and composition in art. Students can choose their artistic medium—sculpture, dance, theater or design.
Now that we understand how powerful the integration of ideas and disciplines proves to be for the student experience, we’re expanding this idea and introducing it at an even younger age. While this is already happening in Grades 7 and 8, the Grade 6 Science curriculum is being revised this year to integrate all the Science courses—Physics, Biology, Astronomy, Earth History and Earth Sciences.
“We’re also continuing to integrate math into all our Science classes,” says Zulanas. “This is the second year of revamping the Math curriculum school-wide.” The effect will be to expose all Middle School students to a higher level of Algebra by the time they graduate, positioning them to take Geometry during their freshman year of high school. “It also makes the link between math and science more real,” says Zulanas. “Higher algebraic concepts are necessary to understand before they can be applied to the sciences. By exposing them to higher-level math at a younger age, they can appreciate all the links to science.”
Our newly enhanced campus reflects our commitment to remain a cutting-edge institution and to provide a transformative education to our students. Innovative facilities are critical to supporting our faculty and inspiring our students. But they’re primarily a backdrop. The real work happens inside our well-honed curriculum. Every year, we strive to ensure that the curriculum is tailored to student needs, adaptable to new discoveries in teaching and flexible enough to accommodate every student’s learning strengths and style.
Transformative learning happens inside the teacher-student relationship. It happens as a result of the thousands of decisions teachers make every day. Information must be imparted so students don’t simply hear it, but understand it, internalize it and then demonstrate that knowledge by using it to create something new in their own unique way. Whether that happens while absorbing a foreign language, honing skills on an athletic field, mastering moves inside a dance studio or tackling problems in a science lab … it defines the St. Mary’s experience.