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Lower Merion School District

Off-Canvas

Curriculum Overview

English/Language Arts

LMSD English teachers embrace their responsibility to ensure that students master the skills of close reading and meaningful writing. They are also passionate about the role that literature can and should play in their students' lives as a vehicle for cultural appreciation and intellectual growth. Students read from a wide range of genres, including classics and contemporary works, and they write in a variety of modes for various purposes and audiences. They explore topics of individual interest as well as those which will provide them with a context for understanding the literary canon.

High school English classes are student-centered and interactive opportunities for students to read, write, talk, ask questions, listen, research, and think critically. Coursework is fast-paced and rigorous, with a focus on preparing the student for writing at the college level.

Reading and writing skills serve as the conduit for all learning and provide a foundation for achievement across the curriculum. LMSD teachers of English/Language Arts embrace their responsibility to ensure that students master the skills of close reading and meaningful writing. They are also passionate about the role that literature can and should play in their students' lives as a vehicle for cultural appreciation and intellectual growth.

English/Language Arts classes are student-centered and interactive opportunities for students to read, write, talk, ask questions, listen, research, and think critically. The focus is on how students can become better readers and writers. Students read from a wide range of genres, including classics and contemporary works, and they write in a variety of modes for various purposes and audiences. They explore topics of individual interest as well as those which will provide them with a context for understanding the literary canon.

Social Studies

A deep understanding of the historical, political and cultural aspects of our world is integral to sustaining our democracy and ensuring that students become informed, responsible citizens. Curriculum centered in the core areas of civics, economics, geography and history provides the content for the critical thinking and inquiry-based learning that occurs in social studies classrooms. Teachers guide students to examine issues, past and present, from a variety of perspectives beyond those presented in textbooks. They model and encourage the close reading of authentic primary documents. They model and teach research and writing skills for a variety of purposes and audiences and strategies for effective speaking and debate. Social studies teachers seek to guide students to become critical thinkers who can ask the right questions, find the information to answer those questions, and present their thinking in meaningful ways.

Music

The study of music allows students to blossom in many diverse ways: creative expression, teamwork, critical thinking, tolerance, and performance to name a few.

Our music teachers - each one a talented musician - emphasize all aspects of the music experience, rather than focus primarily on performance. Students become critical listeners as they refine their appreciation of music and critical thinkers as they examine the socio-cultural context of the music they hear and play. They learn the discipline of practice and experience the rewards of contributing to a collaborative effort. Our students are given and wide range of opportunities to participate in musical performances and activities and are encouraged to push their limits and grow as musicians.

Art

The study of art provides students with new ways of seeing themselves and the world. In the supportive, respectful environment of our art classes, students are encouraged to express their ideas and come to understand the visions of their classmates and of professional artists. They are taught the language of aesthetics and how to think critically about the art that surrounds them. They also learn and practice the process of creation and engage in the many decisions that lead to a work of art.

A team of experienced and dedicated art teachers deliver a rich and varied art curriculum. Students acquire technical skills, a broad knowledge of materials and media and the discipline and dedication necessary to complete complex projects. Students have the opportunity to explore their interests and continue their studies by taking a sequenced series of art courses in the media that appeal to them.

Math

Every student has mathematical potential, but it often takes a rich instructional experience to convert it to mathematical power. The District's secondary mathematics program encourages students to explore a world of mathematical thinking and communicating that will help them grow into mathematically-literate decision-makers. The District's mathematics program is guided by the rigorous Standards for Mathematical Practice. These standards, aligned with the National Common Core, ensure that students will be well-prepared for 21st century problem-solving.

As students enter high school, they are able to choose courses designed to give them a solid foundation for post-secondary preparation or to choose more challenging courses that will engage them in thinking more deeply about mathematical topics. Students who follow the recommended course sequence will be poised to explore a variety of mathematics electives that will help them achieve their future aspirations.

Students who engage in the most rigorous courses of study through the Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Honors Program experience high levels of success as demonstrated in the outcomes of exams associated with those courses. This level of preparation has enabled LMSD students to regularly pursue post-secondary training in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields at the most prestigious institutions in the country.

Science

Science education provides an orientation to the world that invites learners to make meaning of what is known and to explore what is unknown in order to become engaged in responsible citizenship and personal decision-making. The District's science education program exposes students to rich scientific content through engaging, inquiry-based experiences that allow for the practice of scientific "habit of mind." The outcomes of the program are self-evident; LMSD students achieve at the highest levels and regularly go on to pursue post-secondary studies in the science, technology, and engineering fields.

The high school science program builds on an excellent elementary and middle school foundation in which students develop strong questioning, reasoning, and scientific literacy skills. The curricular program goes beyond the coverage of academic standards and taps into student strengths in technology, creative expression, and communication to ensure that the whole student is engaged in the learning process. When students enter the rigors of the high school science program, they are well-positioned to deeply explore core offerings in biology, chemistry and physics. Most students choose to enroll in a high-level elective in their senior year.

The vitality and breadth of the District's science programs is evidenced by the extraordinary levels of student participation and success in science-focused academic clubs and competitions. For example, all four LMSD secondary schools annually qualify for the state Science Olympiad and Harriton's team is a perennial state champion.

Health Science/Physical Education

The foundation for healthy living begins with accessing the tools and knowledge to make healthy choices. Health and physical education are necessary components of a well-rounded educational program, providing students with factual, evidence-based information to guide a lifetime of well-being.

The high school health programs provide a continuum of experiences in both health and physical education that are based on state and national standards and incorporate best practices in instruction. The physical education curriculum emphasizes healthy living through movement (kinesthetic) and fitness. Our instructors model activities that students can incorporate into their daily lives while teaching them the principles that make the activities effective for maintaining healthy bodies. The health curriculum guides students in healthy, personal decision making with a focus on nutrition, interpersonal relationships, sexuality, mental health and drugs and alcohol.

The high school physical education program affords unique, relevant elective opportunities. An exegaming course, for example, incorporates the use of gaming devices deployed as fitness tools to enhance student engagement.

Technology/Engineering

A student who has a deep understanding of technology sees possibilities where others see problems. This kind of thinking is developed though hands-on, experiential learning where students make broader meaning of knowledge gained through mathematics and science courses. The District's robust technology education program engages students in solving complex problems that help them to discover how to extend human potential. Technology education goes well beyond the use of computers; students engage in the world of design around them. They are encouraged to explore solutions in areas where questions have yet to be asked.

The high school program features a variety of rigorous, elective courses that encourage students to engage in a more focused examination of technological applications. From the foundations of engineering and design to advanced architecture and robotics, students think creatively, develop unique design solutions and learn to formulate and present their ideas individually and in teams. During the process, they make use of the most relevant software packages and hardware systems.

Many of our students at the secondary level demonstrate a further commitment to exploring technology through co-curricular technology programs. The Technology Student Association (TSA) clubs at the four schools are the most popular clubs in the District. Students compete in statewide and national contests and consistently return with numerous individual and team awards. In recent years, LMSD students have been elected to lead the national TSA organization.

Family & Consumer Science

No matter what position one holds in the halls of academia, the boardrooms of Wall Street, or the studios of Hollywood, there are basic, practical needs that everyone must fulfill. The Family and Consumer Sciences provide students with essential skills for everyday living and decision-making. The curriculum utilizes both performance-based assessment and quantitative measurements of student knowledge to ensure that both theory and application receive a balanced treatment.

The high school elective program gives students a meaningful, concentrated experience in culinary arts, textiles, family and financial education. Issues of preparation, safety and short-term and long-range planning are woven throughout the curriculum. The high school FACS program can be an important springboard for students who may want to pursue any of these areas professionally by giving them differentiated learning opportunities that match their interest and ability levels.

One of the most rewarding experiences in Family and Consumer Sciences is sharing one's creations for the enjoyment of others. On a regular basis, the culinary classes create set-up venues in which others can come in and share in their creative experiences.

World Languages

LMSD World Language Program Overview:
World language is an essential component of the student experience in Lower Merion. The study of languages and cultures provides important preparation for living, leading, and achieving in a global community.

The World Language program focuses on communication within the cultural context of the language being studied. The LMSD World Language program seeks to help students:

  • Communicate in the target language through speaking, writing, listening, reading
  • Gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures
  • Connect with other disciplines to acquire a deeper insight into one's own language and culture
  • Participate in multilingual communities and global societies

LMSD World Language classes focus on communication-based learning. The four skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking have been repackaged into language modes. These three modes place the primary emphasis on the purpose of communication and the context in which it happens, rather than on any one skill in isolation and consist of: Interpersonal, Interpretive and Presentational. Instruction and assessment will, to the greatest extent possible, reflect real world, authentic communication in the target language and will use as many authentic materials as possible.

LMSD World Language Program Specifics:
World Language instruction begins in 1st grade and continues in an articulated sequence until graduation.

  • Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES): Students learn French or Spanish starting in first grade. Students are engaged in second language instruction for 20-30 minutes two to three times per week. In FLES, the main focus is on understanding and speaking. Visuals, manipulatives, and integration of cultural topics are a crucial part of the FLES classroom. A typical class includes songs, rhymes, games, play-acting, and other physical activities.
  • Middle School World Language: Students continue with their elementary language studies of French or Spanish in sixth grade. In 7th grade, they may change languages or they may elect to study Latin. French, Spanish and Latin Instruction occur on a daily basis in 7th and 8th grade. Students who study Middle School language for a two year sequence will have completed the equivalent of a Level 1 course at the High School. The middle school world language program is designed to provide students with a supportive learning environment focused on communication with an increased focus on reading and writing skills in the second language.
  • High School World Language: Students have the opportunity to study French, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish. French, Latin, and Spanish offer college preparatory and honors level courses through Level 5 or Advanced Placement. Students can elect to study Japanese in 11th & 12th grade (honors only.) All students use the target language to perform real world tasks, demonstrate growth in their communicative proficiency through formative and summative performance assessments, and acquire increased levels of proficiency. Teachers work to utilize the three modes of communication for instruction, assessment and grading practices.

Business Education

The Lower Merion School District offers a well-developed business education program for students at Lower Merion High School and Harriton High School. Students in the business education program are offered the following courses: Information Technology, Foundations of Business, Advanced Business Principles, Video Production, Computer Animation, Advanced Video Production, Web Design, Television Broadcasting and Sports & Entertainment Marketing.

Through a partnership with Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Brandywine, juniors and seniors at Harriton High School have the opportunity to take undergraduate business courses on campus. The Penn State Dual Enrollment program enables students to take four business courses and earn up to thirteen college credits upon successful completion of the program. Credits earned may be applied to a Penn State University degree and may also be considered for transfer to other institutions of higher learning.

Additional offerings are available through the Community Based Learning program, where students can utilize employment, community service or an internship as a learning experience for academic credit.

The business education program is supported by co-curricular offerings that include a Future Business Leaders of America Club, an entrepreneurship incubator and career fairs. Many seniors also gain experience in the workplace through Senior Project at the conclusion of their twelfth grade year.