Our social studies program is grounded in explorations of identity, culture, and global citizenship. At each grade level, students engage in thematic studies that are framed by essential questions. Our approach provides rich opportunities for in-depth investigations and for consideration of critical issues. Our curriculum is informed by the standards established by the National Council for the Social Studies as well as professional guidelines in history, civics, economics, and geography, the Common Core State Standards, and the resources and expertise of our faculty.
Our interdisciplinary Humanities courses nurture a love of literature and history while leading students to understand the world and its many cultures, past and present. The program helps students to develop empathy for the full range of human experience and emotion and to refine the skills of communication and expression needed to engage as citizens of the global community. We believe that students learn best through inquiry and practice of a critical and creative nature that encourages them to take personal and intellectual risks.
During the first week of school, every student in the sixth grade Humanities course embarks on a personal journey of discovery. Without looking, each person takes a turn touching a finger onto a spot on a spinning globe, revealing the country that will form the basis of a year-long research project. In addition to this individual geography study, sixth graders investigate journeys that change people and the world. They explore the world’s diverse religions, geography and countries through literature, nonfiction, periodicals, films, interviews, presentations from guest speakers and field trips. Creative projects and daily practice lead students to build their reading, writing, research, presentation and study skills. Students read for pleasure, discussion, fluency and information; they write to discover, develop and organize their ideas, to argue a point, and to move an audience. They study vocabulary, dictionary usage, parts of speech, and basic sentence structure. Students also build the skills basic to the study of history: understanding timelines and dates, recognizing cause-and-effect relationships, and thinking critically.
Throughout the course of the year, every student constructs a hand-drawn map of the world. Their country studies and the world maps are shared in a magnificent Foote tradition in the spring, the Festival of the World. Along the way, our sixth graders learn about geography, migrations, religious pilgrimages, the impact of international trade, and the meaning of discovery.
What happens when people of different cultures meet?
What does it mean to come of age?
What is the role of power in society?
How do we know what happened long ago and far away?
Is there only one true story in history?
What do we learn about ourselves from listening to stories of others?
Seventh grade students explore the theme of change as it pertains to history, literature and themselves. We start by looking at what happens when different cultures meet, focusing in particular on American Indians, Europeans, and Africans. Coming-of-age stories form the backdrop for our study of the American Revolution, as students look at the issue of independence in literature, history, and our world. Finally, students explore the theme of conflict through examples from literature, the antebellum South, and contemporary society.
In Humanities, students develop reading, writing, thinking, speaking, and information skills. Through a variety of literary genres students build an understanding of theme, symbolism, and tone; they read primary and secondary historical sources for main ideas and supporting details. They are guided in organizing their study materials and in taking effective notes. Gaining map and geography proficiency, understanding time lines and dates, and learning the research process are central. Students work independently on long-range projects including Early America Day in the fall and a more formal research paper in the spring.
A highlight of the year occurs in the fall, when each student assumes the identity of an individual from the early days of European settlement. Early America Day offers seventh graders a chance to hone their skills in research, organization, and public speaking skills. Students, dressed in colonial garb, pay visits to classrooms and offices to address enthusiastic audiences and to share their knowledge about influential people from the past.
Primary source documents, strong literature connections, and personal narratives continue to illuminate the seventh graders’ studies of the Revolutionary War and the nineteenth century, including the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution.
This course aims to cultivate cross-cultural understanding through examination of and interaction with a variety of cultural groups, from our own multicultural community to several areas of the world, including China and selected countries in the Middle East and Africa. We study the complex cultural, political, and geographical forces that have shaped each region, and we follow the threads of continuity and change to examine these contemporary societies. We begin the year with a study of the United Nations to give students a framework for thinking about international issues such as human rights and conflict resolution. Throughout this project-based course, students use historical research and inquiry to view issues from multiple perspectives, using literature, films, nonfiction texts, periodicals and museum exhibits. In addition, students practice taking notes, debating, writing critically and making oral presentations. The centerpiece of the course is an optional two-week study tour in China, where students spend four nights with a host family from Yali, our sister school in Changsha.
In past years, text selections have included Fires in the Mirror, Things Fall Apart, China A to Z, Red Scarf Girl, The Good Earth, In the Country of Men, and a variety of contemporary newspapers, periodicals and blogs, speeches, government documents, short stories, poems, films, historical and contemporary maps and other primary and secondary sources.
The Foote science program seeks to promote and enhance the joy of exploring the natural and material world by guiding an inquiry-based educational experience for our students.
Children are naturally curious and observant. Our program encourages them to ask questions prompted by their direct observations and to arrive at answers using evidence they have generated. The experience values creativity and independent thinking. Students have opportunities to design their own experiments
and to choose projects that match their interests. We also value collaboration and understand that science is a social enterprise. Students learn from one another as they work together and share their findings. In addition, they learn to disagree productively, using empirical evidence to support their claims.
Central to our philosophy is the idea that children learn by doing. At all levels we encourage interaction with the natural world as we also facilitate the manipulation of tools and materials. Rigorous experimental and analytical methods are developed over time. Our program builds on the children’s existing knowledge, incorporates emerging technologies and leads to new and more sophisticated questions. It mirrors as closely as possible the enterprise of doing real science.
We emphasize the fundamentally human nature of science and its universal application. The accomplishments of scientists from a variety of countries and cultures are featured, and restrictive notions of who can engage in scientific work are explored and challenged. We are confident in our students’ abilities and celebrate their differences. At Foote, each child, regardless of background, is empowered to be a scientist.
As with all other subjects in Middle School, science is taught by subject-area specialists. Students continue to practice and expand analytical and critical thinking skills. They increase their facility with laboratory tools and equipment, and engage in focused investigations in biology, chemistry, earth, and physical sciences. Discussions range from procedural instruction to thoughtful connections between classroom content and real-life phenomena. A common thread in the Middle School science program is the issue of our responsibility to know about, and participate in, scientific developments in the world.
Sixth grade life science aims to engage and excite students about the living world around them, expose them to fundamental concepts in biology, and develop critical scientific, academic and personal skills. The course focuses on living systems from macro- and micro-levels and from multiple perspectives. Topics include the effects of stress on the human body, the essential role of genetics and the origin of life, cellular structures and human body systems, as well as social and contemporary issues related to the life sciences. Within these area of study, students gain experience with classification, data collection and documentation, and language for communicating about scientific subjects.
This course fosters students’ natural curiosity through a series of developmentally appropriate hands-on activities that allow them to practice laboratory skills and gain an appreciation for and working understanding of key energy concepts. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, students make observations, record data, and write formal reports including spreadsheets and graphing programs. During the fall study of meteorology student research topics of their choosing, prepare responses ranging from a model to a Power Point, and make presentations to the class. They also investigate energy transformation and conservation by building generators powered by the wind, integrating engineering design and core science concepts. This same integration occurs again during our investigation of astronomy when the students build robots and program them through our computers, and design and build rockets based on aerodynamic principles and Newton’s laws of motion.
The IPS (Introductory Physical Science) course emphasizes the development of basic laboratory skills, the process of controlled experimentation, and an understanding of the principles of physical science, especially matter and its properties. Through a sequence of experiments, students learn appropriate ways to measure, describe and categorize matter. Specifically, the course covers the conservation of mass, characteristic properties (including density, melting and boiling points, solubility, crystal shape and spectra) atomic structure and the periodic chart. While students work on all labs as part of a team, each student keeps a lab notebook and writes lab reports. The analysis of class data is an important element of each investigation; graphing of data is often required and the use of computer software encouraged. Empirical evidence and concepts are then used to build a model of the atom as the basic unit of matter. The course includes a number of laboratory challenge assessments and culminates with each lab team devising and executing a multi-step procedure to identify the components of an unknown mixture.
This high school course is composed of three parts:
• Ecology and Comparative Anatomy (fall)
• Cellular Biology and Biochemistry (winter)
• Evolution and Genetics (spring term)
Lab and fieldwork are important aspects of this course, and students are encouraged to generate knowledge directly from their own observations of natural and experimental phenomena and to learn how such knowledge can be evaluated for precision, accuracy and reliability. Throughout the fall, the West River and Long Island Sound serve as living laboratories. Students evaluate the watershed using topographic maps, Google Earth software, and site visits. From their data, students assess potential and actual human impacts on water quality. In teams, they carry out physical, chemical, and biological sampling at selected locations on the river and New Haven Harbor. The anatomy of an invertebrate (crayfish) and a vertebrate (perch) are compared. Dissections of each organism are carried out to establish the elegant connections between form and function of animal organ systems, tissues and cells. Comparisons to human biology are also explored.
During the winter term, the focus is on the form and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Representative cells and some organelles (chloroplasts, nuclei, cell walls) are observed directly using compound microscopes. Other samples are studied using electron photomicrographs and computer animation. The spring term is devoted to the study of evolution by natural selection and the principles of heredity. Mitosis, meiosis and classical genetics are studied in depth, and the structure and function of DNA is introduced.
Our Middle School program immerses students in the higher-order mathematical disciplines of algebra and geometry. The Middle School course of study begins with a review of basic mathematics and progresses through with Pre-Algebra Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. All students complete Algebra I by the end of 9th Grade; most students also complete Geometry. An accelerated track allows us to offer an appropriately challenging program for our most advanced students, when appropriate. Students in the upper grades proceed through a sequence of courses that best suits their learning styles.
In order to guide each student in the most appropriate way, our teachers carefully consider the best placement for levels and sections as they move from Lower School to Middle School. In Sixth Grade, students’ thinking is stretched through an extension of the foundational skills they began to acquire in the Lower School. Through explorations of rates, ratios, and proportions as well as a significant unit about probability, students begin to engage in complex applications of a wide range of operations. Two-and three-dimensional geometry, the coordinate plane, positive and negative integers, two-step equations and an introduction to inequalities round out the year. A highlight of the year is the casino project, in which students create their own games of probability and chance to demonstrate the math behind dice, cards, and calculating risks.
The Foote School English/Language Arts curriculum is designed to nurture a love of literature while leading students to understand the world. The program helps students develop empathy for a full range of human experiences and refine the skills of communication, expression, and critical thinking needed by citizens of a global community.
The language arts consist of skills in four broad areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Although these skills develop gradually, we also know that even our youngest children can participate in rich experiences with language, stories, and texts. We provide a learning environment that is focused on building that students’ proficiency in all aspects of the language through
• Sufficient opportunities to practice their craft over time
• Common language, explicit instruction, and guided practice
• Authentic experiences that are mindful of purpose and audience
• Engagement in a writing process that involves direct instruction, modeling, a clear sequence, and thorough feedback
• Thoughtful exchanges with peers and teachers
• Purposeful integration of technology
• Focused research and inquiry.
In the first years of Middle School, reading and language arts are integrated into the humanities program. Literature choices support the themes of instruction in seventh and eighth grades through historical, social, and cultural topics. Writing projects, research, and presentations are designed to encourage students to be critical consumers and producers of information. In eighth and ninth grades, separate English classes offer the time for students to hone their skills in analysis, composition, and a variety of writing formats.
Literature selections in the past years have included Rules of the Road, The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963, The Canterbury Tales, Shadow Spinner, Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road, The Real Vikings, Habibi, A Long Walk to Water, Zlata the Goat, Beowulf, To the Edge of the World, selected poems, folk tales, and short stories
In past years, literature selections have included April Morning, Sees Behind Trees, The Light in the Forest, The Crucible, Seedfolk, To Kill a Mockingbird, To Be a Slave, and a Shakespeare play.
This course introduces students to the vocabulary of literature and sharpens their skills as readers, interpreters, writers, speakers, and listeners. The year is loosely divided into units of study that examine the short story, the play, nonfiction (essay and argument), poetry, and the novel. In each unit students read and analyze works by a variety of writers to uncover their meanings and to use as models for writing strategies. In written reading responses and through class discussions, students engage in a dialogue with the literature and their classmates. The course subscribes to the beliefs that we develop our best ideas through writing and that writers get feedback before publication; the writing practice focuses on conferencing and revision. Students do exercises in vocabulary and syntax. Through our reading and writing, we ask--and hope to answer--personal and national questions of identity: “Who are we?” “What do we believe?” “What shapes our lives?” “What do we hope for?” “What is the role of writing and art in our world?”
In past years, literature selections have included The House on Mango Street, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Lord of the Flies, Raisin in the Sun, Maus, Of Mice and Men, Night, selected short stories (Ray Bradbury, Sherman Alexie, Edgar Allen Poe, Gina Berriault, Shirley Jackson, Roald Dahl, Toni Cade Bambara, and Gary Soto), contemporary American poetry, speeches, memoirs, essays, and op-ed pieces.
The ninth grade writing and literature program continues to develop the students' ability to analyze literature critically, both orally and in writing. The curriculum focuses on autobiography and fiction, both in complete books and excerpts. Poetry is read and written throughout the year, culminating in a "poetry cabaret" conceived and performed by the students in June. Multi-draft critical essays, as well as personal narrative essays and creative compositions and projects related to the reading are assigned throughout the year, allowing students to work on skills such as forming and supporting a thesis as they work on developing a strong personal voice. Mechanics and grammar are taught based on the individual needs found in students' work. The month of May is devoted to discussing the poems that we have covered during the year and selecting and rehearsing material to be performed in the year-end cabaret.
In recent years, texts for this course have included This Boy’s Life, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Looking for Alaska, and The Book Thief.
The Foote School’s arts programs provide students with an understanding of the beauty and range of the human experience. One of the primary goals of arts instruction at the Foote School is to develop and expand children's natural abilities of perception, interpretation, and appreciation of the forms, sounds, and language of creativity. Our curriculum is designed to encourage a positive attitude and, perhaps, a lifelong interest in the arts. By participating in active experiences, working collaboratively with classmates and teachers, and presenting their work to the larger community, our students gain the technical and aesthetic foundation to be culturally literate citizens of the world.
All the arts disciplines--visual, musical, and dramatic--take a hands-on approach to learning; it is the nature of art to learn as one goes along. There is a performance component as well: sometimes in class with small projects, sometimes in public settings. Visual art teaches children to make good judgements about qualitative relationships. Students are presented with a set of “tools”- technique, examples, history and supplies. They create an art product that expresses what they have learned and who they are. In drama, small performances in class and larger roles in school plays give the students the opportunity to explore by acting, working on the “running crew,” and operating the lighting and sound boards. In music, the children are given the opportunity to sing alone and in small groups.
One of the primary goals of music education at the Foote School is to foster a love of music in each student. By participating in active music-making experiences, children are led to discover musical elements and develop musical skills, leading to another primary goal: musical literacy. During large assemblies, children perform with their classes in singing, playing instruments and showing their compositions as appropriate. The students also have many impromptu chances to present their forays into musical expressions: Jazz rock ensemble, Chorus, morning meeting presentations, the yearbook assembly and May Day. Movement and traditional dance are woven throughout our program at all levels. There is also an after-school program for private lessons (fee-based), in which students can study violin, guitar, bass, drums, piano, and voice.
Middle School music emphasizes the "hands on" musical experience and introduces students to new instruments and ways of accessing music. There is a Festival of the World celebrating the 6th graders' explorations of global cultures in the spring. The students' repertoire is expanded to include material from many continents. All 6th graders learn to play the alto recorder; 7th graders learn to play the mountain dulcimer. In 7th grade, students have an opportunity to learn about Opera, culminating in a field trip to the Metropolitan Opera. All 8th graders will study some basic guitar. Eighth and ninth graders might play in a steel pan band or and English handbell ensemble. There are units in learning blues form and instrumental improvisation, and a pop colloquium in which students bring favorite recordings in order to analyze genre and musical preference.
At Foote, we believe in nurturing our students’ physical health and growth as well as their academic progress. With that philosophy as a guiding force, our physical education program is designed to support students’ self-image, build sportsmanship, and provide a basis for a healthy lifelong attitude toward fitness. Our curriculum is carefully sequenced to match the stages of physical, social, and emotional development from year to year. In addition to athletic skills, our program encourages creative expression, builds social concepts such as sportsmanship, cooperation, and fair play, offers opportunities for leadership, encourages children to take risks, and fosters a sense of well-being in a non-competitive setting.
All children at Foote School are members of either the Maroon or Grey sports teams. Spirit is high on our annual Field Day, when students participate in a variety of fun and competitive events between the Maroon and the Grey. Kindergarteners take part only in the morning, competing in a fun run, a scoop relay, and a shuttle relay. All the other students participate in a full day of events, culminating in an all-school relay race around the entire field, featuring the day’s winners of the 60-yard dash from each grade.
In middle school, our physical education program is designed to provide appropriately strenuous exercise, develop athletic skills, and promote team cooperation. Specific skills in a wide variety of games are incorporated into the curriculum, including all of the sports offered through the athletics program as well as Frisbee, juggling, football, floor hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, badminton, and distance running. In eighth grade, students participate in a double period of outdoor education each cycle in addition to their regular twice-per-cycle PE class.
The goal of the Middle School modern language program is for our students to achieve proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Students continue with their modern language selection through their middle school years, building comfort and familiarity with the structure and features of the language and gaining experience with expression and conversation. Many of our graduates complete the third level of high school study by the end of ninth grade. Foote students add Latin to their studies in seventh grade, gaining insights into the roots of Romance languages and Roman culture. Latin focuses on literacy, history and the analytical study of a classical language. Both modern language and Latin are required disciplines and are integral parts of the Foote educational experience.