MOVEMENT & MEDITATION
Each work day begins with mindful, vigorous movement aimed at increasing awareness and control of the breath, body, and mind. We explore various modes of movement and stillness using practices from Laban’s Movement Analysis, Suzuki, Viewpoints, modern dance, hip-hop dance, ballet, yoga, and meditation. During musical theatre productions, we create and rehearse show choreography.
Company members create the props, sets, costumes, lighting, and sound elements for theatrical productions. This class integrates learning objectives in science, technology, engineering, visual arts, and math. This course also supports ATLAS’s stand-alone math curriculum by connecting projects to Math Lab units.
A master teaching team made up of a theatre teaching artist and humanities teacher guide company members through the authentic theatrical process: researching, rehearsing, and performing plays related to a range of academic subject matter. Each company devises an original theatrical production based on a social studies unit of study, adapts a novel, produces a classical play, and performs a musical.
To support their work as a theatre company, members spend time with their humanities teacher studying and writing about the historical, social, and political context of their plays and their connections to current events. They learn to formulate and support strong points of view during class discussions and debates.
In this daily course, company members work through targeted, sequential math instruction. The curriculum is Common Core aligned, hands-on, and prepares students for competitive high school math classes. Math Lab also lays the foundation for the project-based math work that takes place in STEM Stagecraft.
Company members pursue individual learning pathways during this block. These learning pathways are created in initial conversations with family members, the learner, and the Education Director. The teaching team helps facilitate the learning process by providing scaffolded support, finding technology-based learning platforms, connecting students to community experts and tutors, and assessing student progress.
Students develop and apply Spanish language skills through creative, project-based learning.
In this science course, students explore the four strands of scientific inquiry:
- Knowing, using, and interpreting scientific explanations of the natural world.
- Generating and evaluating scientific evidence and explanations.
- Understanding the nature and development of scientific knowledge.
- Participating productively in scientific practices and discourse.
Through partnerships with local museums and college programs, ATLAS students also participate in several scientific expeditions throughout the year. This work is a deeper dive into a specific line of scientific inquiry, and involves working with experts to create authentic reports and products that benefit the community.
This course focuses on building musicianship and confidence in support of our theatre productions. Company members work on listening, performance, and sight-reading skills while rehearsing choral and/or instrumental pieces.
REFLECTION + MEDITATION
The company meets to reflect upon the trials and triumphs of the day and to calm their minds using meditation techniques.
Drawing upon the vast expertise within our surrounding community, we invite artists and professionals to be interviewed by our company and lead us in workshops related to their crafts.
Members of the company propose and organize experiences and service projects that bring us closer to one another and to our surroundings. ATLAS students volunteer during storytime in the NMS Preschool, and participate in community service projects on campus. Each year ATLAS attends several professional theatre productions at Long Wharf Theatre. ATLAS takes advantage of our downtown location to explore the great city of New Haven.
ADVISORY & COMPANY MEETING
Students participate in a weekly company meeting to discuss their progress both as individuals and as a group. Guided by the restorative justice model, students reflect on their actions and impacts and make commitments for moving forward as a company. Small advisory groups meet throughout the week to set personal goals and work to develop organizational and interpersonal skills to set them up for success in high school.
How will my child improve as a reader and writer?
Proficiency in reading and writing is paramount to maximizing choices in life. ATLAS students read constantly and write prolifically as part of their work to produce plays.
We explore a range of complex texts including novels, biographies, nonfiction academic articles, newspapers, and periodicals, as well as classical and modern plays. Using the drama tool of text-analysis, students learn to draw inferences and support their statements with textual evidence. Repeatedly reading text aloud during the rehearsal process has been shown to improve fluency, confidence, and comprehension. Memorization of texts helps students internalize language.
Students also engage in mandatory independent reading both in the home and during quiet times at school. They choose these texts autonomously and teachers track their progress.
ATLAS students produce purposeful written work in support of their inquiry. Through writing personal narratives, daily diary entries, dramaturgical research reports, character analyses, poetry, short stories, comparative and persuasive essays, and market research reports for their theatre company, students incorporate writing into their self-concept and develop personal voice. Writing workshops encourage repeated drafting of each text, and a portfolio of writing work is critiqued at the end of each semester. Students also work together to write original scripts based on their social studies curriculum, and adapt a novel into a performance piece.
By connecting their reading and writing to the theatrical process, students are more motivated to persevere in these critical activities and learn to recognize them as central components of most meaningful work.
What about math and science?
In order to prepare for high school math and science curricula at competitive high schools, ATLAS students engage in targeted, sequential math and science instruction from a trained teacher and receive additional support from local museum partnerships, technology-based interventions, and community mentors.
7th graders learn to think mathematically, and build upon their foundational knowledge to complete more advanced mathematical operations. They explore ratios and proportional relationships, rational numbers, percentages, and geometry. 8th graders advance their abstract reasoning skills and number sense while exploring algebraic expressions.
Students entering ATLAS with a mastery of covered mathematical concepts will be supported and challenged by individualized projects.
To enhance their stand-alone math curriculum, students connect their design and construction projects to mathematical units of study. For example, as part of their study of ratios and proportional relationships, students build a scale-model of an original set design in their STEM Stagecraft class. When studying percentages, students create a production budget for their theatre company, conduct market research, and present a budget narrative and report.
How will you show that students are learning?
Learners and their families deserve direct and frequent communication about the learning that takes place throughout the school year. ATLAS students are leaders of their own learning, and facilitate parent-teacher meetings at the end of each semester, presenting their portfolio of work and speaking to their personal challenges and areas of growth. The portfolio model requires gathering multiple products of their learning to demonstrate improvement over the course of the year. In the portfolio, parents see examples of their student’s masterful work in each of the disciplines.
Along with portfolios to document and display student learning, the theatrical productions themselves showcase student work. The public nature of the performances raise the stakes and expectations (both intrinsically and extrinsically) for students and teachers. By watching multiple plays throughout the year, parents witness for themselves the growth their children experience.
Because test-taking is a common means of assessment in most area high schools, ATLAS students will participate in some traditional testing. They take a standardized assessment each fall to serve as both test-taking practice and a means of tracking student skill-mastery and content knowledge in order to guide instruction for the year. In Math Lab, students take assessments designed by the teacher to track learning.
Each teacher ultimately designs their own forms of assessment and evaluation, using tools such as rubrics and class critiques. They document learning using images, video, journaling, and narrative writing, and they share this documentation with students, colleagues, and parents.
Do any other schools look like this?
There are many innovative schools within our own region and across the nation that function upon similar core values and beliefs about teaching and learning. While schools across the country prioritize project-based, experiential learning, we know of no other stand-alone middle school using the theatre company model as their foundation for all learning. However, project-based, expeditionary learning schools operate successfully across the nation, and student outcomes (test-taking, college-placement, career readiness, etc.) are extremely strong in these schools. It is our hope that ATLAS will serve as a curricular model for other schools to adopt in the future.
Where will my child go to high school after ATLAS?
ATLAS students graduate with the intellectual, social, and emotional tools necessary to succeed in any high school they wish to attend. If students are passionate about the arts and aim to attend an arts-based high school, their training makes them very competitive candidates. Students who choose to pursue a traditional high school education are fully equipped to do so, and enter their 9th grade classrooms with high-level critical thinking and communication skills. ATLAS faculty and administrators are in direct communication with families and students throughout their decision-making and application process, providing support and guidance.