Full STEAM Ahead

Children are natural makers and tinkerers. As a progressive school dedicated to educating through observation and experience, we are constantly seeking opportunities for our students to create and deconstruct the world around them. Recognizing the importance of putting children’s natural creative desire into practice, Junior Unit launched its first dedicated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) program this past week entitled “Full STEAM Ahead.”

“Full STEAM Ahead” aims to cultivate young maker instincts in pursuit of solutions to 21st century problems. Leading the program at TPS is Director of Educational Technology, Matt Murray, and Director of Systems & Innovation, Jeffrey Mordan. During their time with the students throughout this academic year, Matt and Jeffrey will facilitate hands-on maker experiences by combining technology with arts and crafts to prototype functional solutions to real world issues. 

This past week, Junior Unit students kicked off the program by building circuits using an inquiry-driven approach: Using magnetic modules called littleBits, the students were tasked with making something rather “illuminating” (an LED-inspired invention) by applying the invention cycle, a design-thinking process. 

Over the coming weeks, students will test the depth and breadth of their growth mindsets as they learn the power of “yet” and see their mistakes and failures as transformative attempts in learning and positive chances to iterate.

Stay tuned for monthly updates!


Teaching Teachers: Tools to Help Nurture the Whole Child

In July, The Philadelphia School hosted Developmental Designs (DD), a professional development workshop focused on social-emotional learning for grades 4-8. Educators from several area schools and twenty three TPS teachers spent four days studying developmentally responsive teaching strategies, as well as a personalized relationship-based learning approach aimed to help educators better connect with students and address their needs.

At TPS, our progressive education model teaches children to be critical thinkers, active learners, and engaged citizens—helping them thrive both in the classroom and in their communities. Attending to students’ social-emotional needs is a fundamental pillar of progressive education that helps advance all areas of learning for our children. Research confirms that when children feel safe and connected, they are more focused, more willing to take intellectual risks, and are more productive and invested in their learning. 

Nurturing the complex and ever-changing social-emotional needs of children is challenging work. But TPS educators are provided a cohesive set of tools to nurture the unique needs of each child through an annual investment in professional development, such as DD training. 

“Developmental Designs is a helpful mirror to a lot of things we already do at TPS. It's a way to make sure that children are pushed to grow and be thoughtful about their own behavior. It's also a way to ensure children are treated with respect,” said Roxanne, 6th grade teacher. 

Developmental Designs is a framework for establishing classroom rules and setting expectations while encouraging student ownership. “A main takeaway of mine from the training was the focus on promoting accountability and authenticity—two things I believe in strongly and that I feel are essential when it comes to teaching and building relationships with others,” shared Devin, PE teacher.

This DD approach also influences our school’s advisory program, how our teachers manage conflict resolution, and all other aspects of creating a climate conducive to robust learning and engagement. Attendees learned of the importance of using consistent language to help build community and trust within our classrooms, and teachers are already implementing these practices as we kick off the new school year. 

“We were given the opportunity to create a project outline of our own in which the students are given choice at how they can best demonstrate their learning—an excellent example of differentiated teaching,” music teacher, Chris Gignac, shared. “The four day training was a wonderful opportunity for teachers and administrators to establish a common understanding of how to establish equitable classrooms at TPS.”

With lessons learned from DD training, and through Responsive Classroom practices in grades preschool-3rd, all classrooms and departments at TPS are focusing on deepening their curricular and instructional practices to meet students where they are and how to skillfully nudge them forward both intellectually and socially.

“It is my belief that the most important curriculum for us as educators is one that focuses on relationships, empathy, equity, and social-emotional consideration,” shared Dina, JU-B teacher. “Developmental Designs reminds us all that we must take time for reflection and self care, and in this very busy and often confusing world, children need this even more.”


Learning a New Library

To get to know their new classroom library, students in 3-A participated in hands-on learning. They familiarized themselves with various book collections and then worked with a partner to create an advertisement for the collection of their choice. As a way to showcase their knowledge and teach their peers about the books, the partners presented their advertisements to their classmates.

Going Fishing

The Bubbles and Rainbows in Preschool A were delighted when 8th grader Brian N. reprised his role as our fishing expert this week. It’s very important to know how to fish if we’re going to own and operate the TPS Seafood Restaurant!

We started off our project time with a demonstration from Brian on how to build your very own bottle trap—a tool used for simple fishing. We’ve been collecting plastic bottles and we had a chance to upcycle them for our fishing pleasure. It’s very important to know how to fish if we’re going to own and operate the TPS Seafood Restaurant!

We took our experiential learning to a new level when Brian (accompanied by his mom, Michelle, and our very own Lisa Hoke) donned a fishing vest and carried his fishing equipment down to the Schuylkill River Bank observation deck to try and catch a live one for our restaurant! Brian carefully set his fishing line and cast off into the river with Philadelphia skyscrapers in the background.


The clouds unexpectedly opened up, and as the rain poured down Brian walked us through the fishing process unflapped by the change in weather conditions. He reminded us that fish love rain. Your children squealed with delight watching the “real thing” happen from the dry and comfort of our classroom. We think they are ready for their own expeditions soon—bottle traps, poles, and nets. And remember the wise words from several of the fishing folks who have visited our classroom: “It’s called fishing and not catching.”

Middle School Spirit Week

From the TPS Student Council:

We have had numerous requests for a Middle School Spirit Week, and this coming week – May 29-31 – is the only time that is available. Student Council reps for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades are getting the word out through texts and email. Please help us get the word out.

Here are the themes for the week:

Tuesday - Philly Day
Wednesday - Twin Day
Thursday - Decade Day
Friday - Disney Day