Website Version of July Newsletter

News Blast: What have High Meadow School’s teachers been up to Summer of 2015?

Our teachers have been immersed in a professional development process that integrated two BIG ideas in education: Differentiation and THEAMS!


Big Idea 1: Differentiation  Differentiation is an educational approach that embraces and addresses the interests, abilities, and learning styles of all learners in as many ways as possible. Differentiation understands that children need to move to learn, and that integrated curriculum allows for many entry points into a unit of study.  

Differentiation is a teaching and learning mindset and incorporates the following strategies:

  • tiered materials and assignments
  • flexible groupings
  • learning centers and stations
  • Anchor activities that extend learning and challenge students ready for more
  • supports for students when they need it

In our second year of this three year initiative, teachers focused on building in differentiated activities into their curricula.  In sharing the big ideas of our curricula, we saw that big ideas in the humanities and sciences can be distilled down to some essential concepts:

  • Cycles: Life, civilizations, rock, water, soil,  seasons        
  • Systems: Solar, Tribes, Fish schools, ant hills, beehives, Eco-systems        
  • Laws: Natural and Human
  • Change over time: geological shifts, evolution & adaptation,
  • Dynamic Change: revolutions & wars, earthquakes, climate change
  • Patterns: Fibonacci series, fractals, human behavior, migrations

These concepts were a natural transition point between our work on differentiation to our work on our STEAM to THEAMS initiative.  

Big Idea 2: STEAM to THEAMS: the integrated studies of Technology, Humanities, Engineering, Arts, Math, and Science!  The THEAMS acronym came to Michelle in the middle of the night as a solution for bringing Humanities into STEAM education. THEAMS is a High Meadow School innovation that incorporates two essential pillars of our educational philosophy: Humanistic education and Thematic learning.  

Why the Humanities? The THEAMS approach makes explicit connections between historical eras/events and the technological innovations that were involved.  What technological innovations allowed the pyramids to be built? How were those structures tied into their times, and what role did they play in moving Egyptian civilization forward?  How did the printing press move European societies out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance? What was the effect of the invention of gunpowder on Chinese civilization?

When I wondered if perhaps I was too hung up on the importance of including humanities in STEAM education at High Meadow,  Fareed Zakariah’s article, “Why STEM Won’t Make Us Successful”, reassured me of our THEAMS direction.  Here is but one quote that speaks to the need for humanism to be injected into the STEAM experience,

This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future. The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

Humanistic thinking in the world of technological innovation is critical –  as the acceleration of new developments in technology and engineering increases the implications for humanity as a whole does as well.

Thematic learning allows our teachers and students to come at a set of ideas or facts from a variety of angles, to express what they know in multiple ways, and to connect the disciplines in the authentic way that people in those fields do.  

Put STEAM, Humanities, and Thematic learning in a jar and SHAKE, and you get THEAMS! 

Over the course of the workshops, the teachers learned about and tinkered with a range of educational technology from low to high, in order to enrich units under development and the classroom experience as a whole, including…


  • Building Kits: Blocks, Legos,Tinker-toys, and other innovative design and engineering materials
  • Basic Circuitry: for understanding how circuits work and what they can do
  • Scratch Coding: An essential and accessible language for creating with computers
  • Makey, Makey: A tool for creating interactive tech experiences
  • Arduino: A programmable circuit board for driving a range of interactive tech

…and derived some fantastic projects of their own!  See them on our facebook page!

We are eagerly anticipate another year of engagement and discoveries bound  to unfold in our classrooms this year!