Every Student Shines in Nysmith School’s STEM Program
Nysmith School is a private school in Herndon, Virginia with an educational philosophy to provide gifted children in grades K-8 “a joy-filled world-class education.” This has earned the school top honors and awards.
Nysmith School’s commitment to STEM
Nysmith School is known for its differentiated classroom curriculum, in which teachers offer different levels of instruction to students within the same classroom. This concept encourages students to curate their own paths of learning and discovery within a warm, nurturing environment. Differentiation applies equally throughout Nysmith School’s STEM program by encouraging students to explore within broad subjects and determine their own interests. In math, for example, students may jump ahead up to four grade levels beyond their current status to fuel their individual passions and fully immerse themselves with advanced learning.
Nysmith’s STEM education touches students at every grade level. The school achieves this through robust programming that offers initial instruction and ample opportunities to enhance learning through individual creation, manipulation and forays into the unknown. According to head of school Ken Nysmith, all students have science class for 45 minutes, computers for 30 minutes and math for 60 minutes each day.
Educational philosophy plus the happiness quotient
It’s true that Nysmith has a cemented status as a premier school that is rated and ranked independently as a consistently high-achieving school. But Nysmith wants parents to focus on something else entirely. He believes the school his mother Carole founded in 1983 and that bears his family name is best assessed by a factor that is impossible to see, yet omnipresent in every square inch of the school. Nysmith School incorporates joy into the fabric of its educational philosophy, making happiness a potent quotient of what makes it special and helps its students shine.
In order to add happiness and build it into the structure of its curriculum, Nysmith School subtracts the common teaching practice of repetition. Educational repetition and rote memorization are typical hallmarks of most educational institutions. Nysmith School eschews these through differentiated learning, carefully balancing the students’ climb towards building their skill sets with their natural curiosity and real-life scenarios.
Teaching STEM with real-life applications
Nysmith proudly offers one strong example of how the school funnels differentiated learning to its students through practical lessons in math. In sixth grade math, for example, the students had a unit in economics that required the use of spreadsheets to process numbers. Recognizing how dry and lifeless spreadsheets could be, the teachers invented a unique way to teach the same concepts of numbers and currency by encouraging the students to plan their own trip using internet sources including Expedia.com.
Each student started off with a fictitious budget of $10,000. Where did they want to travel to? Which flights would they need to reach their destination? Once they arrived, how would they entertain themselves? These were just a few of the questions the students had to solve in order to help them compute numbers on spreadsheets.
Similar real-life scenarios also popped up in other grades, such as in fourth grade where students started off with a budget of $4,000 and were asked to plan a party.
Nysmith School teachers are edutainers
Nysmith also speaks with high regard about Nysmith School teachers forging novel paths as edutainers, educators who mix traditional education with some entertainment. This becomes easier thanks to smaller class sizes, given the school’s ratio of one teacher or co-teacher for every nine students. It is also an asset that complements the differentiated learning in the school’s STEM programs.
On May 4, 2022, for example, the entire school celebrated the pop cultural holiday of “May the 4th be With You” (harkening to the fictional space fantasy of the “Star Wars” movies). Many of the school’s staff, administrators, teachers and students dressed up in various costumes portraying “Star Wars” characters.
Sara Miller, teacher of fourth and fifth grade computers, dressed up and helped the students program and operate their miniature robots; robotics are a component of the daily computer classes in the STEM program. Johan Fremlin, teacher of sixth, seventh and eighth grade computers who also serves as the school’s director of technology, also dressed in costume.
Multiple factors in STEM help students shine
Through a unique combination of presenting real-life scenarios and actively engaging students with teacher edutainment, Nysmith School succeeds in keeping its students happy while advancing gifted learning.
For more information about the Nysmith School, please visit nysmith.com.