The teachers at Odyssey School are acutely aware that our middle school students are heading into a future educational topography that is changing rapidly. Similarly, our students are set on a navigational course into a forthcoming period that will contain many unknown variables. Consequently, Odyssey’s teachers believe that an effective and contemporary middle school curriculum should deliver the following essential exposures and opportunities:
- Critical Thinking
- Mastery of Essential Skills in Core Academic Classes
- Leadership Training
- Creative Expression
- Social Emotional Grounding
- Personal Best Goal Setting
- Collaborative Work
- Physical Conditioning
- Community Participation
- Technology Trend Education
Critical thinking skills are incorporated into and reinforced throughout the curriculum – especially in all science, social studies, language arts, and math classes. Many class projects require students to form a thesis and provide evidence in support of the thesis. Furthermore, many class projects are completed in groups so students learn the art and science of collaboration.
Odyssey programs promote academic skill mastery and all teachers expect students to demonstrate these skills, at increasing levels, as they move up into the 7th and 8th grades. Performance data in academic classes is available to students and parents and this transparency helps support the Odyssey goal of developing studentship skills for all students. In the creative arts classes, students are required to demonstrate skills and are exposed to practical exams to develop these talents. Odyssey students come to understand themselves much better as learners and take their skill sets into high school, college, and beyond.
The 6 core classes that constitute the Odyssey Academic Program are:
Mathematics – Pre-Algebra, and Algebra, and, for selected students, Algebra 2, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus
Science – Integrated Science consists of various biology, chemistry, physics, and ecology topics
Language Arts – creative writing, book analysis, report writing, poetry, and literature
History/Social Studies – various world and U.S. history topics cultural studies, and current event analysis
Japanese – Japanese language conversation, writing, and cultural studies
Technology Explorations – the history of computing, artificial intelligence, modern computing and coding, the future of technology
Odyssey’s expeditions provide many and varied ways for students to practice Leadership Skills. Third-year students are expected to lead whether they are climbing Mt. Whitney, studying marine biology at the Channel Islands, or ascending Mt. Fuji. Skills and knowledge gained in Odyssey’s indoor and outdoor classrooms help students emerge as leaders. This is especially apparent during our final expedition – a three-week exploration of Japan. Students are afforded many opportunities to translate their learning into the practice of leadership while also allowing them to see the world around them as a classroom.
Our focus on the creative arts, taught by professional artists, teaches students to appreciate the arts, while also providing them with a wealth of real-world practical skills from public speaking to keen observational proficiencies. All Odyssey students perform in the annual school play and all Odyssey students make class presentations routinely. These opportunities help develop student presentation and communication skills.
Odyssey’s Self-Science program promotes SEL (social emotional learning) while helping students develop conflict resolution abilities. This program ensures that students feel safe at school and encourages them to respect the diverse members of the school population. The middle school years can be characterized by rapid emotional growth and incredible social challenge. Odyssey’s commitment to Self-Science ensures that students have increased potentials in the important domains of respect, acceptance, ethics, and conflict resolution.
Odyssey teaches students to effectively and appropriately integrate technology into their learning. Odyssey students participate in a BYOD (bring your own device) program and Odyssey owns sufficient computers to supply 1 laptop for each student during the school day. Odyssey School also owns a fleet of iPads and Chromebooks for school use and special projects. In addition to copious technology use in classes, Odyssey offers a mandatory tech class to all students. All students have an Odyssey email address and all students have an account with Thinkwave, Odyssey’s SIS (school information system) for assignment distribution and grading information.
Physical conditioning is highly valued at Odyssey School. We call our PE classes – “Movement.” The school offers a variety of these classes and students start their day, at 8:15 AM with swimming, running, hockey, dance, stage combat, karate, yoga, and other classes.
Elective classes at Odyssey School support the school’s overall educational program with classes like robotics, mountain biking, puppets, independent study passions, field sports, music, dance, and other offerings.
Odyssey school’s focus on community provides many opportunities for students to seek community support, as well as be contributing community members. In addition to the school’s Community Service Program outside of school, our weekly schedule reflects Odyssey’s commitment to the concept of the student and teacher team. We start every day with a morning Zazen meditation session that is immediately followed by an all-school meeting. At these meetings, students are given the opportunity to speak and they sometimes identify social or academic challenges that they might be experiencing and usually other students offer messages of support. It is not uncommon for students to express gratitude to other students and teachers who have helped them through a challenging situation at school. Odyssey’s schedule also has 1 afternoon meeting per week, at the end of the school day. The Head of School uses this important time to help students set and achieve personal educational goals. Moreover, the Odyssey weekly schedule contains “helping tasks” and these work sessions provide students with the opportunity to work together to contribute back to the school they love so much.