Children need opportunities to explore concepts in depth, so they can relate these ideas to other academic disciplines and apply them to real life situations. In order for learning to be active, engaging and challenging, the BWS curriculum is child centered and developmentally appropriate. Our teachers create hands-on engaging curriculum and integrate established, research-based curricula to complete a well-rounded learning experience.
The Bishop Walker School is one school with two locations. It is split into two divisions: Primary School (grades K-2) and Upper Primary School / Middle School (grades 3-6). The Primary School is located at our Holy Communion site, and the Upper Primary School is at a temporary location at the Washington View Apartment complex.
Our language arts program stresses reading and oral and written communication. Students’ literacy skills are developed through shared language and reading experiences throughout the day - in the classroom, at Chapel and at After-School.
Kindergarten and first grade receive reading instruction in individual, small group and whole class lessons. Phonics and phonemic awareness skills are emphasized; students also learn basic spelling patterns, recognize sight words, and develop formal handwriting. While building these foundational literacy skills, children are actively reading daily. Teachers are able to select a variety of children’s literature that will engage boys' interests while developing their ability to read independently and fluently.
In second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, students are no longer learning to read but are reading to learn. Reading instruction in the upper grades places even greater emphasis on comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. Small group instruction is key, as teachers are able to focus on reinforcing skills and students are able to develop their critical thinking through guided reading discussions.
At BWS, writing instruction is a core component of our language arts curriculum. Students in grades kindergarten through sixth have Writers’ Workshop, a program that emphasizes learning to write by writing daily. At the end of each workshop and several times throughout the year, students share their work with their peers, families and special visitors. Sharing builds a strong sense of pride and accomplishment in their writing, and students approach writing with enthusiasm. Students in grades second through fifth write research reports on black inventors, the 50 States, and the Great Migration.
Students in all grades learn that mathematical concepts exist all around them. Our math curriculum in grades kindergarten through sixth revolves around Saxon Math. This program places a strong emphasis on building a solid foundation for number sense by working with manipulatives and the world around us. For example, although division is not explicitly covered until second grade, kindergarten students learn about dividing objects into multiple pieces by cutting an apple. The spiral curriculum approach of Saxon Math ensures that students master skills while simultaneously being introduced to new concepts. Using our indoor and outside environments, math literally takes place all around the school and across the curriculum.
Social Studies and Science
It is important that children understand themselves and their cultural background as well as other cultures, history, and the natural world. Each social studies and science unit is designed by BWS faculty to foster critical thinking and engagement with critical cultural concepts. Instead of planning for children to memorize information, instructors use essential questions beginning with “How?” and “Why?” to encourage creativity and deeper understanding.
Our social curriculum, described in detail below, is the first point of entry for each student into our social studies curriculum. After the school year begins with a unit on how to be a gentleman, subsequent units of study engage a variety of topics that challenge students to examine and interact with the world around them. In junior kindergarten, students spend the year studying buildings and community helpers. Kindergarteners learn about families, fairytales and the Washington National Cathedral and the life of Bishop Walker; first graders study neighborhoods and transform their classroom into an urban neighborhood. Second graders explore their own city, Washington D.C. In third grade, students study the States of the Union, U.S. Government, U.S. land formations and Ancient Greece; fourth grade units of study include Colonial America and pre-Columbian cultures; and fifth grade students study the Revolutionary War, westward expansion and the Civil War.
Science units similarly encourage inquiry. Teachers create a series of firsthand experiences for students, who are required to demonstrate scientific understanding through observations, investigations and experimentation involving the world of nature. Junior kindergarten studies ants; kindergarten studies dinosaurs and gardening; first grade studies things that fly; second grade studies water and the Anacostia River; third grade studies the structure of life; fourth grade studies the human body and magnetism; and fifth grade studies mixtures and solutions and weather on Earth.
Art, Music, and Movement
In the pursuit of educating the whole child, our visual and performing arts and physical education curriculum is critical to the development of our students. Students enjoy music, art and movement classes twice weekly. Music is taught through singing, movement, and games. Throughout the school year, students display their musical prowess at a number of community programs including our Evensong Service, Christmas and Black History Month programs and Family and Friends celebration.
The art curriculum is designed to encourage children’s individual creative expression. Art projects involve drawing, painting, creating collages, and sculpting. Students learn about color, lines, shapes, patterns and dimensions and are increasingly exposed to a variety of artistic techniques and materials in order to foster each student’s unique abilities. Lead teachers also incorporate art projects into their core curriculum. Children create beautiful art when given the freedom and encouragement to express themselves, and BWS students’ art work is proudly displayed throughout the school.
For movement, BWS students develop their large and fine motor skills and coordination through activities such as running, skipping, throwing, and catching. Children achieve balance and awareness of boundaries through the use of scooters, parachutes, hula hoops and bean bags. Through noncompetitive games, good sportsmanship and cooperative play are developed. Movement classes are not an additional recess; movement teachers create a space in which students learn to hone their physical skills and maximize the benefits of movement by focusing on strengthening peer relationships, building self-confidence and experiencing setting and achieving goals.
As an Episcopal school, the Bishop Walker School welcomes boys of all faith traditions. Our chaplain incorporates children’s curiosity and questioning into twice-weekly classes on the foundations of Christianity and the life of Jesus. Religion is studied through the lens of biblical stories and the observance of the church calendar, with a strong emphasis on the personal application of morals. Children deepen their religious understanding through storytelling, art projects and games. Complemented by weekly chapel services, BWS students receive a rich spiritual foundation for the development of strong moral character.