The GMS Theme Studies program enables students to make connections across disciplines in a real-world setting. Students apply and integrate both skills and content in reading, writing, mathematics, science, art, and drama. Theme-based studies give meaning and relevancy to subjects that otherwise can be abstract to young people and often don't keep a student's interest. The whole school works with synergy as the students and teachers together move through learning and projects related to the theme and preparations for the culminating theme event.
While pursuing theme-based activities like those in the examples below, the students acquire many diverse skills. They learn geography and how to read maps, how to use multiple sources for research including the internet, and how to give oral presentations and answer questions from an audience. They gain an understanding of chronology and timelines and learn to relate historical concepts to personal experience. Students also learn how to analyze data and how to work in a cooperative group.
Themes are studied for an average of ten weeks at a time. All themes end with a culminating event that allows students to experience the process of production and presentation. Complete theme curricula are available in the school office for review.
Examples of theme-based projects and learning from the 2014-2015 year include:
To Russia with Love
An exploration of Russian culture
- Middle school students wrote and performed a play about the Russian Revolution.
- The school visited the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens that houses the largest collection of Russian art in the country.
- Students made their version of Faberge eggs as a Community Day project.
- 2nd and 3rd grade students created a large-scale biome depicting the flora and fauna of Russia, with corresponding historical elements.
Prosperity, Depression and War: 1919-1946
An exploration of this time in U.S. history
- 1st through 3rd grade created an economic structure based on prosperity and inflated stock market. They each had "jobs" at the bank, the theater, the restaurant, and the milliner. They borrowed money to start businesses and buy luxury items, and invested heavily in the "stock market." When the market crashed, it was a shock to students, but valuable lessons were learned.
- Kindergarten students made airplanes and tanks out of cardboard, and learned about Victory Gardens.
- A survivor of the U.S Japanese internment camps came to speak to students.
- Middle school students designed their own propaganda posters in support, or protest, of a cause in which they believed. By partnering with the MICA Masters in Art Teaching program, students learned print-making to create the finished posters.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game: The Nation's Sporting Pastimes
An exploration of the history, ethics, and societal impact of sports
- Kindergarten through 3rd grade created new sports! They developed the goals, the rules, the name of the games, and taught the new sports to parents and guests at the Theme-Event.
- 4th and 5th grade thought about what went into a team's logo, and the effect of that logo on the community as a whole. The class invited a local graphic designer to speak to them about logo design and to help them create their own designs.
- Middle school students participated in a panel discussion with three local sports media experts. They discussed the impact of sports on society, the effect of pro athletes as role models, and the issues surrounding student athletes.
- The whole school toured Oriole Park at Camden Yards!
The U.S history themes build on one another and students make references and connections to previous themes to help guide future learning. The themes for the 2016-17 school year are:
- Central America: A Cultural Fusion
- The World at Our Fingertips: US History 1980 to 2003
- Our Earth: Appreciation, Advocacy, and Action