O.W.L. (Our Wider Learning) Program
At The Williams School, it is our goal to make the most of our small class sizes, flexible school schedule, and vibrant community by providing meaningful opportunities for students to travel off campus. It is our firm belief that these experiences allow for some of the most robust student growth and learning.
In grades K-8, day trips (OWL Outings) to museums, parks, exhibits, and other sites will directly complement the curriculum. These trips afford students the chance to engage with and recognize the relevance of specific units of study. We are lucky to have many exciting educational enrichment opportunities in the Hampton Roads area. Therefore, it is our goal to utilize our own “backyard” by providing engaging, hands-on experiences that bring the classroom to life.
Our Lower School students arrive to The Williams School from diverse backgrounds. It is our goal to help them feel comfortable and confident as part of their new school family. From there, we work to expose them to our local community through numerous day trips in our neighborhood, city, region, and state. Students in Lower School learn that we are one small piece in a much larger world, and by using our voices and learning about our larger communities, we can make a difference.
Beginning in Middle School, at least one overnight trip will be offered for each grade level, in addition to day trips. While these overnight experiences will maintain connections to the curriculum, they are also designed with broader goals in mind. The destinations and activities are purposefully chosen to foster curiosity about the world, encourage independence and a willingness to try new things, and promote awareness, both of self and surroundings.
K: “Where did we come from and how do we fit into The Williams School?”
Students entering kindergarten are the newest members of our Williams School Family. It is our goal to make them feel comfortable and connected to the entire Williams School community. Students will explore what makes each one unique and how they can work together to weave themselves into our school. When exploring their unique backgrounds, they will spend time exploring the local area to truly understand: where do we come from and how do we fit into The Williams School?
Grade 1: “How do we connect to our community?”
Once in first grade, students are more comfortable at school and as part of the family, but how do they connect to the larger community and world? Whether it is writing letters to our military community or maintaining a community garden, students spend time learning how they can connect to others regardless of background, life circumstances, or geographical location.
Grade 2: “How do we show respect for different communities?”
Second graders have learned their place in our school and their connection to other communities. Therefore, the focus in second grade is learning to respect different communities and make them better. Students spend time learning how their actions affect others in a variety of ways. Whether it is learning about how we can save our valuable rainforests or protecting our oceans for the whales, sharks, and dolphins that reside there, students learn that there are many ways to show respect for different communities.
Grade 3: “How do we learn from cultures different from our own?”
Our students have spent time learning their roles in their school, neighborhoods, local and international communities, but how can they learn from cultures that are different from their own? What lessons can be taught and how can our students make sure to use these lessons to better themselves and their world? How can learning from other cultures help our students be more understanding of and embrace differences? Students will learn that other cultures throughout history have shaped our daily lives, our country, and our world.
Grade 4: “How do we show responsibility for our environment?”
Fourth grade spends the year focusing on the Chesapeake Bay and its importance to our local area, as well as the world. Students learn how humans have affected the local waterways throughout history. They will have a greater understanding how seemingly small decisions made for one community can have broader implications. Fourth graders will see this first hand on a visit to the Bay and will also begin to understand that each choice they make can impact others greatly.
Grade 5: “How do we use our voice to make a positive impact?”
Fifth grade is the culmination of Lower School. Students are expected to take what they have learned about our community and their place in it to work towards making a difference. Students learn that while they are part of many communities, they often must use their own voice to help spark change and help others. Further, they must use their voice to show responsibility and independence as they make the transition to sixth grade. This is a great time of exploration and growth as students are set up for success in our middle school program.
Grade 6: “Where did we come from and where are we going?”
Middle school is a time of transition. As students begin this transition in the sixth grade, they will be asked to think about forming the identity that will carry their group through the next three years. Therefore, the theme of the sixth grade year is “where did we come from and where are we going?” In the fall, students will have the opportunity to engage in bonding and team building during an overnight trip. This important off-campus experience will lay a strong foundation for future trips, as well as help the class begin to establish their common “culture.” Sixth graders will also connect to their essential question through learning about the living world in science and ancient civilizations and cultures in the social studies and Language Arts classrooms.
Grade 7: “How do we best work together to be a positive and productive member of society?”
In the seventh grade, students are encouraged--and expected--to begin thinking more critically about the world around them. As part of their grade level theme, students will participate in off-campus experiences that promote problem-solving and building an awareness of the increasingly global society in which we live. Students will be asked to consider questions such as why is it important to be aware of perspectives different than our own? and how can people of any age work together to address problems, both immediate and on a larger scale? Seventh graders will dive into literature from different perspectives in Language Arts and explore world history and geography in social studies. Perhaps one of the most anticipated experiences of the year is the Rube Golberg project in Physical Science, during which students must work collaboratively to design, build, and operate a working, complex machine.
Grade 8: “How do we prepare for life beyond The Williams School?”
Eighth grade is the culmination of The Williams School journey. Therefore, the focus of both on- and off-campus experiences is “looking beyond The Williams School”, helping students to push their boundaries. Throughout the year, all eighth grade students will take an active role in fundraising and organizing logistics for the springtime class trip. The preparation process and the trip itself call on students to practice the kind of independence, responsibility, and decision-making that will be expected of them after graduation. Additional off-campus experiences will be planned with these specific goals in mind. At school, eighth graders will be continuously guided to look beyond The Williams School and their own comfort zones through challenging classroom curriculum, leadership opportunities (both formal and informal), and navigating the high school admission process.