When you walk into an art class at St. Nicholas you will see a creative, energizing space where children are encouraged to learn, play, and express themselves in their own individual way. St. Nicholas School is unique in that the art program is based on art history. Students in Levels 3-7 have two separate classes - art history and studio art, while ELC students have art history and studio art combined into one class. The students at St. Nicholas are offered what might be offered to a high school student, just tailored down to the appropriate age. If you give children the opportunity, they will shine.
A St. Nicholas student will not stare at a canvas as if it is an unknown thing, nor handle clay as play-doh. A brayer is not a foreign tool, nor is a conté crayon. We strive to expose the students to all sorts of techniques and materials. Great attention is paid to the instruction of “how” to use the media and how to tackle the project. The belief of quality over quantity is a mainstay and each child is encouraged to do his/her personal best, regardless of what anyone else’s work looks like. At St. Nicholas, each child is encouraged as a unique individual with his/her own special gift.
The goal of the art history portion of the program is for the children to recognize, not memorize. Students have been able to recognize the paintings that they have studied on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place or cleverly melded into an M&M’s advertisement. From Paleolithic to Pop Art, the children learn the different genres through hands-on experiences.
In addition to art production and art history, we strive to give the students the tools to discuss art, whether their own, a peer’s, or the work of a famous artist. It is understood that there are different opinions and reactions of and to art – but these ideas must be based upon something other than, “it’s pretty.” Art is displayed in available spaces, providing the children with an opportunity to highlight their work on display, in addition to sharing projects with the St. Nicholas community. While studio art and art history are the driving forces behind the art curriculum, they provide the context for our larger goals: for a child to feel comfortable with him or herself, with ideas, tools, with everything art; to have a space to come and relax, express thoughts or worries.
St. Nicholas Gardening and Outdoor Program aspires to grow engaged, curious learners who understand their responsibilities in the natural world and to teach basic gardening skills in hopes they develop healthy eating habits. Taking care of one another, ourselves and the earth are at the core of St. Nicholas School’s philosophy. With the Gardens focus on raising edible crops, the students learn about food production and nutrition through life science studies, planting and maintaining a garden, collaboration between Levels and personal responsibility, thus expressing these values. As students learn how to grow and care for plants, feed their bodies with whole foods and work together towards a common goal, they absorb larger lessons on sustainability and stewardship of the Earth. School gardening inspires awe and respect for nature, nourishes bodies and encourages a lifelong love of learning about the natural world.
In keeping with our mission, the school library exists to support the curriculum and independent learning needs of students, faculty, and staff. We strive to provide access to high-quality materials and instruction in a student-centered environment designed to equip and empower students as the unique learners they are.
Students attend two 30-minute library classes per week. Classes involve read-alouds, book talks, research projects, digital and information literacy, puppets, crafts, and dance parties! We seek to follow student interests and build a foundation of joyful reading, while teaching them to be knowledgeable creators and consumers of information.
The movement or physical education program provides an opportunity for students to develop personal physical growth and confidence that builds a foundation towards lifelong health and fitness. The program stresses teamwork and does not promote competition between students. However, students are introduced to games and sports at the appropriate age.
Additionally, the FITNESSGRAM curriculum is an integral part of the physical education program each year. FITNESSGRAM is a complete battery of health-related fitness items that are scored using criterion-referenced standards. These standards are age and gender specific and are established based on how fit children need to be for good health. One unique feature of this program is that it allows teachers to produce individualized reports for each student in class. The reports provide feedback based on whether the child achieved the criterion-referenced standards for physical activity or fitness. The use of health related criteria helps to minimize comparisons between children and to emphasize personal fitness for health rather than goals based on performance.
The St. Nicholas facility is an open campus with ample space for physical education programs. The campus includes a large field that easily accommodates soccer and other team sports, an elementary-sized gymnasium, a swimming pool, and four custom-designed outdoor play areas that feature a variety of play equipment.
Music plays an integral and joyful role at St. Nicholas. From singing together in chapel and participating in classroom activities to private lesson opportunities, talent shares and occasional programs or recitals, our students benefit from the continued emphasis and various applications of this art form.
Music at St. Nicholas is thorough, multicultural and inclusive. In addition to learning the fundamentals of music, children build critical social skills by working together and gain respect for other cultures through classroom discussions, songs and activities from around the world. Active participation is key, so classes at all levels incorporate a mix of creative movement opportunities, instrumental and ensemble work, listening activities, folk dance, choir and dramatic play. St. Nicholas School is the first school in Tennessee to receive the Steinway Select K-12 designation.
St. Nicholas also offers a variety of private music lessons each afternoon through the Extended School Program. For those interested in these options, contact Music Director Kara Miscio. In addition, afternoon drama classes are offered by Artist-in-Residence and technology teacher Carey Shinbaum.
The goal of the St. Nicholas foreign language program is to create an awareness of other cultures and to form a basis for future language studies.
The program focuses on providing rich, compelling input that is very comprehensive. Students also learn about the culture of Spanish-speaking peoples through stories and activities that introduce the different foods, folklore, and traditions to the children.
Classes are conducted in Spanish and include songs, games, physical activities, drawing, and story-telling.
The Google for Education platform is integrated into curriculum beginning in Level 3, though the exploration of age-appropriate technology tools is present even in our youngest school divisions. In addition to providing online resources and utilizing large flat screen displays in their teaching environments, St. Nicholas teachers also manage Google Classrooms where students can interact with learning materials while on campus, as well as from home. Each primary level student in Levels 3-7 is issued a Google account and Chromebook managed by the school.
Often tying into their cottages’ core curriculum, weekly dedicated technology classes focus on the creative use of the tech tools available to students, as well as basic computer literacy and digital citizenship. Technology assignments are designed to strengthen work habits and personal responsibility, and involve step-by-step instructions, responding to online teacher comments, and making timely revisions. Weekly bonus challenges and other independent projects allow students to make technology personally meaningful, while solidifying and building upon what they have previously learned.
Music technology also plays a unique role at St. Nicholas School. The use of touch screen virtual instruments alongside traditional acoustic instruments allows primary levels to participate in the music making process with a flexible mindset, utilizing tools that help to simplify and ease the music learning curve. From creating high quality original choir recordings to digital slides featuring lyrics and notation, technology brings a multi-sensory experience to the music room and chapel performance space.