Becky Anderson, Director of Junior School

In recent years, the Junior School has evolved its programming, always striving to create an engaging environment that develops the whole child - building skills and attitudes that will pave the way for success throughout their journey at SMUS. While each of these initiatives has received attention in past years, the aim of this article is to revisit some of my favourite articles and videos that illustrate these exciting “initiatives” that have become seamlessly integrated and are integral aspects of our school.

One of these examples is our Outdoor Education program. A few years ago, we significantly increased our time learning outside at the Junior School. Led by Mr. Jamie Pope, our approach is now a fully integrated one, covering many curricular aspects of Science, Social Studies and Life Skills through hands-on outdoor learning. Recognizing the immense benefits of being outside, we see children demonstrate their love for nature, their resilience during inclement weather, and how their curiosity is piqued when provoked to look at their surroundings in a new way.

Another example of an initiative involved a collaborative effort by a committee of educators from the Junior, Middle, and Senior School levels focusing on mathematics. The shared objective was to construct a comprehensive scope and sequence from Kindergarten to Grade 5, aligning with the mandated Ministry curriculum while incorporating insights and aspirations gleaned from our experienced math teachers in the higher grades. I love this article about our approach to Math written in 2018 that explained some of these shifts. We have since added a Math Lead teacher role, Mr. Matt Keil, to support this work at the Junior School.

At the Junior School, we have a long history recognizing and prioritizing the vital role of the arts in nurturing creativity and self-expression. Our arts program encompasses visual arts, musical theatre, choir classes (occasionally with concert accompaniment by a rock band) and strings classes, providing students with avenues to explore their creativity and develop talents. From drawing and clay work to musical performances, students are encouraged to unleash their imagination and express themselves freely. We continue to feel proud of the creativity of our students which continues to be displayed on the walls of the school or on stage.

The Junior School Imagination Lab was the first of its kind… a Reggio Inspired Maker Space. It provides a dynamic space for our students to cultivate essential skills for future success. Beyond fostering creativity and innovation, the iLab is a place that nurtures the qualities outlined in our Portrait of a Learner framework, including curiosity, collaboration, empathy, and resilience. By integrating STEAM learning with social-emotional development, students are not only encouraged to explore design challenges but also to embody qualities like empathy and initiative.

In retrospect, these initiatives reflect our school’s commitment to joyful learning within a culture of excellence. Today’s students reap the benefits of past leaps of faith, collaborative efforts, and calculated risks. As we continue this journey, we are excited about new ideas, exploring areas of growth and working together to continue to shape the future of our programming at SMUS.