Thematic, Hands-On, Experiential Learning

Through a hands-on thematic curriculum grounded in environmental science and tied together through ethics, students will seek to answer five essential questions:

  • How can we learn more about ourselves, our community, our country, and our environment?
  • How are natural systems, individuals and communities connected and interdependent?
  • How has technology affected the world throughout history?
  • How are we impacted by the forces of nature and how do we react or adapt to these disturbances?
  • What does the Earth provide for its inhabitants and how do we sustain Earth’s bounties?

The thematic curriculum aligns with traditional middle school courses, so students can smoothly transition between Steward Semester and their own school.

At the center of our curriculum, Earth and Environmental Science is taught in the field on our 740 acre campus. Stewards engage in three dimensional scientific learning drawn from the Next Generation Science Standards:

  • Investigating the key ideas in science that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines.
  • Exploring connections across the four domains of science, including: Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering Design.
  • Applying science and engineering practices that scientists use to investigate the natural world and design and build systems. These practices better explain and extend what is meant by “inquiry” in science and the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that it requires.

Stewards connect scientific principles to real-world situations, allowing for engaging and relevant instruction to explore complicated topics and learn about the world they inhabit. They examine the interdependent relationships in ecosystems and learn the history of shared responsibility for nature preservation. Field studies focus on forces of nature, natural systems, geology, and human impact on the environment. The goal of instruction is for students to be able to explain real-world phenomena and to design solutions.

Stewards examine American history from socioeconomically and racially diverse perspectives, identifying and exploring motivations, viewpoints, and actions of individuals and groups of Americans. Our location allows for field study at Revolutionary War sites in CT and visits to local historical sites to give context to units on the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the era of Industrial and economic expansion. Stewards analyze the theory of Manifest Destiny and its impact on American policy and evaluate the impact of Westward Expansion on indigenous peoples and on settlers. We finish the semester with a study of landmark environmental cases as students prepare for their culminating project.
Stewards write a lot! They complete at least one writing assignment each week. While these assignments vary between observational, persuasive, narrative, and informational, each demands Stewards focus on rich content and strong mechanics. Essays, poetry, and literature complement content Stewards learn in Environmental Science and United States History, illuminating individual and shared experiences.
Most of our students enroll in one of the courses listed below and our faculty will coordinate with your sending school to ensure students meet curriculum requirements and are prepared to reenter at a high level. At Steward our faculty have the luxury of weaving together traditional textbook instruction with practical application. Real-world and in the field applications of the math we study helps develop a deeper understanding of mathematics and stronger problem-solving skills. Students receive 1:1 math tutoring and since our math courses are generally very small (3-5 students), students can experience quick growth in their math skills and confidence.

  • Pre-Algebra
  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II
Through daily outdoor experiential learning and adventure, Stewards develop their leadership and team-building skills while learning about themselves, about others and about the world around them. Themes and content from Literature and Composition, Earth Science, and United States History are woven into Environmental Outdoor Education. We combine environmental learning, wilderness education and adventure-based physical activities that allow students to practice and learn how to communicate, work together and take risks.
Our entire school body—students and faculty—gather for our weekly Steward Seminar, which pulls together conversations and coursework from across the curriculum and encourages Stewards to apply ethical thinking to their studies by asking them: how, then, shall we live? And, why should we care? Beginning with an introduction to social ethics, students consider and critique different principles and theories which purport to explain what makes an action right or wrong. Students then investigate the status of ethical theories and develop claims and counterclaims regarding whether there are objective truths about how we ought to live, or if ethics is ultimately a subjective matter. In the latter half of the course, students consider practical ethical issues such as poverty, environmental justice, racism and animal welfare. The structure of the course changes weekly, from lectures and class discussions to lively debates and creative presentations ensuring a highly engaging environment in which they can consider the entirety of their Steward experience through an ethical lens.

Courses not included in the thematic curriculum are tailored to individual student levels to ensure Stewards can push ahead at their own pace with 1:1 or small group support.

Steward works with families and sending schools to identify individual learning plans for foreign language study. Our faculty is equipped to provide Spanish, French, and Mandarin instruction as well as support online courses in other languages.
Stewards considering independent high schools may wish to prepare for the Secondary School Admission Test. We work with families to arrange individual and group tutoring.