Gwynedd-Mercy Academy provides a quality education through a comprehensive and challenging curriculum that is aligned with Pennsylvania and Archdiocesan standards. Students are actively engaged in learning and continually challenged to apply higher order thinking skills as they compose, create, experiment, and discover.
The religious curriculum is centered on spiritual and faith development to enable children to learn and live their faith. As children study about God, prayers, sacraments and service to others, they learn how to integrate Mercy values and attitudes into their daily lives. The Community of Caring program supports the curriculum through class meeting discussions that center on acceptance and appreciation of differences.
The child's religious growth is highlighted through his/her preparation and reception of the sacraments. Children are prepared for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, First Eucharist and Confirmation. Reconciliation and Eucharist are received within our school community and Confirmation is received in the child's parish setting. The sacramental preparation program includes classroom lessons, special prayer experiences and parental involvement. The child's reception of these initial sacraments is the foundation of our religion program. Our hope is that the students of Gwynedd-Mercy Academy, through their learning and their experience, come to know and realize God's great love for them and strive to live out Jesus' commandment "to love God and to love one another as God loves us."
The reading program promotes the development, encouragement, and enhancement of fluent readers, articulate writers and speakers, discerning listeners, and savvy researchers, through an integrated approach. To meet the needs of emerging readers and writers, instruction in phonemic awareness, fluency, decoding, and word recognition builds the foundation for critical reading and quality writing. Spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and research skills are integrated throughout the curriculum, including library, speech, and computer classes. As students progress into independent, critical readers in the middle grades, numerous opportunities are provided for students to utilize metacognitive strategies to read and respond, listen and share ideas, analyze and interpret, using authentic literature complemented by trade books, Internet research material, and other genre. Cross-curricular experiences, supported by technology enhancements, encourage students to transfer critical thinking and reading skills to develop complex knowledge in all disciplines. Teachers provide differentiated instruction and assessment, both formal and informal, at all grade levels to support the varied learning needs and interests of students and to monitor each student's progress. All aspects of the reading program, including participation in Reading Olympics, challenge our students to become life-long readers and communicators.
A course of interpersonal communication and public speaking is offered as a part of the curriculum in fifth through eighth grades. The speech program consists of classroom speeches on a variety of topics, dramatic exercises, interview techniques and everyday speaking methods that enable students to express themselves with confidence and clarity.
Grades five and six focus on everyday speaking activities, while seventh and eighth grades embrace all types of speech topics such as debate, media presentations, and parliamentary procedure.
This course encourages the students to develop their individual speaking style with an emphasis on the importance of communication across all disciplines and in all situations.
The mathematics program focuses on developing mathematical skills and a strong number sense through a systematic and sequential approach. Use of technology in the mathematics classroom is an integral part of instruction, reinforcement, and enrichment of concepts throughout the grades. Students learn to apply rules, solve word problems, and reason, using analytical and critical thinking skills, as they progress to solving quantitative problems.
A systematic and sequential approach is used in our mathematics program so students in kindergarten through eighth grade develop, learn, and implement solid skills and concepts. The focus on problem-solving and reasoning strategies provides opportunities for students to demonstrate and apply their mathematical understanding.
The primary grades utilize a program which offers hands-on, practical activities, enabling students to develop a strong mathematical background, as well as algebraic thinking skills.
Customized learning strategies help teachers to differentiate instruction in order to offer a program based on students' learning styles and learning needs at each grade level. Building on this developmental approach, students in the upper grades focus on application, problem solving, and algebraic reasoning, offering students a solid mathematical basis which will promote success during their high school education.
Through differentiating instruction at this level, students are challenged to learn complex mathematical problems, to broaden their knowledge base, and to apply these skills in life context. The mathematics program is designed in alignment with the new Principles and Standards for School Mathematics from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Pennsylvania State Mathematical Standards, and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
The social studies curriculum opens students to the world and its people while learning about communities, geography, the history of America and countries of the past and present. In the primary grades, the student's understanding about school and family life is highlighted by discovering his/her role within these social settings. The social studies curriculum in grades 3 and 4 reviews various neighborhood communities and Pennsylvania state history. In grades 5 and 6, the emphasis is on the Western and Eastern hemispheres, its history, culture, and regions, and expanding the horizons of our students. Throughout 7th and 8th grades, students are given a firm grounding in American history. Participation in National History Day at the middle school level, broadens knowledge and helps students gain perspective of the role of a responsible citizen in this multicultural, interdependent world. Our social studies program incorporates current events along with the importance of becoming a responsible, informed, and moral citizen in order "to meet the challenges of Christian leadership and membership in a pluralistic society."
The science curriculum seeks to engage students through classroom discussion and hands-on learning activities that provide students with an opportunity to connect concrete and abstract concepts. In concert with the teacher, tools are utilized to provide a variety of scaffolding for student inquiry as students in kindergarten through third grades focus on four engaging units which enable them to make real life connections. Students in fourth and fifth grades study units in earth science, physical science, and life sciences. The students also use applied technology skills and are introduced to forming hypotheses, identifying problems, carrying out investigations, interpreting data, making inferences and reaching conclusions. Students are instructed through whole group as well as small group instruction. In sixth through eighth grades, students focus on one main science topic for the entire year. The sixth-grade curriculum focuses on physical science, the seventh grade students study life science, and the eighth grade concentrates on earth science. Students are engaged in 21st century learning practices that employ STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) concepts that support critical thinking skills and higher level constructed response. Middle school students also participate in an annual science fair that gives students the experience in employing scientific method, preparing an accompanying written summary report and gives them opportunities to advance to science fairs at regional levels.
Students in the primary and intermediate grades are taught study skills within the framework of the reading/language arts program and content-area subjects. Study skill classes are offered to students in grades 6 - 8 in a more formalized way to help develop strong study habits and test-taking techniques. Strong emphasis is placed on organization, interpretation, and retention skills. Outlining and scanning information, along with a variety of individualized study techniques are also included in this program.
The World Language Program provides kindergarten through fifth grade students with one semester each of French and Spanish. Emphasis in the elementary grade levels is primarily on conversational skills, both speaking and listening. Middle School students in sixth grade choose French or Spanish to study exclusively through 8th grade. The middle school program focuses on communication and comprehension in the target language as well as an appreciation of the culture. The goals of this program are to foster global awareness and to encourage students to use their language skills in real life settings.
The library functions as a hub for instruction. Students and faculty may access needed information and materials both technologically and on site between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm throughout the week. Many resources are available remotely and can be accessed from home. The goal of the library is to serve not only as a reading center but also as a resource for research, technology and integration of the curriculum for students and teachers alike.
In the primary grades, instruction encompasses literature appreciation, library skills, and introduction to fiction and non-fiction materials as well as reference materials, and beginning research skills.
In the upper grades, instruction is given for information literacy including research skills, source evaluation, and literature appreciation.
The technology curriculum places emphasis on the development of technological literacy to support skills and application necessary for the Information Age. Integration and cross-curricular activities, as well as Internet access developed in the lab and classrooms, promote independent and collaborative lifelong learning. Based on Academic Standards for Science and Technology Standards, the curriculum incorporates computer applications and operations, interactive experiences, and ethics. Beginning in kindergarten, students receive instruction in computer classes on the various component functions of the computer, with a strong emphasis on keyboarding, utilizing programs such as Kid Keys and Read and Write and Type. Ongoing instruction builds on the development of skills and exploration as students utilize Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher to support comprehension and build learning. Technology helps to support differentiated learning , as students develop spreadsheets in math, incorporate Resume Wizard for an ILA assignment, create a slideshow for science, or explore other electronic searches. Students are educated on Internet safety and are challenged to recognize their ethical responsibility as a user. In support of this, each student and faculty member signs the Acceptable Use Policy.
All students participate in classroom music using singing, speech, movement, recorder, Orff instruments and hand bells to support grade level curriculum. The students are given the opportunity to share their music through Liturgical services, a school choir, as well as recital and musical presentations.
Private Music and Voice Lessons
Individual piano lessons are available to students beginning in 2nd grade, band instruments beginning in 4th grade and voice lessons beginning in 6th grade. Individual piano, band and voice lessons are taught on a rotating schedule throughout the school day. Recitals are performed by the children at the end of the school year. Fees are in addition to the tuition.
The art curriculum introduces children to the history of art with a wide variety of media. Exploration of ideas and media supports creativity and individuality, while strengthening motor skills. A world map and the Western time line are utilized to incorporate art history at every grade level: kindergarten studies prehistoric art, 1st studies Egyptian, 2nd studies Greek, 3rd studies the Middle Ages, 4th coordinates with Social Studies and incorporates the art of Pennsylvania, 5th studies Renaissance, 6th studies Impressionism, 7th studies African art which helps them in 8th to understand Picasso and Modern Art. The philosophy of this program is to promote a good self image in each child through positive reinforcement of principles and concepts, learned and applied.
Physical Education and Health
Physical education classes are co-educational with emphasis on physical fitness, skill development and movement. The program in kindergarten through second grade focuses on self-spatial awareness, body management, and safety while performing various fundamental movement activities. In third through fifth grades students will build upon skill themes that will provide the foundation necessary to excel in various team, individual, and cooperative sports. Group activities in sixth through eighth grades are stressed with emphasis on physical fitness, skill development, rules interpretation, and spontaneity through lead-up games as well as other group and competitive activities.
Health classes are incorporated in religion and science classes throughout the grades; students in sixth through eighth grades attend a scheduled health class. The health curriculum is broken down into the three following areas; sixth grade focuses on an overview of physical, mental/emotional, social, and spiritual health; seventh grade focuses on drug and alcohol awareness and resistance education; while eighth grade focuses on personal health concepts.
Dance lessons are a part of the girls' physical education curriculum in grades kindergarten through eigh. Dance classes are ballet- and jazz-based, and are designed to increase strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and rhythm, as well as to promote creativity and expression. Private after school dance classes are offered to children beginning in kindergarten as well.
The Challenge Center, a program for academically gifted students, is provided for students who qualify from grades 4 through 8. Its purpose is to demonstrate the most effective and innovative concepts and techniques for appropriately meeting the extended and educational needs of academically gifted children. Admission is based on the total points earned within an identification matrix: intelligence quotient of 130 or above, consistently strong reading, math, and language arts scores on Terra Nova Standardized tests, a superior group IQ such as the Cognitive Skills Index, teacher recommendations, as well as a superior classroom profile of the student. The program places strong emphasis on the higher mental processes, which allow the students to develop their creativity and to practice the skills of problem solving.
Creative Thinking Skills
Knowing that our children will benefit from exposure to higher level thinking, a Creative Thinking Skills class is taught to all students in grades 1 through 3 by the Challenge Center teacher. Complementing this program, critical thinking skills are integrated throughout our curriculum by the individual classroom teacher. Through differentiated instruction, we are able to meet the needs of our students and to support them in becoming analytical thinkers.
Remedial reading, counseling, and speech therapy are services provided for students through the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. Children are evaluated to determine need, and parental permission is required.