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Ideas & Innovations Courses Offer Choice, Exploration

Rutgers Prep’s continuing commitment to student-centered learning is nowhere more evident than in our Middle School Ideas & Innovations courses. New to the curriculum this year, the Ideas & Innovations courses are available to all 6th through 8th graders at Rutgers Prep, and represent a broad range of topics which students engage with for about eight weeks before moving on to their next “I & I” course. The first courses offered through this program ranged from Coding to Financial Literacy; students were given a list of eight to choose from and the vast majority of this year’s participants received a course from among their top three choices. “Choice is part of the point of this program,” stated Middle School Principal Bob Marotto. “Students are heading into academic environments in which they will have more and more choice over their course selections, so we wanted to give our students a low-stakes way to get the feeling of making these kinds of choices.” Middle School Assistant Principal Stacy McMillen shared, “Another key benefit of the I & I courses is that they give students access to greater curricular diversity; in most cases, students will be engaging with a field of inquiry that they typically wouldn’t have access to in our regular curriculum.” The I & I courses are designed with an eye towards creating a collaborative, low-pressure environment; they are non-graded, hands-on, and project-based. The response from students and teachers has been gratifyingly enthusiastic; take a look at the photos below for some glimpses into the first curricular cycle’s worth of courses.

Visiting Artist at Rutgers Prep

Chic Streetman
Guitarist and singer Chic Streetman spent several days on the Rutgers Prep campus recently as an artist-in-residence, working primarily with our Middle School students. Streetman expressed his message of positivity and connection through both word and song, and noted that in his experience, the Rutgers Prep community is graced with an unusual degree of diversity and openness.

“A lot of my work,” he explained, “ is about trying to look at who you are, working towards learning about who you are, and then feeling good about who you are. Nobody can be ‘you’ as good as you can be you! As we get older, we become more concerned about what other people think. I love working with students, because they’re open to connecting and participating; part of what I try to do is help students re-focus on who they are.”

He was fun. — Gabriel F. ‘21

I liked his unusual ways of getting us involved. He really pulled us in. — Krithvi K. ‘22

It’s cool how a lot of kids sometimes think stuff that is supposed to be inspirational is boring, but he was really fun… and he remembered kid’s names! — Harrison S. ‘22

I liked how he wouldn’t explain things ahead of time, we would just jump in and start doing things… and then later he would go back tell us what we had done. He took things we already knew and then changed it up and made it new. — Siddhi P. ‘22

His speaking voice doesn’t sound all that strong, but when he sings and plays the guitar, it is beautiful. You can tell that he loves music. And he really understands how we learn, and the connections between music and rhythm and learning! — Jamie S. ’22

On his final day on campus, Streetman performed at the Upper School’s morning meeting; much to the delight of the assembled students and faculty, he welcomed Student Council President Gita Ganti ‘17 to join him for one song. Before heading back to the west coast – Streetman makes his home in Seattle – he shared one more thought about his work. “I understand that there are always going to be positive and negative forces at work. That’s just the way life is; there has to be a balance. It’s a little bit like a seesaw. And given that… I’ve taken it as my work to try to come down as heavily on the side of positivity as possible.”

Rutgers Prep is well-known for its culture of appreciative inclusion; as a learning community, we understand that everyone learns best when they feel able to bring their complete and unique selves to the challenges ahead. Visits from artists like Chic Streetman help reinforce and reinvigorate our core values; we hope that the students and staff with whom he connected during this recent visit will continue to resonate with the powerful perspective he so eloquently shared.
Chic Streetman crowd

Singapore Math at Rutgers Prep

16-09-20_rps_singapore_math                                     Third graders Aedan & AJ (Class of 2026) and fellow classmates working on math

Singapore Math is a math education program which is centered on problem-solving and critical thinking. As part of their continuing professional development this summer, six of our Lower School teachers were able to attend the SDE National Conference on Singapore Math. While there, they explored best teaching practices with some of the developers and master teachers of the program. Lower School Math Coordinator Gail Moskowitz shared, “We have such a collaborative orientation as a faculty; we’re constantly sharing ideas and strategies with each other. Going to this conference as a group was a phenomenal experience. And this program, with its focus on developing collaboration and the critical thinking skills so necessary for future success, just seems like a great fit for us.”

Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai added, “Our Math curriculum in Middle and Upper Schools has changed significantly over the past few years and many students are now taking advanced classes in their junior and senior years. This school year we have 75 students enrolled in AP Calculus, 40 in AP Statistics, and 25 in Differential Equations classes. All our students in 6th grade take Pre-Algebra, giving them an opportunity to advance early on. To better prepare our lower school students for these successive classes, I strongly believe in utilizing the Singapore Math program. Not only does Singapore Math teach our students to work on math skills but its unique approach helps students retain what they learned.”

Rutgers Prep is now in the process implementing Singapore Math (Math in Focus) as the core of our program throughout our Lower School. Singapore Math builds mathematical understanding through concrete (manipulatives), pictorial (visual models), and abstract (symbolic) representation. It emphasizes the “why” before the “how,” which leads to a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. Problem solving is central to the program. Students are encouraged to think of several alternative ways to solve each problem, sometimes individually and other times with a partner or in small groups. Reading strategies and comprehension skills are also sharpened as students analyze word problems in a logical manner. This, in turn, helps develop metacognition (the ability to monitor one’s own thought processes). All of these skills are of paramount importance for our young students as they prepare for a future filled with jobs that may not even exist yet.