Come explore science, technology, engineering and math at Mount Tamalpais School’s STEM admissions event on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 9-11 a.m. Prospective families choose and rotate through three different class mini-sessions offered by MTS teachers to highlight hands-on projects in our K-8 STEM curriculum. All ages are welcome to attend. Learn more on Mount Tamalpais School’s admissions event page.
Mount Tamalpais School, a K-8 independent school in Mill Valley, is uniquely designed so that our specialist STEM teachers work with even our youngest learners every day. The STEM faculty grows with our students over the years as they move through a hands-on, materials-based curriculum that focuses on process and design.
Students are actively engaged in iterating, designing, estimating, building and trying again as they work creatively to solve authentic problems and challenges. MTS students gain confidence designing and redesigning prototypes to realize their visions, using a variety of materials and tools. Flexible thinking, collaboration and creative solutions are encouraged as students focus on the process and learn to communicate effectively with one another.
“My favorite thing about teaching STEM to fifth-graders is encouraging them to experiment with new things and, in doing so, fostering their creativity and their resilience,” says Trisha Cahill, a fifth and sixth grade STEM teacher. “For example, the very first thing we do in fifth grade is to figure out how to light a lightbulb. This might sound easy, but this isn’t something fifth-graders get to do every day! It takes problem-solving, perseverance and collaboration, and when they eventually see that flash of light, the energy and excitement in the room is wonderful to be a part of. That very first, very simple activity kicks off two years of STEM work, and it is incredible to witness the growth that our students make toward becoming scientists, coders and engineers.”
Key components of the MTS math program include effective communication of ideas, embracing struggle and mistakes as opportunities for growth, and learning to collaborate. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade focus on numeration, operations and computation; data and chance; geometry and measurement; and patterns, functions and algebra. Students in middle school build on these foundational concepts and concentrate on application, problem-solving, data analysis, geometry, and a more in-depth study of patterns, functions and algebra.
MTS math teacher DJ Thistle describes his job as “an absolute dream.”
“Solving puzzles, seeing patterns, manipulating numbers, analyzing data and solving complex problems are all things I enjoy doing, and I get to foster this same love for numbers in my students,” Thistle says. “Rather than memorizing algorithms, we focus on the ‘why’ behind those algorithms so that our students can manipulate numbers to their advantage, use estimation effectively as a tool and tackle novel problems. Students collaborate, problem-solve and use base 10 blocks, number racks, cubes, dice and many more manipulatives to transform mathematical thinking into daily discovery. This culture of curiosity and exploration provides lifelong tools and a confidence students take beyond their time at MTS.” Mount Tamalpais School is located at100 Harvard Avenue, in Mill Valley. For more information, visit mttam.org.