Academic Enrichment and Challenge Program
Winchester Thurston leads the way in educational innovation, rigorous academics, scholarly standards, and a learning environment that better prepares students for the challenges of a changing world. Nationally recognized for work with gifted and talented students, distinctive campuses, and innovative programs, WT is a school in which students achieve at the highest levels.
Many schools offer programs for high-ability learners, but often enrichment programming is constrained by limited resources. As a result, many schools’ programs take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. At WT we use a smart, student-centered approach that evolves as students progress from one division to the next and their development needs change.
In the Lower School, our Academic Enrichment and Challenge Program (AEC) provides high-ability learners with an appropriate education that meets their learning needs. By using methods that address the individual learning rates and styles of our learners, we develop a stimulating environment that encourages and nurtures inquiry, flexibility, and creative thinking. We offer:
- Whole-class and small-group activities in the classroom that complement the existing curricula.
- Interesting and fun activities—like logic puzzles, critical thinking games, and academic competitions—that keep students engaged.
- Pull-out programs in certain subjects (often math and language arts) that challenge students performing two or more grade levels beyond their classmates.
- A library of extensive resources at each campus that is open to all, and faculty who work with classroom teachers to create and provide enrichment for all students.
- Highly qualified AEC teachers who develop and implement individualized learning experiences
- Thorough and ongoing academic evaluation to identify high-ability students who need enrichment programming.
- Ongoing monitoring and evaluation to continually adapt enrichment programming to developmental and academic needs of students and their re-entry to the classroom when appropriate.
Consistent monitoring of student progress and developmental growth. The program is designed to allow both entry into and exit from pull-out classes to meet the changing needs of students. In the Middle School, transitioning from the Lower School program, our faculty provide enrichment and challenge in the classroom through differentiated instruction and elective opportunities. Our faculty work to enable students to find their voices and explore their academic passions. Academic challenge is provided through differentiation within the various disciplines as identified through previous AEC assessments in the Lower School program, student interests and talents, and teacher recommendation. Differentiation within the classroom settings is provided through curriculum materials, differentiated rubrics, and teacher/student conferencing.
- Advanced self-selection reading choices, advanced vocabulary work, and additional challenges in written expression can be provided through the language arts classes.
- Students with the necessary pre-requisite math instruction and skill mastery may be scheduled for acceleration into algebra and geometry. Highly advanced students have taken mathematics classes offered in our Upper School and at local universities.
- Students may receive enrichment in their world language studies – Chinese, French, or Spanish – with curriculum materials that explore their studies at deeper levels and challenge them in their current grade level course, or by participating in a language class above their current grade level.
- Students are encouraged to work with their teachers to create electives in areas of specific skill development in which they act as the instructor. These electives have ranged from game design to computer programming.
In addition to differentiated instruction in the classroom, Middle School students may participate in enrichment and challenge opportunities through a variety of regional and national contests which may include: MathCounts, First Lego League Robotics, Southwestern Pennsylvania Department of Energy Science Bowl, Calcu-Solve Olympics, Carnegie Library Battle of the Books, and the Science Olympiad.
- Our MathCounts team has won local and state championships, with team members who have placed high in national rankings.
- Our Robotics team recently placed first in the programming category at the semifinal level, and won second place at the finals competition.
- The Calcu-Solve team finished first at the Olympics, with team members placing high in the individual category as well.
- Our Battle of the Books teams have recently placed in the top three at the competition sponsored by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
In the Upper School, opportunities for challenge and extension of student knowledge are mainly accomplished through coursework. In each discipline, we offer AP courses, post-AP courses, and electives that students can take to increase their levels of development or challenge in that discipline and stimulate innovative learning and problem solving. We have recently added the option of online coursework through the Malone Schools Online Network (MSON).
Advanced Placement (AP) course offerings:
- Mathematics: Advanced students are placed at the appropriate math level when they arrive in ninth grade. We offer AP Calculus 1 and AP Calculus 2. After Calculus 2, Advanced Topics in Mathematics, and AP Statistics.
- English: Students can take AP options beginning in eleventh grade. In addition, they can supplement with electives such as Creative Writing.
- History: Students are able to take AP courses in either/both European and American history. In addition, they can design a program for their junior and senior years that includes several different courses, including Urban Research and Design, AP Economics, and AP Psychology.
- Science: WT offers AP options in physics, chemistry, and biology. In addition, we have courses such as Research Science that serve as hands-on, real-world options for challenge in science.
- World Language: Differentiation is readily implemented in language courses to ensure placement at the optimum level of challenge. Placement tests are given to ensure that students are in the correct language level. We offer honors and AP courses in French, Spanish, and Latin.
- Computer Science: Our computer science curriculum offers coursework through algorithm design including two to three levels beyond AP Computer Science.
Malone Schools Online Courses
WT offers Malone Schools Online Network (MSON) courses for students to access advanced-level coursework for courses that are not currently being offered at WT.
Visual and Performing Arts Electives
Elective courses provide additional challenge and enrichment, and a variety of visual and performing arts courses are available for students, ranging from music appreciation and music theory to technical theater to digital art and introduction to architectural design.