The MKA Core Experience

Turning shared learning experiences into a deep, multifaceted understanding of the world and what it means to be human

The MKA Core engages students in shared learning experiences of serious intellectual purpose. These require students to grapple with ideas that enhance their understanding of the world and some of humanity’s essential foundations and goals.

In the Humanities

The MKA Core in the humanities guarantees that all MKA students explore seminal works and concepts of enduring significance, including the contributions of diverse authors, artists, political leaders and inventors. From Pre-K to grade 12, students encounter some of “the best that has been thought and said in the world” (Matthew Arnold), not to mention some of the best that has been created. This builds a shared foundation for discussion of important and lasting ideas—a reference point for learning throughout the years.

Tackling such a variety of works and concepts helps students understand humankind’s essential assumptions and aspirations while challenging students to expand their knowledge, develop their vision and lead an informed life of integrity.

Using criteria initially adapted from the National Endowment for the Humanities and modified for MKA’s Pre-K–12 environment, faculty selected some of the greatest works of and contributors to Western and non-Western cultures, resulting in core works as diverse as Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus, Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf in grade 4 and Homer’s "Odyssey", Langston Hughes’s "Theme from English B and Harlem" and Alvin Ailey’s Revelations in grade 8. Shakespeare and Sophocles are featured, as are Aesop, Frank Lloyd Wright and Martin Luther King. Students study French Impressionism, Don Quixote, Confucius or the legendary heroes of ancient Rome in world language classes.

Click here to see the MKA Core for the humanities by campus.

Every five years, a group of faculty members reviews the humanities core to ensure that the works studied remain relevant to the curriculum.

In Science and Math

The Core of science and math study at MKA is the approach: developing understanding through hands-on learning, exploration and problem-solving.

Faculty members nurture curiosity as they teach students to think like scientists and mathematicians. As a result, students come to appreciate complex problems and develop the inspiration and capacity to solve them.

In Science

MKA’s science program encourages students to understand the world by asking questions and forming and testing their ideas. Observations and laboratory experiences honor the scientific process without being constrained by it. Students explore and think through their discoveries as they record observations and data in their lab notebooks, which provide opportunities to reflect and make connections. As students develop their scientific literacy and critical-thinking skills, they learn to revise their thinking and shape further experimentation.

A few examples of students learning to think like scientists:

  • Primary School students use both the classroom and the outdoors as hands-on learning spaces. They conduct experiments and pose questions such as, “How does the structure of a plant seed determine how far it travels?”
  • Middle School students follow laboratory protocols and question their results to inspire further experimentation of their own design. This practice, which ensures that the scientific process is creative and not simply linear, prepares students well for the eighth-grade science project, in which they develop experiments on topics of individual interest and present findings at a research symposium.
  • Lab work and hands-on experimentation are also essential to Upper School science. For example, physics students take to the football field, where they make calculations and set up catapults in an effort to hit their target (their teacher!) some 50 yards away. Students interested in conducting scientific research can engage in a four-year honors research strand, which includes choosing, designing and executing yearlong research projects during the junior and senior years.

In Mathematics

From their earliest years at the Primary School, students learn to go beyond the memorization and application of formulas to understand concepts, patterns and relationships. They develop the flexible and creative-thinking skills to identify clues and available tools for problem-solving and the understanding that there is more than one way to solve a problem. Through intentional practice and perseverance, students come to appreciate both the beauty and the powerful application of mathematics.

A few examples of students learning to think like mathematicians:

  • Primary School students frequently participate in Problem-Solving Investigations (PSIs), where they must bring all of their mathematical knowledge to bear on a problem. They use a wide variety of approaches—such as manipulatives, diagrams, pictures, charts, graphs or tally marks—to both develop and demonstrate their mathematical reasoning.
  • Middle School students are challenged to explain their thinking, sometimes making screencasts to document their problem-solving process, and to consider math’s applications and implications. In algebra, for example, students consider math problems with a social justice context, such as rates of incarceration or the percentages of various countries’ populations who live below the poverty line.
  • Upper School students develop a deeper understanding of mathematical relationships by wrestling with complex concepts and applications through hands-on activities, such as folding paper to prove the focus-directrix definition of a parabola. They also use digital math visualization tools, such as Geogebra and the Desmos online graphing tool, to investigate, discover and solve problems.
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