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Cross-Disciplinary Literacies

Critical thinking, cultural competency, the ability to meet challenges and navigate differences, stewardship of our environment: We believe these are necessary to thrive, as students and as global citizens.

Throughout our program, foundational skills and competencies in traditional disciplines are interwoven with four cross-disciplinary "literacies": cross-cultural literacy; ecological literacy; media and information literacy; and social, emotional, and ethical literacy. Teachers integrate them in their own ways, and students often take the lead on an issue they feel passionate about, such as carpooling or energy use on campus.

  • A 1st grade project about worms in our garden offers observable lessons in sustainability, and the class makes a book together that becomes part of our library collection.
  • Visits to and from our partner organizations—from right here in Marin or from another country—offer all students a chance to learn from another's perspective and experience.
  • The study of ancient civilizations in 6th grade history leads to examining perceptions and stereotypes about the Middle East today.
  • The 8th grade participates in Media Literacy Week in the spring. Student teams choose topics to explore and look at how that topic is represented in the media, in the process creating a video, print, or audio project to express their findings and their educated opinion.

From these experiences and many more, Mark Day School students learn to draw connections between their learning and the world beyond our walls.

Cross-Cultural Literacy

At the heart of Mark Day School's mission lies a commitment to prepare every student to live, work, and lead in the increasingly interconnected world of the 21st century. As members of a diverse, inclusive, and socially responsible community, it is our privilege, as well as our responsibility, to encourage our students to reach beyond their own community and to understand and embrace the inextricable links that exist among people everywhere.

Mark Day School continues to develop an intentional program that teaches the essential skills and builds the competencies that promote personal growth and contribute to the common good locally and globally.

Through our formalized partnerships, as well as via individual classroom-to-classroom connections, our reciprocal relationships afford our students unique opportunities to:

  • Investigate and experience the richness of multiple perspectives.
  • Navigate differences and embrace change.
  • Understand what we have to learn and what we have to share.
  • Recognize and explore the impact that access to resources and opportunities has on our lives.
  • Collaborate and seek solutions to local and global challenges.
  • Value compassion, fairness, and empathy, and pursue equity and justice.

Students will independently use their learning to:

  • Reach beyond their own community, culture, and national borders to investigate and experience the richness of human cultures.
  • Live, learn, work, and form meaningful relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Recognize the unique cultural lens through which each person sees the world.
  • Seek out multiple points of view when problem solving, producing creative works, and pursuing truth.
  • Participate in designing systems and solutions to local and global challenges that serve the common good and embrace the inextricable links that exist among people everywhere.
  • Discern and question in all aspects of their lives how cultural bias, difference, and access to resources impact human experience, social dynamics, and local/world events.

Social and Emotional Literacy (SEL)

Social and Emotional Literacy, or SEL, is in all we do: How we make friends, resolve conflicts, and step confidently into new experiences. Our program, developed and supported by our school counselor, teachers, and administrators draws on a variety of resources to help children develop both as individuals and as members of the community. 

We believe that social-emotional work is integral to children's development, so it is implemented throughout our curriculum and valued as part of the academic program. The vision and goals of SEL are upheld by all members of the school community, with teachers being responsible for formal implementation in their classrooms.

Teachers might use morning meetings, principles from the Responsive Classroom program, or skills from the Toolbox (such as mindful breathing, respecting personal space, and empathy) to integrate SEL into the life of their classroom and to guide student behavior in all things.

Students will independently use their learning to:

  • Recognize and manage their own emotions effectively in a variety of situations.
  • Employ a variety of effective social and emotional problem solving skills.
  • Build and sustain meaningful relationships.
  • Demonstrate empathy and compassion.
  • Make responsible and ethical decisions.

Media and Information Literacy

The ability to analyze, understand, and shape the information landscape, to read between and behind the lines, and to act responsibly as an online citizen are now indispensible skills. Mark Day School has been leading education in media and information literacy for more than 10 years: Our program develops the habits of mind students need to thoughtfully interact with the information they encounter, but also inspires them and gives them the tools to use their own voice and creativity to express themselves in video, audio, and the written word. They learn how to think critically about all types of information and how to participate constructively in online life.

Media fluency is developed over a student's time here, beginning in the Lower School, with integrated lessons about, for example, cereal advertising and reading nutrition labels. Gradually, students begin using iPads in the classroom for a variety of applications--Skyping with guest readers from afar, using Google Earth to find mystery locations, math enrichment, and more.

Middle Division students ask increasingly sophisticated questions in the area of media and information literacy; sometimes those questions lead to interesting results. 5th graders analyze media imagery as they compare the civil rights movement in the United States with the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. 6th graders during their study of astronomy encounter the proposition that the United States falsified the moon landing and analyze imagery, text and video to unpack the truth. 

As they enter the Upper Division, students are becoming critical thinkers and they now have many tools at their disposal and many opportunities to express themselves across different media. Teachers incorporate media text analysis, video production, and analytical skills honed in previous years as students decode, analyze and produce their own media messages.

Students will independently use their learning to:

  • Employ print and digital media and digital tools to find, comprehend, use, and apply information.
  • Evaluate media "texts" for quality, purpose, meaning, credibility, and constructedness.
  • Compose, create, or perform media "texts" in a variety of forms for a variety of audiences.
  • Act responsibly and ethically online and make healthy and balanced choices for living in the digital age.
  • Recognize how media and media systems (both economic and political) influence and relate to personal identity and community and global issues.
  • Use media and the power of voice to inspire individual, community, or global action.

Ecological Literacy

Responsible world citizenship is a core value of Mark Day School. Good citizens need to be knowledgable stewards of local, national, and global resources and ecosystems. For our students to become effective stewards of the planet, they need to be able to apply informed decision-making to supporting a sustainable lifestyle. Our goal is to develop environmentally literate students who understand the environment in total—both its natural and human-made aspects.

Our environmental education addresses the Earth as an interconnected set of systems, natural and social. Students engage in an exploration of the relationships between these complex systems, an interdisciplinary process of inquiry, problem solving, decision-making, and action.

Numerous units and activities support the development of ecological literacy. Lower Division students not only develop a love of nature in our gardens: They learn about the life cycle of plants by growing and harvesting, gain basic knowledge about different ecosystems and weather patterns, and see interdependence in action with our vermiculture program. The lunch-composting project is handled by the Middle Division students, who collect food waste after lunch each day for our garden composter. Upper Division's Green Team builds awareness about environmental issues by completing power and trash audits, making announcements at assembly, PSAs, and posters. They also organize the Eco-Fest, which is an annual event held on Earth Day, with workshops on different topics (such as chemicals in makeup and body products), environmental art, and activities like making smoothies in a bike-powered blender.

Our outdoor education program begins in 3rd grade with an overnight trip to West Marin and concludes in 8th grade with a whitewater river rafting trip down the Deschutes River. Naturalists accompany the students on all trips and educate them on their location. This program reinforces students' understanding of the resources of our state and our interconnectedness with nature.

Students will independently use their learning to:

  • Make decisions and nurture habits that reflect an understanding that we are stewards of an interconnected set of systems and communities, natural and social.
  • Pursue opportunities to address environmental degradation and the human behaviors contributing to it.
  • Participate in designing environmentally sustainable systems and solutions to local and global challenges.