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Core Knowledge

At Millennium Charter Academy your child is offered a very special curriculum called Core Knowledge.  It is based on ideas presented by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. in his well-known books, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, and further developed by the foundation he established in 1986.

As students proceed from month to month and year to year, MCA presents a broad range of historical, scientific, and cultural topics that build one on another, preparing your child for later educational success.  This exposure to a wide array of subject matter is intended not only to develop cultural literacy, but also to build a strong vocabulary, now recognized, along with decoding skills, to be absolutely necessary for true reading comprehension.  Cultural literacy, or familiarity with the traditions and knowledge commonly shared by educated citizens in a society, is sometimes acquired in informal ways as well as by formal study.  Core Knowledge tries to develop cultural literacy in a way that is systematic but leaves room for creativity.  This curriculum eliminates some of the gaps and repetitions that frequently characterize a curriculum in which textbooks and programs are selected more or less at random.

How to Help Your Child Master Core Knowledge Subjects
Research has proven it and common sense revealed it time and time again: parental involvement can make the difference between success and failure in school. You’ll be pleased to see how enthusiastic your child is about learning as the curriculum unfolds.  No matter at what level of ability students start, they will experience a sense of achievement as knowledge and skills are mastered.  The Core Knowledge Curriculum covers language arts, history and geography, mathematics, science, art, and music and is complemented by other subjects.  To learn more about Core Knowledge, read the series What Your Kindergartner through 6th Grader Needs to Know.  One book is available for each of the first seven years of schooling to enable you to both share and reinforce what your child is learning in the classroom.

Core Knowledge Sequence: Content Guidelines for K-8
This book provides the foundation of the curriculum and presents a detailed outline of the content to be taught from kindergarten through grade eight.  We at Millennium Charter Academy have selected language arts, mathematics, and science programs, as well as resource, reference, and teaching materials to complement and develop the curriculum.  Music and art are prominently included in the sequence and integrated whenever possible with history and literature.  The curriculum can be described as solid, specific, sequenced, and shared.

The following samples, one subject for each grade, will give you an idea of the specific content requirements of the curriculum.  Parents interested in more detail might obtain the sequence, ask to see the Academy’s year-long plan, or consult the Core Knowledge website.  Teachers are free to teach the subject matter as creatively as they like, but the content is specified and builds from year to year.

Kindergarten: History: overview of the seven continents, Native American peoples (past and present), early exploration, presidents

First Grade: World History: early civilization; Ancient Egypt: the Nile River, pharaohs, pyramids, mummies, and hieroglyphics

Second Grade: American History: U.S. Constitution, Civil Rights (women’s roles, including Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, et al.), equality: (Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, et al.); Geography of the Americas

Third Grade: Math: fractions to one-tenth, numerator and denominator, mixed numbers, equivalent fractions; introduction to geometrical concepts

Fourth Grade:
Human body: circulatory and respiratory systems; Chemistry: atoms, matter, elements, solutions; science biographies

Fifth Grade: American History and Geography: westward exploration and expansion, Daniel Boone, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, land and water routes, major rivers, American Indian resistance, Manifest Destiny

Sixth Grade: Art History: periods and schools (Classical, Renaissance, Rococo, Romantic, et al.)

Seventh Grade: Music: classical music, romantics, and nationalists (Brahms, Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, et al.); American musical traditions: blues and jazz

Eighth Grade: Language Arts: novels and stories (Animal Farm; The Good Earth; “The Bet”; “The Open Boat”); Writing the research essay: organizing with an outline, quoting materials from secondary sources, summarizing and paraphrasing, acknowledging sources and avoiding plagiarism, preparing a bibliography

Here’s how one subject- science- builds from year to year in a sequenced way:

Kindergarten: Magnetism, the idea of forces we cannot see, classification of materials according to whether they are attracted to a magnet.

First Grade: Basic concept of atoms-names and common examples of the three states of matter, water as an example of changing states of matter in a single substance; Properties of matter-measurement

Second Grade: Lodestones- naturally occurring magnets, magnetic poles and fields, law of attraction

Fourth Grade: Atoms- matter made up of particles too small to see, atoms made up of even smaller particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons, concept of electrical charge.  Properties of matter: mass, volume and density. The elements: basic kinds of matter.

Fifth Grade: Atoms in constant motion, electrons, the nucleus, paths called shells (or energy levels), atoms, molecules, compounds, The Periodic Table

Eighth Grade: Earth’s magnetism- connection between electricity and magnetism, electromagnetic radiation and light.

Studying topics together in the same grade can build a sense of community in much the same way that common knowledge can bind the larger society together.  E. D. Hirsch, Jr. believes that a diverse society like ours has a special need for commonly shared background knowledge, and further that everybody has a right to share it, not just a select few.  Students can also understand the shared dimensions of knowledge, how subjects relate to one another and build over time as well as how history influences contemporary events.  They can command the necessary vocabulary to comprehend the complex subjects that lie ahead, as well as the increasingly complex world around them.  They can, in other words, share the culture of the nation. Even more importantly they can have a share