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IDEA Program

IDEA: Innovation and Design for Educating with Action.

The IDEA program at St. Mark’s is a collection of student experiences throughout Middle School. The program provides students with a unique opportunity to engage in learning with a bias to action. In addition, it allows students to begin to develop skills they will need to be successful and satisfied learners for years to come. 

IDEA lab word cloud

How is the IDEA Program Structured?

Students enter the IDEA Program in 5th grade. For two class periods per six day schedule cycle, students visit their IDEA Program class. The program lasts for two of the three trimesters per year. All classes are Pass/Fail except Speech (8th grade), which is letter graded. In addition to the list of experiences listed below, each grade level also has a course on researching and citing sources.

5th Grade

  • Introduction to Design Thinking
  • STEM Class (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

6th Grade

  • STEM Class (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
  • Genius Hour

7th Grade

  • STEM Class (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
  • Genius Hour
  • Integrated Technology into Core Classes

8th Grade

  • Genius Hour
  • Speech Class
  • Integrated Technology into Core Classes

Genius Hour

At St. Mark’s, we celebrate the uniqueness of each child. With this in mind, 6th through 8th Grade students are given the opportunity to experience Genius Hour, a self-guided, capstone study. Students are asked to think about a passion or an interest that they would like to explore further. Academic topics learned at St. Mark’s can be enhanced and expanded, as we teach our students to take ownership and initiative of their education.

With the expansion of the one-to-one iPad program, students are able to use technology as a resource, which will make this opportunity easier. By leveraging our students natural curiosity and interest, we create opportunities for students to take ownership of their educational experience and ignite their passion for a love of learning.

What are the Desired Outcomes of the IDEA Program?

Idea program deliverables graphic
Graphic of the word %22idea%22

What Does the IDEA Program Do for Middle School Students?

By the time students reach Middle School, they are used to solving problems that have one correct answer. In the traditional classroom, students and teachers use worksheets, homework, tests, and quizzes to determine content mastery. 

In the IDEA Program, it's not about the product. It's about the process. This experience promotes learning with a bias towards action, as we encourage our students to innovate, take risks, and lean into failure. Courses offered in the IDEA Program allow students to take ownership of their learning, as they work to solve meaningful problems. Our hope is that our St. Mark's Graduates will gain the ability to identify problems and employ a system to find creative solutions.

As a Parent, How Can I Support the IDEA Program?

Supporting the IDEA Program is easy!

  • Encourage your child to take risks in learning. 

  • Challenge your child to try something new. 

  • Ask your child questions about his or her project.

  • Emphasize the process over the product.