The Core Knowledge Sequence, prepared by the Core Knowledge Foundation, has been used widely across the United States for well over twenty years, and is based upon E.D. Hirsch’s concept of cultural literacy, making it the ideal curriculum for a classical school. This sequence was developed to provide comprehensive order to K-8 education, with the intention of training students in the art, literature, science, history, math, and language that form their cultural and intellectual inheritance. First published in 1988, it has been successfully employed and tested in hundreds of schools throughout the United States.
The Core Knowledge Sequence provides a grade-by-grade sequence of specific topics to be taught in grades K-8. It will provide the basic curricular framework for history, geography, literature, visual arts, music, and science at NCA. With cultural literacy as the guiding principle, the Core Knowledge Sequence leads students through a comprehensive and grade-appropriate view of science, literature, art, music, and history. Topics which are especially important for cultural literacy are repeated in a spiraling fashion—so that younger students build a firm but broad foundation in these topics while older students are able to achieve depth. The sequence provides a necessary order across grades and between schools and families, such that teachers can base their lessons upon what students have learned and will learn, and parents can anticipate what their students will learn in each grade. The Core Knowledge Foundation provides resources to support some, but not the entirety, of the sequence, and NCA will make selected use of these, so teachers are supported but also encouraged to reach beyond the immediate resources and take ownership of their own lessons. BCSI has found this arrangement valuable in striking a balance between teacher support and teacher freedom.
Upon graduation, we want all of our students to read well, enjoy it, and understand its importance throughout their lives. Reading is at the very heart of our curriculum. They’ll read the classics for pure enjoyment and for the lessons they’ll learn there. They’ll find out about “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” laugh with “The Bremen Town Musicians,” and sail with Odysseus in The Iliad and The Odyssey. The core curriculum choices will ensure they’ll know about world geography. They’ll know where the Straights of Gibraltar are and the Bosporus and Dardanelles and why they’re important. They’ll explore events in history from the cradle of civilization in the Euphrates valley to European, African, and Eastern development over the centuries. They’ll know the tragic history of wars in Europe and our involvement in them. They’ll learn why Columbus said he sailed here and the conquest and settlement of the American Continent including the “little settlement” at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Prominent will be the explanation of what is and isn’t meant by the term “American Exceptionalism.” They’ll learn of the “Shot Heard ’Round the World” at Lexington Green and what prompted that event. They’ll learn about the “Great Wars” of the 20th century and what the “Iron Curtain” was and the “Berlin Airlift”—including its famous “Berlin Candy Bomber.” In high school they’ll confront the dilemma of using “the bomb” to end WWII in Japan. The fundamentals of economics will be part of the curriculum and will introduce students to the differences in controlled and free-market economies. They’ll learn about “The Invisible Hand” and understand what Milton Friedman meant by saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” We believe this curriculum gives both the guidance and flexibility to teachers to optimize learning and exceed state standards.
Although the rhetoric surrounding a classical school often emphasizes the humanities, the sciences are no less important than the humanistic disciplines and will not play a secondary role at NCA. The Core Knowledge science program focuses on thematically linked science topics and biographies of great scientists. The order of the Core Knowledge program allows for regular repetition of the most important topics, such that students are well-versed in the fundamentals by the time they reach high school. The science program is supported by Pearson’s Science Explorer series, complete with integrated lab manuals and demonstrations and Delta Science Content Readers. BCSI has supplemented the science program with a series of curricular elements. These include, but are not limited to, the Science Explorer series from Prentice Hall, ScienceSaurus from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Delta Science Content Readers from Delta Education.