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Academic Program

The John McCandless STEM Charter School academic program consists of three key components:
1.  Specific Core Instruction: Reading, Language Arts, and Mathematics
2.  Project Based Learning with a focus on Science and/or Social Studies
3.  STEM Specific Studies taught through "Genius Hour" & Electives
Technology is used throughout all curricular components.

          core instruction        

Literacy is fundamental.

Literacy is the ability to read, view, write, design, speak and listen in a way that allows a person to communicate effectively. We believe that the power of literacy lies not just in the ability to read and write, but also in a person’s capacity to apply these skills to effectively connect, interpret and discern the intricacies of the world in which they live.
Mathematics is important in everyday life, allowing us to make sense of the world around us and to manage our lives. Using mathematics enables us to model real-life situations and make connections and informed predictions. It equips us with the skills we need to interpret and analyze information, simplify and solve problems, assess risk and make informed decisions. 

   project based learning 

Research confirms that Project Based Learning (PBL) is an effective and enjoyable way to learn and develop the deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and civic life. PBL helps address standards. The Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, and the development of success skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, communication in a variety of media, and speaking and presentation skills. PBL is an effective way to meet these goals.
  • PBL makes school more engaging for students.
  • PBL improves learning.
  • PBL builds success skills for college, career, and life. 

              "genius hour"            

Genius Hour is for students to study a STEM-based topic in depth. Topics that have been offered include an introduction to robotics, solar powered cars, bridge building, STEM fairy tales, cartography, electronic circuitry, coding and introduction to light and color.

The 6 Principles Of Genius Hour
1. Sense of Purpose: Students must find a sense of purpose in what they study, make sense of, and create.
2. Design: Students are allowed to design as part of their learning experiences.
3. Inquiry & Navigation: Through surveying possibility, navigating content, and gathering information, students make sense of ideas important to them.
4. Creation: Whether students “make,” publish, design, act, or do, “creating” is core to Genius Hour. There is always a visible product of the learning.
5. Socialization: Students connect with teachers to plan, peers to produce, and community members to establish a sense of purpose for their work.
6. 80/20 Rule: The structure of most Genius Hour learning. We provide an “hour,” four days per week. 


Our electives at the middle school level reflect the kinds of skills we want to foster in our students. We believe that every student deserves the opportunity to explore their interests and have choices in their education. Our electives focus on the whole student, which is why we stress the importance of choosing different electives each semester or from year to year!
1. STEM Elective: This elective focuses on projects that integrate subjects like science and math, and which have students engineering solutions to challenges. From tiny homes to robot simulations, our STEM elective finds students engaged with real-world projects that focus on skills they will carry with them into high school.
2. MakerSpace: At the heart of this elective is tinkering! In this elective, students work with engineering projects, computer coding, 3-D printing, and more. If your student likes hands-on activities that provide engineering challenges, this elective is for them!
3. Teacher's Assistant: For one semester, students are allowed to be a teacher's assistant for a classroom. This opportunity is a great way to build community at JMC and teach our Owls organization skills that they can carry with them into the future. Owls become an important part of the classroom climate as older students work alongside younger ones!
4. Band: This is the one elective that students can take year after year. This engaging elective allows students to study music and music theory. It also gives them the opportunity to develop the habits needed to sustain their love of playing music throughout their lives!
5. Digital Media: This elective gives students the opportunity to learn about the essential principles of art and creative expression. Students in this class will be engaging in traditional art mediums while also using sophisticated technological mediums such as 3-D drawing and online media platforms. The class is a great opportunity for students who enjoy the creative arts!
6. Leadership: This elective gets students engaged in school-wide projects that are meant to build school climate and enhance school spirit! Participating Owls will be assigned traditional tasks like morning announcements and rallies, along with non-traditional tasks like bulletin board making and serving as student ambassadors. This class is an excellent opportunity for students to grow and develop their leadership skills at JMC!
7. Yearbook: Through this elective, students will be involved in the creation and publication of JMC's annual yearbook. Being a yearbook student means that you are reporting on campus events, learning how to take good photographs, working on engaging technical design skills, and generating interesting features for JMC students. If you're interested in storytelling, reporting and creative design, this is the class for you!