Unique Courses

Only at SMES

A focus on learning and growth drives St. Margaret’s Episcopal School educators—the learning and growth of our students, as well as learning and growth for the professional learning community of St. Margaret’s.

When we see student learning interests or opportunities within our curriculum, inspired by everything from industry trends and current events to technological advances and evolving learning styles, we pursue it through an extensive Academic Leadership Team process of research, analysis and development.

Our educators are not confined by a preset curriculum, rather they are challenged to continually improve and innovate in the classroom to bring about the best, most inspiring and effective coursework, subject matter, and teaching and learning for our students. As a result, our curriculum, for our youngest to our oldest learners, is peppered with courses and programs you will find nowhere else, and certainly not like how we do it here, at St. Margaret’s. This is what we do as educators, every day.

List of 21 items.

  • Lower School: Computer Science - ICE

    St. Margaret’s Lower School technology program is committed to providing students with the 21st century skills needed for future success and promoting exploration in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education and creation. Lower school students have ready access and exposure to technology tools for learning. Laptops, Surface tablets, Promethean Boards, and iPads are prevalent in classrooms, the library, and in the Lower School ICE Lab. The school’s 1:1 Surface tablet program begins in the Grade 3. Through targeted lessons, which are integrated with their regular classroom curricular units, students are introduced to a variety of technology programs, tools, apps, and skills.
    Students are challenged to utilize their knowledge to develop creative, relevant, well researched projects and presentations. Students also learn practical technology skills such as keyboarding, file sharing, and creating documents through a variety of software programs. Students also learn about the importance of practicing responsible technology use through lessons in Digital Citizenship. The ICE Lab is a flexible center used for exploratory learning. Students develop computer science skills through robotics, programming, and designing objects for 3-D printing. In addition, Robotics is an exploratory unit of engineering and programming study in science for Grades K-5.
  • Lower School: English Language Arts - Writing Project

    St. Margaret’s utilizes the Columbia University Teachers College Writing Project, an innovative teaching and learning curriculum, applied consistently across all Lower School grades that allows students to explore their voices as writers and emphasizes content quality. Students are referred to as writers and the process promotes student choice. The writers know and understand that they write to an audience of peers and adults alike. Students experience consistency in the writing process from kindergarten through grade 5 in writing genres throughout the Writing Project curriculum, including personal narrative, memoir, expository and research-based pieces. This consistent exposure across grade levels provides students with scaffolding to promote growth in content quality. Students are able to generate pieces in these styles with topics that interest them.

    Students are taught and practice the writing process, comprised of generating and organizing ideas, drafting, small group conferencing with teachers and peers, editing and publishing. Once writing pieces are published, student writing is shared and celebrated. The Writing Project provides teachers a foundation to facilitate students becoming true writers, while discovering passions along the way.
  • Middle School: Arts - Theatrical Technical Arts

    This course provides entry level and higher level training in the skills required for technical theatre operations. Instruction covers the following areas: safety, theatre architecture, stage equipment, set construction, lighting, sound, stage management, and other professional aspects of the industry. Students will gain hand on experience with sound board equipment, electrical lighting equipment and controls.
  • Middle School: Computer Science - iPAD Coding with Codea

    This project based class introduces computer programming in a fun and creative way using student’s iPads. It uses the Lua programming language and the IOS programming app, Codea, to allow students to rapidly build iOS games and simulations. Students will learn the basics of programming and be introduced to the problem solving skills needed to succeed in computer science.
  • Middle School: Computer Science - Robotics, Circuits & Coding

    This project based class introduces students to robotics and coding using LEGO Mindstorm EV3’s. Students build a basic three-motor robot and bring the robot to life by programming a variety of tasks using the EV3 software block-based interface. Students are also introduced to circuits using LED’s and littleBits electronics, modules that have specific functions (light, sound, sensors, etc.). Students use these circuits to create an invention that combines circuits and soft fabrication. 
  • Middle School: Computer Science - STEM Design and Fabrication

    This project based class will guide students on the use of CAD software and digital fabrication equipment including 3D printers, a laser cutter, and other tools. Students will learn how to use the equipment thru a series of teacher led projects. For the final project, students will design a prototype from one of their own designs.
  • Middle School: History & Social Science - Service and Social Action

    Service and Social Action teaches students how they can become effective catalysts to make the world a better place. In this course, we begin this process by becoming aware that there are great needs and injustices even in our own backyard. Students then explore their passions and take on an individual project to positively impact the world through human interaction. Through an understanding of issues regarding justice and our potential, we will learn about four areas of concern - the homeless, the hungry, the environment, and the disabled. This class is an encouraging experience as students have the opportunity to give back to their community and expand their world view. 
  • Upper School: Computer Science - Mobile Application Programming

    Mobile Application Programming is an advanced programming class that introduces students to the challenges of developing a modern, mobile application. Students will learn to code mobile web apps, iOS apps, and Android apps in a project-based, handson environment. Stress will be placed on rapidly gaining the skills to prototype and create student’s ideas rather than a methodical overview of every aspect of mobile computer programming. Students will be introduced to HTML5, JavaScript, objective-c, and java.
  • Upper School: Computer Science - Music Media Programming

    Music Media Programming is a semester course offered as an interdisciplinary partnership between the Arts and Computer Science. While similar in scope to the an introductory programming class, the skills covered are more specific to the areas of music theory, composition, and digital audio processing. Through the study of programming concepts in the popular Python language, students are able to explore the underlying technologies used to create Digital Audio Workstation software responsible for recording, editing, and mixing music, as well as tools used to generate and distribute music scores. The course also explores the impact of digital media on Copyright Law.
  • Upper School: Computer Science - Programing with Arduino

    Arduinos are small microcontroller boards that can be used to bring a student’s ideas and creations to life. They are used in everything from robots to home automation to art installations and more. This class is a fun, hands-on, project based introduction to this exciting world. It is ideally suited for students who have some familiarity with computer programming and want to start developing their own real-world creations, but it’s open to any motivated student. Along the way, students will be introduced to the C and C++ programming languages as well as some of the basics of engineering and Design Thinking.
  • Upper School: History & Social Science - Introduction to Historical Research Methods

    Introduction to Historical Research Methods is an honors course that introduces students to the tools and techniques that historians use to study the past and provides hands-on instruction in advanced research methods. Students will study the evolution of modern historical inquiry and gain an understanding of history as a craft, not the passive process it is often perceived to be. The first semester of the course will provide in-depth topical units of study on historical research methodology, historical research practices, critical evaluation of information sources, and the importance of academic honesty and plagiarism. In the second semester students will display the knowledge and skills developed in semester one while working to complete two capstone research projects: A local history research project and a comprehensive academic research paper to be submitted to The Concord Review journal.
  • Upper School: History & Social Science - Military History

    In this semester-long course, we will examine military history from the Napoleonic Wars through the Gulf War in 1991. Because it is a survey course, we will not have the opportunity to give attention to every important, interesting, and controversial topic. However, we will discuss a wide range of issues about which students will be expected to think and form his or her own opinions. Military history is about more than generals and battles, and we will discuss many topics, including technology, professionalism, strategy, administration, and military policy – the less glamorous but equally important components of a balanced overview of military history. 
  • Upper School: History & Social Science - The Holocaust and Contemporary Genocide

    In this course students will engage in a comprehensive study of the events leading up to the Holocaust, the historical context of the Holocaust itself, and understand the relevance to contemporary society. Students will examine literature and other media reflecting many perspectives in order to gain a greater understanding of how the Holocaust originated, developed, and subsequently affected the lives of people in central Europe and elsewhere in the world. Students in this course will study firsthand accounts of Holocaust survivors, particularly the forgotten or overlooked victims including women, children, the disabled, elderly, homosexuals, and others throughout Europe who dared to oppose the Nazi regime. A major focus of this course is to provoke critical thought about the destructive and constructive ways in which cultural differences may be identified and resolved. Furthermore, students will develop an understanding of the ramifications of stereotyping, prejudice, racism, and anti-Semitism in society. Finally, students will analyze comparisons to contemporary genocides that have occurred in many different parts of the world. Special topics to be addressed include social oppression, conflict identification and management, international peace and justice, and global citizenship. 
  • Upper School: Mathematics - Math for Financial Markets

    This integrated course will provide an engaging, contextualized learning environment for students to master the fundamental concepts of financial mathematics through business applications. Students will develop an understanding of business, finance, and marketing while applying the mathematical knowledge necessary for success in those fields. This integrated approach provides an introduction to entrepreneurial ventures and basic business applications, such as break even probability analyses and revenue and cost functions.
  • Upper School: Mathematics - Multivariable Calculus

    This is a year-long college level course in calculus. It extends the ideas of calculus of a single variable as presented in AP level calculus courses (AB and BC). The course employs a flipped classroom platform using courseware from MIT and parallels similar courses offered at the collegiate level. Topics covered include vectors, matrices, parametric equations for planes and lines, vector valued functions, partial derivatives, gradients, lagrange multipliers, and multiple integration techniques. The course also blends foundational ideas from Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. An emphasis will be placed on collaborative analysis as applied to real life problems and student-centered discovery. 
  • Upper School: Religion & Philosophy - Wealth, Poverty and Ethics

    This course offers a survey of wealth, poverty, and the economic system in which they are grounded in the United States. Students will study various theoretical frameworks on economic inequality and look at them in context of current social problems. Further, students will critique past and current programs for lessening the impacts of poverty and use this knowledge to imagine and critique possible future policies. Students will apply their knowledge to government policy and societal structures. Through journals and major writing assignments, students will reflect on the nature, source and affect of inequity and consider the “ought” of personal responses to economic inequity. 
  • Upper School: Science - Introduction to Engineering

    This two-semester course builds upon the student's knowledge of science using a project-based approach. It is very student driven course with the instructor in the role of mentor. The course has units of design from different areas of engineering (electrical, mechanical, computer, robotics, etc.). The students work together in project teams. During the first semester, the students learn electrical and mechanical skills by building and programming a robot. The robot has several servos that are driven by a microcontroller with programs written in a BASIC language. During the second semester, the student teams choose an engineering project that will require additional research on the sensors, transducers, actuators, etc. needed to solve their problem. Upon the completion of the project, the teams prepare a written report on the success or failure of their project to the mentor instructor and give a 10-minute presentation on their project. This course may be taken by a student for a grade or by a junior or senior student as a pass/fail course grade.

    The course is designed to engage high school students through a combination of activities-based, project-based, and problem-based learning. Our objective is to incorporate the concept of 21st century learning. This approach to learning not only creates an environment for applying engineering concepts to real problems, but also prepares students to:

    • Solve problems 
    • Participate as part of a team 
    • Lead teams
    • Speak to a public audience
    • Conduct research
    • Understand real-world impacts
    • Analyze data
    • Learn outside the classroom 
    • Apply real world concepts
  • Upper School: Science - Marine Science

    Marine Science is an additional non-weighted, semester-long science elective, designed to encourage all students to complete four years of science in the Upper School. Topics discussed in class will cover life in a marine environment, the chemical and physical features of seawater, marine ecosystems, anatomy and physiology of marine organisms, and the human impact on the oceans. The course will be designed to train students in using the scientific method and in using proper scientific methodology for collecting, recording, analyzing and presenting data. This class has a heavy lab component and takes several off-campus field study trips.
  • Upper School: Science - Research Methods in Life Science

    A new semester-long class is being offered in the Spring 2017 term- Research Methods in Life Science.  This class is open to any student who has taken or is currently taking an AP science course.  The course is designed to give students the unique opportunity to experience the challenge and rewards of scientific research while still in high school and is directed at those students who are considering majoring in science and/or participating in undergraduate research in college as it will be invaluable preparation for those experiences.  Students will be taught both literature review and hands-on, wet-lab research methods in life science. For seniors considering pursuing a research project for the Independent Senior Project, this class can be a useful preparatory step to develop the skills needed in that endeavor as well.  For additional information, please contact Dr. Ross-Viola, who will be the instructor for the course.
  • Upper School: World Languages - Advanced Study Spanish Culture and Conversation

    This is an elective course for the student who has successfully completed a minimum of four years of the Spanish curriculum including AP Spanish Language and Culture. This course will compare important historical and current events of the Spanish speaking world to their representations in film. Additionally, there will be lectures and research to learn more of the political, social, economic and cultural circumstances of the times as they pertain to the films. Students will have writing assignments to include essays in addition to round-table discussions, and discussion forums. Additionally, a semester-long project will be given in lieu of a final.
  • Upper School Capstone - Independent Senior Projects

    In the final weeks of the Upper School senior year, students participate in Independent Senior Projects as a transition experience from the structure of high school life to the independence of college and adulthood. ISPs challenge students to explore areas of professional, service, creative or personal interest and passion, and apply their academic learning to professional experiences outside the classroom. ISPs are a rewarding opportunity for students and the institution as a whole to demonstrate the effectiveness of the school's mission and core values. At St. Margaret’s, education is not pursued in a vacuum, rather we strive to equip students with the habits of mind and the skills and knowledge to thrive in many settings and arenas beyond our campus. This culminating, self-designed educational experience fosters the transition to an independent environment and application of classroom learning to professional situations, and demonstrates the outcome of the high school experience.
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California
St. Margaret's Episcopal School does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation or national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational, admission, financial aid, hiring and athletic policies or in other school-administered programs.
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
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