Specials Curricula

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What are “Special Subjects”?

All students at Quest Academy benefit from a robust learning experience that extends beyond the core classes of math, science, language arts, and social studies. By incorporating special subjects into their weekly schedule, students develop specific skill sets, new methods for engaging with material, and make cross-curricular connections that are both intentional in the Quest curriculum as well as uniquely discovered by each child. Cultivating knowledge and skills through these special subjects plays a valuable role in the Quest experience and sets us apart from other more traditional programs.

Beginning with our youngest learners in preschool, Quest students receive instruction in art, drama, music, Spanish, physical education, library, and innovative exposure to MakerSpace and STEAM programming—all taught by subject-matter specialists intent on providing depth of content and demonstrating a passion for their area of expertise. This passion translates to the student experience and elevates the exposure beyond the typical, self-contained classroom model.

Special subjects are taught by Subject Matter Experts


The quest approach

Music, Choir and Band

The music curriculum allows students to explore all aspects of music including performing, responding, and creating music. Students delve into music theory by reading and notating music on the grand staff. Students explore music history as they study the lives and music of Classical, Latin, Jazz and Blues composers. As composers, students combine the elements of music to create complex compositions. By utilizing technology, students learn to code music using Tynker app on the iPads, record music using GarageBand, and create podcasts and movie scores.

Through the music program, students sequentially develop vocal and instrumental skills. Starting in the youngest grades, students sing using solfege syllables and focusing on correct breath support and vowel pronunciation. They play ostinato patterns on Orff instruments and melodic patterns on the recorder. As students move to the older grades, they sing challenging octavos in three and four part harmonies. They play multiple instruments including the ukulele, piano keyboard, guitar, and African Drums. Students explore music from around the world and perform in multiple concerts and musicals.

The music ensembles at Quest Academy help to inspire and promote musicianship. The Band program begins in 4th grade. Students are introduced to various band instruments at the beginning of the school year, including flute, clarinet, saxophone, oboe, trumpet, trombone, euphonium and percussion. Students joining band have an opportunity to select their preferred instrument. Band focuses on establishing a firm foundation of music literacy, proficiency, and performance. The Harmonizers is an exciting music ensemble for 3rd through 5th grade students. This unique musical experience is for students who sing, play the violin, or play the piano. The Harmonizers learn music from numerous musical genres while developing advanced performance skills. The music ensembles at Quest Academy perform at concerts in school and in the community.


Quest Academy’s Drama program aims to expand each student’s creative and expressive potential through the art of theatre. Activities encourage thinking and imaginative skills for students to apply to other academic areas and everyday life. The curriculum is designed to build on learned and new skills at each age level. Students will experience various roles in the theatre. As audience members, they develop listening and observation skills. As actors, they create characters and dialogue. As directors, playwrights and designers, they explore leadership, writing and envision costumes and set design. Students engage in collaboration by contributing ideas and problem-solving while giving mutual respect.

Lower School focuses on developing a basic understanding of the foundational skills in drama such as imagination, communication and (believable) transformation. Lower school drama partners with the Music program to put on concerts or dramatic/musical presentations once or twice per year. Families are also invited to view “Informances” in the classroom; this allows them to see the learning process in action. Examples of “Informances” include three year-olds acting out a familiar story, 2nd grade students presenting stories of Greek Mythology or a Native American Potlatch, 5th grade students presenting a musical of “Lewis and Clark.”

The Drama teachers often collaborate with classroom teachers to create cross-curricular experiences.

The Middle School Drama teacher coordinates with the music program to put on a junior musical for Sixth Grade. Seventh grade teachers also coordinate with Language Arts and Social Studies teachers to study and perform Shakespeare. Sixth and seventh grade students implement an annual “Scene Night” with props, costumes, and minor set pieces.

The culmination of the Quest Drama program occurs annually in the form of an eighth-grade musical production. All eighth grade students are cast in the production to sing, dance, and act. They are also required to be on a production crew such as: props, costumes, lighting, marketing, concessions, make-up and hair, stage manager, painting, and set design. This allows students to take complete ownership of the production.

Technology may be used to bring in other thoughts and ideas about acting and the theatre, by viewing films or live stage productions, reviewing and evaluating class work, and analyzing existing scenes and scripts. Students use Chromebooks to research information to depict characters or to watch appropriate videos that support a drama lesson. Chromebooks are also used for presentations, music, and as evaluation tools.

There is an expectation for students to participate in all the exercises, assignments, presentations and performances – necessary for learning, growth and assessment. Quest’s drama program provides opportunity for students to be challenged regularly to share their work and to present in front of an audience. This experience enhances their emotional expression, communication, and confidence.


The art department strives for a challenging, creative program that provides each student with a solid foundation through the development of creative production, art criticism, and art history/culture. Students have access to a wide variety of media, technical resources and equipment. The art department has built its studio fine arts program to be in alignment with the school mission as well as the art department’s curriculum map. Creativity is nurtured as well as challenged. Creative processes, solutions, and concepts are emphasized. Steps are taken to ensure students understand the step-by-step process of art in order to achieve growth during the finishing process. The art program integrates some projects with the core curriculum. Art teachers work with classroom and subject area teachers during integrated projects and STEAM.

In the art program, students are exposed to a wide variety of media and techniques. These include painting, drawing, composition, color theory, types of perspective, art and design elements, and art principles. Students are provided with opportunities to explore digital art, two-dimensional and three dimensional media, mixed media, to write about art, and to learn about art from a historical and cultural perspective. Foundational skills and concepts are emphasized.

Our youngest learners are exposed to wide variety of art experiences based on art history examples, children’s books, art and design elements, developing sensory/play experiences, and art media.

Using award-winning children’s books and literature, master art history examples, and cross curricular academic and music integration, kindergarten through third grade students learn about painting, drawing, and mixed media through emulating the techniques of master artists. Students paint on canvas, explore watercolor pencils, and a wide variety of art media in order to fully explore artistic foundational techniques.

Fourth grade student produce sculptural self portraits based on cubism, ceramic animal boxes, and monochromatic cityscape canvas paintings are examples of fourth grade art projects. Developing the independent creative process with a growth mindset and exploring artist lives and and influences are also emphasized.

African, Non-Western, and folk art masks, interior architecture perspective drawing and pop art photo transfers are examples of fifth grade art projects. Design thinking, incorporating personal creative details, and comparing and contrasting art history examples are also emphasized.

Symbolic umbrella paintings, Bird’s eye city perspective drawings, realistic face modeling, pottery wheel, and Japanese inspired block printing on rice paper are examples of sixth grade art projects. Art history research, urban city planning, expanded drawing and clay work are some focus areas.

In seventh grade, students create narrative diorama chair sculptures, macro flower canvas paintings, portrait drawing, and digital self portraits are some examples of seventh grade art projects. Composition, mixed media/multi-media, Photoshop, graphite/drawing techniques, stop motion animation and writing about art are also included in this year.

The art program culminates in eight grade with self portraits, drawing challenges, DSLR photography, and video poems. Written artist statements, digital graphic design skills, video editing, contemporary art history and monument/steam design enhance the eighth grade art experience.

World Language Spanish

In the Quest Academy Spanish Program, we believe the following:

About Language Acquisition:
The only way to acquire language is to hear it and read it in a comprehensible and compelling context. When a person wants to know what happens next in a story, they are motivated to listen or read on. Language acquisition is not a metacognitive activity. It is a natural act that occurs when we read or listen to a meaningful story. Reading and writing in a second language demonstrate acquisition but do not facilitate it.

About Grammar Study:
Grammar rules should be discussed in class ONLY after students been exposed to the rules in meaningful spoken or written language. Time spent drilling verb conjugations and grammar rules is time that could have been spent providing those rules and conjugations in a comprehensible and compelling context. Grammar rules are acquired in a prescribed order by language learners.

About Spanish Class:
Our job every day is to provide engaging language that our students can understand in spoken or written form. Short films, Personal Questions and Answers, Storytelling, Role Playing Games, Readers’ Theater and humorous music videos are all engaging content that provide rich, compelling language as well as necessary repetitions of high frequency language.

Free voluntary reading in the classroom on a regular basis is endemic to a healthy language program. Spanish class should be a lively community comprised of warm, enthusiastic and humorous interactions between students and teacher.

Ms. Kropp’s Middle School Spanish Blog

Maker Space & Steam

STEAM and Maker Space are educational learning experiences that focus on applying the academic components of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math with the intent to prepare students for the 21st century using problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication.

Maker Space
Preschool—4th grade

Maker Space is a variety of low tech tools. Students will take thoughtful risks in the design and engineering process to innovate ideas and bring those ideas to life using modern tools and technology, as well as found objects, recyclables, robotics, and circuits. Students will have opportunities to persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration and work through the creative process by applying the design principles to their path of interest.

As students in our youngest grades gain exposure to the technology in their world, our Maker Space program aligns with the expanding innovation landscape to equip them not only with beginner technical skills, but also the mindset necessary to embrace project-based learning opportunities. Incorporating 21st century skills, students attempt challenges that will test their fortitude, resourcefulness, and risk-taking in a supportive environment.

STEAM (Innovation Lab)
5th—8th grade

STEAM is about THINKING, CREATING and ITERATING using circuits, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, Micro:bits, Lily Pads, Drones, 3D Engineering and printing, Makey Makey, Coding with Scratch, Python, CSS, Laser Cutting, Lego Mindstorms & Robotics, LittleBits, and much more! STEAM is also about tenacity and perseverance and completing a project even when it becomes very difficult. Throughout the year, students create and update their personalized blogs as a Digital Portfolios to document their learning.

Project Lead the Way – a nationally renowned and established program for high school and elementary students, has been adopted at Quest for the middle school students. Computer Science for Innovators and Makers and Engineering & Modeling is a large part of the STEAM curriculum under the Project Lead the Way curriculum. This program prepares students for high school in the areas of programming in Javascript, Python and physical computing, circuitry and engineering.

According to the World Economic Forum report, “in 2020, more than one-third (36%) of all jobs across all industries are expected to require complex problem-solving as one of their core skills.” Students of the 21st-century need to think independently and solve increasingly complex problems. Skills that are needed for this are problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. This is the main foundation for the curriculum in Quest Academy’s STEAM class. Integrating these skills among different content areas, includes not only exposing students to a combination of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math but also language arts. The emphasis on literacy is important as doing so prepares students to write reports, transfer technical processes into writing, and to communicate their outcomes effectively.

In the future, students will have to embrace new technologies that do not yet exist. Research shows that teaching students comprehensive innovation and cultivating their ability to solve problems will then prepare them to apply their skills to new technologies.

In STEAM class (5-8), the focus is on all of these important facets of learning. What is being taught more importantly than 3D Design & Engineering, Laser Cutting, Programming and Robotics are the skills and resources of grit, perseverance and the ability and resourcefulness to learn new technologies while applying prior knowledge. The goal is to make STEAM class fun yet innovative, productive and successful for students. Students will be applying what they already know and have experienced in science, technology, engineering and math to create solutions to problems, innovate and iterate and then show evidence of their learning through digital portfolios.

Students also work independently on accomplishing “badges” based on their individual projects. While a teacher in STEAM is always there to guide the student, the completion of the badge will require the student to work at his or her own pace.

In the Spring, students compete in Chicago’s Invention Convention at the state level and then the national level at IIT and Henry Ford Museum. This allows students to increase their communication skills and display their talents for innovation.

STEAM class is challenging for gifted learners because it is not modeled after a traditional classroom where notes are taken and tests and homework are assigned. This class will push and challenge all students to work independently and collaboratively and push through challenging obstacles, better preparing them for lifelong learning.

Physical Education

Combining elements of physical fitness with sports, creative gaming, and wellness, the Quest Academy physical education program prepares students for a life long approach to health and fitness. Movement and activity is an important element for daily learning.

The physical education program features several elements that are key to the benchmarks of child development. Skills range from basic to sport-specific for individual, team, lifetime games, and activities. With a focus on gross motor development in our early grades, all children develop balance, agility, speed, and coordination as they progress through the program to more complex concepts that includes applied gaming and rhythmic movement.

Fundamentals are supported through an understanding of rules, safety, and strategies as applied to the concept being explored.

Overall, a perspective on wellness is a common thread throughout the program, as is sportsmanship, conflict resolution, problem solving, encouraging others, and responsibility. At times, students may find themselves in peer coaching roles that benefit their character development.

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