How We Learn

 

Our students learn best when skills are taught and mastered through integrated projects.

 

Learning happens everywhere.

Students using virtual reality goggles.
 
Copy of Student sneed in-school and after-school activities which enable them to discover their passions, gifts and connect them to the community.

In order for students to pursue and persist in high-level technical courses, they must develop an identity as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students by middle school. [1]

We create opportunities and experiences for students to develop this identity by:

  • Immersing students in a STEM culture to create a sense of belonging.

  • Connecting students to STEM professional role models in their community.

  • Providing access to the highest quality math and science instruction.


Academic standards serve to empower inquiry, discovery and innovation.

Copy of Every student is capable of making academic growth through the course of a school year.

Our approach to subject area instruction is unique to most schools. Most schools schedule separate subject area classes that students complete in a given timeframe. Language arts first hour, mathematics second hour, social studies third hour, etc. Sometimes at the end of a quarter or semester students will have the opportunity to complete an integrated project where they will put into practice what they have learned in isolation. For many students, this approach is effective and engaging. However some students require a more intensely relevant curriculum that engages them in the process of completing an authentic task every day. [3]

We approach subject areas as groups of tasks that must be completed to solve a problem or make a discovery.

A Basic Example:

The middle grade teachers will facilitate students in researching, designing and constructing a self-sustaining garden. The teachers work together and task analyze everything students need to know to complete this project:

Vocabulary words. Research skills. Note taking skills. Public speaking skills. Measuring. Perimeter. Area. Cubic feet. City government structure. Zoning laws. Permit filing. Indigenous plants. Drought tolerant plants. Solar power…

The list will get quite large as the teachers work through all the skills students will need to successfully complete the project.

The teachers will work with the students to assess what they already know and are able to do. Once the teachers understand the needs of all students, they will design mini lessons, small group lessons and whole group lessons within the structure of the project.

Students will experience projects like this all year long. Some large, some small. By the end of the school year, the students will have not only acquired all of the skills expected by the state standards, they will have put them into practice in order to see how relevant the learning is to everyday life.

 

Field trips improve student learning. They expose students to new experiences, develop vocabulary, increase interest in the topic being explored. [2]

We value getting students out of the classroom and into the community. Trips to museums, business and outdoor education facilities are a regular part of our instruction for all grade levels.

All of our teachers are encouraged and supported to offer after-school clubs which engage students in high-interest topics. The topics come from the passions and talents of the teachers as well as expressed interests of the students.


A foundation in reading and writing is the gateway to discovery and collaboration.

Reading Circle

A strong literacy program is a critical component of an inquiry-based learning environment. Ideas spread and discoveries about ourselves and our world are shared by reading and writing.

We believe that students construct their own knowledge and meaning from experiences. However, learning how to read is technical, complex and requires explicit instruction on how to connect sounds with letters. [4]

Our educators, especially in the early grades, provide a solid phonetic foundation in which strong reading skills can be developed into a love for reading.

In addition to phonetic instruction for developing readers and writers, we surround all students with high interest literature and integrated writing opportunities to reinforce skills, develop comprehension and nurture a passion for literacy.


An understanding of numbers and the order of our world.

Copy of School should conform to the social, emotional and academic needs of the students. Students should not have to conform to the predetermined structures of a school.

To solve complex problems students need a deep understanding of mathematics and scientific principles.

Students often see math as a collection of steps and tricks that they must learn. We encourage students to explain the purpose for what they're doing, the logic of their procedures, and the reasonableness of their solutions. When students arrive at answers that do not make sense, they understand why and can fix it. [5]

We use a wide range of strategies to facilitate students as they develop conceptual understanding and reasoning as well as skill fluency. Students actively engage in problem-solving and discourse. It’s through talk that students develop mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills, process ideas, and extend and refine their own mathematical thinking.

Science instruction is critical to understanding the world and becoming a well informed citizen. Effective science instruction recognizes and capitalizes on learner’s intrinsic interest in science and engineering and provides an educational environment that promotes the development of deep content knowledge and habits of mind.

Students have daily opportunities to observe phenomena, plan and carry out investigations, solve problems, analyze and interpret data, construct explanations, and design solutions.