How We Learn

 

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

Teacher and students working on a robot.

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. [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.

Teacher and students working on a robot.

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. [2]

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

A Basic Example:

Teachers 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.


When students are engaged they are more likely to succeed.

A recent survey of high school students who consider dropping out states that 42% do not see the value of the work they do in school. [3]

Often these students do not have an identity as learners or role models that set the expectation that higher education is valuable or attainable.

Engaging disengaged students is critical to ensuring they attain enough education to provide choices for their future success and satisfaction. We engage students by:

  • Making the content relevant to their lives.

  • Structuring ongoing opportunities for student participation.

  • Fostering a positive—yet challenging—learning environment.

Freshmen and Sophomore students are immersed in a STEM culture which enables them to explore robotics, rocketry, graphic design, music production and business/marketing.

High school junior and seniors are given the opportunity to explore state of the art career and technical education options at the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT). Half of the school day is spent at EVIT learning hands-on, tangible skills in the career areas of choice.