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Critical thinking and problem-solving skills will be honed through Socratic discussions

and project-based and experiential learning. Learning experiences focuses on the active
exploration of major concepts, ideas, and theories that respond to life's big questions.
Students will be exposed to the history of these ideas; the struggles and controversies
necessary for their development; the kinds of questions and problems that are key to the
discovery process; and the special role of effort and creativity. Students learn to explore
new questions, to ponder the significance of new discoveries, and to use scientific
knowledge and critical thinking in their own life decision-making.

International benchmarks as well as the Common Core State Standards are infused
throughout Language Arts, Science, and Mathematics classes. At the culmination of the
Cambridge Secondary 1 Academy in eighth grade, the Cambridge Checkpoint exam will
be administered to assess each student’s success in the Cambridge program.
......................

Experiential Learning
The cousin to child-centered, project-, and inquiry-based learning, experiential
learning works to bring a hands-on approach to the classroom. In this kind of
methodology, students directly work with the subjects they are learning about
instead of reading about them in their textbooks or recreating scenarios
through projects or case studies. For example, instead of learning about plant
life from a textbook or working on understanding it inside the classroom, the
experiential classroom takes the biology class into the woods to study the local
flora.

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https://www.noodle.com/articles/what-is-experiential-learning

What Is Experiential
Learning?
Sarah Rivera • Feb 04, 2015
As the old saying goes, nothing teaches like experience.
Long before there were classrooms, there was experiential learning. Children
watched their parents craft tools from flint or weave baskets from reeds. Now,
this most basic form of instruction is enjoying a resurgence among educators
and students alike.

Understanding Experiential Learning


Experiential learning, which in very general terms refers to acquiring
knowledge through personal experiences, is one of the most fun, engaging,
and effective ways to understand new concepts. Many people see it as a
welcome alternative to — though not an outright replacement for — rote
memorization and other forms of academic learning that seldom take students
outside the classroom.

This approach to learning can be taught to children as young as preschool age


— think of the water table or sandbox — and extend well into enrichment
programs for professional adults. There are many types of experiential
learning, all of which use real-world applications to enable students to think
critically about abstract concepts.
Programs of study for older students that have an experiential learning
component include internships, job shadowing, trade programs, such as
cooking and auto repair, study abroadprograms, and wilderness or adventure
schools.

Experiential learning for high school and college students began to regain
popularity during the economic downturn as an avenue for professional
development. The job market was shrinking, making competition and prior
experience that much more important for candidates who were looking for
work. “It was no longer acceptable for students to have a college degree and
that’s it,” says Ron Kovach, a past president of the National Society of
Experiential Education (NSEE) and currently part of Transnational Learning
Consulting. He explained that “students have to have done things;” they
needed on the job experience in the form of internships or job shadowing.
Authenticity is a great teacher, says Kovach.

“A lot of schools say they have experiential learning,” says Kovach. But this
approach to learning is more than just experiencing something that is being
taught; structure and reflection are essentialto getting the most out of the
process. This type of learning requires a “metacognitive approach,”says
Kovach, whereby students are thinking about thinking.

Deep thoughts, right? “Think about going to the Louvre and looking at
pictures,” offered Kovach. Sure, people can visit the great art museum in
Paris, look at the art, and enjoy it. But they would get more out of the
experience if they prepared and studied ahead, had some learning objectives,
and asked pointed questions of themselves as they observed the art. Kovach
calls good experiential experiences a “portfolio” way of learning, akin to how
textbooks are often organized: A chapter may start with what students will
learn and conclude with chapter recaps.

“You have to give them a structure so that they know what they should be
learning,” says Kovach, who recommends study abroad programs that seek to
engage students more deeply than simply exposing them to a new language.
Students learn about a culture, travel, logistics, meeting new people, and
navigating day-to-day experiences that were once familiar in a foreign
environment.

“It is more than just an acquisition of language skills,” says Kovach.

Examples of Experiential Learning in


the Classroom
At the Giddens School in Seattle, students were asked to deliver food to
homebound seniors. It went well for the first few weeks, but students soon
started to complain about what they considered to be a chore.

To get kids to reflect on their attitude, teachers set up stations to simulate the
experience of being an older person with physical limitations. They tied
sandbags to the kids to impede movement, put earmuffs on them to muffle
sound, and put glasses on them to obscure vision. Teachers wrote down what
the students said as they experienced how it felt to have physical limitations.

After the simulations, teachers asked the students how they felt about
delivering food. The kids had a new perspective on their service mission
through the experiential nature of the lesson.

Outings and field trips are great examples of experiential lessons. Before a
trip, prepare learning objectives, and ask your students open-ended questions
about what they expect to see. Once there, keep asking questions and
encouraging close observation. Afterwards, ask your students to reflect upon
their experiences and how they compared to their expectations.

Values Through Experiential


Learning
Many school administrators struggle to find ways to end bullying and build a
more supportive learning environment. Simply telling kids to be nice to one
another can fall on deaf ears.

Enter a Canadian program called Roots of Empathy (ROE), which aims to


foster empathy among school children by having a mother and her infant child
visit a classroom every three weeks. With each visit, the class observes the
baby’s development, specifically focusing on what her feelings are. There is
something about observing the baby that teaches children to be kinder,
explained Alison Bower, a trained ROE instructor. The baby reminds them that
all people were once babies, and this reflection in turn fosters kindness in the
children.

She said she has gone up to kids on the playground to point out someone who
was being left out. “I asked, ‘How would you feel if Baby Marigold were being
left out of the group?’” Once reminded of the baby, the kids would scramble to
include the student who had been left out.

“It is amazing how they will be able to talk about things through a baby. They
really felt they were in the presence of something special,” she said. “Without a
doubt, it was their favorite class.”
Skills Through Experiential Learning
While babies are natural teachers, so too is Mother Nature.

Among the more popular experiential learning experiences are outdoor and
adventure courses, such as those taught by Outward Bound or NOLS, the
National Outdoor Leadership School. More intense than a routine camping trip,
both organizations focus on cultivating leadership, character, and a sense of
service in unfamiliar and challenging settings. The problem-solving and
collaborative skills that participants develop are eagerly sought in prospective
employees at many of the big technology companies and Wall Street firms.

“[Young people] have kind of gotten used to not dealing with people,” says
Bruce Palmer, the head of NOLS admissions and marketing, who has been
with the company since 1990. NOLS has contracts with many top MBA
programs, the U.S. Naval Academy, and NASA. Individuals learn to work as a
team in order to survive.

“Over time, we have become more risk-averse as a society,” says Palmer.


“Many of our students find themselves in a situation where they have real risk.
They are making decisions where there are real consequences to what they
are doing.” He agreed that it sounded a little bit like the U.S. Army, but “without
gunfire.”

“Both the military and NOLS provide young people with the chance to step into
a leadership role that has some consequence.”

Designed to be “intentionally challenging,” says Peter Steinhauser, head of


Outward Bound, the trips push people to learn how to learn in unfamiliar
settings, often in high-stakes wilderness locations. They learn to rely on their
group, and to understand its strengths and weaknesses. He said the strongest
individuals were often humbled.

“They use failure as one of the steps to success. They learn how to learn, and
they do so in a group setting. We believe students develop tenacity,
persistence, and creativity in problem solving.”

Helen (not her real name), a NOLS and Outward Bound graduate of several
trips, said that three weeks of backpacking taught her independence,
teamwork, and how to push herself.

“I never again complained to my mom about a bad meal, nor did I ever take
hot water and washing machines for granted,” she said after her three-week
backpacking trip on Wyoming’s Wind River. Helen cried the first night in her
sleeping bag, but she got through it and vows her own children — when old
enough — will have the same experience.

“Lori,” also a NOLS graduate, ran into a huge challenge on a mountaineering


trip when bad weather thwarted her group’s attempt to reach the summit.
Before even joining the course, Lori was accomplished. She had graduated
high school and college early, and by age 22 was in charge of 19 people
working for AmeriCorps. Still, it was her experience being on a mountaineering
rope team, maneuvering past dangerous crevasses and meeting other
challenges as they arose, that taught her that each of her steps had
implications.

“It’s easy to get caught up in just doing a million different things. Am I moving
with intention every step of the way? I am still practicing what I learned on my
NOLS course.”

Not everybody is cut out for backcountry group trips. Sometimes, there are
people who would just rather be alone. Experiential adventure is somewhat
self-selecting, says Outward Bound’s Steinhauser. “Nobody is forced to go on
an Outward Bound trip,” but the lone wolf types, he pointed out, are a “kind of
dynamic that takes place in the workplace and families. It’s part of a learning
skill, how you handle that.”

By engaging in real-world scenarios, experiential learning prepares students


for the challenges and issues they face outside the classroom.

Sources:

Journal of Experiential Education. SAGE Publications. January 1, 2015.


Retrieved from Journal of Experiential Education

National Association of Experiential Education. “Eight Principles of Good


Practice for All Experiential Learning Activities.” 1998 NAEE Annual Meeting,
Norfolk, VA, 1998; Updated December 9, 2013. Retrieved from National
Association of Experiential Education

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http://www.giddensschool.org/a-giddens-education/academics/45

The fourth and fifth grade classrooms are the oldest cohort in our
Giddens School community, and as such they take on a leadership
role in the school. They set an example for younger students, in
their intellectual pursuits as well as in social interactions. They
regularly apply diverse perspectives, knowledge, and skills to a
variety of contexts, demonstrating understanding while developing
new ways of thinking. Students are encouraged to explore their
personal passions as they develop grade level appropriate skills.
Fourth and fifth graders often work in peer groups, tackle multi-step
projects, and share their learning with the community. This helps
them to be prepared for success in middle school and beyond.

Reading
Fourth and fifth grade readers decode grade level text fluently and
accurately, to deepen their literal and inferential comprehension of
reading material, and to develop an enjoyment of literature and
nonfiction writing. Some of the key component skills that support
these goals include supporting opinions with evidence, engaging
with increasingly complex text, understanding differences in genres,
and identifying and analyzing stylistic elements. High quality
instruction centers on the strategies of summarizing, visualizing,
connecting, inferring, predicting, synthesizing, analyzing, evaluating,
and discussing. Interactive read-aloud, book clubs, and partnerships
offer students opportunities to engage in rich conversations with
their peers about a shared text. Students regularly share feelings,
observations, questions and impressions of the texts as they read.

Writing
Fourth and fifth grade authors craft texts in many genres, including
personal narrative, persuasive essay, realistic fiction, informational
report, and poetry. They have flexibility and stamina for writing as
they grow in their mastery of organization, production, depth of
thinking, and mechanics. Knowledge of writing mechanics is
included as part of a balanced writing program, with instruction in
syllable word patterns, homophones, contractions, possessives,
plurals, affixes and Greek and Latin roots. In addition, students
learn about sentence structure, paragraph structure, capitalization,
punctuation, and parts of speech. These authors make intentional,
and increasingly sophisticated, stylistic decisions, revising and
editing their work with purpose. They also develop skills in providing
thoughtful, relevant feedback to peers. As they culminate their
Giddens School experience, the students are able to confidently
and competently express ideas, opinions, and information through
written communication.

Math
Fourth and fifth grade mathematics fosters the development of
visual and conceptual models of numbers and operations. The
concrete manipulation of objects leads to written mathematics and
the use of algorithms, helping students develop a thorough
understanding of mathematical reasoning as well as greater
computational fluency. Through the Bridges in Mathematics
curriculum, students engage in a daily lesson, which may consist of
group activities, written work, and games, as well as Number
Corner, a set of activities that incorporates a calendar pattern, a
number line, data collection, problem solving, and computational
fluency activities. This curriculum is supplemented with a wide array
of hands-on enrichment and remediation activities to provide a
comprehensive math experience, allowing students to grow in their
breadth of standards based mathematical knowledge,
computational skill, and problem solving ability.

Science
Fourth and fifth grade scientists apply their knowledge of the
scientific method independently and with increasing complexity.
They are able to design, implement, and reflect on experiments that
deepen their understanding of the world around them. They explore
topics designed to meet grade level standards in earth science,
physical science, life science, and engineering while building the
habits of mind that will support future scientific learning. Through
SPARK projects, units of study that give teachers and children
opportunities to think more deeply about a scientific concept, and its
connection to justice in the world, the fourth and fifth graders are
able to use their scientific knowledge to better the world around
them. An example of an experiential project at this age level might
be a study of landforms in the United States and how these
geographic formations have influenced the economies of various
areas.
Social Studies
In Fourth and fifth grade social studies concepts from civics,
economics, history, and geography are interwoven to support a
student’s developing understanding of the complex systems that
influence everyday life. With developmental maturity, fourth and fifth
graders have developed the skills necessary to consider multiple
perspectives to a variety of situations, allowing their understanding
of and connection to historical events to flourish. They also learn
more about how to connect those events to current contexts and
consider how they might influence future events along a specific
trajectory. SPARK projects allow students to engage deeply with a
social studies concept, and its connection to justice in the world, in a
developmentally appropriate way. In a fourth and fifth classroom,
this might be studying the experience of Washington State’s native
tribes over the past 500 years and predicting a plan for what life
could look like for them in the next 50 years.

Art
Fourth and fifth students work on a variety of projects in art class.
Students create mythical creatures using a combination of collage
and drawing. In addition to creating these 3-D creatures, students
also name them and create an origional story.

Physical Education
Fourth and fifth athletes have fun exploring teamwork strategies in a
variety of sports and activities. Through a range of team games and
small group challenges, the students continue to learn how to work
together and solve problems to achieve their goals. These are skills
that are stressed throughout the year to help the fourth and fifth
students be successful in sports, the classroom, and life. Along with
team-oriented activities, the students enjoy developing strategies
and plays in basketball and hockey, while also participating in
various track and field events. The fourth and fifth athletes also
participated in a Bubble Gum Bulldog March Madness tournament.
Students also work with partners to maneuver our Omnikin ball
around the Big Room.
Spanish
The Spanish program at Giddens School supports children in
building their understanding of World Languages and the Spanish
speaking countries. By providing Spanish instruction in preschool –
5th grade, we are instilling in students an awareness of the varied
ways in which the world communicates and solidifying pathways of
language development that support future language learning.
Exposure to Spanish vocabulary and language conventions is
balanced with cultural explorations throughout the program. After
graduation, many Giddens School students go on to place into
higher levels of Spanish instruction in their middle schools, building
on the solid foundation of instruction provided during Spanish class
at Giddens.

Library & Media


The 4/5s use their Library and Media time to make strong
connections to their classroom work and the world around them.
Students start the year learning word processing to presentation
tools using Prezi. The 4/5s put many of their developing research
skills to use to find (and cite!) new sources for their presentations. At
the end of this process, each student will give their presentation to
the class and conduct a brief Q&A session.

Students also focus on digital citizenship; the idea that all


interactions and content posted on the internet can be permanent
and that it is an individual’s duty to be a good digital citizen. The
students play games and watch videos about online trolls and
bullying, fraudulent websites and pop-ups, and safety and identity.

Students also lead a used book fair for which the 4/5s nominate and
vote on a charity (Roots Young Adult Shelter was the winner in
2016), make posters, sort book donations, and work the cash
register during the fair itself.
*** Giddens School says
Giddens is an independent school that nourishes a diverse community and provides
children with an academically rigorous education steeped in social justice. Giddens
School offers pre-K through fifth-grade children a strong academic foundation to
prepare them for their 21st-century world. Our staff and families nourish a wonderful
sense of self and a genuine love of learning in our students. Children graduate from
Giddens School with a strong academic foundation; they are curious, socially
responsive, creative young people who are well-prepared to effect change
throughout their lives and equipped with the skills and concepts necessary to
communicate and learn effectively.

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http://www.nsee.org/8-principles

Eight Principles of Good Practice for All Experiential Learning Activities

Regardless of the experiential learning activity, both the experience and the learning are
fundamental. In the learning process and in the relationship between the learner and any
facilitator(s) of learning, there is a mutual responsibility. All parties are empowered to
achieve the principles which follow. Yet, at the same time, the facilitator(s) of learning are
expected to take the lead in ensuring both the quality of the learning experience and of
the work produced, and in supporting the learner to use the principles, which underlie the
pedagogy of experiential education.

1. Intention: All parties must be clear from the outset why experience is the chosen
approach to the learning that is to take place and to the knowledge that will be
demonstrated, applied or result from it. Intention represents the purposefulness
that enables experience to become knowledge and, as such, is deeper than the
goals, objectives, and activities that define the experience.
2. Preparedness and Planning: Participants must ensure that they enter the
experience with sufficient foundation to support a successful experience. They
must also focus from the earliest stages of the experience/program on the
identified intentions, adhering to them as goals, objectives and activities are
defined. The resulting plan should include those intentions and be referred to on a
regular basis by all parties. At the same time, it should be flexible enough to allow
for adaptations as the experience unfolds.
3. Authenticity: The experience must have a real world context and/or be useful and
meaningful in reference to an applied setting or situation. This means that is should
be designed in concert with those who will be affected by or use it, or in response
to a real situation.
4. Reflection: Reflection is the element that transforms simple experience to a
learning experience. For knowledge to be discovered and internalized the learner
must test assumptions and hypotheses about the outcomes of decisions and
actions taken, then weigh the outcomes against past learning and future
implications. This reflective process is integral to all phases of experiential learning,
from identifying intention and choosing the experience, to considering
preconceptions and observing how they change as the experience unfolds.
Reflection is also an essential tool for adjusting the experience and measuring
outcomes.
5. Orientation and Training: For the full value of the experience to be accessible to
both the learner and the learning facilitator(s), and to any involved organizational
partners, it is essential that they be prepared with important background
information about each other and about the context and environment in which the
experience will operate. Once that baseline of knowledge is addressed, ongoing
structured development opportunities should also be included to expand the
learner’s appreciation of the context and skill requirements of her/his work.
6. Monitoring and Continuous Improvement: Any learning activity will be dynamic and
changing, and the parties involved all bear responsibility for ensuring that the
experience, as it is in process, continues to provide the richest learning possible,
while affirming the learner. It is important that there be a feedback loop related to
learning intentions and quality objectives and that the structure of the experience
be sufficiently flexible to permit change in response to what that feedback
suggests. While reflection provides input for new hypotheses and knowledge
based in documented experience, other strategies for observing progress against
intentions and objectives should also be in place. Monitoring and continuous
improvement represent the formative evaluation tools.
7. Assessment and Evaluation: Outcomes and processes should be systematically
documented with regard to initial intentions and quality outcomes. Assessment is a
means to develop and refine the specific learning goals and quality objectives
identified during the planning stages of the experience, while evaluation provides
comprehensive data about the experiential process as a whole and whether it has
met the intentions which suggested it.
8. Acknowledgment: Recognition of learning and impact occur throughout the
experience by way of the reflective and monitoring processes and through
reporting, documentation and sharing of accomplishments. All parties to the
experience should be included in the recognition of progress and accomplishment.
Culminating documentation and celebration of learning and impact help provide
closure and sustainability to the experience.

Source: National Society for Experiential Education. Presented at the 1998 Annual
Meeting, Norfolk, VA

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he American education system is constantly reinventing


itself.
New federal, state, and local initiatives propose updated approaches to
teaching, which, in turn, introduce new terminology that gets passed around in
faculty lunchrooms and education blogs. If you want to understand and
participate in the discourse, here are 12 need-to-know education terms that
will help you dive in.
1. Project-Based Learning
In a traditional classroom, students are required to work on tasks alone. With
project-based learning, students use what they’ve learned to collaborate with
others to create a product. According to the National Academy
Foundation (NAF), a well-designed project will get students thinking about
real-world problems that have an impact beyond their schools; put students’
decision-making skills to the test; and engender a product that exemplifies the
skills that students have learned.

Follow this link to read an expert's deep-dive into what project-based learning
is like.

2. Personalized Learning
When one-room classrooms ruled the educational landscape, a one-size-fits-
all approach to learning was unavoidable. Now, we focus more on the different
learning styles that students bring to school. Personalized learning doesn’t
focus on the classroom as a unit; instead, a teacher seeks to meet all students
individually, wherever they are in their learning. By using a large variety of
activities and adaptive tools that can help teachers gauge a student’s
comprehension and talents, lessons can be customized to best suit each
learner.

Find further advice and answers about personalized learning here.

3. STEM/STEAM
Much ado has been made in recent years about the importance of STEM
(science, technology, engineering, and math) education. In March 2015,
President Obama pledged $240 million dollars to boost study in these fields.
The acronym STEAM also includes art, design, and architecture in the mix. In
an innovation economy, STEM/STEAM education is paramount; however, the
singular focus on these subjects hasn’t been without its critics.

Want more information about STEAM education? Check out this article STEM
vs. STEAM: In Defense of the Creative Critical Thinker.

4. Differentiated Instruction
If personalized learning is the objective, then differentiated instruction is the
means by which teachers accomplish it. Differentiated instruction requires that
a teacher understand a student’s needs, strengths, and learning style — and
then adapt the curriculum based on what is best for that individual student. To
differentiate, a teacher could take a variety of paths, some of which include:
providing students with different mediums for them to complete a project or
task, offering students choices on assessments, and encouraging students to
collaborate with different learners. Differentiated instruction is, in
short, responsive teaching rather than prescriptiveteaching.

Learn the difference between adaptive learning and differentiated


instruction here.

5. Grit
A buzzword that, in part, came to be in vogue thanks to the research of Angela
Lee Duckworth, grit is touted by many in the education community as being
the key predictor of success. As Duckworth defines it in her TED Talk, grit “is
passion and perseverance for very long-term goals” — and “living life like it's a
marathon, not a sprint.” According to Duckworth, a student who has grit
possesses a “growth mindset,” which focuses less on outcomes and more on
the processes of improvement and mastery. Teachers and schools seeking to
promote grit encourage students to embrace adversity rather than to avoid it.

Find out more through the expert perspective shared in Grit: What Your Kids
Learn Through Academic Failure.

6. No-Excuses Schools
The no-excuses school movement is one that has no formal definition;
however, most attribute its origin to the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP),
a network of charter schools that opened in the mid-1990s. The KIPP
philosophy champions a core set of principles known as the Five Pillars. At the
center of KIPP’s pedagogical approach is setting and regularly testing
measurable goals for academic achievement, as well as a “relentless focus”
on high student performance on standardized tests. Critics of the no-excuses
movement view the approach as authoritarian in nature, and as creating an
environment in which creativity is suppressed rather than encouraged.

If your child attends this type of school, you may find this article, Don't Be
Afraid of the Principalhelpful for both you and your child!

7. Child-Centered Learning
For many Americans, the classroom dynamic has been one in which the
teacher speaks and the student listens. In this approach to education, the
teacher is the bearer of knowledge, and the student is the recipient. The
proliferation of technology and the instantaneous access to infinite information
has flipped this model. Child- or student-centered learning asks the student to
take an active part in her own creation of meaning. Rather than being the focal
point of the class, the teacher facilitates conversation and dialogue, and asks
students to drive the learning. In a child-centered class, students draw on their
own prior knowledge and critical-thinking skills to accomplish a task.

Montessori schools are well-known for their child-centered learning approach.


Discover more with The Montessori Method: What You Can Expect.

8. Looping
According to Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown
University (LAB), looping refers to the “practice of keeping groups of students
together for two or more years with the same teacher.” Proponents of
looping believe that the extra time spent with students fosters deep student-
teacher relationships and allows teachers to personalize the curriculum more
closely to their students’ needs.

Think two years with the same teacher is a bad thing for your kid? Read this
article about what to do if your child and teacher don't get along.

9. Inquiry-Based Instruction
Closely tied to project-based learning, inquiry-based instruction poses
questions or scenarios to encourage creative problem-solving. The focus is on
“how you know” as opposed to “what you know.” Instead of knowledge being
dispensed to students by their teachers, students are given case studies or
experiences through which they must apply their knowledge to reach new
conclusions.

Instruction isn't limited to school hours. Check out these five after school
programs that teach kids to be creative problem-solvers.

10. Experiential Learning


The cousin to child-centered, project-, and inquiry-based learning, experiential
learning works to bring a hands-on approach to the classroom. In this kind of
methodology, students directly work with the subjects they are learning about
instead of reading about them in their textbooks or recreating scenarios
through projects or case studies. For example, instead of learning about plant
life from a textbook or working on understanding it inside the classroom, the
experiential classroom takes the biology class into the woods to study the local
flora.
Follow this link to learn more about what experiential learning is.

11. Flipped Classroom


The flipped classroom takes the traditional model of classroom practices — in
which the teacher presents content at school, and students master the
material through assignments at home — and turns it on its head. In the
flipped classroom, students are presented with course materials outside of
class (in some cases, through pre-recorded lectures). During class, teachers
facilitate activities and help students process and work with the content in a
supported environment.

Find further advice and answers about flipped classrooms here.

12. Blended Learning


Technology has allowed teachers to become increasingly innovative —
enabling instructors to draw from a variety of best practices to create
classrooms that closely mirror their individual ideal learning environments. The
blended classroom is one in which the teacher incorporates a combination of
technologies and pedagogical approaches to create the individualized
experience that best suits each student.

Learn more about blended learning with this collection of expert advice.

Sources:

Educate to Innovate. Retrieved May 12, 2015, from The White House

Flipping the Classroom. Retrieved May 12, 2015, from Washington Post

Inquiry-based Learning: Explanation. Retrieved May 12, 2015, from Thirteen

Looping: Supporting Student Learning Through Long-Term Relationships.


(n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2015, from Brown University

Project-Based Learning: A Resource for Instructors and Program


Coordinators. Retrieved May 12, 2015, from NAF

The Key to Success? Grit. Retrieved May 12, 2015, from TED

What Is Differentiated Instruction? Retrieved May 12, 2015, from Scholastic


https://www.noodle.com/articles/12-education-terms-to-know-in-
2015

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Experiential Learning: The classroom at Blandford is as much in the ponds, streams, woods, and
fields as it is in the school building. Each fall and spring, students take camping trips to learn outdoor
skills and participate in team building. Students also learn important business skills by raising
chickens and selling the eggs they collect.
..............

Introducing
ZOO SCHOOL
There is no other educational adventure in all of Michigan quite like the Zoo School experience.
Located at John Ball Zoological Garden, Zoo School is designed to heighten an awareness of the
environment, stimulate creative thinking, develop leadership, promote intellectual growth, and increase
self-esteem. Zoo School takes hands-on learning to a whole new level as students engage in learning
activities throughout the zoo's natural environment that meet all core subject and curriculum areas in
math, science, reading, writing, and social studies.
Consider Zoo School for your child if:
- You are seeking teachers who believe in your child’s potential to learn and achieve.
- You want your child to learn in a nationally recognized educational environment.
- You value a hands-on, practice-driven learning experience.
- You want an innovative curriculum designed to engage your child’s creativity.

ZOO SCHOOL
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
Zoo School is proud to offer:
- Parent Teacher Community Council.
- Volunteer opportunities through John Ball Zoo.

EXCEL AT ZOO SCHOOL


ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE: Zoo School is not only in the top 5% in all of Michigan on combined
measures of student achievement and growth, but is also named one the top 25 “Coolest Schools in
America” by Parent and Child Magazine. Zoo School is a program for gifted and talented students, led
by teachers who understand their needs and abilities.&nbsp

EXPANDED CURRICULUM: In addition to the required sixth grade curriculum, Zoo School offers
special units on astronomy, zoology, forestry, chemistry, and physics.
INDEPENDENT PROJECTS: Students at Zoo School enhance their learning with a number of group
and individual projects throughout their year, culminating in an independently chosen final project that
allows the student to creatively demonstrate research and presentation skills.

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: Students have the opportunity to participate in unique educational


experiences including animal feeding, raising salmon, recycling, navigating trails, and water sampling.
They also participate in two camping trips during the school year.

RULES, SAFETY, DISCIPLINE: All GRPS schools provide Positive Behavioral Interventions and
Support (PBIS). PBIS is a proactive, team-based framework for creating and sustaining safe and
effective schools. Educators emphasize prevention of problem behavior, development of pro-social
skills, and the use of data-based problem solving for addressing existing behavior concerns. The result
is a fair, firm and consistent approach to rules, safety, and discipline.

How is the Zoo School school innovative?

The public Zoo School, which serves sixth-graders only, accepts 60 students
from within and outside the Grand Rapids district for an intensive year-long
program at the John Ball Zoological Garden. In addition to following the
required sixth-grade curriculum, students feed the zoo animals, raise salmon,
sample water, and even go on two camping trips during the year. Students at
Zoo School also take classes in forestry, astronomy, zoology, chemistry, and
physics. Zoo School courses emphasize experiential and project-based
learning. At the end of the school year, students are required to present an
individual project, which encourages them to hone their research and
presentation skills. Additionally, like all Grand Rapids Public Schools, the Zoo
School practices Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS),
a proactive mode of disciplining children that focuses on teaching social skills
and using data to solve problems.

What are the outcomes of the Zoo School’s innovation?

The Zoo School ranks in the top five percent of Michigan’s schools in its
measures for student growth and achievement. The demand for the lottery-
assigned spaces in the school has grown so much that the district
has announced a plan to turn the Zoo School into a fully-functioning middle
school, serving students in grades six through eight. The district has
recognized the school for helping students develop independence, self-
esteem, and creative thinking. To enhance the school’s impact even further,
the district is committed to raising $40 to $50 million in support of the Zoo
School’s expansion.

How is the Zoo School’s innovation relevant to the larger ed space?

The Zoo School is a real-world example of just how effective experiential


learning can be. A meta-analysis of 40 years of studies about experiential
learning bears out the effectiveness of this mode of instruction. The meta-
analysis shows that experiential learning leads to more positive outcomes than
can be found in control groups, or in groups engaged in traditional forms of
learning. Given students’ successes after just one year at the Zoo School, an
expansion promises to multiply the positive outcomes. What’s more, because
the school is public, it makes innovative experiential learning opportunities
available students across and beyond the Grand Rapids district, regardless of
family resources.

Given the known benefits of experiential learning, the Zoo School is


trailblazing a path for other districts interested in capitalizing on its benefits. As
the ed space continues to figure out how to implement a sustainable model of
experiential learning in its schools, the Zoo School, which fully integrates
experiential learning into every aspect of each child’s education, provides a
successful model. Even schools that take place in traditional facilities could
learn from the Zoo School’s successes and seek to implement offsite
programs at zoos and other community spaces.

http://www.grps.org/zoo

....................

How is the Mountain School innovative?

The Mountain School is an alternative school affiliated with Milton Academy. It


enables 11th-graders, who hail from public and private schools across the
country, to spend a semester of tightly-packed days cultivating the food they
eat and working closely with professors in rigorous courses that
involve experiential learning and public speaking. Students develop close
relationships with faculty members, since they all live and work together on the
Vermont farm. In addition to taking standard courses such as a foreign
language (like Spanish or Chinese), physics, and English, one of the required
courses is environmental science, which is offered not in the classroom, but
outside in the fields and forests. Although students should be mindful of
coordinating Mountain School courses so they are in the appropriate sequence
(given their home school’s requirements), all courses that students take at the
Mountain School easily transfer as AP or honors credits; the Mountain
School’s curriculum sometimes even allows students to get ahead of their
classes back home. Unsurprisingly, access to technology is minimal at the
Mountain School — there is no cell phone service, and there is limited Internet
access.

The program accepts 45 students from different states and backgrounds and
encourages them to form close bonds with each other. Each student is
assigned an advisor, who works with no more than four students per semester.
Advisors and students meet at least once a week for half an hour to discuss
their experiences in the program. Admission to the Mountain School is need-
blind. While the tuition rate matches that of Milton, the school encourages
students to apply for financial assistance if they need it.

What are the outcomes of the Mountain School’s innovation?

In the last seven years, the seven most common colleges that Mountain
School alumni have attended were Middlebury, Yale, Brown, Colorado
College, Oberlin, Carleton, and Princeton.

Among the greatest benefits of attending the Mountain School is the strong
alumni network — and regular alumni events — that graduates enjoy.
Additionally, program alumni have access to a unique funding opportunitiy in
the form of a grant called the Garden Hill Fund, which sponsers former
Mountain Schoolers who create projects for the benefit others. Beyond these
tangible benefits, students report experiencing significant personal growth and
cultivating strong lifelong friendships.

How is the Mountain School’s innovation relevant to the larger ed space?

With each cohort of students, the Mountain School demonstrates just how
effective low-tech learning methods can be. In a survey of its graduates, the
Mountain School reported that most attendees in 2012 had not farmed,
camped outside, or lived with a group of peers prior to attending the program.
These experiences are rare for many teens, and while the ed space tends to
embrace opportunities created by technological advances, the Mountain
School directs students in a different direction — by helping them get in touch
with nature and with one another through an intense living and learning
experience. The Mountain School’s impact and influence attest to the
intellectual, social, and emotional growth that an environmentally-immersive
educational approach can facilitate.

https://www.noodle.com/articles/innovative-schools-2015#lake

**** Academic Philosophy


Academic Overview

Students come to the Mountain School from all over the country from public and private

schools. They have one thing in common: They all want to be here.

Imagine small academic classes where students sit around one round table working
together to become better writers, thinkers, and scientists. The Mountain School is a

culture of collaborative thinking among students, and between students and faculty.

Many teachers have been at the Mountain School for a decade or longer and all have

extensive experience working with teenagers. Our students are guided by talented

teachers who care.

Most of our courses make use of our unique setting and address themes with daily

relevance to students' experiences at the school. We also strive for a smooth academic

transition, ensuring that each student is fully prepared to reenter the curriculum of the

home school.

Academic Courses

Students take five academic classes for a full semester credit. English and Environmental

Science are required, and students take three of the following: Math, Language (French,

Spanish, Latin, Chinese), U.S. History, Physics, Chemistry (spring only), Humanities and

Studio Art. Every student participates in our Outdoor Program which counts as a Physical

Education credit. Our classes are all offered at the Honors or AP level.

Because our forty-five students come from over thirty different schools, this diversity of

voices helps to make class discussions dynamic and engaging. Mountain School classes

are small and interactive, with an emphasis on effective public speaking, collaborative

problem-solving, and experiential learning—much of it outdoors. Classes range in size

from two to sixteen, with an average class size of eight.

Introduction
Mission

The Mountain School cultivates a diverse and interdependent community of scholars who

learn to know a place and take care of it. Through collaborative learning and shared

work, students emerge from their semester prepared to reach beyond the self and focus

on the common good.


Who We Are

Each semester 45 motivated high school juniors from all over the country come together

to live and work on the school’s farm in rural Vermont. Students and faculty build

together a semester based on trust and an appreciation of difference, creating an

academic and work-based community in which every voice matters. While living with

teachers in small houses, students help to make important decisions concerning how we

live together. Courses provide a demanding, integrated learning experience that takes

advantage of the school's small size and mountain campus. Balancing intellectual inquiry

and experiential learning, the curriculum challenges students to think flexibly, speak their

minds and return to their schools equipped for continued academic success. Engagement

with the farm and forest sparks an appreciation for their food, their fuel and their labor.

Inclusion

The success of our school depends on assembling students and teachers who represent a

range of cultures and ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, genders and sexualities,

political leaning and religious faiths. We aspire for everyone to feel welcome and fully at

home on our campus. Understanding our history involves acknowledging that this sense

of belonging is easier to attain at the outset for some members than for others. So far,

we have two affinity groups, one for students and teachers of color and one for LGBTQ+

students and teachers. Students from past semesters have found those groups to be

important spaces for conversation and support. Efforts are underway to strengthen the

connection between alumni of those groups and current student members. Ultimately, we

hope that all students will let themselves be known here and leave prepared to create

more welcoming environments in their schools and home communities.

Academic Accreditation

The Mountain School of Milton Academy is accredited by the New England Association of

Schools and Colleges. Admission is selective.

Curriculum
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE (REQUIRED)

HONORS

Using the farm, pastures, and forests of our 350-acre campus, students apply concepts
and field skills that they learn in class to the natural world. In class, students might learn

of such geologic forces as glaciers and the consequences of a changing global climate;

then they will head into the field to observe these effects. By examining the current

forest trends and past disturbance history, students assemble the story of a particular

site on campus. They gain an understanding of the ecological and cultural forces that

have shaped New England and how some of these impacts play out on a global scale.

Because the course uses the opportunities available on campus, it does not follow the AP

curriculum and is not intended to prepare students for the AP exam. There is a field

component of the course that meets for an additional 3-hour period each week.

ENGLISH (REQUIRED)

HONORS

Together we explore questions that arise naturally in the course of students’ four months

here: How have our conflicting attitudes toward land shifted over time? What gets in the

way of people understanding each other? Discussions help us understand people with

different points of view: a mining geologist, a Vermont apple farmer, a Pakistani

immigrant. Students learn the skills of close reading, clear writing, and confident

speaking. Authors include, among others, William Wordsworth, R.W. Emerson, Flannery

O’Connor, Raymond Carver, Jhumpa Lahiri, ZZ Packer, and Danielle Evans. Many

students take one of the AP English exams in May.

U.S. HISTORY

AP

The fall term begins with a study of pre-Columbian America and focuses on English

colonization (1607-1763), the American Revolution (1763-1800), and the sectional

tensions that led to the Civil War. The spring term course starts with an examination of

Reconstruction as a prelude to the issues underlying late 19th and 20th century America,

which we trace all the way to the present. Students develop their ability to ask important

and provocative questions; to approach those questions collaboratively; to read

purposefully and take notes efficiently; and to see history as a resource for the decisions

that they make in their lives. This is not a traditional AP course, but students who

complete all the course requirements will be well prepared for the AP and SAT II tests in
U.S. History. There are no prerequisites for this course, though we highly recommend

that spring semester students take the first term of U.S. History in the fall.

MATHEMATICS

HONORS Algebra II, Precalculus, AP Calculus

Math classes are designed to prepare each student for re-entry at the appropriate point

in the home school's mathematics program while also allowing each student to take

advantage of the unique learning environment at the Mountain School. This environment

includes small classes, close relationships with teachers, opportunities for both

independent and group work, and a physical setting full of potential mathematics

applications. Students are divided into math classes based on a detailed questionnaire

completed by a math teacher at the home school. In a typical semester we have one

section of Algebra II, three to four sections of Precalculus, one section of AB and/or BC

Calculus, and one section of independent math. In the spring semester, we also offer a

Precalculus/Calculus section that includes an introduction to differential calculus.

LANGUAGES

Intermediate (HONORS) & Advanced (AP)—Spanish, French, Latin, Chinese

The Mountain School offers French, Spanish, Chinese and Latin at the intermediate and

advanced levels. A minimum of two years of high school language study is required for

each course. Placement is determined by a questionnaire completed by a language

teacher at the home school. In intermediate French and Spanish, classes are taught

completely in the target language and students build skills through guided discussions,

grammar practice, structured reading, and short, focused writing. In the advanced levels,

students read major literary works, write analytical and creative essays, and take turns

leading discussions. Latin classes are run like small-group tutorials and are designed to

prepare each student for re-entry into the home school curriculum. The Advanced

Chinese course is not an AP course. Advanced French, Spanish, and Latin do prepare

students for the AP exams in May.

 FRENCH (INTERMEDIATE)

HONORS
Students develop an understanding of Francophone cultures and literature through the

study of selected texts.Readings include articles, editorials, and short stories from

Francophone authors with texts such as Le château de ma mere. The course also includes

a selection of movies for discussion.Weekly at lunch, students practice their speaking

skills in a relaxed setting at the French language table.

 FRENCH (ADVANCED)

AP

The AP Language and Culture class is for students who have had at least four years of

French study. This assumes that students have learned the grammar necessary to

communicate their ideas in French. This class will further develop their language skills

and enrich their vocabulary, centered on main themes presented in the AP French

Language and Culture Framework. The course is conducted exclusively in French to

provide students with an immersion experience. Class activities consist of conversations,

written and spoken evaluations, and grammar exercises. Final Projects vary: movies,

comic strips, short novels, magazines or plays.Students enrolled in this class are

expected to read major literary works independently, as well as lead class discussions in

French.

 SPANISH (INTERMEDIATE)

HONORS

Students read short stories, study maps of the Spanish-speaking world, listen to Hispanic

music and watch several films to challenge them to become more competent speakers,

writers, and readers of Spanish. The grammar topics covered each semester vary

depending on the needs of the particular group. A typical fall may cover all the indicative

tenses, review pronoun use, prepositions, conjunctions, the uses of “ser” and “estar” and

how to make comparisons. Spring semester students begin with a review of topics

covered in the fall and moves into the tenses of the subjunctive mood. Every week at

lunch, students practice their speaking skills in a relaxed setting at the Spanish table.

 SPANISH (ADVANCED)

AP
Competent students of Spanish refine their skills as writers, readers, speakers, and

listeners of the language. Intensive grammar review of all topics, short speeches on

current events, composition writing and revision, and discussions based on literary texts

and current films allow students in this course a wide range of opportunities to achieve

fluency in all areas. We use Una vez más as the primary grammar text and workbook.

Though other texts may change depending on the needs of the students in a particular

semester, some examples includeGabriel García Marques’s Crónica de una muerte

anunciada and poems by Nicolás Guillén. Some weeks at lunch, students practice their

speaking skills in a relaxed setting at the Spanish table. This course prepares students

for the AP language exam, and with some individual study, for the SAT II test.

 LATIN

HONORS Intermediate, AP Vergil and/or Casear

Latin classes are run like small-group tutorials and are designed to prepare each student

for re-entry into the home school curriculum. At the intermediate level, the course

emphasizes grammar. Texts may include Wheelock's Latin and the poetry of Catullus and

Ovid. At the advanced level, students focus intensely on Vergil’s Aeneidor on the work of

Caesar, depending on what they have covered in their AP courses at home in the

previous semester, learning to translate the original text into smooth English and to

recognize the various figures of speech that enhance the language. The teacher chooses

books and passages by the AP syllabus and students’ previous experience. The advanced

course prepares students for the AP exam in May.

STUDIO ART

HONORS

Led by a local artist and teacher, students explore the media of drawing and painting.

The course emphasizes creative expression and allows beginners to succeed and

experienced students to be challenged. Students learn visual language, apply various

techniques, and solve problems by means of a creative process. The semester of work

includes keeping a daily tree journal. Students’ work culminates in a final project of the

student’s own design and a celebratory art show.


HUMANITIES

HONORS

This class considers the nature of human inquiry, particularly in the fields of science, and

some of the controversies that have sprung from our urge to understand better how the

world works. Drawing on a wide range of readings—among them Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael,

Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the Unabomber’s manifesto, and McKibben’s The End of

Nature—Humanities provides a forum in which one can discuss the tough issues that

often accompany advances in human knowledge. Interdisciplinary writing, dialogical

thinking, public speaking, and small-group discussion are the core skills of the course.

PHYSICS

HONORS

The autumn syllabus includes study of motion, force, gravity, work, and energy and the

spring syllabus includes harmonic motion, electrostatics, magnetism, and optics; either

can be tailored to meet the requirements of individual sending schools. Laboratory

exercises give students hands-on experience with physical principles and build their skills

in investigative science. This honors level class covers a rigorous first-year physics

curriculum. Since math is used extensively in solving problems, students should have a

solid foundation in algebra and trigonometry. The program is designed to meet the needs

of students coming from or returning to a rigorous math-based physics class while also

developing a solid foundation in conceptual physics. This class is not intended to prepare

students for the AP Physics exam.

CHEMISTRY (SPRING SEMESTER ONLY)

HONORS

This course is designed to provide a challenging second-semester of introductory

chemistry to students who have already completed the first semester at their home

schools. The course integrates the special opportunity of a working organic farm in its

teaching principles. Students use the campus setting as their laboratory: they measure

the boiling point of maple sap, analyze nutrient cycling on the farm, and write reports of

demonstrations. Typical topics include: molecular geometry, kinetics, equilibria, acid-

base interactions, thermodynamics, and redox reactions. Teachers from the home school
complete a questionnaire indicating a student’s experience to make the transition as

smooth as possible. This course prepares students to take the SAT II subject test but is

not intended as an AP course.

OUTDOOR PROGRAM: 1 Physical Education credit: 3.5 hours/week for 16 weeks

The Outdoor Program helps every student develop the skills to travel safely and

comfortably outside, to camp with minimal impact on the land, and to understand the

intricacies of the natural world. On weekly outdoor hikes, students hike and gain

proficiency in map and compass skills, basic camping techniques, and animal tracking. A

three-day solo camping trip in the early fall or late spring gives each student the

opportunity to practice these skills and to connect intimately with one specific place. We

have designed a solo camping experience that allows even those who have never

previously slept outdoors to thrive.

The Outdoor Program also encourages students to try recreational activities specific to

our locale. In the spring, students enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on our

campus trails. Safety is always our highest priority: all faculty are certified in Wilderness

First Aid and CPR, and a portion of the faculty are either EMTs or Wilderness First

Responders.
http://www.mountainschool.org/

ABOUT THE MOUNTAIN SCHOOL


What does it take to have the “best semester of your life?” This is the phrase graduates of the
Mountain School of Milton Academy use to describe their four month experience living in
Vermont. From all across the country – Boston to New York to California and everywhere in
between – 45 motivated high school juniors come together to create a diverse community
based on trust and an appreciation of difference in which every voice matters. Academic
courses provide demanding, integrated and experiential learning that challenges students to
think flexibly, speak their minds, and return to their schools equipped for continued academic
success. The Mountain School takes full of advantage of its unique setting on a fully
sustainable organic farm in the middle of the Green Mountains as a teaching tool. Students
spend their afternoons hiking and skiing, engaging in farm and forestry work, and learning
environmental science as it relates to their specific location. Through each of these activities,
as well as dorm life and whole school discussions, students build high caliber relationships
with each other and faculty and are continually challenged to reach beyond themselves for the
common good.
.....................

How is Evergreen school innovative?

In 2012, Evergreen was one of 78 schools in the nation to be recognized as a


“Green Ribbon School,” a title given both for its high performance and its
dedication to environmental education and action. The K–8 school’s
sustainable initiatives include: stream and creek clean-ups, “leave-no-trace”
ethics on all school outings, rooftop solar panels, a greenhouse, a composting
system, and an aquaculture program.

In addition to the school's architectural embodiment of environmental values,


its programs encourage students to learn holistically by participating in outdoor
activities that pique wonder and curiosity in the face of nature. These
principles are incorporated through a partnership with Expeditionary Learning,
an organization that works with schools like Evergreen and Clairemont
Elementary School, another Noodle innovative school, to implement a
pedagogical approach based on Outward Bound’s experiential model. In this
vein, Evergreen students go on place-based expeditions that allow them to put
into practice what they learn in the classroom, and most classes take an
overnight trip at the end of the school year. These experiences help students
develop problem-solving skills and independence by allowing them to form
their own theories and conclusions through self-directed learning.

Older students are asked to think critically about how environmental concerns
affect their community and the larger society. They apply this learning as they
discuss current events, government, social studies, and business. For
instance, seventh-graders have explored agricultural techniques used to grow
food in environments faced with scarcity. Students interested in taking this
environmental education a step further can participate in the Evergreen
LEADER (Learning Environmental Action, Developing Expertise and
Responsibility) program. This initiative lasts all three years of middle school,
with students selecting an environmental topic of interest in sixth grade,
learning about it through seventh grade, and creating a project that raises
awareness about it in eighth grade.

In addition, the school has an established diversity plan, believing that


students, faculty, staff, and board members should represent different
backgrounds, and that the curriculum should be developed with social justice
in mind.
What are the outcomes of Evergreen’s innovation?

In addition to the Green Ribbon it received in 2012, Evergreen has been


recognized twice (in 2010–2011 and 2011–2012) as a North Carolina Honors
School of Excellence for having higher than expected growth — this
recognition is given to fewer than eight percent of the state’s schools. This
year, the school did not meet its growth goals, but students still scored higher
on state tests than the North Carolina average. For instance, while 80.8
percent of Evergreen students scored at or above proficiency levels in reading,
the state average was 56.3 percent (for math, the numbers were 64.7 percent
for Evergreen and 51.1 percent for the state average).

Graduates from Evergreen go on to accomplish many impressive feats, from


gaining admission to schools such as Interlochen (also a Noodle innovative
school) and Phillips Academy to traveling around the world, sometimes
through initiatives like the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. Graduates also
maintain their dedication to sustainable development after leaving the school.
Evergreen’s alumni page notes the story of Eowyn Lucas, who won a grant for
making her high school cafeteria more environmentally friendly, and that of
Kira Bursky, who created a film called “Tree Hugger,” which was shown at the
Cannes Film Festival.

How is Evergreen’s innovation relevant to the larger ed space?

It could be argued that with only 78 schools receiving Green Ribbons, the K–
12 space is sorely lacking in sustainability education. Not only has Evergreen
made environmentalism a focus in its curriculum, but it has also found a way to
transform its students into environmental activists who take the school’s focus
on sustainable development and apply it in their future lives and larger
communities. If more schools cultivated a sense of environmental
responsibility in the way that Evergreen has, the world — and not just the ed
space — would be a better place.

*****

OUR MISSION
Evergreen Community Charter School is a learning community committed to the
pursuit of excellence in holistic education of mind, body, and spirit. We prepare
students for successful lifelong learning, social responsibility, environmental
stewardship, and service. We value the voice of every member of our community.

OUR VISION
Working in partnership with parents, elders, and the community, Evergreen
Community Charter School offers an academically challenging, developmentally
appropriate, experiential, holistic, child-centered education to all young people. We
nurture a passion for learning that lasts a lifetime as we challenge our community
to discover their individual gifts, to honor their inner worth, to strive for excellence,
to pursue respectful and ethical relationships with themselves and others, and to
find their own path of service.

CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION

In pursuit of our mission and continual improvement, Evergreen’s curriculum is broad,


holistic, differentiated to meet the needs of all students, and intentionally designed to cultivate
21st century skills including creative problem solving, critical thinking, global awareness,
communication, information literacy, collaboration, and leadership.

We believe that students benefit from heterogeneous learning environments where they are
encouraged to learn from and collaborate with students of different abilities, backgrounds, and
interests. We also believe that students benefit from opportunities to work in smaller, flexible
groups with specialized instruction that addresses particular abilities or interests. Accordingly,
our differentiated services program provides both pull-out and push-in instruction; we have no
self-contained special education classrooms. Some Exceptional Children’s’ instruction and
Title I tutoring services are provided through differentiation in the classroom. Other
instruction is provided through small group pull-out instruction prescribed by the students’
Individualized Education Plan. Similarly, our Program for Advanced Learners (PAL) follows
the Levels of Service Approach which prescribes services for most students through
differentiation in the regular classroom. Some students receive direct instruction from the
PAL teacher through weekly reading or math groups. EC staff and the PAL Coordinator
work collaboratively with teachers to plan instruction, assignments, and homework that
accommodate the needs of all children.

We believe that school is a place to develop physical, social and emotional skills, as well as
intellectual abilities. For this reason, all Evergreen students participate in a broad range of
arts, adventure, character education, and service learning activities in the classroom, outdoors,
and in the community as part of the regular school day. Students enjoy a balance of healthy
play and structured, experiential learning that results in quality academic products. They are
taught and expected to practice responsible, independent exploration and cooperative, teacher-
directed activities.

Evergreen teachers practice active pedagogy as described by the Core Practices Expeditionary
Learning Schools. Teachers establish and share with students short and long-term learning
targets for lessons. Students’ progress toward these targets is regularly assessed and teachers
use the results of assessment to plan and revise further instruction. Students take
responsibility for their learning by producing and being able to explain work that may include
daily notes, learning logs, papers, tests, illustrations, cooperative activities or discussions,
projects, or performances.

In addition, some Common Core or North Carolina Essential Standards may be


taught outside of expedition through more traditional reading, math, science, or social studies
lessons.
Literacy
Early grades provide direct reading instruction that develops students’ understanding of
phonics and decoding a text as well as reading comprehension. Primary and middle students
learn reading strategies for both fiction and nonfiction texts. They learn to be critical readers,
and they read to learn about the topics of their expeditions and in the content areas of social
studies and science.

Evergreen students write daily. Kindergarteners learn manuscript as their first writing system;
by third grade, students have also learned to write in cursive. Beginning in second grade,
students also learn keyboarding skills as part of the technology curriculum. Students learn to
write a variety of forms (stories, poems, essays, letters), and also learn through writing lists,
notes, reflections, and informal responses. Clear, well-organized, purposeful writing is
emphasized as a tool for effective communication and expression. Thus, students are
encouraged to get their ideas on the page but also to follow the conventions of standard
grammar, spelling, and punctuation that enable a reader to find meaning. Students have ample
opportunities to share their writing with real audiences inside and outside the school
community.

Both reading and writing instruction are generally taught through a workshop approach which
includes mini-lessons in strategies and technique, independent practice, critique and revision
conferences with both peers and teachers, and a dynamic conversation between readers and
writers. Reading and writing are assessed through individual conferences and through
projects, papers, and standardized tests.

Mathematics
Math is taught through an inquiry-based approach. While Evergreen follows the sequence of
math skills laid out in the Common Core, our emphasis is on teaching students to understand
the concepts that underlie mathematical problem solving. Teachers use a variety of hands-on
manipulatives and problem-solving activities—games, story problems, real-world
challenges—to teach these concepts. The memorization of math facts—basic addition and
multiplication tables—is an essential foundation for advancing through the math curriculum.
Because math is a subject that generally requires sequential learning, beginning in third grade,
math classes are differentiated by ability across the grade level. Each grade level typically
has two or three different math classes, each with its own instructor. Teachers also incorporate
math instruction into expeditions as appropriate.

Social Studies and Science


Social Studies and Science topics are often the driving force behind expeditions. In the
elementary grades, they are not taught as separate topics but rather represent the backbone of
expeditions on topics such as Community Workers (K), Forces and Motions (1), Life Cycles
(2), The Laws of Physics (3), North Carolina History (4) and Agriculture (5). In the middle
school, social studies and science are taught as separate subjects, but teachers collaborate with
each other to align and integrate their subjects under the umbrella of grade-wide expeditions.

Fieldwork is an important component of all expeditions. Each year, Evergreen students


participate in over 200 fieldwork experiences. These trips are a way to engage students, to
learn about community resources or gather information, and to tap into the knowledge of
community experts. A field trip to a museum or historical site can help students make sense of
what they have read and heard; trips to plays or other productions provoke dialogue and
exploration of art forms and literature, and they provide motivation and inspire creativity.
During these activities, students use the tools of experts in the field, find answers to their own
questions, develop confidence in themselves and their abilities, and collaborate with each
other through shared experiences.

Expeditionary Learning conducts an Implementation Review annually to determine the degree


to which the school is using EL power practices. Our target score this year was 98 out of a
possible 130. Our score last year was 105; this year our score was 108. The results of this
assessment for 2015 are shown below. Power practices are rated from 1 to 5, with 5 being the
highest level of implementation. The areas on which we scored a 3 are considered areas for
growth: Learning Targets, Analyzing Assessment Data. The areas on which we scored a 5 are
considered areas of strength: Learning Expeditions, Supporting All Students, Culture of
Reading, Culture of Writing, Supporting Planning, Assessment & Instruction, and Positive
School Culture.
Environmental Education
Evergreen employs a Coordinator of Environmental Education (EE) who works with teachers
and the broader community to provide resources, opportunities, and instruction to
cultivate environmental citizenship among our students. Environmental Education often
intersects with the science and social studies curricula in the regular classroom, but it also
takes students into the field where students have many opportunities to observe and explore
the natural world directly—on campus, in many natural areas of Western North Carolina, and
beyond. Among the on-campus resources available for environmental studies are a solar-
powered weather station, a community garden, an outdoor classroom with a living roof and
cob oven, a variety of birdhouses and feeders, a straw bale and cob playhouse, the EL nature
trail, and a wetlands pond.

Our place-based, environmental education program attends to components described by the


North American Association of Environmental Educators. They are: Questioning, Analysis
and Interpretation Skills; Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems; Skills for
Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues; and Personal and Civic Responsibility.

Evergreen’s developmentally appropriate program engages our youngest learners in outdoor


activities that foster awe and wonder and promote a love of nature. As children evolve in their
thinking, the EE emphasis is on exploring and gaining an understanding of the local
environment. Students in upper grades focus on stewardship of the land and thinking critically
about issues in their community. From grade to grade, students develop a sense of place that
begins with personal environments and progresses to the global environment.

Through these positive experiences, we hope that students will become stewards of the land
and their community, developing a sense of purposeful citizenship and identifying for
themselves their role in nature and society. Students will be empowered to generate solutions
and make positive changes, understanding that they can make a difference—individually and
collectively.

Visual Arts & Arts Integration


Students in grades K-8 receive weekly art instruction. Frequently, art projects are integrated
into expeditions—from illustrating a bird field guide to designing a “green” school facility.
This provides students with the opportunity to learn about art as a discipline, but also as a
vehicle for learning and memory, communication and presentation, creativity and self-
expression. Students explore a variety of media including clay, collage, quilting, drawing,
painting, and puppet and mask making.

Music
K-5 students have music once weekly. Music instruction at the earliest grades is designed to
be fun, to provide an avenue for expression, and to establish a foundation for lifelong
enjoyment of music. Children participate in singing, movement and rhythm activities, sign
language, and beginning music theory and history. Kindergarten through second graders have
a weekly song circle together as do third through fifth graders. Starting in fifth grade, students
learn to play the marimba, an African rhythm instrument. Students at all grade levels perform
at school assemblies and Community Circles.

Adventure/Physical Education
Students attend physical education classes one to two times per week. In addition, all classes
have daily recess or break times where students engage in active play, and many of the classes
have regular times for calisthenics, yoga, or brain gym. These activities help students to
develop skills for fitness and healthy living, they prepare bodies and brains for learning, and
they provide important social interactions and opportunities for team building.

In addition to regular activity for the purpose of fitness and skill building, our Expeditionary
Learning Outward Bound philosophy places a value on adventure activities that challenge and
inspire students. Ropes courses, climbing excursions, hiking, caving, rafting, biking, or
camping are common adventure learning experiences, particularly in the older grades. All
grades participate in an overnight end-of-year adventure trip, from “camping” in the
classroom in kindergarten to a week-long Outward Bound backpacking course in eighth
grade. We have a full-time Adventure/PE teacher to help coordinate the adventure program.
Evergreen is also a host site for The American Adventure Service Corps (TAASC), a year-
round adventure and service program that serves 8-18 year old students after school and
during the summers.

Technology
Students in grades 2-8 attend weekly technology class. In class, they learn how to use
technology to access, manipulate and present information related to their expedition studies.
In addition to technology classes, teachers can schedule use of the computer lab or mobile
laptop cart as needed to allow students to engage in in-depth projects that require the use of
information resources and/or technology for presentations or productions.

Health & Wellness


Students learn about and practice health and wellness in a variety of ways at Evergreen. In the
regular classroom, health and wellness topics are integrated into expeditions (e.g., Healthy
Foods in kindergarten, an exploration of organic agriculture in fifth grade). Health and
wellness are addressed during recess, physical education, Crew, and adventure trips. In
addition, our middle school counselor and health teacher provide holistic wellness classes on
specific topics including hygiene, puberty, sexual responsibility, substance use, social skills,
healthy decision-making, diversity acceptance, and mental and emotional health.

ASSESSMENT AND REPORTING


Formative Assessment For Learning

Formative assessment occurs daily in Evergreen classrooms. Expeditionary Learning is a data-driven


methodology so teachers are expected to collect both quantitative and qualitative data on students’
progress as an integral aspect of effective teaching and learning. Prior to teaching a new concept or
skill, teachers will use classroom-based assessments, developmental or academic benchmarks,
performance assessments, and data from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) MAP
assessment to help them review goals for each subject area, plan their instruction, group students
appropriately, revise instructional objectives, and target re-teaching. Following the instruction,
teachers again assess whether students have met the learning target for the lesson or assignment.
Assessments for Learning (formative assessments) may take the form of quizzes, observations,
conferences, reading level assessments, homework checks, reflections, exit passes, or other informal
checks of student understanding. Teachers are expected to provide regular feedback to students and
parents about students’ progress, and to model a standard for quality work so that students can
revise their first efforts in order to meet the standard. Feedback for students should be provided in a
timely manner, typically within one week of the assessment, so that students revise and improve
their performance optimally. Reporting to parents should be done in the form of sending home some
student work, consistent bi-weekly communication through the class website or newsletter, bi-
annual student-led conferences, and parent conferences as necessary for students who are not
meeting expectations. In middle school, teachers are expected to enter assignment grades into an
on-line grading system accessible to parents within two weeks of collecting an assignment.

In addition, twice a year, in fall and spring, students in grades 3-8 take a computerized assessment
called the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) in math, reading, and language use designed by the
Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA). This assessment provides teachers and parents with a
wealth of data about students’ understanding and progress in these areas including detailed
information about concepts each student is ready to learn. A written report of the assessment results
is provided to parents, but this data is not reported to state or federal regulators. For more
information about the MAP assessment, see NWEA.org.

Summative Assessment of Learning

Evergreen recognizes and values multiple measures of student performance including teacher-
created tests, performance-based assessments, cumulative evidence of learning and growth
compiled in portfolios, and standardized tests. Summative assessment takes place periodically and is
reported to parents at the end of each trimester, in November, February, and June. In addition,
teachers complete a brief mid-term report in January which indicates whether the student is at risk
for not passing (a parent conference will be required).

Teacher-created tests that assess a student’s skills or knowledge following instruction provide
evidence to support marks on progress reports issued at the end of a trimester. Evergreen’s progress
reports are standards-based, meaning that the North Carolina grade-level standards in each core
subject area are translated into learning “power targets.” Teachers assess and report whether
students have met, partially met, not met, or exceeded the learning target based on measurable
evidence of progress and learning.

Performance-Based Assessments are tasks that demonstrate both the North Carolina grade level
standards and knowledge taught through expeditions. These tasks demonstrate the skills and
concepts students should be able to competently perform for promotion to the next grade level.
Performance tasks include polished written products, projects, collaborative problem-solving or
performances (e.g., a play or demonstration), oral reports, or individual demonstrations of learning.
These assessments often also serve as evidence for progress reported on trimester report cards.

In addition, they are documented in student portfolios that are shared with parents at student-led
conferences held twice each year, once in the fall and once in the spring. All parents are required to
attend these conferences as part of their partnership agreement with the school. During
conferences, students show and describe their work in progress as evidence of their learning; parents
also have an opportunity to talk with teachers about the student’s progress. In addition to providing
evidence of performance, the portfolio and exhibitions of student work in the fall and spring
promote student responsibility for learning since students make choices about how to document
their work and explain how their work demonstrates the learning targets and answers expedition-
guiding questions.

Although Evergreen’s program is not “test-driven,” standardized testing is one of many measures of
student progress by which we measure our effectiveness as a school. State mandated end-of-year
test score information is distributed to students, families, and teachers as soon as it becomes
available and school-wide results can be found on the State Report Cards
website: http://www.ncreportcards.org/src/.

In 2005, Evergreen adapted the EL (Expeditionary Learning) educational model, which


fosters high achievement through integrated, experiential learning and teamwork. Teachers
design and implement challenging real-world “expeditions” that teach the North Carolina
Standard Course of Study mandated by our Charter. Students investigate a broad topic that
integrates big ideas and 21st century skills from several subject areas. While the expedition
topic is often driven by science or social studies content, it integrates literacy and math skills
as well as arts, technology, adventure, and service learning. Expeditions incorporate
fieldwork, community partnerships, and local experts who invite students to answer relevant
questions about the environment, culture, politics, and economics of local and global
communities. Expeditions facilitate a sense of place and stewardship through environmental
education and service learning components. In the spring of 2013, Evergreen was invited to
become an EL Mentor School because of our deep implantation of EL core practices.
Evergreen’s goal is to enable students to exceed North Carolina’s grade level standards and to
become life-long learners prepared to embrace the challenges of the 21st century with skills
that include critical and creative thinking, strong written and verbal communication,
information literacy, collaboration, flexibility, leadership, and responsibility.

http://www.evergreenccs.org/

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How are FirstLine Schools innovative?

The FirstLine Schools charter school network has pioneered a number of


educational innovations, including personalized learning initiatives and
emphasis on teacher professional development. Still, it is probably best-known
for its partnership with chef, food activist, and National Humanities medal
winner Alice Waters, who founded Edible Schoolyard New
Orleans (ESYNOLA) in 2006.

The network, which consists of two K–8 schools (Arthur Ashe Charter
School and Samuel J. Green Charter School), two pre-K–8 schools (Phillis
Wheatley Community School and Langston Hughes Academy), and one high
school (Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School), serves 2,400 students in a
garden- and food-centric environment. All schools provide students with
hands-on experience gardening and cooking the food they’ve grown.
The Phillis Wheatley Community School — formerly called the John Dibert
Community School — further empowers students and their families with Share
Our Strength’s Cooking Matters curriculum, which is based on experiential
food education.

The collaboration between ESYNOLA and FirstLine Schools has led to a


comprehensive health and wellness initiative that began in 2012, when
network leaders implemented more stringent food-quality standards
throughout the five schools. The partnership has also extended the food-based
education that students receive to include their families, with cooking classes
and food-based events that are open to the community. Additionally, FirstLine
Schools began offering free recess workshops in order to promote increased
physical activity throughout the day, and free fitness classes are offered to
students and their families after school.

What are the outcomes of FirstLine Schools’ innovation?

FirstLine partnered with the Prevention Research Center at Tulane


University to assess the impactof the food-centric curriculum, and found that in
addition to increasing access to fresh produce, the initiative led students to
become more involved in preparing food at home.

During its pilot year, FirstLine’s Wellness Initiative garnered all five schools the
Gold Award of Distinction for the HealthierUS School Challenge, in recognition
of Excellence in Nutrition and Physical Activity.

With a focus on the development of the whole child, FirstLine Schools have
made significant progress in helping students improve academically — beyond
their feats in the garden, kitchen, and playground. While there is still progress
to be made in increasing the number of students who perform at the Basic
level or above on the iLEAP and LEAP tests, FirstLine students have
made impressive strides over the past several years and are, in the network’s
apt characterization, on “strong upward trajectories.”

How FirstLine Schools’ innovation relevant to the larger ed space?

ESYNOLA is the first affiliate of the Edible Schoolyard (ESY) program, which
launched in Berkeley, CA in 1995. The success of ESYNOLA was crucial for
demonstrating that an education grounded in students’ relationship to food can
happen anywhere — and indeed, it helped create a thriving school network in
post-Katrina New Orleans. The success of the affiliation resulted in the
founding of five other programs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Greensboro,
Brooklyn, and Lake Placid.

*This link will lead you to Samuel J. Green Charter School, the first school to
be founded in the FirstLine network. Use the Noodle search tool to find other
FirstLine schools in New Orleans.

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