Grouping students in multi-grade classes promotes personalized and cohesive communities of learners. This allows students to receive instruction from the same teachers over their years in the school. Increased familiarity between students and staff strengthens the school community and enhances instructional effectiveness. Advisory classrooms provide students with a “family” of students and an Advisory teacher who serves as their primary contact when dealing with issues at school. Students also develop healthy relationships with parent volunteers and community partners in on-going programs and projects.
Technology as a Tool
Technology can be a powerful learning tool for students. Student and staff use of technology is largely transparent and part of the everyday routine. Students are trained in the use of the various technological tools available to them and are expected to make wise use of them. Such tools may include: digital cameras, scanners, printers, digital video, and digital probe-ware for environmental monitoring.
We hold students to high standards. Not only are they expected to demonstrate proficiency in the basic skills of reading, writing, mathematics, and technology use; we also expect them to apply those skills to challenging issues and solve real world problems that have meaning to them. Additionally, they must make connections between the various disciplines to demonstrate an understanding of the interconnectedness of those real-life issues and problems. All classroom studies and field experiences are based on curricular components that address state and district learning standards.
The thematic and integrated approach to teaching engages students and naturally prepares them for the standardized state testing. Combined with the personalization of a small school, this creates a system that leads to student success as measured by classroom, school, and state assessments.
In order to align our program with high expectations for all students we continue to:
- Design opportunities that allow for the application of math, science, art, and communication in everyday learning and activities.
- Implement Best Practices in instruction and assessment.
- Acquire and or access literature text sets aligned to themes in Social Studies, Science, and Art.
- Acquire supplemental multimedia resources for Social Studies, Science, and Art thematic studies.
- Complete professional development coursework focused on integrating environmental education into the curriculum.
- Develop instruction to support personal learning needs.
- Model and implement culturally responsive instruction and learning
Performance Based Learning and Assessment
All students are expected to achieve state and district standards. In addition to traditional methods, we use a variety of authentic assessments to measure their progress towards these standards. These include project-based and issues-based learning, individual and group presentations, student portfolios, and use of the Writing Scoring Rubrics. We have adopted a standards-based policy for advancement from one grade level grouping to the next. To sustain a performance-based approach to assessment we continue to:
- Establish a process to support low-achieving students, including those who do not qualify for special services.
- Establish a school-wide portfolio assessment system
- Emphasize presentation skill development and use individual and group presentations as a method for students to demonstrate learning.
- Implement juried end-of-year culminating projects or demonstrations appropriate to students’ grade levels.
- Feature student work, presentations, and performances at parent meetings and community events.
Time to Collaborate
Since our inception, we have deeply valued collaborative time. We work closely with parents both individually and through our Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). The PTO strongly supports the staff and school programs via direct involvement and monetary commitment. At weekly staff meetings, we continually work on our program vision, develop relevant curriculum, and plan for our stewardship projects and adventure expeditions. We also take time as a whole staff to review our class lists student by student – identifying students who are struggling and discussing individual accomplishments and progress. Follow up actions to these student-review sessions may involve a parent-student-teacher conference or contact with a parent.
Strong working relationships can be established with a diverse group of businesses, non-profit organizations, public agencies, and individuals. These relationships continually strengthen and enrich curriculum and the learning experiences of students. Partnerships may include:
- County Parks
- City Parks and Agencies
- State Parks
- Boys & Girls Club
- National and Local Environmental Education Associations (NEEA)
- State Environmental Education Department
- Forest Protection Association
- Institute for Marine Sciences
- Native Plant Repositories
- Neighborhood organizations
- Watershed organizations
- The GLOBE Program (Geographic Learning and Observation to Benefit Environments)
- Local universities and colleges