Recently I was allowed to go into a charter elementary and middle school that was very, very interesting.
The students called their teachers by their first names. What?
Yes. I am being completely serious. There were second graders calling their teachers James and Diana. It was definitely something that I had to adjust to, but today I just wanted to recount my experience in the school.
This school had a curriculum that is project based. This means there are certain guidelines that teachers have to follow when making their lessons, but all of them are based on class or individual projects. For example, instead of getting a worksheet and learning about lighthouses students would read a story, create their own lighthouse, figure out how to power that lighthouse, learn about the weather that a lighthouse had to see through, and maybe even go visit a lighthouse or look up ones that operate nearby online. This holistic style of learning allows each class to get a complete understanding of a subject. The teachers of different subjects also coordinate. If in science students are learning about rocks, then they will be using rocks or equations about rocks in math, they will be singing about rocks in music, and they will be reading books about rocks in their reading class. I think this style of learning is engaging and effective. I saw firsthand how excited the students were to learn and to be in class. They were engaged in the activity they were participating in and were able to learn invaluable lessons like group cooperation and time management.
Emphasis on Community
This school also has a large emphasis on community as a whole. The different classes all have a morning meeting where they come together to greet each other and share about their days in the morning, which allows for the classroom to operate not only as grounds for learning, but also for building genuine relationships. This helps to cultivate fast friendships that are invaluable for young students. No only does the school focus on relationships within the classroom, but they focus on community relationships as well. Each Friday is focused on service learning where students have a chance to participate in service activities dedicated to causes in the community around them. They learn the needs of the people that they live with and try to help where they can. They also are really aware of the community around them. The teachers take them on walking tours of the different businesses surrounding the school so that the students know the larger community in which the school plays a big part.
Emphasis on Holistic Learning
No only do the students focus on learning inside the classroom, but there is big emphasis on all different types of learning. The school has a kitchen and the students take cooking classes where they sometimes make meals for the whole school. There is also ample amount of time for recess where the whole school plays together, just another way that they emphasize community. They take care of chickens, they have art classes, they go to the library, there are just so many different ways that the school allows the students to learn and grow, not only as students, but as children growing into adults.
I really am interested in the way this school is run and am excited to learn more as I continue to observe!