One more webpage of our fledgling classroom website is complete!
How We Go About It: Educational Approaches & Influences describes the inspirations that guide the Dome School elementary program. You can click over to the web page or read below (sadly, the graphics refused to copy-and-paste themselves below. You'll need to visit the web page for the visuals).
How We Go About It: Educational Approaches and Influences
Our hearts, heads, and spirits are guided by the Dome School Philosophy and Mission, as shared on the school's website HERE. Over the last four decades, our philosophy has translated into curriculum via a variety of educational approaches and influences, each a reflection of the time. Currently the elementary program is shaped by the following:
Small Multiage Classes with a Low Teacher-Student Ratio
From its inception, the elementary class has been an intimate gathering space for children of different ages, from age 6 to age 12 or so. In a multiage classroom, children of different ages form friendships, older children learn to mentor and lead, younger children learn to receive guidance from their older peers, teachers and children form a longer-lasting relationship, and we become a close-knit family.
Keeping our class size small has also helped facilitate an intimate atmosphere. The teacher-student ratio has ranged from 1:7 to 1:10 through the years. At times, all the children have spent the entire day with each other. Other times (when the group gets a bit big), the class splits into two learning areas. Currently the class is split, with 15 children in grades 1-2 gathering in the open classroom while 12 children in grades 3-5 gather with their teachers in the adjacent Amethyst Room. To learn more, read "Some Benefits of Multiage Grouping," by the Early Care and Education Center at the University of Wyoming.
Emergent Thematic Learning
In thematic learning, multiple subjects can be integrated into study of a theme, such as the themes of winter, Africa, or the oceans. Sometimes children will spend an entire day, week, or even multiple weeks focused entirely on a theme. We dive deeply into the theme, conclude our explorations, and then move on. Other times a theme will play a smaller part in the daily curriculum, coming in and out of focus over a longer period of time, like an undercurrent to our year.
Although teachers may provide the initial inspiration for the theme, it is the children's interest that will guide the theme's development and duration, allowing the theme to organically emerge into its fullest form. The initial theme may lead somewhere completely unexpected, even to entirely new themes. Learn more about Thematic Learning.
Social and Environmental Justice - Awareness and Activism
The Dome School has a long and proud history of activism. Children and adults consciously practice a respect for all cultures, genders, and ways of living; for all species and for Mother Earth. We learn the histories of people whose stories have been silenced, and when we feel the call, students and families take peaceful action to heal our planet. Learn more through "Creating Classrooms for Social Justice" and "Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design for the Elementary Classroom."
Multiple Intelligences - Respecting Multiple Ways of Being
The theory of Multiple Intelligences asserts that every human is intelligent and gifted, yet our strengths are diverse among eight categories of intelligence: (1) logical-mathematical, (2) verbal-linguistic, (3) musical, (4) visual-spatial, (5) interpersonal, (6) intrapersonal, (7) naturalistic, (8) bodily-kinesthetic.
As we explore thematic learning and other learning in the classroom, co-teachers aim to appeal to a variety of intelligences, or ways of learning.
The newest influence to the program is Arts-Based Integration, specifically the method taught by veteran educator Gina Angelique, coordinator of the Illinois Valley Riverstars Performing Arts program. Arts-Based Integration incorporates the fine and performing arts into other curricular areas.
And the Influences Never Cease...
We've never stopped experimenting with learning at the Dome School, and we probably never will! So, even though we're mainly guided by the above educational approaches and influences, we can't help but also get excited about brain-based learning, Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning, the work of Bev Bos, Waldorf, reflective teaching, growth versus fixed mindsets, Elizabeth Byrne Ferm's Freedom in Education, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Anarchist Pedagogies ... and the importance of awareness. We are here now.
Save the Dates: Curriculum Night (Wednesday 11/29) & Parent-Teacher Conferences (Thursday 11/30 - Friday 12/1)
Save the Dates!
Wednesday, November 29: Curriculum Night 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. (with supervision of children from 2:30 - 5:00 p.m.)
Thursday, November 30: School ends at 12 p.m. followed by parent-teacher conferences.
Friday, December 1: Parent-teacher conferences all day (no school).
(Conference sign-ups will be posted on the bulletin board before Thanksgiving break).
"Yes!!! I have a few. So, um, what's Curriculum Night and what's going to happen and have we ever done this before and do I really have to go?"
"Curriculum Night is new. The teachers recognized that Parent-Teacher Conferences have become, shall we say, LONG (60-90 minutes each!). Much of this time was spent discussing the curriculum in general to create the context for discussing each child's growth. We created Curriculum Night to answer the Big Picture questions, enabling shorter Parent-Teacher Conferences."
"But what exactly is Curriculum Night?"
Curriculum Night is, more or less, like Back-to-School Night. It's a chance to learn what the class has been doing so far this year, and where we're migrating to next (just like whales, always on the move!)"
"But aren't Parent-Teacher Conferences when we find out what our child has been learning, and how she/he/they is doing?"
"Well, Curriculum Night will give you the big picture -- for example, you'll get an overview of the Explode the Code reading program and learn what phonics skills are covered in each book. We'll also discuss the history of the school, the educational approaches and philosophies that influence the curriculum, our conflict resolution principles and process, and how children are assessed academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. You'll also spend time in your child's classroom, taking a long look around, asking questions, and clarifying any concerns or curiosities (so bring a list of questions, if you like!)."
"Is there a schedule for Curriculum Night?"
Yep. (The schedule may change a bit as we move closer towards the day).
2:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Teachers prepare classrooms (Children are supervised).
3:30 - 4 p.m.
Grown-ups gather together for a short presentation and Q & A about the history of the elementary program, educational influences, and upcoming changes (Children are supervised).
4:00 - 5 p.m.
Grown-ups divide into the Main Classroom (1st-2nd) or Amethyst Room (3rd-5th). Explore each group's curriculum through interactive dialogue with the teachers. Please ask questions, share any concerns, offer advice for the program, you name it ... we want feedback.
Please come. There will be snacks. (In teacher/parent talk, we call that last sentence "bribery.").
Hey grown ups, remember when you felt this giddy about dying leaves?