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.
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