Typically, 6th-9th grade students take their five academic classes in the morning—English, math, science, language, and Social Studies/History. Our academic classes are fairly “traditional” in the way in which instruction is delivered. This includes direct instruction, inquiry-based projects, and socratic seminars and discussions. These methodologies are coupled with on-going formative and summative assessments throughout a given unit of study. Additionally, 2-3 times a year each class and/or grade level takes the time to dive deeply into integrated, project-based learning units.
Samples of Project-based Learning
A typical 6th grade project is our Shark Tank unit where each team of students determines an environmental problem that needs solving in a Spanish speaking country. They then set out to design a creative solution to that problem using design-inspired, environmental science principles, and buoyancy tests for transporting their product to market. Students design promotional brochures, use their Spanish site words to identify keywords, and finally “pitch” their new product to the “Sharks” (their parents) using persuasive public speaking skills.
In 7th grade students are both inspired and enlightened to learn about the small business needs in other countries in their Human Geography “Walk for Water” unit. After a financial literacy course, and tips on how to fundraise for their own investment in a small business, students select a business in which to invest through our community partner, kiva.org. As a follow-up, the students read the book “A Long Walk to Water” and then are challenged to design their own water-carrying device, and trek their own buckets of water to school on a designated day. For extra credit, they work hard to only use the water they transported as their daily allotment of water.
Creative Arts & Sports
In the afternoon the students engage in our elective program, where they are enrolled in two elective classes. These interactive classes range from fine art classes such as drawing and painting, ceramics, and crafts, to drama, media arts, photography, guitar, sports classes (yoga, ultimate Frisbee, pickleball and strength training), and team sports in soccer, basketball, volleyball and flag football. We also offer Homework Labs each quarter as an elective class option.