ARTICULATION OF SCHOOL INSTRUCTIONAL PHILOSOPHY
ALIGNMENT OF KEY METHODOLOGIES AT MOUNTAIN PHOENIX COMMUNITY SCHOOL
Articulation of Understanding of the Mountain Phoenix Community School –“MPCS”—Classroom Expectations for a Waldorf-inspired, Standards-based, Experiential Charter School- 1st Grade through 8th
Our Goal: To cultivate and educate children who are respectful, curious individuals, who can be engaged in the world and creatively solve tomorrow’s problems. This takes intentionality and consistency. The following prioritized list is intended to help teachers achieve both. The purpose is clarity in order to easily define and prioritize what is most important as teachers plan their lessons.
The approaches chosen represent what is most important in the development of MPCS as a unique school, at this time. They are intended to be the current, guiding infrastructure for every classroom. Each approach builds upon the next—their alignment intends for students to learn to think creatively.
Priority #1: Waldorf-Inspired
Note: This is first as it is the primary identifying philosophy we have put forth as its foundation.
• Structures/Rhythm of the Day: Purpose: These serve the children by creating consistent, predictable expectations they can depend on within each day. With these in place, work, learning and creativity can blossom. The unpredictability of transitions is made predictable and therefore do not dis-regulate or disrupt the learning momentum of the day. The result is a classroom culture of physical and emotional safety, engaged and focused learners whom teachers can enjoy!
• Beginning of the Day (Teacher’s choice, either A or B)
Purpose: to create a quiet, respectful learning environment and to set the tone for the rest of the day.
A) Children line up outside the classroom and are welcomed in by the teacher with a hand shake, with a look into the eyes to see how they are and quickly move along. Children should be entering the classroom, putting their things away in an orderly fashion, then standing or sitting at their desks. Or…
B) Children line up and teacher leads them in, put things away and goes directly to the circle immediately (quietly) where their teacher welcomes each child and goes directly into their morning circle activities.
*If teachers need help to firmly establish this rhythm, they are to contact their Parent Representatives so that they can find some consistent volunteers for teachers during this time.
Circle Time (activities to start the day—always a circle in the younger grades and can move to activities standing at their desks in older grades for part/all of the time)
Purpose: To begin the day awakening students’ brains and bodies to be engaged learners in this space. Works with speech, movement, music, and sharing, community building. “We are all one whole class, see us pass…” practicing times tables with bean bag tossing, singing, playing recorder pieces (in parts in the older grades), rod exercises for older children—Creating a class identity. Working as a whole!
Sample verse for beginning of circle:
“With happiness we greet this day
And all of you, with me stay
The sun shines down on us so bright
That we may work with all our might!”
• Greeting of Specials Teachers
Purpose: To maintain high expectations for children as they make transitions from one activity and teacher to another. To establish the learning environment prior to the ‘Specials’ teacher’s arrival in order to make the most of the specials class, and to communicate the value of what will be taught and respect for the person teaching.
A) Children must be prepared to greet the specials teacher, standing quietly when the teacher enters, all things put away in anticipation of their entrance to the class, making sure children begin in a respectful, quiet manner.
B) Teachers greet one another and class teacher passes class to the specialist after which the class teacher can leave.
C) Specialist has beginning verse or something that the children can count on every day. Then the specialist leads them through their beginning routine and then moves on to their lesson.
• Main Lesson ~ the Centerpiece of our curriculum
(follow Waldorf Curriculum as a guide for teacher’s main lesson blocks. Includes Colorado History for 3rd Grade according to the standards)
A) Thinking: Review prior day’s lesson (Head remembering/summarizing/answering probing questions that lead to higher level thinking).
B) Feeling: Story or heart of your lesson (Heart giving the children a feeling for this time in history, this subject—feeling and passion for science and math).
C) Willing or Doing: Work in main lesson book to summarize prior day’s lesson or do something like a project/hands on learning (‘Hand-doing’). What teachers choose to do here is their own creation, but it must be engaging, be relevant to what the children are learning and be done in a respectful environment where students are working (developing the will) through doing. This is where teachers are encouraged to tie their lesson to experiential learning and standards, making it relevant to the children (see Priority #2 & 3).
NOTE: Priority #1 paves the way so you can integrate Priority #2 & Priority #3.
Priority #2: Experiential learning as a component of Waldorf Education: “Educare”—means to draw forth. “Education is not to fill a bucket—It is to light a fire,” – it represents good teaching!
Purpose: To lead children to take ownership of their learning.
What is it? Experiential learning is any meaningful activity that is related to the unit and immerses the children in the material. Hands-on learning reinforces the lesson by bringing it into their experience. It is often created by the kids, or comes from their interests but is guided by the teacher (that’s the art). It is the MPCS intention to be sure that this is meaningful work that deepens the experience for the children and immerses them in the study of the topic. A simple craft project is not experiential learning. Using those craft projects to then create a living museum where kids can compare and contrast different Native American tribes is a good, experiential project.
It is the MPCS intention to think of projects that can span the entire unit and tie different topics of study within that unit together. This is also a good place to pull in standards to help create the project. It is also the MPCS intention to remember that time for thoughtful reflection about what is being studied and its relationship to the individual learner are important parts of experiential teaching.
Examples: Do something outside—go on a field trip. Plan a day of celebration and culmination for studying a different time or culture. Create appropriate garb, make their food, play their games, and reflect thoughtfully on the experience. Make habitats for bugs, and then find bugs to live in them. Or better yet, turn the classroom into a backyard full of bug habitats. Do something for the school that relates to the main lesson.
Priority #3: Standards-Based
Purpose: Waldorf schools have their own standards, and the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education provides Waldorf charters with documentation as they align or do not align with the Common Core standards. The MPCS charter states we will meet or exceed state standards. The MPCS faculty and staff continue to work on this alignment.
To advance consistency and compliance to public school standards-based education, standards provide accountability for MPCS, so that, as a school, beauty and classroom building projects and school activities do not supersede the necessary skills students will need to excel in high school and succeed in the 21st Century. By integrating Colorado standards, MPCS will ensure that students are receiving all the skills and content they need and will thus be prepared to move on to any other school at any time, should the need arise.
How to: Overarching Question. One way to incorporate the standards, while still providing a rich and challenging learning environment, is to create an overarching question for each main lesson block. The idea is that this is a question without a correct answer; one that can be answered in many ways. The trick is that the students must use the information they have mastered to support their answer.
For example: If in studying Medieval History, a teacher might have as an overarching question, “Is the Dark Ages an appropriate nickname for this period of time?” The teacher can then look at standards and teach about the economics of the time, the history, the way people lived, whatever the state of Colorado standards prescribe in social studies.
Teachers should feel free to include their own interests in the topic to share their passion for the subject or to target student needs. Throughout the block, teachers develop smaller probing questions that help dissect the overarching question and help the students process the relevance of the week’s lessons to the big question.
How to: Projects. Another way to incorporate state standards is to use them to inform the project for the unit. Projects can be anything; writing, building, creating, filming, drawing, or any combination of ideas.
For example: If the Colorado state standard is to teach dialogue writing, then the project for the astronomy unit might be to have the students create a three-page dialogue between three planets at the annual planet convention.
In the course of the dialogue, the students must demonstrate an understanding of the rules of writing dialogue, and five factual pieces of information about each planet. Or maybe the standard is demonstrating an understanding of cause and effect so the students build a diorama showing the effect on the planets if their order from the sun was altered. This leads to higher level thinking.
How to: Integration of State Standards. It is the intention of MPCS to try to make everything taught during a unit about that topic meaningfully — integrating skills that are being learned in other subjects. The writing standards can be brought into the main lesson block, or can be informed by the main lesson topic being taught. Students should read books about the topic; history, science, fiction, poetry, plays, essays, nonfiction—whatever can be incorporated to provide/enhance the learning experience the standard is looking for.
There should be an overarching question for each unit (e.g. Is the Dark Ages an Appropriate Nickname for the Middle Ages?), then teachers can pull in the economics and civics standards within the understanding of the barter system, feudalism, the role of the church etc. They can then lead the students to compare and contrast this period in history with how life is today.
For example: Writing Standards brought into the main lesson. Reading non-fiction about Rome during your block on Rome and having children read for meanings that are included in the standards.