Students have outside time for playing, sports, sledding and barn chores.
Each group begins with a Morning Meeting to focus on community building and to orient for the day. We greet each other, exchange important news, share announcements, and discuss plans and issues that affect the group. Everyone gathers for an All School Meeting once a week.
Primary students explore new concepts and skills in math through hands-on activities in which they manipulate a variety of math materials and objects. As they progress toward understanding, they incorporate the use of symbols and engage in paper and pencil work. Students work with the teacher in direct and guided instruction, do projects, math games and independent practice. Science and math are often integrated when data collected from science explorations is analyzed and interpreted. We emphasize conceptual understanding, problem solving, real world applications, and fluency of math skills. Students work at their own level and at their own pace.
Reading aloud creates a shared world for a group, immerses them in a common literary experience, and serves as a springboard for discussions and for many content area explorations. Read alouds for the primary group include picture books as well as chapter books that take several weeks to finish.
We immerse primary students in intrinsically meaningful and engaging activities to support them as beginning readers and writers. We do shared readings of stories and poems to model the reading process, teach specific skills, and generate appreciation for story and language. We voice act stories through reader’s theater, and create puppet shows and small plays. We sing together, and students all have songbooks we create, so that they can read as well as sing the songs. We undertake integrated projects that focus on a topic, such as insects or dragons, and explore the topic through reading, writing, the arts, and hands-on activities. We do direct skill building through word and language study. The focus in all activities is multi-tiered to support students at different levels.
Primary students write daily in a writer’s workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to enable students to think and work like writers, to experience writing as a significant and compelling way to develop and communicate ideas, to cultivate a love of writing, and to experience being part of a writing community. Young students express themselves initially through drawings, then begin labeling their drawings, then move to writing sentences and longer pieces. Student writing is regularly published in class anthologies.
During this block of time students initiate their own activities, join into activities created by other students, and take part in projects generated by the teacher or which evolve through the interests of the class. Pursuits at choice time include woodworking, design and construction projects, painting, drawing, handcrafts, science explorations, play, block building, reading, puzzles, clay sculpture, writing, taking things apart, and puppetry.
We value independent choice for the way it supports students in developing a strong sense of themselves and their interests, and fosters personal initiative and self-direction within the setting of the school. Students’ choices and their approaches to learning during this open time also give us important information about how each student naturally interacts and learns.
Through the year, we engage in a series of thematic inquiries in the areas of science and social studies. Examples of recent themes include geology, the scientific process, habitats, and Native American life in our area. Each inquiry provides a focus for learning about an aspect of the world in depth, and gives us a context for developing critical thinking, communication skills and creative expression. We emphasize hands-on activities to kindle curiosity and to foster understanding. We integrate project work with explorations in the arts. Learning often happens outside.
Primary students eat lunch together, then head outside. Outdoor activities include all kinds of student initiated play and games, soccer and other sports, projects in the outdoor classroom, chicken and barn chores, climbing and swinging, building forts, and sledding and skating in the winter.
Primary students spend time reading independently each day. The scaffolding they experience in the morning’s shared reading sessions is put to practice in independent reading sessions. Students choose books with our assistance. Emerging readers each have a basket of appropriately leveled books that we regularly help to stock. Younger students also work on reading skills through word sorts, games, and phonics and word study electronic programs.
Students explore conversational Spanish through games, rhymes, chants, stories and conversation.
Each younger student in the school is paired with an older student and given support to form a year long relationship. Partners work with each other on projects, read together and play games.
On Wednesday afternoons, all students participate in workshops that typically last about four weeks. Students give input into ideas for the workshops, and choose among workshops for each session. Workshops are offered in the arts, handcrafts and living arts, outdoor adventure, and other experiential learning opportunities. Many workshops take place outside. In the winter, the whole school participates in our ski program on Wednesday afternoons.
We play sports and games such as soccer, kickball, capture-the-flag, and tag games that develop physical stamina, strength and coordination, and which encourage cooperation and friendly competition. During the winter months we sled on our hill out back, skate on our ice rink, and ski (downhill, snowboarding, and cross-country) one afternoon a week.
Students choose between participation in a music ensemble group that emphasizes improvisation and musical conversation, and singing in a chorus.
Students help to clean and take care of the school and our chickens.
Young primary students are asked to read with their parents for about 10 minutes each night, and parents are asked to read to these students for at least 20 minutes. Once students become independent readers, they are asked to read for a half hour at home each day. Older primary students are given some language arts and math homework.
At the end of each trimester, students share their learning with the school community, including other students and their parents. For primary students, this takes the form of presenting group hands-on projects, visual displays, research projects, puppet shows, reader’s theater performances, writing, art, and singing.
For a week during mud-season each year we turn every classroom into an art studio and immerse in the arts. Students choose week-long morning and afternoon workshops to pursue. Recent Arts Week offerings have included improvisational theater, small boats, mural painting, chair design, wood carving, the art of South American cooking, pottery, pack-basket weaving, African drumming, and trumpet.