Traditional Approach vs. Our Approach:
Traditional approach: Subjects are taught in isolation, usually in one hour blocks of time.
Our approach: It has been proven that material is more meaningful, better learned, and better remembered when it is integrated with other subjects. Our school year will be set up differently. The year is organized/based around a central question or theme. All subjects will be integrated around this theme. Therefore, you won’t see teachers following a rigid daily schedule with, for example, reading from 9 – 10, math from 10 – 11, and so forth. There may be some weeks in which there is a lot of music class. But that might be followed by a week or two of intense science instruction. In the end, all subjects will be covered but in a way that is more meaningful.
Traditional approach: Children are grouped into classes of peers their same age.
Our approach: Our classes will consist of multiple ages that have the same teachers several years in a row. Why? There are several advantages to this:
-When a new school year begins, teachers do not have to waste time getting to know their new pupils before real instruction can begin. Most students are returning to the same class with the same teachers. Teachers already know what students they will have, on what levels they are functioning, and what was covered the previous year. They can dive right in to new learning from day #1!
-Teachers have the opportunity to watch the students grow and mature year after year, giving them a deep feeling of satisfaction and allowing students to develop a deep bond with their instructors.
-Teachers can motivate the older students farther ahead in their learning. They then become the class leaders. When these veterans share their new knowledge, they push their younger classmates to also widen their horizons. Everyone learns from each other. Older students gain the respect of younger ones who will grow to become the new veterans.
Traditional approach: Teachers teach to the bottom 1/3 of the class. Top students are no longer the model.
Our approach: A greater emphasis will be placed on recognizing the uniqueness of each student and encouraging each one to work with his/her strengths in achieving high goals. Whenever possible, students will set their own goals which are often higher than when someone else does it for them.
We will also help students see and have respect for the strengths/talents in each other and encourage them to learn from their classmates as much as they can. I remember when I was in 6th grade, and I wanted to write poems like Chris Kaup and draw like Mary Jo Stentz. They wanted to play the piano like I could. We sometimes got together on weekends to learn from each other. At the Wonder School program, this type of learning is the norm.
When students see what others can accomplish and recognize what greatness they themselves posses, they will want to be the best they can be.
Traditional approach: Often, parents do not know how their children are doing until the parent-teacher conferences.
Our approach: In this program, parents will be kept up-to-date with what is happening in the classroom through e-mail, phone, or face-to-face interactions. Conferences will be held with teachers, parents, AND students present. Each will have an opportunity to share how the program is unfolding, evaluate goals we're trying to reach, and give feedback. In addition, communication via e-mail is encouraged throughout the year including the summer.
Traditional approach: Students become bored when they learn only what is expected for their grade level. They can’t work on harder material and can’t study subjects of interest unless they are part of the curriculum.
Our approach: With teacher support, students are encouraged every day to go beyond the material being taught. When these students report back to the group what they have learned, everyone else is exposed to this new learning too! You will be amazed as to how much students will retain and the connections they will make. Also, for Parent Programs, students can choose any subject they wish to study and share it in a way they wish. You’ll be amazed what students create!
Traditional approach: Students no longer memorize.
Our approach: There is a misconception today that since so much information is accessible through the internet, it isn't necessary to memorize anything anymore. After all, you can always look something up, right? Memorizing is an important exercise for the brain. Once it is used often (like a muscle) it is so much easier to keep using it. Before you know it, students will be absorbing and remembering more information than ever before as they make connections between old information and new.
At our school, students have a few mandatory items to memorize. Eventually, they will be memorizing all kinds of information when they realize they can do it! Later, they can recall that information, and this leads to big smiles!
Traditional approach: Most classrooms do not offer a variety of teaching modalities such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (hands on). They typically include lecture, reading, and worksheets.
Our approach: We plan to have a variety of activities for students. There will be hands-on activities (like trying to take apart a watch), auditory ones (like listening to good literature being read aloud), individual work, demonstrations, group projects, interviewing experts in the fields we are studying, etc.
Traditional approach: There is a lot of bullying and negative peer pressure in school. Teachers are overwhelmed and often see a different group of students each period. It is difficult to tell when and where the bullying is taking place or who is responsible to handle it.
Our approach: Students need to know that the classroom is a safe place - no teasing, taunting, or bullying will be tolerated. Several times per month, we will discuss questions such as: How does it feel to be left out? or, Why do some kids pick on others? Throughout the year, students are shown their talents and strengths. Great behavior will be praised along with efforts of students to include others, show kindness, etc.
Our classrooms are self-contained. Except for high school, this means that the students are with their teacher(s) all day long, for every subject. In this way, any behavior that is not acceptable can be addressed as soon as it begins. Tattling IS allowed! Every effort will be made to deal with the situation at hand.
Poor treatment of others is not acceptable! We feel so strongly about this that students who cannot be team players will be asked to leave the program.
Traditional approach: Children eat unhealthy diets, leading to inability to concentrate and learn.
Our approach: This is a national problem. So many people are uneducated about proper diet. To help in this regard, there is a rule about food brought from home: no candy, soda pop, sweets, or caffeine.
Traditional approach: Children get little time outside, usually only at recess which can be canceled at the first sign of cold weather.
Our approach: Being outside is really important!! Children who feel a connection to the outdoors are calmer and do better in school. Our new location has a lovely outdoor playground that the children are free to explore. Being outdoors encourages imagination (at all ages), exercise, and creativity. The students go outside twice a day, once during break time in the morning and once after lunch (unless it is pouring down rain or below 15 degrees).