Four year old Katrina and her family joined the new system two years ago after seeing a round table presentation of parents at the community center. After using a survey to reflect on their family’s lifestyle, the support they have from their families and friends, their experience as parents, and their hopes for Katrina, they were able to choose an advocate network they felt suited their needs and aspirations.
Their network helped match them with a learner advocate that they have worked with over the past two years. Not only did their advocate Sam help orient them to the opportunities available within the system, beginning with options for child care that matched Katrina’s developmental needs, but provided them with the necessary tools they needed to make better decisions and spend their education dollars more effectively.
Katrina spends most of her week at a learning center that serves to coordinate different learning and service providers. Her parents appreciate that they can use their education dollars at a single place with services already bundled together to match her learning. They weigh in monthly, rating different experiences to inform continued quality at the center.
The core providers are a team of educators that design and help document the learning experiences of students, as well as cultivate an exciting environment for learning, both at the center and in the community. Their approach adds developmental context to the ReSchool Learning Framework by seeing children as resourceful, imaginative, curious, inventive, and possessing a desire to interact and communicate with others. Through providing environments rich in possibilities that lead to exploration and problem-solving, their programming unfolds from the interests of the students that they serve.
Katrina arrives at school and launches her day with meeting time. This is where children gather to discuss classroom issues, solve problems and plan with the teachers their day ahead. Even at this young age, Katrina is able to begin to direct her day with support from the teacher. Using a large calendar of daily time, students help identify and talk through the order of the day’s experiences. New projects are introduced at this time as well. Parents are welcome to join in the meetings as well, supporting them in not only building skills for interacting with the children at home, but in previewing the learning for the week.
A local musician and a high school student participating in a music internship supports this class. The language of body movement is one of the first languages children discover and enjoy. Active movement is crucial for a child’s early physical development and matches key milestones for early stages of learning. Katrina loves to use this form of expression to share what she understands about an area of study. By taking video and interviewing Katrina, her teacher is able to hold this learning in her electronic portfolio.
Katrina goes off to explore a project topic in depth in her small group, enabling close communication between her and her peers with the guidance of a teacher.
Katrina walks to the neighborhood playground to be active. Outdoor time is an important time for dramatic play and social interactions. Teachers bring additional materials such as sand, water and blocks, allowing Katrina and her peers to both play and practice measuring, comparing and predicting.
Healthy food leads to a healthy mind. Children have healthy snacks, many of which are provided by the learning center’s partners at the community garden project. Katrina works on her independence and fine motor skills during this time, with a teacher close by to guide positive social interactions.
Any time is math time. Katrina practices math, literacy and develops a love of learning while engaging with the project built on her interests. Collaborative learning is part of the center’s approach, as children borrow knowledge from each other and co-construct further understanding. This is an important time for Katrina to demonstrate a growing proficiency in the area of social intelligence.
Art is an important part of Katrina’s experience. It is common to see her graphic expressions captured in her portfolio, as well as exhibited in community spaces. Co-taught with a center teacher and a rotating art teacher from surrounding schools, their artwork is displayed in the classroom and becomes part of their cycle of inquiry.
At this stage of early reading, Katrina loves to be read to as well as “read” on her own while exploring books with her peers. The local library often heads up this time at the center, sharing with students classics and new books. As part of this partnership, parents can check out library books directly through the learning center.
Some students go home at this time, while others have the option of staying for additional programming. Since her parents work, three days a week Katrina stays at the center participating in a rotation of providers based on her learning profile. Katrina has benefited from extra reading time as well as playing with her peers to build on self-regulation and social skills, two areas she needed more time to practice.
Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart