Mixed Group Activities
Children of different ages and abilities work together in their classrooms and out. They are required to accomplish projects in cooperative groups within classrooms, work with "buddies" in other classes, learn responsibility as an elder, and learn to ask for help as a younger student. All of our children learn to respect individual differences and to value the opinions of others. "Cross-Optional" events and field trips, in which all children grades K-6 participate, provide another opportunity for responsibility and trust to build between all ages.
6Our parents are passionate, and our community is generous. Learning Labs are small group (6-10 students) workshops on a wide variety of topics taught by parents and community members. Some of our topics - yoga, wok cooking, making a comic book, bridge building, architectural follies, opera, tennis, card making, wilderness first aid, finger knitting, visits to the fire station, working with stained glass, clean-up and create (crafts with found objects), nutrition through the rainbow, making a magazine, and more. These "labs" are only limited by our passions!
Our Classrooms and Curriculum
Although our open optional program follows the defined curriculum standards set by the Anchorage School District, our curriculum is woven through experiences. Using these experiences, children will explore and master academic subjects (math and measuring, reading and writing, research and presentation) and expand their knowledge. All students participate in Art, Music, Library and Physical Education provided by specialists in their field. Special education services are available to any qualified student, as with any school in the Anchorage School District.
The garden provides many opportunities for learning. As the school year begins, students take part in the last bits of tending, and then the joy of harvesting the garden. Classes make kale chips and experiment with other snacks. Just a day or two after the fall harvest, we have our first community pot-luck. Soups are made by students in the classrooms, using vegetables they grew themselves. The following gardening days are spent cleaning out and preparing the gardens for winter. Seed planting starts in February, in our indoor greenhouses. The seedling are tended and watched, while the ground is prepared. There are lessons on dirt and compost and our worms. Outdoor planting starts in May. Gardens are tended throughout the summer by our families - watering and weeding. Each year when students return, they join a familiar cycle, and are excited to taste the fruits of their labor.
Choices in the Classroom
In the Optional Program, children are given choices. Although each day is planned by the teacher, within the structure of the required activities, children exercise some choices as to how, when, where and with whom they will do each activity. As children demonstrate their ability to choose responsibly, follow through with learning contracts, and show a desire to be an active learner, they are given greater opportunities. Commitment and responsibility are stressed. Children are expected to carry through with the choices they make.
Field Trips and Community Resources
The Optional Program extends into the community on a regular basis. Guest speakers enrich the classroom experience. Frequent field trips give children exposure to their local environment and teach them that our community is rich in resources. Children are expected to maintain excellent behavior while on these trips. For field trips, parents provide transportation, classes walk, or district buses are used.
In early December, Optional students focus outward during Craft Day. Students in mixed age groups work together to create a gift for an organization in our community, create crafts that could be given as gifts, learn to wrap a package, and make a set of thank you cards. Craft Day is a fun and exciting opportunity for our students and parents to work together in making fun and creative projects. Craft Day relies heavily on the help of parent volunteers in preparation of, and on the day of the event.
Not just a reading buddy. Our buddy system allows younger students to work directly with an elder student on a number of things from reading to helping zip jackets before recess. The relationship that develops between our students, regardless of age, is amazing to watch. You will often see k/1 students in the 3/4 classroom reading poetry they've penned to each other, or 1/2 students in the K/1 room listening to a read aloud session. You will commonly find mixed age groups playing math games with decks of cards or dice.
Each year each classroom produces and performs a play. Often they even write them themselves! While putting on a play may not seem academic, but the curriculum and goals for the program are well supported through the practice of public speaking, narration and story telling, reading fluency, and writing. The children are also given an opportunity to explore many things including stagecraft and editing, reading music and using their voice in a group, time management and organization, and taking and giving direction with grace.
All Optional Eklutna Trip
All families and teachers are invited to spend the day at Eklutna Lake at the end of the year. Parents come and hike and play with the kids, picnic and do some special activities. We have available toys and games from the school and can play tug-o-war, practice archery, play ball and of course enjoy the beautiful scenery.