Monday, May 10, 2010
The Blue School
The Blue School in Lower Manhattan was established by members of the Blue Sky Company -a company involved in helping organisations develop creative ideas.They wanted to establish a school that celebrated the creativity and ideas of children - they wanted to establish a school they would have liked to have gone to - a dream school for their own children.
They wanted school committed to keeping alive the sense of wonder, play and joy of young children. The school currently caters for children from 2 to 6. The ideas will not be new to creative teachers, particularly those that 'teach' younger children but their emphasis on making student inquiry central is a challenge to us all in these day of making literacy and numeracy achievement central
If you are interested visit their site. Their site explains their language and mathematics programmes as well as all other learning areas. All good reassuring stuff.
The latest from the Blue School is shared in their most recent newsletter.
In recent months all those involved in the school have been been involved in discussions and workshops to develop a curriculum model that they feel best represents the Vision,Values and philosophy of their school. These workshops have included input from creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson and advisers from the Emlia Reggio Schools of Milan.
The mission ( vision) of the school is:
'To cultivate the creative, joyful and compassionate inquires who use the courageous and innovative thinking to build a harmonious and sustainable world.'
The curriculum model has at its centre that students, teachers and parents should be inquirers.
The school believes that learning occurs naturally through the exploration of meaningful provocations that are initiated and supported by the interests and experiences of the children and their teachers. 'Research' , they state, 'supports the belief that children learn best when they engage in meaningful activities that build on these threads of inquiry'.
The school also believes in the 'whole child approach'. An approach that values the children's social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs. They believe that 'each child develops across and within the inquiry threads and that every child learns in a unique and individualised way'.It is important for teachers to identify where each child is in order to meet his or her needs and then to scaffold learning in a way to meet educational and life goals.
The inquiry threads, or lenses, are similar to the key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum and early childhood's Te Whariki. They are:
Hero: the lense of perseverance, commitment and leadership
Trickster: the lense of provocation, innovation and play.
Artist: the lense of imagination, instinct and expression.
Innocent: the lense of emotional awareness and mindfulness.
Group Member: the lense of collaboration and commitment
Scientist: the lense of curiosity, experimentation and analysis.
Blue School believes in an integrated, emergent child-centred curriculum. The school has curriculum essence statements for the usual range of learning areas including language and mathematics. They all represent a creative approach to learning
Curricular 'threads' emerge from the interests of the children and call upon curriculum areas as required as well as meeting grade level agreed benchmarks.
The child centred curriculum focuses on meeting the identified developmental individual needs of the children and learning styles. The teachers are seen as facilitators of learning and the children as active constructors/participants of their own learning. The curriculum 'emerges' from the interests, past knowledge, and experiences of the children and teachers. The schools see the immediate natural and man made environment as an important source of learning and value the use of the senses and curiosity when involved in field trips and creative expression on return.
Motivation is a key component of learning and, as such, the school needs to identify the different learning styles used by each child. All leaning is contextual and makes use of the 'inquiry threads' and the learning areas as appropriate. While all learners are exposed to all learning areas and inquiry threads it is likely , the school writes, 'that they will be each be comfortable and successful with one or two specific lenses.
Teachers at the school build up developmental profiles that drive curricular content, teaching strategies, assessment and differentiating of instruction.
The teachers use these profiles in conjunction with each grades developmental benchmarks to engage in dynamic or ongoing authentic assessment's. This information is linked with curriculum challenges to individualize, design and implement the curriculum that will support and scaffold learning for all the children to meet both individual and grade level goals.
The key thing is that inquiry is at the core of Blue School. By placing inquiry at the centre a flexible and integrated curriculum emerges and teacher are able to personalize or individualize learning for each child.
It is this lesson New Zealand teachers need to gain courage from as they are resist politically inspired reactionary programmes.
Protecting students as creative inquirers is far more important than a narrow focus on literacy and numeracy that our current government is imposing.