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.


Tricia said...

Bruce, I am glad to see you also posting postive things. I know the concerns we all have about National Standards at the moment, but I truly believe valued educators like you can do postive work by also sharing and celebrating great things that are happening in education around the world.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Hi Tricia.You are right.It is important to share positive ideas in the current environment. I am planning another blog based on a wonderful book written by a progressive American teacher near the end of her career - a very postive book.

Podgorani said...

this happens in NZ at discovery1 school in chch. So many teachers and leaders visit discovery and leave with shallow ideas like "I like this space or that furniture" or worse "it wouldn't work in our community". Bruce this is great stuff. I challenge NZ teachers and leaders to observe, read, embrace the NZ curriculum and have that drive 2010 in their school. Cheers Bruce, readers of this post may like Littky's "The big picture". It documents a similar schooling experience in NYC.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thanks Podgorani. Discovery One is a NZ example of such ideas. It can be done. You are also right about 'it wouldn't work in my school' comments. Just a lack of imagination I guess. The Big Picture Company is an excellent website and the book wonderful. Dennis Littky was around in the 70s!! Nothing is new - it is just that teachers get overwhelmed with official pressures! National Standards are the latest diversion.

SchoolS ough to ,as you say, embrace the NZC.

Allan Alach said...

Good one, Bruce. Have distributed this to the staff in the hope that they will be inspired to be creative in working to extend our own inquiry based programme. Old habits die hard, I'm afraid. Something about old dogs and new tricks? Mind you I do need to be mindful that teachers do have a tremendous amount to juggle and that their time is limited.

vintage rings said...
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