Students at Project Learn take classes in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, art, music, Spanish and physical education. The curriculum is integrated as much as possible, so it may be difficult sometimes to discern where one subject ends and another one begins!
Subject matter throughout the curriculum is brought to life with hands-on activities, demonstrations, field trips and the arts.
Interviewing, research, organizing, and study skills are developed from the lower grades on up. Computers in each classroom are used for curricular enrichment, publishing student work, and free time.
The skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking and thinking critically are fundamental to elementary and middle school students. Project Learn School immerses students in literature and teaches them language in the context of real-life activities.
While younger groups use a combination of basal readers, literature, and language experience in the classroom, older students read a variety of fiction and non-fiction books of their choice and their teacher’s choice.
All students practice writing in a variety of styles, and have the opportunity to take their work to final published quality. Lessons on grammar and spelling are developed directly from problem areas identified in writing assignments.
The goal of the mathematics program is to instill competence in basic math skills, while demonstrating the many uses of math in the world and developing the student’s ability to problem-solve.
Our curriculum meets the standards set by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and offers students the opportunity to complete Algebra I by the end of the eighth grade.
Teachers make concepts concrete and reinforce them through the use of manipulatives, games, computers, thematic projects, and other activities. As with our “whole language” approach to Language Arts, we believe that in the study of Mathematics students should talk about mathematical problems, use manipulatives, make observations, and discover patterns before putting pencil to paper.
We introduce the younger students to the experience of science through learning centers, thematic units, and the incorporation of science skills and topics into the language arts and mathematics programs when possible.
Children in the equivalent of third grade and above may choose science electives in traditional subjects such as Astronomy or Meteorology or thematic studies such as Chemistry in the Toy Shop, Rain Forests, or Insects.
Junior High students have a science program that includes hands-on studies in Chemistry, Life Sciences, and Environmental Studies. We emphasize the development of laboratory, investigational, and cooperative skills.
Rather than setting aside a specific time each day for “Social Studies,” we interweave the study of World Cultures, Geography, Community Living Skills, and History throughout our school program.
For example, a group might study Egypt or the Holocaust as themes that develop specific research skills. Older children might study the geography and political history of the Southwest as they read a novel in English class. Map skills are taught along with Meteorology as classes track the paths of hurricanes. Songs from another country or cooking lesson naturally lead into discussions of culture and customs.
Additionally, many of our Group Skills Days have specific Social Studies themes, including The First Amendment and Freedom of Speech, Women Heroes, and Caribbean Week. Junior High students may also choose electives in various Social Studies topics.
Creative and artistic learning experiences are strongly valued at Project Learn School. Through the process of art, students learn a means of expression as important as language and develop confidence in their ability to create.
While art is integrated with other subject matter, it is also a separate area for all students. We provide the younger students with a nurturing and stimulating environment that stresses exploration and process.
In the middle years, as students shift their focus from process to product, they are given the opportunity to choose from a number of electives including life drawing and painting, watercolor, silkscreening, ceramics, photography, weaving, and jewelry making. Some Group Skills Days are also devoted to art projects, as the entire school collaborates on a project.
For younger groups, the physical education program takes a developmental approach, incorporating lessons on basic physical skills, movement, dance, and gymnastics. From about the fifth grade level on, students have physical education class one full afternoon a week, during which they work on both individual and team skills.
Activities that have been offered include soccer, basketball, swimming, volleyball, hiking, flag football, ice skating, softball, track and field, and dance. Classes use the indoor and outdoor space at the school as well as neighborhood playgrounds and facilities.
Students in the equivalent of third grade and above choose 4 electives every year. Among the students, this is one of the most popular features of our educational program, allowing them to delve deeper into a topic or learn a new skill or craft.
Parents and students wait with great anticipation to see the new list, which is put together by teachers with input from the school community. Various learning objectives from reading directions to accurate measuring are deliberately built into each elective.
Electives may include topics in the physical, earth, life and environmental sciences; thematic language arts activities, from writing the school newspaper to poetry and fiction; foreign languages; art studio courses, art history and museum trips; and musical activities.
Goal-setting, conferences, and formal written evaluations are the assessment tools used at Project Learn.
Early in the year, students write their own goals for reading, mathematics, and GROUP time. Teachers help students refine these goals. Parents then join the teacher and student for a required conference to further clarify these goals.
Conferences focus on the student’s strengths, areas that need special attention, and the way the student is growing in the school community. We also consider how the program could better serve each student. There are two required conferences each year; a third conference is optional.
While classroom tests may be given, there are no standardized tests or grading systems at the school. Informal assessments and communication about student progress is on-going between teachers and students, and between parents and teachers. Practice for standardized tests is offered in preparation for high school.
At the end of the school year, a final evaluation is written and includes course descriptions, student self-evaluation of goals, and teacher evaluations of goals. These evaluations are kept on file and compiled as the student’s formal records. Evaluations are translated into official transcripts, with grades, when students transfer or make application to high school.