In the Fall of 2018, we began moving into a new era at The Farm School, fully embracing the philosophy of emergent curriculum. The following are a few key elements that we have organized to help our staff, families, and community to better understand our goals. Each teacher is on an individual path, working to become more fluent in this approach.
Our Educational Philosophy:
We want to create an environment where the students feel they have a major part to play in what they are learning. Emergent curriculum is a broad term that, simply put, means that teachers are creating curriculum based on students’ personal interests and passions. The teachers then continue to observe, document, and engage with the students to help them build and expand their interests further. This can be practiced at any grade level.
We believe in meeting students where they are. We each have areas where we feel successful and areas where we feel more challenged. We want to help the students continue and grow in the places they feel secure in, while finding creative ways to help them work on the more challenging areas. We understand that everyone learns and grows in their own unique and personal way and are excited to support each student in the way they excel best. We truly believe that there are many ways for a student to reach their full potential and our goal is to help each one find their way. We understand the importance of family and home in our students’ lives and want to help create a bridge between the two. We celebrate diversity in all its forms and strive to include the diversity of the world in our classroom in as varying ways as possible.
Our aim is to have our classrooms be aesthetically pleasing, filled with interesting, beautiful, and thought provoking materials. We also try to have a majority of the material represent what is important to the students lives, personally. In this way, no two classrooms look alike, just as no two students are just alike.
If someone was to glance in a classroom at any given time of day, it may appear as though students are “playing” or having free time much of the time. The goal is to offer many enriching and attractive activities that the students can move to and from freely. There are times when one group of students will be working diligently on a project together and at the same time individual students are engaged in their own projects.
Our goal is to move away from the picture of the teacher standing and lecturing in front of sitting students who are expected to be listening. We do value and help to instill the ability to be able to sit and focus, however this is a skill that builds as students grow. In reality, most children have the ability to sit and focus for long periods of time, as long as it is on a project or topic of deep personal interest to them. We want the students to feel safe and comfortable enough to share their needs, ideas, hopes, and feelings and know they are truly being heard. Emergent curriculum gives them the freedom and opportunity to do just that. We want to provide a place where students can become fully engaged in a project of deep meaning to them and have the time and freedom to focus and work on that project for an extended period of time, rather than a full day of teacher-created agenda. In this way, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator and is there to provide constructive feedback and to ask and answer relevant questions.
There is not one set curriculum for each classroom. We have our classrooms arranged in age groups, instead of the traditional grade separation. There are many known benefits to this, a major one being that the younger students of each group have the direct experience of slightly older peers to look up to and feel inspired by, and the older students have friends a bit younger who they can develop compassion and patience for. The learning opportunities offered by the teachers come from direct interactions with the students. Teachers offer activities and ideas, then observe and interact with students participating in those activities. This allows the teacher to be able to build upon an activity and continue to offer engaging and stimulating learning experiences. We promote project based learning whenever possible. In this way, students are able to see the connection between many subject areas that are typically separated into seemingly unrelated blocks. This is also much more conducive to the way the world works. Things are not generally separated neatly into categories throughout life. We believe project-based learning will better prepare students for life.
A common question that comes up with emergent curriculum is:
“Without tangible worksheets, tests and grades, how can we know our students are progressing?”
We don’t believe that tests and grades adequately show the progress and development of the many facets of a student’s learning. We believe in the development of the whole person, including mental, emotional, social and academic. In fact, we have seen firsthand that the academic progress cannot truly happen if the student is struggling in any of the other areas.
Instead we use many techniques to document and thus assess the progress of each student. Photography is one of the most accessible and visual ways to document. We can take pictures of the students actually working on an activity as well as a series of photos of the progression of a project. The teacher can also document conversations and discussions happening in class. This can be done with audio or video recording or if possible, by the teacher writing down the discussion as it is happening. We also have some of the more traditional types of documentation such as worksheets, drawings, samples of writing all done by the students. Each student has a portfolio that is a compilation of these various forms of documentation. Looking through a student’s portfolio from an entire school year gives a much more complete view of their progress in a variety of areas that a letter grade just cannot show. Rather than promote rote memorization and years of busy work, we want our students to leave with tools for life. Some of those tools we hope to instill are courage, creativity, collaboration, compassion, and a true love of learning.
Instead of creating our curriculum based on state standards, we use state standards during assessment and reflection. This means that when we are composing the students evaluations each quarter, we look at the projects and activities they engaged and gained knowledge in and then review state standards for that age range and note which ones were covered.
What we are offering for the 20/21 school year will be a bit different due to quarantine protocol. See below for our Parent Support Package. Due to the students distance learning we understand that our teachers will be in more of a co-teacher position along with the parents. Each age group will look differently based on the independence of the student.
2020/2021 Virtual Learning Parent Support Package will include:
- Parents will sign students up through the Farm School Satellite Program
- One-on-one Zoom meetings between teacher and student 1 to 2X a week
- Group/class Zoom meetings 1 to 2X a week
- Materials prepared and provided by teachers
- One-on-one Zoom with parents (to be determined)
- Zoom with teacher/student/parent (to be determined)
- All core subjects covered
All families will need to register under our Satellite Program and pay those fees. Once you have done so we will invoice you for the remaining balance based on your income if that is the plan you would like to take. Otherwise, the fees are $2000 for the year per student minus the Satellite Program fees.
All families will need to register under the Satellite Campuses Program. To enroll in the Satellite Campuses Program (homeschooling), click here to get started.
Please email us, [email protected], if you are interested in getting added to our waiting list.