Curriculum & Environment

At TKG, a student’s development, their sense of relationship to self and others, and the environment are the foundation of a more personal approach to education. Students’ passions, skills, and interests inform their academic, physical and social/emotional learning. Responsive curriculum supports learning that follows Common Core Standards with an emphasis on the cumulative results rather than year by year timelines. Our environment is responsive to students, teachers, and the community. Meet the teachers who live this, every day, with your children.

Design of the Day

Our students are grouped into developmental multi-aged groups informed by the individual’s growth and stage within the classroom community. We collaborate to support each child’s learning rhythms and help them develop concepts as a continuous and individual process. We meet Monday-Friday from 9 to 1pm. Extended day is available to 3pm.

We are breaking the mold of traditional school grade levels but value a framework that allows students, parents, and teachers to know where learners are in their journey at any given point in time. Our trajectory is used to record student evolution, with consistent and verifiable tools, over many years. For deep learning to really flourish, student, teacher, and parent are fully committed to learning and problem solving, together. Teachers assess development from the perspective of the entire trajectory, not just each school year in the following domains:

Cognitive Learning – Academic offerings in reading, writing, and maths, which align with Common Core, are accessed through multiple methods including: interdisciplinary studies, constructivism, project-based, and emergent curriculum. Multiple forms of assessment are used to document growth and evolution. Learning is documented through assessments, narratives, trajectories, and triangle conferences but never report cards with grades or labels.

Social Justice/Community Building – We are always learning from each other. Teaching others, in mixed age settings, helps us understand more deeply and practice flexibility and empathy. As we gain personal confidence, we feel more comfortable to share our success, knowing that all people can achieve personal success. We encourage children to solve problems on their own, with guidance from parents and teachers – effectively providing a safe environment to practice negotiation, take responsibility, become self-aware of desired outcomes, and be involved in resolving conflict.

Social Emotional/Empowerment – By understanding how our brain works, we can give ourselves the best chance at learning and we can experience the full range of normal and healthy feelings and emotions.

Science/Concern for the Earth – It is  vital to connect our students to nature and address the nature deficit facing our community. The main objective is to foster a personal bond with the natural world through familiarity, sense of kinship, and understanding of climate change. People who are connected to nature are more likely to protect it.

Classroom Cohorts

We don’t do grade levels but if we did, our range is from “grades pre-K through 8.” Currently, we are enrolling for ages 5 through 10. Older co-horts can open based on community needs and financial resources.

SPROUTS (name tbd) Ages 3-5. Play is the learning of this child. There is no academic work that can improve on the work of developing big and fine motor skills, exploring a big new world, and learning to trust other members of their community. Teachers in this class love to offer provocations to inspire joy and wonder.

ACORNS – Ages 5. Nurturing the joy of learning, the wonder of creating and learning that your voice matters is the work of the Acorn. Our teacher has a strong commitment to social/emotional development and is skilled at inspiring self-propelled learning.

NATURE GROWERS – Ages 6/7. Brain function and the capacity to process academic learning takes a noticeable leap for students in this class. Students asking for more are met by teachers who are ready to dive into practicing foundational skills, foster a social/cultural awareness, and help build confidence.

REDWOODS – Ages 8-10. The world in which to learn becomes much bigger for students in this group yet their self-discovery is becoming more influenced by external sources. Teachers in this group support building academic confidence and skill-building and an awareness/appreciation for mindfulness, self-love, and courage.

EVERGREENS – Ages 10-12 (not currently open but with a minimum of 5 enrolled families, the options are wide open). With more mature brains and on the cusp of a physiological transformation, Evergreens are encouraged to challenge themselves to achieve their potential, have awareness of their social and cultural surroundings supported by teachers who can hold space for social/emotional growth balanced with academic rigor.

13-14 AGE CLASS (mapped but not yet populated). Students in this age are in an explosive creative phase and are beginning to see the adult world in their future. They are encouraged to know that through the practice of: project planning, critical thinking, failure and success, they will build the academic, social and cultural skills required to use their hearts, minds and voices to be innovators and catalysts through the next phase of life. The teachers, mentors & coaches who work with these students have high-expectations with an abundance of trust.

WHY MULTI-AGE CLASSROOMS?

Student interactions are an important part of the learning experience at TKG and we are committed to maintaining small class size with low student-teacher ratios. Cross-age groupings, based on the teachers’ observations and recommendations, stimulate children’s thinking and cognitive growth.  The roles of leader and follower are exchanged; mentors and learners develop while capitalizing on student’s strengths and abilities. Our priority in deciding how to place students is to support each child’s learning rhythms and support them in getting comfortable with their growth-edges.

EVIDENCE OF LEARNING

Yes, assessment – but one that takes a bigger picture into account.

Students are people who are developing in their own way at their own rate.  We favor a holistic approach to assessment that includes academic, social and emotional development of each child.  Therefore, assessment of progress is through anecdotal observation, individual student conferences,  formative assessments, rubrics, and authentic assessments.  There are no letter or rated grades.  Students are part of the assessment process by preparing class work portfolios and participating in teacher conferences. Leading children toward measures of achievement in terms of their personal best, is empowering.

We can provide real-time information about student progress and official documentation through:

  • Teacher/Parent Office Hours
  • Student Portfolios (during covid – work folders)
  • Triangle Conferences (Student/Parent/Teacher participation)
    • Personal academic trajectories (“report card” if you are used to traditional terminology)
    • Whole Child Snapshot
    • Teacher Narratives

OUR FOUNDING COMMUNITY

Founding Teachers: Elizabeth Bloom, Dana Holman, Jessica Schilling-Wigley

Parent Board: Josef Bobek, Jessica Mayotte, Daniela Samms, Trish Vasquez

Read more about the Founding Community at www.knowinggarden.org

Our school program will encompass:

·Environmental Studies

·History

·Language Arts

·Mathematics

·Performing and Creative Arts

·Physical Education

·Science

·Social Studies

·World Cultures

Practical elements of the curriculum include:

Experiential Learning through Generative Lesson Plans

We utilize project based and experiential learning, an approach to instruction and learning that supports a person’s need for hands-on experiences and choices in what they learn, how they engage in learning, and how they show they have learned. Projects may be short or long term and may be created by an individual, partners, or in groups. In project-based learning, students develop their academic skills as well as skills in organization, time management, communication, cooperation, compromise, interpretation, and creativity.

Whole Child

We are committed to nurturing all aspects of a person – intellectual, physical, emotional, social, creative, and cultural. Students engage in activities throughout the day, week, and year that help them develop as positive contributing members of our community. We focus on developing students’ skills in cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, self-awareness, and self-control.

Globally & Community Minded Real World Experiences

We believe it is important to do things that connect to and affect the community. Our themes emerge from current events the students know and care about. Our students have opportunities to strengthen their skills as global citizens through service learning projects, community outreach, charity events, identifying and addressing real world problems, recognizing and embracing differences, and being agents of change. Our goal is to help students develop as life-long learners and citizens of the global community.

Nurturing of Emotional, Social and Cognitive Development

We assert that being competent socially is as important as being competent academically.We see that valuable cognitive growth occurs through fulfilling social interaction. We employ a conscious discipline policy wherein both adults and children learn the skills needed to successfully manage life tasks such as learning, forming relationships, communicating effectively, being sensitive to others’ needs and getting along with others, while getting their own needs met. Facilitator-Teachers are taught to draw from within themselves to become responsive instead of reactive during moments of conflict. In this way, facilitator-teachers positively influence students by being models of empathetic, cooperative, and effective problem solvers, while being mentors in establishing relationships.

Innovative Thinking

We believe in the importance of creative, innovative, and critical thinking. We encourage our students to be risk-takers who are able to think independently to develop solutions to problems. In addition, we recognize that students need to be problem finders as well as problem solvers.

Asset-Based Assessments

Our goal in assessment is to understand and know the complexity of each person’s development rather than to compare students with each other.If we are able to uphold the tenet that each person is unique, then it is imperative that this belief be reflected in our practices of assessment, as well as instruction. The constructivist view of learning sees students as full of knowledge and resource. The focus on assets is extremely important in the fostering of a supportive climate for students. By identifying each student’s strengths we encourage them to be resourceful and recognize the resources they possess. Rather than beginning with what students don’t know or can’t do, we begin with what students do know and can do and we build from there.

Thematic/Integrated Learning

Our curriculum is organized largely around themes that integrate core subjects like math, reading, writing, science, and humanities within the exploration of a broader topic.Thematic learning is based on the belief that students learn and retain information and skills best when what they are learning is connected to the real world and related to things they already know. The themes are determined based on what is developmentally appropriate and in the interests of the learners. Some of the themes that would be used are: The Community, Life Cycles, The Environment, Immigration, and the South Bay Past, Present, and Future.

Outdoor/Environmental Emphasis

Research shows that self

THE KNOWING GARDEN philosophy encompasses these principles: the first is that students are complex, creative individuals who learn deeply through methods which encourage them to become innovative critical thinkers. Their desire to learn can be trusted. The second is that optimal learning is achieved when it is built upon student interests and real life issues and problems. Third, that a flexible structure which includes heterogeneous and multi-age group arrangements for students is the best way to facilitate learning. Lastly, that the best environment for learning is a peaceful one that embraces freedom with responsibility and addresses the balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the community.

 

OUR FOUNDING COMMUNITY

Founding Teachers: Elizabeth Bloom, Dana Holman, Jessica Schilling-Wigley

Parent Board: Josef Bobek, Jessica Mayotte, Daniela Samms, Trish Vasquez

Read more about the Founding Community at www.knowinggarden.org

 

 

Our school program will encompass:

• Environmental Studies

• History

• Language Arts

• Mathematics

• Performing and Creative Arts

• Physical Education

• Science

• Social Studies

• World Cultures

 

Practical elements of the curriculum include:

 

Experiential Learning through Generative Lesson Plans

We utilize project based and experiential learning, an approach to instruction and learning that supports a person’s need for hands-on experiences and choices in what they learn, how they engage in learning, and how they show they have learned. Projects may be short or long term and may be created by an individual, partners, or in groups. In project-based learning, students develop their academic skills as well as skills in organization, time management, communication, cooperation, compromise, interpretation, and creativity.

Whole Child

We are committed to nurturing all aspects of a person – intellectual, physical, emotional, social, creative, and cultural. Students engage in activities throughout the day, week, and year that help them develop as positive contributing members of our community. We focus on developing students’ skills in cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, self-awareness, and self-control.

Globally & Community Minded Real World Experiences

We believe it is important to do things that connect to and affect the community. Our themes emerge from current events the students know and care about. Our students have opportunities to strengthen their skills as global citizens through service learning projects, community outreach, charity events, identifying and addressing real world problems, recognizing and embracing differences, and being agents of change. Our goal is to help students develop as life-long learners and citizens of the global community.

 

 

 

 

Nurturing of Emotional, Social and Cognitive Development

We assert that being competent socially is as important as being competent academically. We see that valuable cognitive growth occurs through fulfilling social interaction. We employ a conscious discipline policy wherein both adults and children learn the skills needed to successfully manage life tasks such as learning, forming relationships, communicating effectively, being sensitive to others’ needs and getting along with others, while getting their own needs met. Facilitator-Teachers are taught to draw from within themselves to become responsive instead of reactive during moments of conflict. In this way, facilitator-teachers positively influence students by being models of empathetic, cooperative, and effective problem solvers, while being mentors in establishing relationships.

Innovative Thinking

We believe in the importance of creative, innovative, and critical thinking. We encourage our students to be risk-takers who are able to think independently to develop solutions to problems. In addition, we recognize that students need to be problem finders as well as problem solvers.

Asset-Based Assessments

Our goal in assessment is to understand and know the complexity of each person’s development rather than to compare students with each other. If we are able to uphold the tenet that each person is unique, then it is imperative that this belief be reflected in our practices of assessment, as well as instruction. The constructivist view of learning sees students as full of knowledge and resource. The focus on assets is extremely important in the fostering of a supportive climate for students. By identifying each student’s strengths we encourage them to be resourceful and recognize the resources they possess. Rather than beginning with what students don’t know or can’t do, we begin with what students do know and can do and we build from there.

Thematic/Integrated Learning

Our curriculum is organized largely around themes that integrate core subjects like math, reading, writing, science, and humanities within the exploration of a broader topic. Thematic learning is based on the belief that students learn and retain information and skills best when what they are learning is connected to the real world and related to things they already know. The themes are determined based on what is developmentally appropriate and in the interests of the learners. Some of the themes that would be used are: The Community, Life Cycles, The Environment, Immigration, and the South Bay Past, Present, and Future.

 

 

 

 

Outdoor/Environmental Emphasis

Research shows that self‐directed play in nature is the most effective way for children to develop a deep bond of affection for the natural world. From this love of nature comes the passionate commitment to environmental stewardship that has guided such pioneers as John Muir and Rachel Carson. Free play can be included in environmental education alongside information‐based programs so that children can develop the passion and skills needed to protect the earth.

 

directed play in nature is the most effective way for children to develop a deep bond of affection for the natural world. From this love of nature comes the passionate commitment to environmental stewardship that has guided such pioneers as John Muir and Rachel Carson.Free play can be included in environmental education alongside informationbased programs so that children can develop the passion and skills needed to protect the earth.[1]


[1] Wild Zones, How to Create and Enjoy Them A Toolkit, 2008

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