As a veteran teacher with nearly twenty years of public school, classroom teaching experience and a firm believer of purposeful, integrated learning, I am excited to re-introduce this concept to local kids who need an educational alternative. Some may call this a project-based learning model while others call it experiential, but in reality, it is all of that and more. It is meant to help young students develop a deep love of learning based on their own interests, while also covering the basic skill development that helps them keep pace with their peers should they decide to return to a regular school environment. It is also an educational model that promotes prosocial and collaborative learning in various learning contexts.
A considerable amount of learning will be based on students’ individual needs and interests. With only 6 students, it will be completely feasible to learn about students’ individual strengths and weaknesses and shape curriculum around their learning interests using essential questions. Some examples of learning units could focus on questions like:
How do cars work? Why did dinosaurs go extinct? Why do people move? Why is hunger such a problem? (example integrated lesson written for 5th grade but can be scaled for younger or older students)
All of these kinds of questions lead naturally to integrative, inquiry based learning that will incorporate developmentally appropriate reading and writing, math problem solving, scientific investigations and historical understanding. While the curriculum won’t explicitly include art, music, or world language study, even these subjects will be woven into themes along the way. Furthermore, there will be ample time at the end of each day to add in individualized art, music and world language lessons if families wish to include this in their child’s schedules. Other free or low cost after school opportunities can be explored too.
Another unique aspect of the field school model is to spend considerable time learning in contextual environments. The Roaring Fork Valley is filled with incredible educational opportunities that allow students to deepen their knowledge. From fish hatcheries, landfills, historical monuments, and creative people who are willing to share their knowledge, the entire valley (and beyond) is a classroom and we intend to make full use of it through numerous day-long field trips and at least three optional extended trips to culturally and scientifically significant locales (i.e. Black Canyon, Dinosaur National Park, Denver, Arches, Colorado Springs, etc). Many field trips and experiential activities will occur on Fridays and may require extra fees, but all attempts to keep trips affordable is a high priority.