Mountain River School K-6 Curriculum
Our goal is for students to develop a true conceptual understanding of math. To do this we Focus in depth on fewer topics, provide Coherence by linking topics and thinking across grades, and apply Rigor to assignments by pursuing conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and application with equal intensity. To guide the students in achieving these goals MRS uses, Primary Mathematics; The Singapore Math Program. Starting in Kindergarten with The Early-Bird Kindergarten Mathematics, we introduce the pedagogical approach and methodology of Concrete-> Pictorial-> Abstract which enables the students to encounter mathematics in a meaningful way through concrete activities- using hands-on manipulatives (think rocks, seeds, leaves etc…) then move on to a pictorial stages in which pictures are used to model problems- we will use theme related pictures to tie in with our integrated curriculum. When the students are familiar with the ideas taught they progress to a more advanced abstract stage of using numbers, notations, and symbols. Throughout grades K-6 we use a spiral progression that builds on concepts already taught and mastered. This allows for a review of important mathematical concepts while expanding on the foundations. Using metacognition, we encourage the students to be conscious of the strategies they use to accomplish a task and think of alternative means of solving problems. Through the use of our hands-on, nature based classroom we are providing a form of guidance for students to check their thought processes and be actively engaged with their classmates and problem solving together.
Students at Mountain River are active engaged scientists in the way they think and act. Each daytime is spent outdoors acquiring science concepts and skills by means of an inquiry-based, hands-on approach that focuses on the process and techniques of discovery. Student observations, discoveries, and questions help drive the curriculum which is based on the seasons and what is happening around us. These seasonal themes are integrated with reading, writing, math and art activities maximizing student learning.
Our goal is to guide students towards becoming confident, passionate, lifelong readers and writers. Our language arts instruction is driven by the Lucy Calkins readers and writers workshop. We chose this program because it teaches critical skills throughout the years and encourages student choice which helps foster a love for reading and writing. The readers and writers workshop also focuses on where individual students are on their learning journey allowing for differentiated instruction. In the younger grades the children are practicing their skills with read-alouds, shared reading, creating books, self-directed work and individualized lessons. The reading and writing activities are geared toward the annual theme to be integrated across the curriculum. Our alphabet and phonetic instruction is created by the students with things found and nature. Picture the Aa being made out of apple seeds from a walk to the nearby apple tree, collecting them, predicting how many seeds may be inside, getting a conclusion to our hypothesis, and making and starting our Alphabet museum. Once independent reading takes place we help the students find “just right books” of interest to aid in fluency and comprehension.
Using their phonetic skills to decode new words, pictorial clues, prediction, and context they are ready to begin reading. To help the children become comfortable with handwriting, MRS is using Handwriting Without Tears, a developmental sequence (imitation, copying, independent writing) with multi sensory tools, play-based instruction that address all learning styles and strategies for the children to be actively engaged. The word study portion of Language Arts is fostered by a program called, Words Their Way: Word Study in Action. It recognizes the synchronous nature of reading, writing, and spelling along the literacy continuum.
As the children progress, teachers will continue with daily whole class read aloud and reading and writing will be tied into every area of study across the curriculum. The students will be exposed to more challenging material, more complex vocabulary, and more in-depth comprehension. There will also be time dedicated to small group and individual work, where the instruction focuses on each child’s areas of need. During the year the students will practice composing short stories, poetry, letters, essays (on a topic of their choice), and other writing genres.
The social studies component is integrated daily with our thematic units. With a focus on community and our place in the world around us we look at the people and community of Vermont, in the nation, and the world. We also look at the different plant and animal communities within. The students become explorers and naturalists in our section of the day dedicated to outdoor exploration.
Motion & Movement
As if the children aren't moving around enough outside we also dedicate an hour each week to focusing on specific developmental movements through a variety of activities and games. This is also a nice time to implement team building and sportsmanship through the use of initiatives, trust activities, and cooperative games. In the winter Thursday afternoon will be spent up at the East Coast’s renowned Stowe Mountain Resort in a downhill ski program or either cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, where they are in highly supervised instructional groups. In addition the school is located on the town’s recreation path which gives us the opportunity to Cross-country ski and snowshoe right out the front door.
On Wednesday afternoons the students spend 45 minutes engaging in a yoga practice. This time is used to reflect on the day. Showing the students a healthy way to manage stress through breathing, awareness, meditation and healthy movement. Yoga is a great way to build concentration and increase confidence as well as having the students feel like a part of a healthy non-competitive group.
Music with Leslie is one of our most boisterous specials of the week! The children enjoy singing songs that are also integrated with our themes. Music is just one of the many ways that we find a lot of joy and happiness- a natural stress reducer. It helps improve visual, verbal, and communication skills and at the same time a great way to help teach conquering risk and fears. With lots of opportunity to show self-expression it helps build self confidence. The early musical experiences is a step toward a lifelong love and involvement with music.
Spanish & French
Once a week the students at MRS dedicate a block of time learning Spanish for the first half of the year and French for the second half of the year. The Spanish and French lessons are based on our thematic units which help to make a relevant learning environment. In the early years the students are learning primarily through songs, games, and children’s books in Spanish/French as well as words that are the basic language skills and vocabulary terms and phrases which are most useful. This is also a great opportunity for students to gain knowledge and understanding of another culture. As the students grow so does vocabulary and instruction.
The arts are tied into all different aspects of our curriculum. We have drama and storytelling as a big part of our literacy program. We also dedicate time during our afternoon blocks to tie in different art mediums to the curriculum. Painting, sculpting, drawing and more.