Our Learning Model

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Our learning model puts the six, core elements of place-based education principles at the center of the school experience.
Supporting the model is:

(1) Differentiated Pathways that align with our domains of learning and core skills

(2) Habits of Success where leadership and self-awareness proficiencies play an equivalent role to other knowledge and skills proficiencies -- the whole child matters,

(3) Learner-Centered learning as the core integrating methodology to support our project-based concepts, and

(4) Mastery as a proficiency-based assessment system where advancement is based on demonstration of mastery rather than time period.


What is Place-Based Education?


MRS Proficiencies

Through collaboration with the Teton Science School and the TSS Place Network, we have developed and aligned our domains of learning with the following proficiencies (synonymous with competencies):

Our innovative place-based approach, proficiency-based assessment and project-based learning align with the learning model to ensure collaboration, fidelity, and quality as a TSS Place Network School.

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MRS Teacher Values:

The staff at Mountain River School believe in the following core values:

Communication: We believe that open communication leads to collaborative practice.

Authenticity: We lead an honest and heart-centered life.

Mindfulness: We build awareness of mind, body, and heart.

Inclusivity: We strive to understand diverse perspectives.

Creativity: We foster a culture of imaginative thought and risk-taking.

Stewardship: We care for people and place.


Rivers

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Meadows

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Forests

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Integrated Arts

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Spanish

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Math

MRS has adopted the Singaporean math curriculum for students in K-6th grade, which is aligned with the Common Core Standards. While its focus is on mastery, Singapore math offers a multiple modality instruction, which benefits all students including visual and auditory learners who need a range of concrete, pictorial, and abstract presentation to acquire such mastery.

Students at Mountain River School are presented with differentiated mathematics instruction and mastery is achievable at their individual pace. While homework is not required at MRS, many students choose to work on mathematics materials at home. Mathematics instruction may also be supplemented to support further problem solving and interdisciplinary work.

Our upper grade students are offered a “math playlist,” whereby they are given multiple resources to aid in the ownership of learning. This may include: workbook instruction; peer collaboration; a weekly Kahn Academy lesson; supplemental work focusing on task-specific instruction; and design-challenge rotations, etc. Additionally or alternatively, students may opt to access math instruction through Aleks (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces), a web-based learning and assessment program.

MRS uses Aimsweb Plus math assessment measures (parent-optional) to evaluate overall performance growth on key foundational skills throughout the year.

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Literacy

Lucy Calkins Units of Study for teaching reading provides a comprehensive, cross-grade curriculum for our students at MRS. While it supports explicit instruction in reading skills and strategies, it also acts as a catalyst for goal setting, progress monitoring, and feedback. Our teachers seek to offer developmentally appropriate reading materials for their students, which deepen comprehension and fluency and further a love of reading and exploration of genres! Teachers may utilize reading workshop models, differentiated instructional resources, supplemental materials and strategies to aid in student learning.

MRS uses Fountas and Pinnell assessment measures to identify instructional and independent reading levels. Aimsweb Plus reading assessment (parent-optional) is available as an additional evaluation measure, as appropriate.

Lucy Calkins Units of Study for teaching writing explores explicit writing instruction in the areas of opinion/argument, information, and narrative writing, for example. These units aid in overall assessment, student self-monitoring, and growth. As writing extends beyond these practices, you may also see students writing as part of integrative art projects, outdoor nature journaling, pen-pal correspondence, etc. Studies of writing mechanics and grammar are also integrated in student lessons.

Our literacy instruction allows students to progress at their own pace, with ongoing teacher support and guidance, and are aligned with our literacy and language domains. 

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Exploratory: Project-based Learning

Our project-based learning comes alive through our exploratory lessons -- our integrated units of study. As our place-based principles are at the core of what we do, students will engage in interdisciplinary & learner-centered work where the outdoors and local communities serve as an extension of our classrooms. We strive to create meaningful, inquiry-based teaching practices, explore design-thinking measures, and extend learning through the various local-to-global contexts. Lessons, aligned to our domains and proficiencies, may look like the following:

Studying the evolution of human survival needs by creating historical personas and learning bushcraft and survival skills

Animal Tracking -- JACK

Mapping-- JACK

Geology -- CHRISTIE

Architecture and classroom design --CHRISTIE

Community Heroes - AMANDA

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Movement & Outdoor Time

As the outdoors and movement is an extension of our classroom at MRS, we spend a great deal of time creating, exploring, and collaborating with one another. It provides a catalyst for spontaneity and creative expression, as well as team-building!

Indoors, we have access to our movement room, which includes a rock climbing wall and monkey bars.

Outside time is from 11:15 - 12:00 daily -- we go out in all weather, and are often found in the “Warren” and “Mini Warren” working on our restaurants, houses, or doctor’s office, collecting all aspects from the natural world to build these creative play spaces! When the weather blows our houses down, we rebuild! When the snow blocks our entryway, we dig!

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Celebrations

Our MRS community gathers for celebrations throughout the year. Examples include:

Potlucks

Birthday memories

Columbus Day hike

Harvest Festival fundraiser

Winter Solstice lantern walk

Green-up Day

Cabin Fever fundraiser

May Day

 

Community Meeting

Each Wednesday, our parent community is invited to join us for our all-school community meeting where we gather to practice meditation or share stories and announcements. We have been known to break into games, music, and/or dancing! Following community meeting, we join our committee groups for brainstorming work.

 

Committees

Students participate in multi-age committees each week with an assigned teacher, in which their voice and opinions help drive the work that is done to support the MRS community at large. For example, students on the school store committee designed Patagonia wear to sell in the winter months. Our social committee helped to organize our Green-up day and May Day celebration!

Student committees include:

-Photography committee

-Social committee

-School store committee

-Outdoor committee

-Makerspace committee

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Music

We find that music is just one of the many ways that brings out joy and happiness and acts as a natural stress reducer. It helps to improve visual, verbal, and communication skills, and through self-expression, it helps build self-confidence in our students. Exposure to musical experiences is a step toward a lifelong love and involvement with music.

Students at MRS collaborate with local musician, Lesley Grant, who accompanies us on many of our school celebrations including our Winter Solstice lantern walk and for May Day gatherings. Music may be integrated into our lessons and students are also afforded the opportunity to take private music lessons at school, during the day. Currently, we offer guitar, ukulele, violin, and drums.

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Theatre

Students at MRS love to put on productions, whether it be through student-led talent shows, spontaneous plays, or organized theatrical productions, there is a high level of interest and talent! Students have worked with area director, Taryn Noelle, and produced, “The Secret Garden,” while our Meadows students worked with Waterway Stage Collaborative and Very Merry Theater to produce a short play on threatened/endangered species in Vermont.

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Winter Thursday

Between the months of January-March on Thursday afternoons, MRS students will spend time at the East Coast’s renowned Stowe Mountain Resort for snowboarding/alpine skiing or at Trapp Family Lodge for nordic skiing, all for a minimal cost. Teachers and parents join the students and gather into highly supervised groups for optimum learning experiences. In addition, the school is located on the town’s recreation pathCould/should this be a link to the Rec path website?, which gives us the opportunity to spend time sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing outside our front door!

 

 

(pre-2018 content below)


Mountain River School K-6 Curriculum

Mathematics

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.


 

Science

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.


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Language arts

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.


 

Social studies

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.


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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.



Yoga

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

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

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.