Our curriculum is designed to prepare students for 21st century living. While children still need to learn basic skills in reading, writing, and math, memorizing facts from textbooks are not as important as it was even 20 years ago. In this Age of Information, students have almost instant access to almost anything they want to know. (And even more!) Our job as educators is to teach students how to sort through this information, think critically about it, and draw their own conclusions.
Our curriculum focuses on the process of learning. Using current understandings of how the brain learns and about child development, we've created a curriculum that give students a framework from which they can branch out and explore their own ideas and interests in a deep and meaningful way. Our goal? To create lifelong learners.
At MindSpark, students spend large chunks of time exploring and researching their own questions. They investigate scientific ideas. They ponder human nature as they study history and literature. We encourage them to ask questions, make mistakes and try again. Our framework builds a strong foundation of core skills in reading, writing, and math, yet also allows students the freedom of self-discovery. We intertwine our six essential learning habits in order to create collaborators, critical thinkers, strong communicators, creative thinkers, and curious, responsible learners.
Six Essential Learning Habits
1. Lifelong learners take responsibility for their own education. At MindSpark, we talk a lot about what learning looks like. We encourage students to look critically at their own work habits, preferences, executive function skills and learning styles to help them become aware of the strengths and challenges they each possess. Younger students are strongly supported in goal setting, time management and organization of projects. As students get older, more of the responsibility shifts to them as teachers show them how to gain control of their own learning.
2. Lifelong learners are curious.
Children are naturally curious. At MindSpark, we help students stay curious by showing them how their curiosities can lead to learning. Teachers encourage them to ask questions and make observations. They also show them how to evaluate these questions to determine which ones are worth pursuing and can lead to more knowledge.
3. Lifelong learners think critically.
With information at their fingertips, students must constantly explore the idea of validity. They must think about what's behind the information they find. Who wrote it? What were their reasons? Could that affect the information they provided? At MindSpark, we don't want students to become passive learners. Instead, we value respectful challenges, disagreements, and quests for understanding the whys behind all of the whats.
4. Lifelong learners think creatively.
Problem-solvers need to think creatively. MindSpark offers a safe environment in which students can be creative. Through art, music, theater, and creative writing, students have multiple opportunities to find, develop and strengthen their creativity.
5. Lifelong learners collaborate.
Through collaboration, we learn to see multiple perspectives. We learn to value the skills of others and learn what our own strengths are. We learn to get along with many types of people and work together for a common cause. Collaboration is becoming more and more necessary in our world as problems become too complex for one individual to solve. As jobs become more and more specialized, it is vital that students learn to work with all kinds of people to complete a common goal. At MindSpark, students have opportunities to work in groups in projects that range from research to whole-school fundraising or community service. Teachers support students as they learn to identify goals, overcome obstacles, and self-reflect in their group work.
6. Lifelong learners are strong communicators.
Learners need to be able to clearly and precisely say what they have discovered, what they need more of, and what they struggle with. At MindSpark, we teach students the power of words, both written and oral, and allow them to practice communicating often. After all, we can have the best ideas, but if we can't share them effectively, they are worth nothing.