Children at this age are curious and very active. They want to take things apart, try new ideas and look more closely at everyday objects. They straddle the line between needing open-ended play, and having a desire for more formal learning.
The curriculum for this learning group focuses on basic literacy and math, as well as 21st century skills like communication, collaboration, learning processes, and life skills. Our goal at this age is to support each individual's academic, emotional, and social development; expose them to a variety of things, and keep their sense of wonder alive.
To strengthen reading skills MindSpark teachers use techniques, such as read-alouds, literacy-based projects, and independent reading time. During our school-wide independent reading time, non-readers have a chance to work on beginning reading skills with a literacy expert.
We use the Brave Writer approach to writing. Beginning writing is taught as simply another way to communicate. Children's words and opinions are valued, and teachers show them how to record this language in writing. Children have many opportunities for low-risk (ungraded) writing in literacy-based projects, record-keeping, labeling, and presenting ideas.
Creative expression is an important part of learning at MindSpark. The arts are integrated throughout academic classes. They are taught as separate classes, as well, so children can learn the tools of art and music.
Whenever possible, we try to connect learning to real-life situations. In addition to exploring local educational facilities, we also bring in relevant experts to do activities with the students.
Some resources we have partnered with in the past include:
We use a Montessori-approach to math. Every child works at their own pace while teachers monitor individual progress. Students learn concepts using concrete materials and games. As concepts become internalized, teachers help students transition between the concrete and abstract by removing the support of physical materials. They help students see many different ways to approach a problem, so students can choose approaches that make sense to them.
Science & History
There are countless topics of science and social studies that could be covered over the course of a child's education. We feel the place for for formal, sequential progression through social studies is appropriate at the high school level.
Instead, MindSpark teachers choose class topics inspired by student interests. Teachers rotate through major science and history topics, exposing children to a wide variety of subject matter. However, the main purpose of these integrated classes is to guide children through the learning process of exploring, questioning, researching, experimenting, and drawing conclusions.
21st Century Learning
Explorers take classes that integrate literacy, science, social studies math, art, and music. In these classes, teachers use many strategies to develop 21st-century skills.
Students learn problem-solving and collaboration skills through interest-led projects. They learn to communicate while working in groups and participating in facilitated discussions. They learn to think critically as they listen to high-quality literature or as they work through the scientific process. Students keep a "Timeline of History," on which they add events that have meaning to them. This timeline grows from year to year, allowing students to have a physical representation of the personal connections they make over time.