Overview of the Learning Program
The Learning Program at The Small School is made up of three frames.
Frame 1: Focused Key Learning Areas (KLAs)
Frame 2: Thematic Learning Units
Frame 3: Student Interests, Skills and Sustainability Program (SISS).
Frame 1: Focused Key Learning Areas (KLAs)
Stand-alone English and maths lessons will take place daily. This brings a sharp focus to literacy and numeracy skills and provides time for teachers to make careful observations of how children are progressing with their foundational skills in these Key Learning Areas (KLAs).
Frame 2: Thematic Learning Units
The majority of guided learning time at The Small School occurs through the thematic learning units. Themes are selected to provide rich and diverse learning opportunities. They will include most, if not all, the KLAs (integrated curriculum) and are designed to be broad enough to cater for each child’s particular interests and needs (emergent curriculum).
Each theme has a strategic focus, key concepts and an assessment task in the form of a presentation or performance at the end of each term (read more here).
In addition to the strategic focus, there will be a continuing focus for teachers to identify and use English and maths learning opportunities within thematic units.
The inclusion of Aboriginal culture will be included in each of these themes, not tokenistically, but as a needed way of knowing the world and the environment around us. Consultation and guidance from local elders will be sought in the telling of Aboriginal stories.
The first theme in Term 1 in 2019, will be Gardens, Seasons and Rainbows. The strategic focus is establishing the school community and gardens and the key concepts will include colour, weather, seasons, life cycle of plants and world mythology.
This particular theme has been chosen as our first theme as a means by which to develop relationships across our school community as the school is founded. We will continue this theme across two terms as we establish the school, our gardens and our school community.
The maintenance of the school garden will form an important part of The Small School’s Core School Community Program (Frame 3).
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Themes for the remainder of the year include:
Term 2: Continued Gardens, Seasons and Rainbows
Term 3: Castaways
The strategic focus will be on materials and building. The key concepts will include self-sufficiency, awareness of nature, building shelter and co-operation.
Term 4: Migration
The strategic focus will be on using technology as a research tool. The key concepts will include defining migration, the reasons people and animals migrate, the history of migration to Australia, family history and stories of migration.
Frame 3: Core Skills Community Program (CSCP)
The CSCP consists of 3 parts and has a strong focus on skills development, family involvement and community building. The 3 parts are: Nourishment, Mind and Tinkering.
Nourishment: Food and Gardening Program
The food and gardening program is intended to provide a vital link to the Earth. Research abounds on the benefits to children of connection with their natural world in terms of their long-term choices as well as habits of mind such as resilience, collaboration and confidence.
This program includes our lunch program and gardening program. It will assist students to develop a practical understanding of sustainability and food production and a greater appreciation and enjoyment of food.
Students will be involved in planting a variety of food plants, watering, fertilizing, and protecting them from pests. They will also be involved in harvesting, preparing and cooking food, eating together, and in composting organic waste.
Morning tea and lunch are prepared each day for children and staff in the school kitchen. Meals and snacks are eaten together in the dining room or outdoor eating area.
Parents are welcome to join in gardening activities, or to help prepare and share in lunch, as well as make use of the school dining room to meet and talk with teachers and other parents.
The cooking program will make use of foods grown at the school as well as purchased items from weekly farmers markets. Organic food is used as much as possible. Students will learn practical life skills as well as maths and science concepts.
The Mind Program
The Mind Program includes daily mindfulness exercises and the development of skills in
participation, conflict resolution, leadership and critical thinking.
Yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques to develop mindfulness, will be practiced with students on a daily basis. This will be approximately 15 mins each day and teachers may choose to do one of these activities for refocussing students after a break time, or as a way to bring the school day to a close.
Participatory Processes for Children:
Learning how to participate in and take responsibility for their school community is an important part of daily life at The Small School. Participatory processes include daily Circle Time, Special Circles and Whole School Meetings.
These processes are designed for children to learn to express themselves, to have some say in decision-making in the school in an age appropriate way and to develop a strong sense of agency and belonging in their learning environment.
Not all aspects of decision-making in the life of the school are suitable for children’s involvement. However, the purpose of this practice is to introduce children to the value of being active in a participatory, democratic environment and the workings of such an environment.
Circle Time is an informal gathering of all students, staff and parents (where possible) each morning to begin the school day. It consists of a brief discussion and some decision-making about the day, general school matters and a song.
The Whole School Meeting will usually take place once or twice per term and involves discussion and decision-making about how the school is operating. More formal meeting procedures will be followed, including having a chairperson, procedures for negotiating consensus and recording undertakings. Children will be expected and encouraged to participate in an age-appropriate way. It will involve all students and staff and parents where available.
Conflict between students or a behavioural/bullying problem will be discussed in a more private environment in Special Circles. Special Circles include children involved in a particular incident, friends or other children who have witnessed an incident, a staff member (teacher or School Manager) and possibly a parent/guardian, if required.
Restorative justice principles are practised in Special Circles, allowing a child who has been hurt or offended to discuss how they feel, and for a child who has hurt or offended another child to consider their actions while being present to the other child’s feelings.
Staff will aim to empower children to listen and talk through the situations with the children involved.
Serious or repeated misbehaviour or bullying may not be discussed in a Special Circle but in private discussions between the School Manager and parents/guardians as per the school’s Behaviour Management Policy.
Adults will model procedures and communication and conflict resolution skills in the various circle times. Most importantly, children as well as adults will be involved in discussing, changing and deciding on some school rules, such as who should help with various aspects of clean-up or how a particular piece of equipment should be used. There will be other school rules such as ones related to safety and supervision, which are non-negotiable. While these will be discussed with children, they will be explained as adult-only decisions. Decision-making is seen as a privilege which comes with responsibilities to participate in relationships with each other and with the school as
All children at The Small School are encouraged to care for and take pride in their environment and will share responsibility for tidying their workspaces and playground each day. This will be modelled and supported by staff.
Circle Time is also an important part of our approach to student leadership. At The Small School all children have the opportunity to develop leadership skills. There is no elected school captain or prefects, but a range of leadership duties which older children are expected to carry out on a rotational basis, allowing for each child to practise being a leader and to experience the rewards, privileges and responsibilities of leadership.
Tinkering includes the development of skill sets (involving wood and metal work and repurposing of materials) and opportunities for experiential learning and creativity. The school will maintain a tinkering workshop which will provide students with the opportunity to experiment with and learn to use a variety of hardware materials and tools. Most of the materials will be re-claimed and recycled items.
While a non-teaching staff member will have responsibility for maintaining the workshop, learning how to properly care for and store tools and materials will be an important part of the program for students.
The tinkering workshop will be available for students to make their own creations in their unstructured play times and will feature as a major component of thematic learning units, such as the Castaways theme where students will be looking at and assessing different building materials and techniques. It is also anticipated that student work in tinkering will significantly contribute to learning outcomes under the science and creative arts syllabi.