Now that the first week of the new school year is over, it is time to reflect on the developments that we have brought to Amún Shéa in 2017. Were you to take a walk through our campus, many changes would be very clear. The CIAC (Interactive Science Learning Center) continues to receive additions as we prepare for its February opening and our greenhouses become more and more efficient. To prepare for the huge number of visitors we anticipate the CIAC to draw from the surrounding school districts, our cafeteria got a face lift and is in the midst of a transition to a full-service restaurant (although our students will continue to be served as they always have been).
A tour of the classrooms belies the changes in our school-wide methodology for the 2017 school year. Each classroom is an open space with groups of students working together across grade levels. A series of learning communities (kindergarten, first and second grade, third through fifth grade, sixth through ninth grade, and high school) make up the school. Mixed-grade classrooms are a cornerstone of Amún Shéa’s methodology. They allow older students the opportunity to guide and mentor the younger students and, conversely, give the younger students a role-model other than the teacher, which encourages student independence and fosters social and emotional learning. Teachers become more like resources and students develop in whichever direction they chose.
Rather than students being confined to classrooms for the entire school day, you will see kids of all different ages working around the school in small groups. Sometimes they go with their computers or notebooks in hand, sometimes with art or technical supplies, and sometimes they bring only their creativity. They all have something in common: problem based learning (PBL). This methodology is something that we were developing throughout the past school year in a pilot classroom and we are thrilled to bring it to the entire school this year. Students work together with their mentors at the school to identify a real problem or project that can benefit the school or larger community and spend the semester or entire year developing a solution. The existing curriculum from the Ministry of Education, which is fully available to the students, is incorporated into the larger project. Theory is put into practice, learning is made tangible, and every student learns in the way that best suits them.
There is a palpable sense of positivity that pervades the air of Amún Shéa this year, and this has just been the first week! Stay tuned for more amazing developments from Amún Shéa.
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