SCHOOLS THAT ARE MAKING IT HAPPEN
East Kingston, NH
East Kingston illustrates what can be achieved at a rural school that is small enough so that each child is known well and with whole child practices can grow and be nurtured to reach his or her full potential.
ETWC Report Summary: The East Kingston Elementary School creates and sustains a trusting, diverse, inclusive school community where all are welcomed, valued, and empowered. As stated on their website: We prioritize equitable school experiences and outcomes for all learners through anti-oppressive mindsets and curriculum that centers positive identity development, empathy, and justice in stewardship of our global community. Principal Brandon French, the staff, and students embody and reflect each of these essential statements that define their shared mission.
The first distinctive element is the focus on Competency Based Education through Project Based Learning. Teachers utilize this model at each grade level. For example, in the grades 1 and 2 multi-age class, students have CBE time where they pursue “Passion Projects.” Students research activism projects, brainstorm ideas and explore options, and then chose topics and ideas for explorations. Learning in this manner is flexible, engaging, self-paced, and collaborative. The centerpiece of the school’s current place-based educational initiative is to improve and expand existing garden beds and to work with K-5 teachers to develop integrated curricula projects for each grade level. These projects include required math, reading, science, language arts and social studies, as well as art, music and movement and social responsibilities
A second distinctive element is the adoption of a curriculum that integrates science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). Many studies show that this form of integrated curriculum encourages creativity, improves social skills, provides a different way to value the arts, and results in students who take thoughtful risks, while increasing critical thinking skills.
The third distinctive element is the school’s philosophy to teach through themes, such as pets, rocks and minerals, or fairy tales and folktales, beginning in the youngest grades. Classes explore concepts based on student interest, incorporating hands-on experiences during integrated literacy, science, and social studies blocks. It is through these experiences that students question, wonder, participate in meaningful discussions, and develop critical thinking skills.
The fourth noteworthy element is the implementation of Professional Learning Communities. During these meetings, teachers are provided time to examine and share concerns they have encountered in their practice, and collaborate to plan future instruction using Competency Based Education. East Kingston teachers also serve on district-wide committees to develop a common vision for Project Based Learning across the district.
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