A Day in the Life in the Middle Years

     As the sun rises above the evergreen trees, signaling a new day at the Oak, our oldest and wisest of Oakers, the Bears, saunter up the gravel path to casually enter their classroom to greet classmates and teachers eager to begin another day of self-directed learning and discovery. They handle their morning routines independently, which include hanging up their belongings, and answering the Question of the Day. There is no one right answer to the QOD as it is meant to encourage deep thinking, support multiple intelligences, and provoke conversation at Morning Meeting. The QOD is typically mathematical in nature, in preparation for Core Skills Workshop, a 75-minute block of time when students build their foundational skills outside through open-ended math games, numerical inquiry, as well as shared reading and writing. Part of the Bears' morning responsibilities also includes checking the class mailbox, which may contain suggestions for improvement of our school community by younger classes for our 6th - 8th graders to take into consideration as the governing student body.

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     Everyone looks forward to Morning Gathering as a respectful time given to discuss ideas, share problem solving strategies, set intentions for the day, build community and enjoy a mindful moment together. QOD thoughts can be shared. Stories and dreams from the evening before can be shared. New questions to add to the Wondering Wall can be documented and shared. Plans for the next step of student projects can be shared. There is no set agenda and no rush. 

     With new ideas swirling in their heads, the children are buzzing with enthusiasm for Project Time, referred to as Independent Investigations to reflect the developmental stage of early adolescents. The children continue working on learning goals that they have set for themselves. At the beginning of each new season, students have a one-on-one meeting with their teacher to discuss their interests, questions, and wonderings. Through their discussion together, but mainly driven by the student, a project will be developed. Since stewardship is central to our school mission, many projects have a driving question that strives to fulfill a community need. Projects take advantage of the people, the resources, and the landscape around us. A list of foundational skills that can be developed over the course of the project, such as persuasive writing, identifying patterns, or telling time, for example, will also be generated. This way basic skills that the children need to continue building up their knowledge base will be embedded in their self-directed project. 

     Projects will focus on a place-based problem to be solved, a solution to make something better/a new innovation, or an inquiry question to answer. Students spend this block of time each morning conducting age-appropriate research, hands-on experiments, and developing their project. The Scientific Method will be utilized, in addition to the Socratic Method of questioning to encourage the students to drive down to the answer for themselves. Projects can be conducted independently or in small groups if similar interests overlap. Projects can move between indoor and outdoor spaces, again depending on the nature of the inquiry. During Project Time, the teacher meets with the students to facilitate next steps of their project, to assist in the documentation of each student's Independent Investigation, and to develop the level of inquiry.

     Documentation of the project will also happen during this time and be creatively designed by the individual student or student group. Technology, in addition to the school library, will be utilized to support learning and documentation of the project, which may include the use of a computer, a graphics tablet, trail cams, projector, a scanner, and/or printer.

     Each project culminates in a Learning Expo at the end of the season to highlight the student's academic learning and personal achievement. Parents are cordially invited to the Expo. Students will                                                                      complete a personal evaluation at the end of each project.   

     With the gentle sound of the rain stick, students wrap up their project work for today, get washed up and eat lunch before heading back out for a bit of unstructured play, soccer, Gaga ball, and free exploration.

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    Feeding our creative souls are first on the agenda for the afternoon. As the oldest Oakers, students have eagerly waited for the day they become a Bear so that they have the opportunity to choose their afternoon Elective classes. Two classes, or more, are offered to the Bears each afternoon of the week for 45-minutes. They choose the class that most interests them and participate accordingly for the full season. Each new season brings new choices! Such classes may include: sewing, Jam Band, soccer, world language, carpentry, and Lego League among others. Alas, this very busy day isn't over yet for our Bears. They return from Electives to find their teachers, along with the Lower School teachers, eagerly waiting for them to jump into the day's Peer Collaboration and Coaching session. This last hour of the day provides students in 2nd - 7th grade time to work together around common interests in the maths and humanities, time to share progress made on their long-range projects and get suggestions for next steps, time to discuss the latest chapter in their book club book, as well as time to provide feedback within their writers' group. 

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    Rounding out the day is Closing Meeting, a time to reflect on the day and for each student to share his/her ‘Rose, Bud and Thorn,'  a favorite moment, a least favorite moment, and hopes for the next day.

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