At High Park Day School, the school year is divided into five interdisciplinary units. Each unit lasts approximately 6 weeks, but we keep our schedule flexible so that students can achieve their learning goals. Within each unit, students set individual learning goals based on the skills they need to develop.
Each of the five units is based around a central idea: a broad statement which highlights the key understanding that the students should achieve by the end of the unit.
An example, the central idea for our Communities Unit is: We can all be active, essential members of our local and global communities. Starting with the central idea, students are lead through an ‘unpacking’ of this statement, looking at vocabulary, sharing prior knowledge, and formulating questions. The teacher also collects prior knowledge from the students by asking teacher-developed guiding questions. The teacher then exposes the students to three or four weeks of lessons and activities that address these guiding questions.
Examples: What are different types of communities? How are communities designed? Who are influential people in my community? How can I be an active member of my community?
Once the students have a wide-spread base of knowledge connected to the central idea, they are given the opportunity to formulate their own questions. These student questions become the focus of the next three or four weeks of lessons. As well, each student chooses a specific topic (still connected to the original central idea) and completes an independent study project. This project is completed at school under the guidance of the teachers. Each student is given the support that he or she needs. When each student is finished researching and consolidating their learning, they share their new understanding with the rest of the students. This could be in the form of a presentation, a performance, an interactive display, a book or any combination of these. Students are given the opportunity to ‘stand in their strength’ and share their learning in whichever way is the most comfortable for them.
• Students are introduced to the central idea of the unit.
• Lessons and activities address the teacher’s guiding questions.
• Student questions are collected.
• Lessons and activities address the student questions.
• Students are guided through an independent study project, on a topic of their choice.
• Students share their learning with the rest of the students, and celebrate their learning.