SVCS Curriculum Approach
At SVCS, children will receive a unique educational experience…in some ways similar to and in some ways different from other public schools.
In accordance with our charter, SVCS will monitor achievement reflected through a variety of assessment strategies. The charter details that our school goals are:
- “Students will meet or exceed the average performance of New Hampshire students on state required assessments.”
- “Students’ academic performance data will show students are making at least one year’s growth annually.”
- “Students will demonstrate progress on critical skills through portfolios and classroom exhibitions.”
Our school is set up in five classrooms: kindergarten, first/second grade combination, third/fourth combination, fifth/sixth combination, and seventh/eighth. Because of the multi-grade classroom approach, teachers cover a standards-based curriculum in a unique manner for each of the content areas. Details are listed below.
Additionally, students at SVCS benefit from an emphasis on community. The sense of community is supported through all-school gatherings, whole-school recess, younger/older classroom reading buddies, and other opportunities. Children can often be found eating lunch in younger or older classrooms, and nurturing friendships are encouraged. The school also subscribes to the best practices detailed in the Responsive Classroom approach. This approach helps students to develop social awareness skills through morning meetings, classroom rule creation, interactive modeling, positive teacher language, logical consequences, guided discovery, and academic choice.
Students in grades K-5 benefit from a unique mathematics curriculum entitled “Engage NY,” while students in grades 6-8 utilize “Connected Mathematics.” Inherent in Engage NY and Connected Mathematics is the belief that all students can become mathematically proficient – not by rote procedural memorization, but through a profound understanding of mathematical concepts. These programs encourage students to explore numbers and their relationship in depth, express findings in a variety of ways, engage in cooperative learning, and invent their own strategies. You might notice that the strategies taught are different from how you learned when you were in school – but perhaps more like the shortcuts you’ve developed as adults.
Engage NY and Connected Math are cutting-edge approaches, lauded nationally and compared favorably to many other curricula that do not focus on higher-order thinking or critical reasoning skills. Other local public schools have recently adopted the Investigations program, including some that are seeking to improve student performance under Common Core State Standards.
English Language Arts (Reading/Writing/Literacy)
The skills taught in English Language Arts address NH Curriculum Frameworks and are based in a variety of strategies used in a creative, integrated manner. Some of your child’s writings are kept in their cumulative portfolio at school and shared at parent-teacher-student conferences; parents are encouraged to review student work throughout the year and to communicate with their child’s teacher frequently. Students will read and write for a variety of purposes, including the appreciation of many genres of fiction and nonfiction literature, and the development of creative and research writing skills. In the early grades, we emphasize that a majority of instructional time be spent on learning to read/write in a focused, developmentally responsive manner.
Social Studies and Science
Social Studies and Science are taught in a looping schedule to accommodate the mixed-age classes. For example, in the third/fourth-grade classroom, all students will engage in the third-grade curriculum units one year and the fourth-grade curriculum units the next. It is possible that your third-grader could work with the fourth-grade curriculum units during their third-grade year; then the third-grade curriculum units their fourth-grade year. Since the New Hampshire Department of Education addresses grade-span expectations (GSEs) rather than grade-specific ones, Science and Social Studies topics and skills can be covered within a certain set of grade levels. Teachers are encouraged to use project-based learning to meet the required framework GSEs.
Project and Place-Based Learning
SVCS stresses the importance of project-based learning. Project-based learning allows students to gain an in-depth understanding of content through inquiry and integration. Though textbooks might be used as a resource for research or to ensure basic background understanding, the emphasis lies on integrating a standards-based education into a “problem” that students solve through learning important content and skills. Typically, this kind of problem or initiative is presented to the students with a charge to address a “real world” or authentic issue – thus lending both meaning and relevancy to student learning. Embracing collaborative learning and employing a variety of approaches to tackling the problem help foster multiple intelligences and varied learning styles. Whenever possible, SVCS seeks to ground learning in the local environment of Surry Village and the Monadnock Region. This "place-based" approach encourages students to know and understand the world by being active in their local environment. For example, SVCS students use the local habitats for natural science, work with local experts to learn history, and experience the practical skills of New England village life.