At Wingra, we believe that the learning environment in which literacy instruction takes place is critical to students’ success. We recognize that intellectual maturation and growth are naturally uneven processes and that children’s reading styles, skills and preferences vary in both their own development and in comparison with their classmates. Reading, writing, speaking, observing, thinking, and listening are natural processes of communication that are integrated into every school day and throughout the curriculum; we emphasize the language processes in all content areas. The Lake literacy program establishes high expectations for all students while ensuring a safe classroom environment that encourages students to take risks. Many Lake-age students are still transitioning from beginning readers to fluent readers, who read for pleasure, information, direction, and content throughout the day. Our goal is to build autonomy of earlier skills while focusing on strategies like comprehension monitoring, making connections, and inferring. We acknowledge the differences in children’s development and scaffold these processes to the individual and small group. In the Lake, we believe that reading, writing, listening, and speaking are naturally connected and emphasize that both informal and formal language are important forms of learning and communicating.
The major purpose of mathematics in the Lake is to help children understand and interpret their world and solve problems which occur in it. We call this “math literacy.” In the Lake, we strive to create an environment that encourages children to explore, conjecture, develop, test, discuss, and apply ideas in their world. We approach mathematics as an integrated whole, not simply a set of isolated topics.
In all Wingra classrooms, math instruction takes place daily in individual, small group, or whole class lessons. At Wingra, we work hard to foster what mathematicians describe as “number sense.” Beyond knowing how to use standard algorithms, students learn multiple approaches and why they work. We believe that learning the facts, rules, and methods within a context of deep understanding improves retention, promotes fluency, and facilitates future mathematical learning.
Children are natural scientists. They are curious and love to explore their surroundings. Science is integrated into every unit. In this way, children can see the interconnectedness of science, math, literacy, social studies, and the greater world. At this age, students are eager to physically interact with materials, go more in depth with concepts, and explore abstract ideas.
Students generate questions within each unit. Explorations and activities are planned based on student interests. In the Lake, students focus on problem-solving and hands-on science activities. Mixed-age and mixed-ability groups work together to investigate hypotheses and share their findings. They grow in their ability to represent and interpret data, keep records, and use reference materials.
In order to create a balanced science program in the Lake, we include studies of physical, biological and ecological sciences. Lake science content includes, but is not limited to, the study of simple machines and physics; organisms and their environments; plant, animal, and mineral identification and classification; properties and changes of properties in matter, light and heat; electricity and magnetism; biomes and habitats; science and technology; structures and functions in living systems; cells, tissues, and systems; metric measurement; and Earth and space science.
“Independence” is an overarching theme at the Lake level and learning to think independently is a key concept within our Social Studies curriculum. Nine-, ten-, and eleven-year-olds are can look beyond their self-centric, or family-centric viewpoints. They already have a basic understanding of social justice issues – these are visible, and have been explored and discussed in the Nest and Pond. At this level, they begin to dig more deeply into the experiences of other families, cultures and civilizations in modern and historic times, which may have fundamentally different traditions and viewpoints than they do. This sets the stage for in-depth perspective taking in the forms of writing, discussions, debates, and simulations. Central to this is listening and practicing respectful discourse. We operate as a democratic classroom community with real-world contexts and integrated curriculum across subjects. In the Lake, students actively investigate economic systems, historical events, technological advances, and geography in order to deepen their own understanding, which forms the basis for understanding others.
At this age, students are able to identify the qualities and characteristics that make them unique. They begin to recognize the privileges and opportunities they have. Students are beginning to notice ideas and concepts that are different from their own. This can cause them to reevaluate and reflect on their own long-held viewpoints. The Lake provides a safe space to explore and experience changing ideas. These experiences and topics are embedded within each unit of study and curriculum area. Using simulations, debates and research, we explore the experiences of historically underrepresented groups.