What counts as literacy? Literacy cannot be limited to the mastering of specific reading and writing skills. We want to generate knowledge from our experiences and those experiences include more than print texts. As texts and media evolve, so does our understanding of what it means to teach literacy. The dynamic nature of technology, language, stories, media, and communication, creates a varied experience for every student in the Sky. Each student brings a different relationship to writing, and values the process in their own inimitable way.
Our goal is for students to feel comfortable in the writing process, working at drafts with others’ input, to come to a finished piece that best reflects their purpose and ideals. Students appreciate that different writing structures can be used to learn about and respond to the world around them. A poem, song lyrics, a performance piece, or letter to the editor is just as valuable as a five paragraph essay. Students practice identifying ways that they best critically take information in and, separately, determine how they best demonstrate what they know.
We want students to be engaged participants in a democracy, and strive to build a culture of respectful speaking and listening. Students learn to speak with an understanding of how they are received, listen with patience, and read all literature with a critical eye towards the big picture. Reading and writing are skills specifically valued by dominant culture. We value them as well, and, we want students to develop a greater breadth of skills to read and write the world.
We believe development in all areas of mathematics supports increased conceptual understanding. Each year in the Sky, we provide a program of broad experiences rather than narrowing a student’s practice to one aspect of math, such as algebra. Students continue to learn algebra, geometry, data and statistics, trigonometry, and number theory throughout each of their three years in the Sky.
During our structured math times, students cultivate an ability to balance playfulness with perseverance as they patiently apply multiple strategies to their problem solving. Being able to identify a reasonableness in an answer, make a model of a problem, or carefully articulate their thinking are hallmarks of a strong Wingra mathematician. Teachers intentionally guide students to be critical of real world data, helping them to identify bias or the misuse of data within a particular context. Perhaps most importantly, teachers work diligently to combat gender stereotypes, especially in math, science, and technology, which continue to exist in our culture. The overall mathematics program, which includes a combination of group and individual work, fosters higher level conceptual understanding with skill development and facility.
The Sky’s constructivist approach to learning is scientific in nature. We start with where the students are in their understanding about particular phenomena and through collaborative investigation, sharing, and testing their ideas, develop a sound understanding of scientific concepts. The curriculum focuses on stewardship of the earth and its resources. Making sense of themselves and the world around them is ongoing. They learn to think and interact in the world like scientists. We consider the ethics of various applied scientific and technological concepts especially on marginalized populations and sensitive environments. We encourage a healthy skepticism while simultaneously finding value in knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
Students work collaboratively investigating, researching, experimenting, gathering data, researching other sources, organizing results, drawing conclusions, and asking further questions. We make space for failure and encourage safe risk-taking in intellectual processes.
The main objectives of our science program are to: 1) inspire a sense of wonder in our students so they will continue to investigate scientific questions on their own; 2) equip our students with the knowledge and the tools they need to research answers to scientific questions.
Sky students work with units related to physical science (chemistry and physics); biological and life sciences; and earth and space sciences. Much of the science is inquiry-based and problem-solving in nature. Embedded in students’ science learning are aspects of the history of science, the nature of science, and model-building explanations for natural phenomena. Teaching strategies include: readings from various sources (i.e. various textbooks, newspapers, journals, other student’s writing), labs, opportunities for tinkering, demonstrations and presentations by experts in the field, and visits to working laboratories. We frequently borrow materials from the university, visit science laboratories, and practice various lab techniques. Sky students maintain science notebooks which include detailed diagrams, data, summaries of experiences, and lab reports.
Our approach balances instruction and hand-on experiences; the curriculum is guided by students’ developmental ages and stages, Next Generation Science Standards, Wisconsin Model Academic Standards, and, most importantly, our progressive ideals.
Our overarching goal for our students is to become strong, healthy individuals that contribute positively to the various communities that we are a part of. Instead of just learning about the fundamental concepts of our democracy, we put them into practice daily. We recognize that we are political and social creatures and there is much to be learned about the broader world by examining the social interactions we are involved in at school. Students learn to be effective advocates for themselves and others by being encouraged to respectfully challenge authority, to raise issues that concern them, to facilitate classroom meetings, to take responsible and inclusive action in addressing issues, and to participate in co-creating and modifying curriculum.
We confront the tension between individual rights and what is the common good honestly. Students come to understand that the health of the community (any community) is based in our individual choices and actions. We understand that democracy is not a thing but a way of life that requires regular evaluation and adjustment. Carefully examining how we function as a community here informs how we examine the wider world of social studies, and learning about social studies informs us about how we can better live our lives. Our classroom community is a laboratory to develop our ethics that lead to a healthy, inclusive, just, and sustainable society.
Forming individual identity is some of the most important work adolescents do in itself. This individual identity work is also important in considering the identity of communities and society. Developing an understanding of self comes from the internal as well as the external. Helping students make sense of factors that impact identity including biological, environmental, and human constructions (race, gender, sexuality, etc.), is an important responsibility when developing curriculum.
We believe that democracy is a way of living based on fundamental concepts and promises made by our country’s founders reinterpreted for changes and challenges in our society through time. We incorporate these fundamental concepts of democracy into our daily classroom life. We believe that living these concepts can lead to a more socially-just society. We recognize that the promises of our country’s democratic project have not been fulfilled due to injuries inflicted on certain individuals and groups, limiting and/or denying opportunities for living happy and healthy lives. Students collaboratively problem-solve to generate positive remedies to issues in the classroom and larger communities.
We know that teaching is a political act and that each kind of schooling contains its biases. We strive to develop the skills to recognize these biases, and apply them to our own functioning. Our critical pedagogy stretches across all subject areas, routines and rituals. Students are encouraged to critique information, social structures, and decision-making processes that they experience here and in their various communities. The use of centers and co-created curriculum situates students as active agents in their learning. As a result, students are more willing to remain open-minded, take risks, and accept challenges.