Salmonberry teachers take time to get to know their students and design project based, experiential and thematic learning that deepens this sense of connection and meaning.
One of the gravest errors in contemporary education is that learning has become an abstraction. Particularly at the early childhood and elementary level, children are still predominantly body beings and feeling beings. Their learning experiences must be relevant and visceral. Salmonberry believes children must be taught in ways that feel connected – to themselves, their lives and their sense of place. And the different disciplines and subject areas must connect to one another and to the real world.
Project Based Learning
“PBL” is a process-oriented approach to teaching where students pursue extended projects over time, rather than isolated regurgitative worksheets or “one-right answer” kinds of tasks. Project based learning allows teachers to differentiate instruction for the many skill levels and learning styles within each class. This approach allows all learners to be successful according to their unique developmental moment. And it allows students to dive deeply into a project which tends to give their work deeper meaning.
Whenever possible, teachers design experiences that allow the students to see, feel, and taste the concepts they are exploring. This approach is evident in the many hands-on experiments kids engage with in science, our manipulative and visual approach to teaching math, and the many ways in which the arts are brought into the classroom. Students get their hands dirty at Salmonberry, and they get their bodies moving. There are frequent field trips at Salmonberry from intertidal explorations, forest ecology lessons, community connections and culminating with the sixth graders week-long trip to New York City. Learning is not confined to the four walls of the classroom. We enter the world and engage with all our senses. Learning feels meaningful and comes alive as you interact it with it actively.
Integrated Thematic Curriculum
As much as possible, Salmonberry teachers blur the boundaries between different subjects. They design “expeditions” or explorations around a theme. These can be periods in history, parts of the world, scientific concepts or even broader ideas such as “courage” or “justice.” Once engaged within a theme, for example, the students are often learning about history or culture, while reading novels set in this time/place, doing art projects inspired by that culture, and even learning science, math, language or dance that is also thematically related. Dissolving the hard boundaries between disciplines also contributes to each learning encounter gaining meaning and richness from a greater appreciation of context and connection.