Social Studies/Multicultural Studies
As part of Little Earth School’s Social Studies/Multicultural curriculum children are given many opportunities to experience, get to know, and feel comfortable with, diversity. These experiences occur primarily within the school community—making children aware of the diversity present in the school. This may take many forms depending on the age of the children: sharing family traditions, sharing experiences of travel abroad, discussion of historical and current events, study of human rights issues and heroes, making and learning to play games and listening to music and learning songs that come from many cultures.
Rather than observe traditional holidays, we create our own, instilling in children a sense of the daily celebration of life. The school community’s many special celebrations include Dia del Nino, the Community Feast, an End of the Year Picnic, child-inspired museums, “garden parties”, puppet shows, dance, music and theatrical performances.
Through the Social Studies curriculum children also learn to assume responsibility for conflict resolution through practice and participation and to develop tools to resolve conflict constructively, including recognizing and taking action with respect to those behaviors which may involve bias directed at a child’s individual or group identity.
Once a week the entire school community gathers together to sing, to discuss issues that affect the school and to work cooperatively on “big jobs” (jobs that support the functioning of the school as a whole which are different from those the children do daily in their classrooms).
The Visual and Performing Arts
The visual and performing arts have always been central features of Little Earth School’s integrated curriculum. As educators we recognize that children’s creativity and imagination are essential tools in the learning process. The ability to take risks and explore putting materials, movements, rhythms or ideas together in new ways supports learning in all academic areas. In addition the performing arts allows for “cross over” between the right and left brain hemispheres which enhances children’s learning capabilities. The integration of the arts is also critical to the important development of an aesthetic sense in the children.
A large insulated yurt serves as the school’s performing arts space. Our dance and music programs Dance teachers offer various forms of dance instruction from creative movement to jazz, depending on the age of the children. The program provides opportunities for a child to develop his/her own movement/coordination abilities as well as the focus and cooperation skills required when dancing in a group. As part of the school’s multicultural curriculum, the dance program also introduces music and dance from other cultures. Children have the opportunity to perform several times during the year at special all-school events.
As part of our music program, children sing in their classrooms every day and with the entire school once a week. More formal music instruction takes place with experienced and devoted music teachers. Again depending on their age, children sing, play musical games, learn choral music and learn to play rhythm instruments, recorder, marimba, African drums and djembe.
Classroom teachers use the visual arts as an integral part of learning in every subject area. In addition, using a wide variety of age appropriate art media, children have the opportunity to work on special art projects in the school’s dedicated art studio. Visiting artists complement the work done by classroom teachers, offering more long term projects of greater complexity in various art genres.
A dedicated Spanish teacher who is passionate about the Spanish language works with the children in all classrooms. Children learn Spanish through cooperative games, literature, songs, art activities and other projects which are interesting and meaningful to them. Translation is used minimally. The curriculum replicates how children learned their first language – with many opportunities to hear the language and many nonverbal cues. Listening provides the foundation for the development of speaking, reading and writing skills. The goal of the Spanish program is not only to have children learn a second language, but also to increase their cultural sensitivity and understanding, and their interest in, and comfort with, difference. In addition, research has shown that learning a second language also builds children’s problem solving skills through enhanced cognitive outcomes, including flexibility, memory and attention.
Little Earth School recognizes the profound importance and significant developmental impact of allowing children to spend significant amounts of time outdoors, to have direct experiences with nature, in organized activities as well as in unstructured play. The natural world inspires children, develops their sense of humility and wonder and their sense of themselves as “doers” rather than spectators. We believe in the educational value of substantial recess time every day. Our large outdoor space is an extension of our indoor classrooms. A shaded pavilion is a welcoming environment for learning. A garden area and many trees, including a shady grove of large cottonwoods, invite exploration and provide a variety of opportunities to teach about the natural world. In addition to a great open space conducive to running, sledding, organized non-competitive games and fantasy play, there are wagons and trikes, climbing walls and other climbing and play structures, a rope bridge, swings, tires and large, equipped sandboxes. Away from school, children participate in an annual ski program, hikes and camping trips.