Voyagers’ Community School Curriculum
The study of facts and figures is important, but it doesn’t teach students to wonder, invent, or trust their intuition. Nor does it help them learn how to learn. To prepare students for success, Voyagers’ emphasizes project-based, emergent learning. We are dedicated to using inquiry techniques to draw thoughts from the child, and build knowledge from their interests, rather than imposing a pre-supposed structure to their method of learning. This practice allows students to dig deep into course material and merge it with their interests and current knowledge. Working on long term, collaborative projects can help students:
- Take personal and social responsibility
- Gain more insight into the topic they’re studying
- Connect new knowledge to what they already know
- Increase planning, critical thinking, and reasoning skills
- Strengthen their will to participate and adopt a positive work ethic
- Build strong communication skills
- Enhance creative thinking
- Improve negotiation and decision-making skills
- Use appropriate technology and materials
- Gain confidence in their ability to find solutions
Cooperative, project-based learning can help students become confident and experienced learners. This ultimately prepares them for college and whatever the world has to offer. Our students stand out in a crowd. Their confidence and self-assurance feed their desire to reach their academic goals. They quickly develop a sense of pride and honor that sets them apart as leaders and responsible citizens.
Voyagers’ students are organized by home bases. Each home base is made up of approximately three grade levels and a peer group of roughly 15 students, considering the needs of each student and the class as a whole. Some elective classes involve a greater mix of age groups but remain similar in size; student-teacher ratio changes depending on the course, ranging from one to three teachers. Occasionally, home base classes will join together for projects or activities as well.
Core academic classes are addressed in each home-based regularly throughout each week. Students study Writing, Reading, Global Studies, Science, Math, Foreign Language, and STEAM. Ongoing projects continue cross-curricular where appropriate. Elective and Essentials classes meet each week, giving the opportunity for students and teachers to interchange with other groups and choose classes based on interests. Occasionally, we are able to welcome professionals from the community to teach classes, and professors from surrounding colleges will even join the classroom, offering lectures and projects.
Our focus on communication skills, built through strengthening reading and writing fundamentals, helps students learn to express complex thoughts. Students are inspired to become independent readers and writers through exposure to a wide variety of topics and conversations.
Students participate in book clubs, silent reading, and read aloud activities. They learn how to analyze each book and think like a writer as they read. They discuss:
- What motivates the characters,
- How the plot develops,
- The book’s setting,
- The author’s writing style,
- Common themes and motifs, and
- Connections to other literature.
As they learn more, students display their knowledge by engaging in presentations, plays, debates and panel discussions. All throughout their school years, students are encouraged to think of themselves as authors—as people who have something important to say. We support each student as they develop their unique voice, whether they’re crafting an essay, writing a memoir, or journaling.
Teachers encourage our youngest students to first draw their stories and tell them aloud. Teachers will take dictation to help students create stories until they are able to write their own thoughts clearly. We encourage invented spelling and story development before moving on to honing their writing skills. Commonly used words are pulled from their own stories to create reference materials. As students become more comfortable with the writing process, revision is emphasized. Mini-lessons are designed around common mistakes found in the student’s writing, on techniques the class could incorporate, or on genres the class is studying. Self, peer and teacher review are all valued parts of this process.
In middle and upper school, students develop their writing through lessons, classwork, and peer and teacher review. Critical analysis of literature, identifying viable non-fiction sources, and cross-curricular connections help students build an ability to think critically about their writing. Students develop a strong voice and learn to create a compelling original story in both fiction and nonfiction writing. Over time, each student compiles an anthology of original poetry, memoir, fantasy, realistic fiction, and research papers. Voyagers’ students eventually prepare position papers, theses, and literary publications.
Children are encouraged to feel, smell, look, listen—and even taste—the world around them. Hands-on experience is very important to build scientific understanding in both a natural and laboratory setting. Science lessons often begin with student inquiry, flowing from what the students already know and then following their interests as a project builds. The four basic goals of the science program are the:
- Improvement of general thinking skills,
- Practice of scientific inquiry,
- Teaching of specific concepts and facts, and
- Coordination of the science program with other curricula
During the middle school years, students are engaged in our Outdoor Program, where they hold class in the Arboretum three mornings per week. Science classes are closely tied to environmental topics.
High School students will cycle through:
- Environmental Science
Each child entering Voyagers’ is evaluated for math placement. Students then move through math instruction at their own pace with specifically designed lessons and activities to meet the needs of individuals and different groups. They receive support from teachers, work with peers, and engage in self-teaching activities. Students discover that math is in everything we do. They see it when they’re:
- Playing games,
- Engaging in science experiments, and
- Studying maps
As the students advance with math skills, they prepare for the advanced concepts presented in middle and upper school. They’ll study:
- Business Math
Upper school students will use math as they learn life skills such as:
- Developing trip itineraries
Our commitment to global awareness, peacemaking, and social justice is reflected in our class offerings across the board. Our Global Studies curriculum encompasses such things as geography, economics, infrastructure, global systems of trade, money, religion, politics, social evolution, foreign language, traditions, and the human experience in general. We are most focused on the social justice aspects of Global Studies including human rights, fairness, peacemaking, and rights and justice. Students are expected to demonstrate a familiarity with diverse perspectives and to understand that context plays an important role in understanding economics, culture, and politics.
Students are increasingly expected to engage in comparative analysis to determine how diverse perspectives influence individual and group understanding of local and global issues.
Most of Voyagers’ students study American Sign Language while others learn French. Active lessons and direct instruction helps children to become comfortable with fluently signing or speaking the language. They build their vocabulary and grammar understanding through:
- Cooperative learning
- Critical reading
- Units of study that include relevant, real-life situations
Students create and participate in projects that show their ability to understand and speak American Sign Language (ASL) or French.
Every Voyagers’ student is enrolled in STEAM classes where they learn through hands-on activities and computer programs. Bringing ideas to life through design, engineering, and construction allows knowledge to coalesce and creativity to emerge. Coding is an important skill to develop.
Art & Creative Curriculum
Each classroom has an art studio that’s stocked with a variety of supplies and tools for both fine arts and crafts, as well as access to supplies in our STEAM Lab. Voyagers’ students experience the benefit of working with authentic, quality materials. Children use paint, pastels, clay, recycled materials, wire, wood, and whatever their artistic minds can find. Art in the digital age is very present at Voyagers’. Each student is issued an iPad with access to a camera and art apps. High-quality video cameras, filming equipment, animation stations, and drawing tablets are available for student use. Our Apple desktops have drawing and editing software.
Woodworking supplies range from hand to power tools. Students learn responsibility and gain confidence from working hard at their craft. Not to mention the thrill of finishing a piece of furniture or unique craft.
Children learn about art techniques, art history and the work of both classic and contemporary artists from all walks of life. Artistic expression is all around us and we understand that it is powerful and essential to human development.
Voyagers’ offers a wide exposure to music and musical study. Our collection of instruments includes:
- Electric, acoustic and bass guitars
- Upright pianos
- Many keyboards
- A complete drum set
- Digital instruments and software
- Many acoustic hand instruments
Choice Of Electives At Voyagers’
We have many Electives to choose from! Each student is encouraged to pursue their personal interests. Electives offered include:
- Woodworking and construction
- Jewelry making
- Architectural design
- Strategy and board games
- Robotics and so much more
In addition to our teachers, children are guided by experts who are passionate and generous in their areas of expertise. They can be local professionals, parents, grandparents, community members, and even fellow students.
An hour each day is devoted to exercise. The children are outside unless the weather is extreme. They run, build, climb trees, catch bugs and work in the garden. Often, they organize a game of football, kickball, or capture the flag. The Family Game is a Voyagers’ specialty that often attracts the entire community, students and staff, alike. In addition to Physical Education class, children are encouraged to explore the yard during breaks throughout the day and during classes when possible.