Monthly Themes are a resource for our Guides (the title we give our teachers), and fit into the larger Cultural Calendar for the whole year. For example, in September some of our Monthly Themes will be Color, Community and Orientation. Children will repeatedly be invited to notice color as they explore KVR finding flowers, insects and plants. Orientation will be explored through games that help the children familiarize themselves with their new learning spaces. Boundaries will be defined, cardinal directions will be learned, and they will begin to orient themselves to other important KVR destinations. Designated locations for specific supplies will be noted. Community will be emphasized through group games, lessons on grace and courtesy and practicing how we interact with the other living beings in our outdoor learning spaces.
Themes act as a reminder to our Guides of the important content to cover, and also provide the inspiration for the group games, songs, poems, and art projects The themes are also very site-specific to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and may fluctuate depending on phenological timing of the year and student interest. In this way the themes will also reflect science, social studies and art standards and with our emphasis on child-led interests sparked by a discovery while playing and being in nature.
Our Monthly Themes are scaffolded for our 4K and K students as well as for our 1st and 2nd grade students and are developed with a two-year rotation, touching on new concepts during the two years a child is in a particular class. This offers children a natural growth cycle within the supportive community of a multi-age class. Children who were once “new” to the class gradually grow to become more experienced leaders in the curriculum. As an educational program rooted in place-based and emergent curriculums we recognize that our themes will develop and change as the school matures, and as student interests emerge.
EXAMPLE: As the class and school move through the seasonal Cultural Calendar and Monthly Themes, students will be given opportunities to connect Social Studies and Science standards directly to what they are experiencing in the world around them. For example, a Kindergarten student may be introduced to the Social Studies standard in Economics, SS.Econ2.a.1 (Differentiate between buyers (consumers) and sellers (producers)), as we work closely with the local apple orchard. A second grade student may meet Next Generation Science Standard 2-ESS2-1. (Compare multiple solutions designed to slow or prevent wind or water from changing the shape of the land), as they study the resident beavers or play with the melting spring snow and ice.