Kindle Farm Develop's a Unique Curriculum

Written By: 
Shannon Lamb

For the past few years, Kindle Farm has been building up to create its own curriculum that meets the unique needs of our students, families and community, uses the talents of our staff members and incorporates federal, state and local requirements. With accumulated wisdom, curriculum maps and logs and a variety of resources our Middle School/High School Science teacher and I (the Multi-Age Elementary/Early Middle School science teacher and Academic Coordinator) sat down this summer and created the first draft of this curriculum that we titled “On the Earth and In the World.” This school year, the curriculum is being carried out in the 4 science classrooms across the school.

We chose science as our launching point for several reasons. Though the current emphasis in our culture is on Literacy and Mathematics, Science is the place where these skills are actually used in life. Rather than focusing on drilling students with practice upon practice of isolated Literacy and Math skills, we are giving them a chance to uncover, practice and make connections between the skills in an area of excitement and wonderment. Some projects that exemplify this idea include Elementary students making recommendations to farmers for growing seasons based on sunlight and shadow data, understanding acids and bases by creating a canning kit to bring home, Middle school students creating a local geology kit to be shared with area schools and High school students proposing an eradication program for invasive species upon intensive study of the local flora.

Below are some excerpts from our science curriculum vision statement.

As we prepare our students to be responsible and compassionate adults, we must help them recognize their place within an increasingly imperiled natural world and within an increasingly diverse and interconnected global society. Students must be given the critical thinking skills required to navigate these realities, and these skills must be developed in coordination with a social and behavioral emphasis that allows them to develop these tools with real people. It is the goal of this curriculum to help students apply this empirical lens to their interactions with both the natural and man-made worlds.

The development of this curriculum was grounded in several institutions and practices. The overarching scope and sequence was modeled after those utilized in local school districts (including the Windham Southeast, Windham Central, and Windham Northeast Supervisory Unions). In compliance with the State of Vermont, we grounded our scope and sequence in the Next Generation Science Standards. However, the project-based nature of the curriculum, the emphasis on local agency and engagement, and the modeling of tasks after the true work of real-world scientists, combine to give the curriculum a longevity that is not defined by the current standards.

The curriculum emphasizes the importance of Earth and Life Science topics, while blending together the typically distinct fields of Chemistry and Physics. Several broad themes were incorporated into the curriculum, themes that reflect the unique values and programmatic foci of the Kindle Farm School at large. These themes emphasize our interactions with the natural world and an interconnected global society through interdisciplinary connections within our Agricultural, Vocational, Mathematics, Language Arts and Social Studies Curricula. Students will be expected to document their accomplishment at three benchmark occasions, and these benchmarks will entail an increasingly advanced demonstration of the science content, science practices, and general habits of mind that were utilized within their experience. At the end of their Kindle Farm academic career, students will thus be able to present a comprehensive portfolio that documents their work as scientists.

We are extremely excited about this work and the outcomes we are already seeing in classrooms and staff collaboration this school year. We look forward to further revising the curriculum as we reflect back on its implementation. Look forward to this work being published on our website this summer. In addition, we are joyously planning the application of our process to the other subject areas – social studies, language arts and mathematics. Health, the Arts and Vocational curriculum work are on the horizon as well.