Our Learning Philosophy
Children are at the center of our learning program
We place the interests, talents, and needs of children at the center of our learning program. Children come to our school brimming with natural curiosity. Their learning already has defined patterns, and they approach the world with eagerness and a sense of wonderment. Our program nurtures young learners’ natural impulses and respects their need to develop self-confidence and independence in their learning. Whenever possible, the interests of the children influence instruction, and because our classes are small, children experience a great deal of individualized and small group instruction. Because children progress at different rates and have different learning styles, this level of individualized instruction allows teachers more opportunities to plan and assess student growth.
Our curriculum emphasizes basic skills
Our academic curriculum emphasizes basic skills: reading, writing, mathematics, and the scientific method. We also place special emphasis on character education, cultural awareness, citizenship, and Hawaiian Studies. Our overall curricular framework is a continuum of knowledge and skills that spans our learning program. Teachers have independent responsibility to create age-appropriate learning activities. Our instruction is generally theme-based and hands-on, which reflects our belief that knowledge is interrelated and that children learn best when they are active participants in their own learning. Waimea Country School promotes development in technology, art, music, garden, and physical education.
Our learning program is non-graded
Our elementary learning program is non-graded; that is, we do not issue letter grades. Because children learn in different ways, we find that a grading system that compares student achievement is not always the best way to measure actual learning. In the place of letter grades, we emphasize individual achievement and personal challenge. In this way we create an academic environment that is challenging and promotes student confidence and the desire to learn. Traditional letter grades are introduced to our oldest students to help them prepare for the unique academic expectations of middle school.
Our assessment system measures real learning
We use a variety of methods to measure learning. Within each classroom, teachers have knowledge of age-appropriate knowledge and skills as well as an understanding of the normal range of student performance. Through the use of different types of classroom assessment, teachers gauge each student’s readiness and progress within the learning program. Our teachers compile regular learning progress reports for parents about each child that are aligned with classroom and program curricula. In addition to progress reports, teachers assist students in compiling portfolios of their work and sharing their own learning through student-led conferences. Teachers also assess other aspects of classroom behavior – special strengths, work habits, motivation, social skills, and organization – on a daily basis.
We also use standardized tests
In addition to teacher-designed learning assessments, we use a standardized test, the ACT Aspire, to assess students in reading, language, and mathematics skills in comparison with national norms. Standardized tests are administered only to students in grades 4-6. Although we do not “teach to the test” or set goals for students according to what the test measures, the ACT Aspire is a valuable tool that allows us to continuously assess and refine our program. Because our curriculum is broad-based and we use a variety of teaching methods, Waimea Country School students typically do very well on standardized tests.
Parent conferences and progress reports support learning
Regular communication between parents and teachers is encouraged, and teachers make time in their busy schedules to meet with parents whenever necessary. In addition, three formal conferences are scheduled each year:
- fall parent-teacher conference for goal-setting for the year
- January parent-teacher conference to check in
- spring parent-student-teacher conference that is student-led and portfolio based
The student-led conference is a celebration of achievement. When students are involved in the assessment process and are able to talk about what they have learned and what they still need to work on, achievement improves. In this way, conferencing is a collaborative process between students, parents, and teachers – all to support learning.
Parents play an essential and positive role in the life of Waimea Country School. Our program thrives because we make strong connections between school and home. Parents are encouraged to be active participants in their child’s learning, both in school and out. Our campus is situated in the heart of town, and we often make short field trips to the library and to Kahilu Theatre for special shows. Sometimes we visit the firehouse and local stores and offices, and we participate in community service projects. Our involvement outside the classroom helps the children develop an appreciation for our village and its many resources.
What about homework?
Our goals are to inspire children, support learning, build skills, and provide opportunities for growth and development – in short, to produce students who know how to learn but, more importantly, love to learn.
After a full day of hard work in school, children need a break – to play, have time with family, and to participate in extracurricular activities. Homework at WCS is meaningful and age-appropriate; it should NOT be a source of stress or conflict in the family. Daily reading, at all levels, is required. While children may not have worksheets assigned to complete each night, students may choose to take on extra practice work, in a variety of subjects. This work is acknowledged, corrected and returned to students.
Overview of Our Learning Program
Teachers work together to deliver an age-appropriate, skills-based curriculum. The daily schedule in each class typically includes time for students to listen, share, work collaboratively and independently, and relax with friends. Each school day also includes time for children to play outside or to have free time inside during rainy weather.
Our program encourages meaningful teacher-student relationships.
Because teachers remain with their students throughout the day, students and teachers develop strong bonds that help create a trusting atmosphere necessary for productive learning. The easy rapport between teachers and students also gives teachers greater insight into the strengths, challenges, and unique interests of their students in a variety of settings, both academic and social. Because of our intimate size, every child at school is known well by every teacher, and this provides additional learning support for our students.
Multiage classrooms stimulate a healthy learning environment.
In our classes, students interact on a daily basis with classmates who are older and younger than they are. One year a child may be among the youngest in a class, another year the oldest. This has many benefits. The multiage setting allows children to remain for two or more years in the same class, often with the same teacher. Older children have much to learn by being leaders who help their younger classmates; younger children often accelerate their learning by being grouped with older children whose skills may be more advanced than their own. Overall, multiage classes help diminish the competitive tone that school grades sometimes promote, especially when guided by teachers who are caring and sensitive. Our older students interact regularly with younger students through our “Hui ‘Ohana” program which includes buddy reading, assisting with academics, outdoor gardening projects, team-building lunches, and Hawaiian Studies activities, such as Makahiki. This special blending of children of different ages helps forge healthy bonds between our oldest and youngest students.
A variety of instructional methods helps keep things lively!
By using a variety of instructional methods and styles, teachers create classrooms where learners of different ages and abilities are able to work well together. Typical daily schedules are divided into several different time periods, and each may have different teaching methods and goals. At certain times, teachers schedule whole group activities – silent reading, direct instruction, and art projects, for example. At other times, teachers organize small group work, often for reading and mathematics. One-on-one work between students and the teacher is also done with support from teacher aides.
What we teach.
The skills and concepts children learn at Waimea Country School are aligned with local and national standards and recommendations by respected national teaching councils and organizations; our progress reports are directly aligned with our classroom and program curricula.
To learn more about our curriculum and how our teachers approach specific content areas, please select from the course descriptions below:
- Character Education
- Hawaiian Studies
- Health & Fitness
- Language Arts
- Social Studies