Thursday, December 06, 2007

Children Learn When They Pick a Theme

Most schools - particularly in the primary and middle school level - do adopt themes or units for study and they use these themes across the curriculum - which, in English, means they use the theme in all classes and subjects. So, if you're theme is "the forest," you'd read stories about the forest in literature, study trees in biology and do some sort of tree-related math problems.

But the faculty at the Robert Mellors Primary and Nursery in Arnold, Nottinghamshire, had the clever idea of letting the children pick the theme. But I think the key difference is how far the teachers and the administrators take the theme.

This year's curriculum is based on Harry Potter. Now, they could just throw up some posters, call one grade Gryffindor and another Slytherin and maybe mention Harry Potter here and there. But they just went crazy with it. I'm completely inspired by how they're translating that in the classroom. They even have a math incantation the students say before solving problems - and of course, the kids love it and are actually learning math.

You can find a list of class lessons at the end of the Daily Mail article about the school. They even incorporated it into PE!

But has all this play and fun translated into a better school?

Yes. In fact, I'd call the transformation "magical." Previously, the school ranked in the nation's bottom 25 percent, but in the three years since the children started picking the curriculum theme, the school jumped to the nation's top 5 percent. Impressive.

It's important to note this isn't just about Harry Potter. It's about letting the children determine the context for their education. Past themes included the Titanic, Africa and Princes and Princesses.

Make It Happen:
  1. Share this news story with your child's teachers and school officials. Share this news article with other parents.
  2. Find out whether your child's school has themes or units and think of ways you can support the school in using the theme. Maybe there's a special presentation related to your job or some skill or talent that you could share?
  3. These things take money. Did you know in poorer schools, teachers often buy their own supplies and supplies for the children as well? Even if your child's school has tons of money, you homeschool, you don't have a child or your children aren't in school - advocate for school funding. So offer to organize a supply drive during the holidays for the school.
  4. If you're opposed to public education funding, consider this: Can everyone homeschool? Would private schools really be able to offer education to all the students now served by public schools?
(Story found via The Good News Network.)
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