Bloom Community School cultivates joyful, independent learners in an educational environment that nurtures individual development by integrating high academic standards and community engagement.
CHILDREN ARE NATURAL LEARNERS.
Our school honors and nurtures students’ natural curiosity and innate desire to learn, fostering internal motivation and the passion for discovery.
EDUCATION SHOULD ENHANCE INDIVIDUALITY, NOT DEMAND CONFORMITY.
Education should respond to the unique developmental trajectory of all students and focus on their holistic social, emotional, intellectual, cognitive, cultural, and physical development.
LEARNING HAPPENS BEST THROUGH INTEGRATED AND MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES.
Children learn best through hands-on opportunities that weave relevant skills and content throughout interdisciplinary projects and provides them with hands-on and authentic learning opportunities.
EDUCATION SHOULD EMPOWER STUDENTS TO IMPROVE THEIR COMMUNITIES AND WORLD.
Effective educational experiences amplify students’ voices, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRADITIONAL AND PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION PHILOSOPHIES
Source: "Schools of Quality," by John Jay Bonstigl, and "In Search of Understanding," by Martin C. Brooks and Jaqueline Grennon, Independent Schools. Published by the National Association of Independent Schools. Reprinted with permission.
Our teaching (instructional) methods at Bloom Community School are rooted in constructivist and culturally relevant approaches. Constructivism is the theory that all people construct their own understanding, knowledge, and meaning of the world based on their experiences and reflection upon them. Moreover, we believe schools and teachers have an important responsibility to connect children with educative experiences that are culturally relevant and personally meaningful. The fields of neuroscience, developmental psychology, and educational theory provide the framework through which we at Bloom Community School understand how children learn best and what teachers’ roles are in supporting that learning. At Bloom, teaching is a diversified practice that features a variety of whole-group, small-group, and individualized instruction, support, and facilitation that empowers children to become self-directed and confident independent learners.
Our teaching approach helps to mobilize the key tenets of our broader educational approach:
a) emphasis on inquiry—asking questions and being free to make mistakes;
b) supporting project-driven and integrated learning opportunities that cross content-area boundaries;
c) promoting inclusion of diverse learners and learning styles;
d) enhancing connectedness to the community through collaborative professional relationships.
At Bloom Community School, our approach to assessment is consistent with our overall philosophy of teaching and learning. Assessment is used as a tool to improve instruction and scaffold learning in ways that are nuanced and individualized. We consider the whole child in our assessment practices, and we value the deep and ongoing relationship between teacher and learner as the basis for authentic assessment. Instead of using standardized testing, we consider assessment part of the authentic work that teachers and students do together every day. Through careful observation and dialogue, analysis of children’s work projects, and deep familiarity with national and Illinois learning standards and benchmarks, teachers are closely attuned to their students’ development. They use that knowledge to drive their teaching decisions and ensure that children are acquiring appropriate skills and understanding.
Our assessment practices also include regularly applied formal benchmark assessment tools for literacy and math skills, which lends consistency and clarity to our understanding of students’ academic development in these important learning domains.
Every year, parents participate in three parent-teacher conferences and receive two detailed narrative reports to provide clear communication about a child’s educational progress and development.
AN EXAMPLE OF OUR APPROACH
Our educational philosophy centers around the understanding that areas of knowledge are interrelated. Teachers will design units to encompass covering several academic subjects in the context of a theme. Themes are rich and broad to incorporate many disciplines.
In our third session this summer, “Feeding Our Future,” children will learn about local food production on area farms, then plan and prepare a dish to share with seniors in the community and compile a seasonal cookbook to share with the school and broader communities. Throughout this session, they will also become familiar with a variety of community partners, like University of Illinois Extension’s Food Forest, Epiphany Farms and Restaurant, Unity Community Garden, Illinois State University Horticulture Center, and Westside Revitalization Project’s Veggie Oasis. Children will build an understanding of permaculture and sustainable food systems.
During the session, children will visit area organic farms and community gardens to learn about the plant life cycle, growing zones, agriculture practices, plants and foods native to Illinois, and environmental stewardship. They will hear stories about the history of people and agriculture in the Midwest and Central Illinois, both from farmers themselves and other primary sources as well as from literature. With this knowledge, they will research and select a seasonal dish to prepare and share with community members. By engaging in food preparation, they will get their bodies involved in harvesting and procuring ingredients for their recipes. They will build additional technical, content-based skills in math and science through measurement and food chemistry. The final project for the Feeding Our Future session will engage children in compiling recipes for a cookbook. Creating the cookbook allows children to develop additional skills in writing, editing, formatting, graphic arts, marketing, problem-solving, and teamwork.
When students engage in meaningful, project-driven experiences like this, they more readily pick up new knowledge and skills. They are able to integrate and generalize these skills both inside and outside of the classroom. The inquiry-based nature of this educational approach encourages children to create deeper connect in content areas. Students form a truer understanding of academic concepts while practicing social, emotional, and executive function skills, like teamwork, conflict negotiation, and project planning.
Our education methods at Bloom Community School integrate the best elements of proven and research-based practices in schools. Our methods balance teacher-directed and child-directed learning in ways that ensure children have many opportunities to develop, master, and apply their skills. On any given day, children will have:
whole-group and small-group work time,
one on-one lessons and support with the teacher, and
independent work time.
Our methods ensure children and teachers approach learning in a holistic way that allows us to cohesively integrate rigorous and developmentally appropriate learning standards within a project-, passion-, and play-based framework. Read on to learn more about our methods.
At Bloom Community School, our curriculum provides structure to our integrated methods and approach. We utilize what is commonly referred to as a “spiral curriculum.” In a spiral curriculum, learning is distributed - or spaced- over time. Compare this to a more traditional or “blocked” approach, which concentrates learning of a particular concept or skill in a short period of time and then moves on to new material.
Spiral curriculum is a highly effective strategy for all learners, including struggling learners and advanced learners. Spiraling allows learning difficulties to be identified early on and intervention strategies put in place during early phases of the spiral. An extensive and robust body of literature has documented the advantages of spiraling curricula. In fact, spiraling curriculum (or spacing learning over time), is the first research-based recommendation in a 2007 practice guide from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Educational Sciences.
Our thematic and project-based approaches at Bloom Community School lend themselves nicely to a spiral curriculum. Children will be repeatedly exposed to concepts, terms, and skills throughout our thematic units and will have many different opportunities to apply and extend their learning in hands-on and meaningful ways.
The reading, speaking and listening, and writing components of our balanced literacy curriculum are integrated into various parts of the day and infused throughout the project-based approach. Informed by Illinois Learning Standards (ILS)/Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts, learners engage in activities to increase their reading and comprehension skills and strategies, cultivate an appreciation and understanding of the spoken word that enriches their vocabularies, and develop their capacity to community effectively in writing. These goals are integrated into our balanced literacy curriculum.
Our balanced literacy approach integrates the Daily 5 model, developed by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, and Writer’s Workshop model, developed by Lucy Calkins at Teacher’s College at Columbia University. The Daily 5 framework structures literacy time in a way that supports children to develop lifelong habits of reading, writing, and working independently. During the Daily 5 Literacy block, students select from five authentic reading and writing choices, working independently toward personalized goals.
The Daily 5 choices include:
Read to self to build a foundation for creating independent readers and writers
Work on writing to provide additional support children require to become effective writers
Word work to focus on spelling and vocabulary with children and create a richly literate environment
Listen to reading, which provides pronunciation and expression models that can only come from hearing fluent and expressive examples
Read to someone supports readers, especially developing readers, increase areas of comprehension, accuracy, fluency and prosidy. It also increases reading involvement, attention and collaboration.
Teachers support children’s individualized learning needs through a combination of whole-group and small-group instruction and one-on-one conferencing and support. For more information about the Daily 5 approach, we encourage you to read the 2016 report, Effective Strategies for Teaching and Learning Literacy Independence: The Daily 5 Literacy Structure strategies.
In addition to our Daily 5 literacy approach, students will also participate in a separate Writer’s Workshop block. During Writer’s Workshop, students will be guided through all the stages of writing, from brainstorming and generating ideas to drafting, revising, editing, and publishing their work. Writer’s Workshop typically begins with a brief writing lesson during one of the focus lessons of Daily 5. These lessons will introduce a variety of concepts (e.g. word choice, diction, sentence structure, etc.). Students will engage in independent, guided, and interactive writing practices to strengthen their abilities to write ideas in sequence, practice new writing strategies, and apply them to different forms of text.
Our framework for math curriculum adheres to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Illinois Learning Standards (ILS)/Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Mathematics. We recognize the five “content” strands of math: number & operations, geometry, measurement, algebra, and data analysis & probability; and five “process” strands of math: problem-solving, reasoning & proof, communication, connections, and representation.
To ensure grade-level math standards are met, we use the Everyday Mathematics curriculum, developed by the University of Chicago. Everyday Mathematics is a comprehensive Kindergarten through 5th grade spiral curriculum. It is a research-based and field-tested curriculum that focuses on developing children’s understandings and skills in ways that produce life-long mathematical power.
The Everyday Mathematics curriculum emphasizes:
Use of concrete, real-life examples that are meaningful and memorable as an introduction to key mathematical concepts.
Repeated exposures to mathematical concepts and skills to develop children’s ability to recall knowledge from long-term memory.
Frequent practice of basic computation skills to build mastery of procedures and quick recall of facts, often through games and verbal exercises.
Use of multiple methods and problem-solving strategies to foster true proficiency and accommodate different learning styles.
Each grade of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum is carefully designed to build and expand a student’s mathematical proficiency and understanding. The goal of Everyday Mathematics is to build powerful mathematical thinkers.
Our framework for science curriculum is drawn in part from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) three dimensions of learning science: crosscutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas. Through investigation and inquiry, children learn how to further their understanding of scientific concepts. Learners have the opportunity to observe, ask questions, develop hypotheses, collect and analyze data, setup experiments, do field work, and share their findings and discoveries with others. They explore a variety of scientific disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology, and earth & space sciences as well as engineering, creating, building, and testing designs to solve problems.
Our cultural/social studies curriculum helps children develop the capacity of critical thinking as a key intellectual skill of analysis. Through our thematic and project-based approach, they explore their place in society and history in a way that empowers them to be effective agents of positive social change. In our younger grades, we focus on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, the needs of people throughout our communities and histories, and human impact on the environment. As children grow and develop their social, historical, and civic knowledge, they will continue to explore these ideas by developing skills and knowledge to interpret and analyze primary and secondary sources. The curriculum includes an examination of the current political, social, economic, and historical context of the United States of America, the State of Illinois, and our local community. The roles and perspectives of immigrants, minorities, and ethnic identities are considered alongside (and as alternatives to) dominant social and historical narratives. Students are guided in studying the cultural identities of their families and their own personal histories.
The Studio Art program seeks to assist and guide students as they explore their creative selves through eight “creative habits”: develop craft, engage and persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, stretch and explore, and understand the art world. The program is designed as a survey course that wanders through a wide variety of materials and processes that encourages students to engage with the idea of being an artist in many different ways. The course is framed around the idea of perspective, including “How does my perspective inform how I see, think, and wonder?” and “How can my perspective be strengthened or changed by new information?” and “What value is there in looking from another perspective?”
The music program at Bloom is rooted in an approach to music instruction that celebrates children’s inherently playful nature through movement, rhythmic speech, singing, pitched percussion (e.g. xylophones), and unpitched percussion (e.g. body percussion and drums). Students have the opportunity to sing, dance, play instruments, improvise, and compose every time they have music class. They explore traditional and contemporary music as well as pieces.
The primary goals of our Spanish curriculum are to provide skills and understandings that allow students to communicate in Spanish through speaking, listening, reading and writing, and to develop knowledge and understanding of Latin culture within the United States of America and globally. The curriculum is broken down into two complementary strands: declarative knowledge and procedural skills. The primary teaching methodology relies on a combination of project-based learning and Total Physical Response and Storytelling (TPRS).
Outdoor education, when children are given ample access to the outdoors for play and exploration, helps children build awareness, intention and control of children’s bodies and their sense of spatial awareness, as well increasing feelings of wellness and calm. Children need the outdoors, and we provide ample time throughout our school day for outdoor play, which includes several recess breaks outside and education programming that uses the outdoors as a classroom.
In the early grades, student use of technology is linked to project-based work in intellectual disciplines such as math, social studies, or science. Information literacy begins with understanding library behavior, organization, protocols, book selection techniques and the structure of books. A range of research skills, including initial citation skills, website evaluation, differentiation between a database search, search engine query, or site-specific search and familiarization with various electronic resources are given more attention in the 4th and 5th grades.
Mindfulness moments are build into our school day as an opportunity for children to reestablish their center and emotional grounding. Mindfulness is used to help children transition from more active activities, like outdoor time and group work, to quieter and more independent activities that require calm and concentration. Our mindfulness education is adapted from the Association for Mindfulness in Education.