At Bloom Community School, we approach education as a dynamic, collaborative, and engaged experience to realize our broader mission of cultivating joyful and independent learners. We ascribe to the progressive model of education, which supports children as both learners and citizens and promotes diversity, equity, and justice in schools and society. By integrating the most innovative methods, curricula, and teaching and assessment practices within a multi-layered framework, Bloom Community School’s approach offers a rigorous and individualized education experience for each child to help them become lifelong learners and active members of our community.
AN EXAMPLE OF OUR APPROACH
Our educational philosophy centers around the understanding that areas of knowledge are interrelated. Teachers design thematic units to encompass academic subjects in the context of a theme. Themes are rich and broad to incorporate many disciplines.
In our pilot academic year (2018-2019), the first thematic unit was, quite naturally, community. Our students explored the definitions and meanings of community; read books about communities and the people in them; thought about the communities of which they and their families are a part; explored our school's neighborhood and local history; traveled by bus around Bloomington-Normal; visited a community food forest; toured the public library services and a fire station; and created projects related to community-building, including physical models of community and supporting a community gardening project that provides produce to people who do not have consistent access to fruits and vegetables (and also serves as a free food pantry). Students studied maps and practiced with measuring units - even walking a city block to think about distance and representation of space - and dove into literature that helped them construct meaning around the different ways of defining community.
Another thematic unit at Bloom in its pilot year focused on ecosystems. Students learned about biomes and abiotic and biotic features, and explored the biome in which the school and our cities are located. Students in all three mixed-age classes read and researched the world's biomes, with the middle- (Sprout) and upper-elementary (Blossom) classes making presentations of their biome dioramas to the youngest class. All three classes also studied the concept of the food web and the roles of producers, consumers, and decomposers. The Sprout and Blossom classes constructed biospheres to examine what is needed to support plant life in a simply contained space. They then built individual biodomes in which to plant seeds to also examine the factors that can impact food production and growth. Students created mind maps of their learning, made scientific sketches of observations and experiments, and wrote about ecosystem learning. Throughout the unit, books about everything from the life of the worm to the impact of humans on various ecosystems were rotated through literacy work. The Sprout and Blossom classes also worked together with a Community Collaborator to learn how to build vermiculture boxes (or "worm boxes") to further understand decomposition and the role of earth's creatures in this process. The contents of the vermiculture boxes will be very handy for school garden planting this spring and to contribute to the plants at the adjacent Refuge Food Forest. Students are also creating a brochure about the Refuge Food Forest, another Community Collaborator, which will be available to all who visit it.
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 construct deeper connections across 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.