Children develop in ways that are complex, uneven, and unique to each of them. To support learners in their development, Bloom Community School’s classes are multi-graded. Multi-age classrooms - PODS (Kindergarten/1st), SPROUTS (2nd-4th), and BLOSSOMS (5th-8th) allow children to move naturally as they progress along the learning continuum, advancing when they are developmentally ready to do so.
Multi-graded classrooms also allow children to stay with the same teacher for two years, which offers extended time for teachers to continuously monitor and support skill development and design increasingly complex learning experiences for learners. This approach allows older children to serve as mentors and helpers to support and model for their younger classmates.
Thematic education organizes curriculum, projects, experiences, and instruction around broad (or “macro”) themes. Thematic education integrates basic subject areas, like reading, writing, math, science, social sciences, and arts within the exploration of a broad topic, such as families, communities, transportation, uses of energy, rain forests, etc. Each classroom at Bloom will develop projects and subprojects that align to the broader school-wide thematic unit; and school-wide themes drive our educational experiences in a coherent and cohesive manner. Thematic units cycle through every four to six weeks, and the projects developed within a given theme provide a summative and interactive way to demonstrate and apply the knowledge and skills developed during the unit.
As an independent, progressive school, we have the opportunity to offer research-based educational practices to create an environment for optimal whole-child learning. Indeed, this is the heart of Bloom's founding idea: To support each child in constructing knowledge relevant to their experiences and interests; growing confidence by nurturing competencies while providing optimal levels of challenge; and being mindful of their individual academic and social-emotional growth and developmental level.
Illinois Learning Standards provide a valuable framework to organize and scaffold learning. While we are mindful of certain learning standards to ensure children are supported throughout their educational careers, our educational approach is anything but standardized. The methods whereby we arrive at these learning outcomes are individualized and tailored to each classroom and child.
Our teachers organize their classrooms around inquiry-based learning and democratic educational practices that foster 21st-century skills as well as build on core content areas. Teachers support our students in scaffolding their learning by both focusing on a specific skill and demonstrating and applying that knowledge through inquiry processes, projects, and special opportunities.
The project-based approach uses an authentic learning opportunity, like an interesting or complex question or a social problem, to organize teaching and curricula in a way that allows children to engage the project over a sustained and extended period of time. Project-based education teaches children the essential learning standards (e.g. Illinois Learning Standards) in an integrated and hands-on manner.
Children are encouraged to take ownership over their own learning through the project-based approach because they help establish the goals for each project and identify the necessary steps to achieve those goals. Classroom-established projects will be adapted from overarching school-wide themes (e.g. sustainability in our community) to the developmental abilities of the children. Projects typically last four- to six- weeks; and project tasks and objectives will be embedded into lessons, whole-and small-group instruction, and independent work time.
Extensive research has documented the benefits of mindfulness in education. Like spending time outdoors, mindfulness is associated with increased attention and executive function; decreased ADHD and/or disruptive behaviors; increased calm, social-emotional awareness, and self-regulation; and overall better self-esteem and feelings of well-being. Mindfulness provides an emotional and social anchor for children to explore their worlds and engage in meaningful learning experiences.
Passion-based learning begins with the conviction that the best learning happens when children are inspired by and connected to the work they are doing. When children are encouraged to generate their own learning opportunities or projects, they bring a natural enthusiasm and commitment to engaging in and completing their work. Too often, children are trained out of their passions in school-based settings that divorce subject-matter and ideas from their applied and real-world contexts.
Passion-based learning allows children to engage in projects that inspire them and capitalize on their strengths. This approach prioritizes the joyful and connected learning we believe is at the heart of our work.
Like project- and passion-based learning, play-based learning recognizes children explore their worlds through inquiry. It is the natural and scientific method through which they apply their curiosities and develop knowledge about the world.
For younger children, this may take the form of what is called "play-based" learning, which is actually a vehicle of discovery in childhood. For this reason, we integrate opportunities to explore ideas through playful experimentation and discovery at Bloom Community School, and we integrate that important work into our broader inquiry-, project- and passion-driven approach.
Children benefit enormously from time spent outdoors. Not only does it improve their physical health, but it also supports better concentration in schools, higher cognitive functioning, enhanced creativity, and greater retention of information. Spending time outdoors reduces stress and increases 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.