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.
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, inquiry-based learning recognizes children explore their worlds through curiosity, play, discovery, asking questions, testing ideas. 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.
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.