A “school design” is much more than curriculum but involves thinking through many aspects of the life of a school: educational objectives; choice of curriculum; rewarding and developing faculty; assessment systems; the culture of a school; school calendar; schedule; and hundreds of other decisions, each affecting one another.
As a new school, Avenues has had the unique opportunity to design its curriculum, and the other components of a school design, from scratch. Any curriculum design, however, is based on a number of well-established factors, including national and local standards and the school’s mission.
Avenues’ curriculum design process begins with consideration of these factors and then uses what Grant Wiggins, a nationally recognized educator, called “backwards planning” in his approach called “understanding by design (UbD.)” This approach focuses first on the outcomes desired, then works backwards, plotting the steps that will produce those outcomes. UbD helps teachers clarify learning goals, devise assessments that reveal student understanding and craft effective learning activities. Developed by Mr. Wiggins in association with Jay McTighe, UbD’s key idea is that a primary goal of education should be the development and deepening of student understanding, which is most effectively revealed when students can transfer what they have learned in one area to understanding in other areas. By defining what student outcomes they want to achieve, teachers then work backwards to develop their curriculum to reach those goals.
A major component of the resulting curriculum design is a good assessment program, which will allow teachers and administrators to evaluate how students are progressing and where they need to go. The curriculum can then be adjusted to respond to students’ needs, improving and strengthening it through many iterations, with more detail added with each iteration.
Curriculum design, then, is not a one-time process. The school is constantly reexamining the curriculum, fine-tuning and improving it, both during the school year and at the end of each year.
October 17, 2017
During the first few weeks of Gender, Sexuality, and Race, 11th and 12th grade students examined their own identity and how it may affect the way the learn, think, and speak about gender, sexuality, race and socioeconomic class
October 12, 2017
“I can’t do this...yet!” and “My math brain just grew!” were just a few comments made during our math mindset activities in 4th grade. All students in the Lower Division spent the first two weeks of school building and strengthening their math mindsets. The purpose behind this important work was to establish a supportive math community that encourages all learners and to build upon the belief that everyone can do math at a high level.
October 10, 2017
Empathy—putting oneself in the shoes of another—is the ability that allows us to really get in touch with other people. The good news is that this important ability can be developed from an early age. In the Early Learning Center at Avenues, nursery and pre-K teachers are working with children to help them get in touch with their feelings and the feelings of others.
October 6, 2017
A temperature-changing jacket? A backpack that transforms into a hammock? These are just a couple of the inventions that 6th graders created as part of a math unit on statistics.
October 3, 2017
This past year's Global Journeys Taiwan program was focused on culture and climate change.