Our first big idea of the school year is: We are GAP School. Over the past few weeks our Learners have been diving into what this means. We have talked about GAP Culture and what we want the school year to look, sound, and feel like. Each year we work towards developing a culture of kindness, inclusivity, creativity, and becoming knowledge seekers.
One of the first things we focus on with our new flocks each year is co-creating expectations. We need each Learner to take part in this process. Learners need to understand the why behind the expectations, feel that they are a part of the creation, and decide what helps them be successful. This supports a safe dynamic that is Learner driven. Each flock will continue to refer to the established expectations throughout the year, sometimes we even adjust or add expectations as the year progresses.
We have a few GAP core routines that are a part of each school year. These are considered foundations of GAP School and are given time to practice and feel comfortable. They include:
Nature Journals: our Learners are given new nature journals seasonally. They journal multiple times a week in various settings and classes. During this time they are asked to use pictures, numbers, and words in their entries. As Learners continue to participate in nature journaling they strengthen their skills of observation and inquiry, they get really good at collecting meta-data (date, time, location, moon phase, weather), and their journal entries evolve as our Learners grow.
Sit Spots: each Flock participates in sit spots at various times in the week. Learners are asked to spread out during sit spots and find a place where they can be sitting, solo, and silent. At the start of the school year with our youngest Learners we celebrate sit spots of a few minutes, where our oldest Learners can easily participate in a 15-20 minute sit spot. This time is used to observe and connect with nature, personal reflection, and mindfulness practices.
Design Process: we have a design process at GAP that shapes most things we do. Our Learners are invited to utilize in the design process in ways that make sense to their brains. Although they need to use all of the steps of the design process, the ultimate goal is that they learn how making a plan works best with their brain. Creating a culture of celebrating mistakes is paramount to successfully interacting with our design process.
Fire: In the winter, fire is necessary to help us stay warm. However starting the practice with the first chilly mornings in fall helps us to create a culture of calm, safety, and togetherness. The Learners first learn about fires and fire safety, and then each morning help to build the fire, and maintain it throughout the day. We find that the winter at GAP is a slower time of year. We tell stories, learn, investigate, whittle, read, and craft around the campfire. This fire routine helps to bring us together as a community.
We start and end our week together as a whole school during our All School Meetings. These are times that we get to share songs and performances, give special shoutouts, be a part of all school announcements, and celebrate our time together as we mark the passing of each week. The other days of the week we start and end our day in our Flocks with smaller versions of the same meetings.
The other piece of this first unit is delving into who our Learners are and what makes them shine. We spend time learning about ourselves and how our brains work, things we can do to support our community, and how to practice being a steward of the natural world.
We are so excited about the incredible GAP School community we have and to see all of the wonderful things our Learners and Educators accomplish this school year. Next week we'll kick off a new all school unit- The Big Idea: Connection to Place, an exploration of local, regional, and global geography and natural resources.