Unique Components of the Program
Boreal Sun Charter School’s arts-based curriculum is primarily inspired by Public Waldorf education methods while simultaneously integrating the Alaska State Standards and experiential learning. Waldorf is a pedagogy based on developmentally appropriate, rigorous academics delivered through an arts-infused curriculum and has a proven ability to reach and inspire all types of learners. This arts-based approach brings together many components in order to be effective in the public school setting and to meet state standards along with the needs of children. The following components define the most significant areas of Boreal Sun Charter School’s educational program.
Our integrated curriculum gives students the opportunity to experience the interrelated nature of all subjects, and makes learning relevant in their own lives. Revealing the connections that exist across disciplines allows students to experience the world around them as an integrated whole. It facilitates active, engaged learning, and encourages children to bring all of their intelligences and experiences to the learning activity at hand. Research findings show that students learn better, retain more knowledge, and enjoy school more when subjects are taught in practical, meaningful ways.
Students will study world language at Boreal Sun. We recognize that a child who develops a personal and positive relationship to another language will experience the value and beauty of another culture while expanding their academic capacity for flexibility in thinking, and the understanding of their own language. Beginning in first grade, students will be immersed in a rich world language program with the additional goal of fostering acceptance, respect, understanding and social tolerance. Boreal Sun plans to use Yupik to begin our world language study.
Subjects are studied in depth over the course of a few weeks, also known as "blocks." In the course of each main lesson block all academic disciplines are addressed through a common theme. Alaska Standards are integrated into each unit of study as teachers create their block schedules.
The immersion/mastery approach to academics is one experiential learning component of our education model. It is readily employed with the arts-based and integrated curricula. Immersion is an experiential process that gives each child the time to discover, integrate, and experiment with new information and ideas before the teacher expects any indication of mastery. This approach ensures that every student has a clear, correct, and complete understanding of the material and its context before they are asked to recast it in the form of lesson books, portfolios, projects, artwork, formal assessment and beyond.
Highly effective learning environments allow students to actively build understanding by connecting new information and concepts to prior knowledge and experience. Classrooms are organized for active, hands-on learning and flexible grouping with such materials as learning centers, tables of manipulatives, library corner, sand table, etc. Ensuring a beautiful, clean, organized, and artistic environment in which the students’ study is critical in the Waldorf pedagogy.
Our kindergarten program provides a rich, tactile learning environment that is largely an extension of the richness of home-life. A deep connection to nature is supported through use of high quality, natural materials, as well as seasonal studies and outdoor educational activities. Harmonious daily rhythms, seasonal stories, fairy tales from around the world and homelike activities provide opportunities to strengthen body and imagination. Finger knitting, sewing, play, stories, cooking and baking lay a solid groundwork for number concepts. Songs and circle games encourage cooperation and joyful friendships. A nature table and weekly nature walks heighten the child’s sense of awe and wonder of the natural world. Life-long habits of washing hands, table manners, positive social interaction and caring for the environment are established. This environment establishes the rhythmic foundation to support all future learning.
The arts provide highly effective tools for learning, exploring and mastering material. The arts-integrated approach to learning capitalizes on the direct link between art, music and movement and high academic achievement. Woven throughout a rigorous curriculum, the arts support academic success through unique and developmentally appropriate ways. This multifaceted approach allows information to be presented in multiple ways; verbal/linguistic, mathematical/logical, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic. Through the arts, children have the opportunity to uniquely participate in their education while discovering the importance of their own artistic expression.
Developmentally Appropriate Practices
Developmentally appropriate educational practices are based on child development principles and scientific evidence regarding brain development and the growth of neural and cognitive structures. Its primary goals include: (1) develop skills and competence in all areas (intellectual, social/emotional, and physical); (2) develop self-esteem and positive feelings about learning; and (3) be responsive to individual differences in developmental stage, ability, and interests.
A developmentally appropriate curriculum simultaneously attends to children’s intellectual, physical, social, and ethical development. The curricular content of Boreal Sun is chosen to mirror the child’s developmental stage, engaging the whole child and creating a learning environment where knowledge, skills, and feelings are integrated to support each child in a holistic and balanced way.
Community-Building & Community Involvement
Boreal Sun believes a strong school community is essential to the healthy foundation we are building for our children. Within the classroom our goal is to nurture a community supportive of academic learning by helping students to develop respect, confidence, and acceptance, thereby learning to be good citizens. The classroom community is a microcosm of the school community, which is a reflection of the greater community of Fairbanks.
Parents provide a bridge between home and school, giving their children’s education greater meaning and purpose by integrating the children’s school life into their family life. We encourage parents to volunteer, and participate in classroom and school celebrations, festivals, assemblies, and parent evenings. Harvest time, solstice, and spring festivals bring families and children together in respect for the rhythms of nature. Multi-cultural activities surrounding seasonal celebrations encourage appreciation and enjoyment of our diverse world.
Environmentally Conscious, Sustainable Living
Everyday rhythms and routines of our school community help to cultivate a sense of gratitude, respect and responsibility for self and all living things. Boreal Sun strives to build an ecologically informed community by focusing attention and care on the systems in which our school and community are embedded. Through our work with nature and organic gardening, children learn about the interconnectedness of nature, self, and community. Additional sustainable living practices within the school manifest in many ways including classroom materials made with renewable resources, composting, recycling, cleaning done with environmentally friendly products, and waste and energy use reduction practices.
Teacher & Class Continuity
Class teachers stay with a particular group of students for multiple years, building strong relationships that not only support academic performance and growth, but also social/emotional health and wellbeing.