News and Announcements
Multi-age Elementary School - New Pilot Project
For the past several years, the D.C. Everest Area School District has integrated innovative educational initiatives — such as personalized, independent, collaborative and hands-on, project-based learning; career and technical education; STEAM; student voice and choice — into our traditional classrooms. The purpose? To prepare our students for a 21st century workforce that is rapidly, and constantly, evolving. And to create fun, engaging and interesting opportunities that spark students’ curiosity and help them explore new interests, career paths or areas of study. To ensure our students are ready for a career, post-secondary education and life, we do our best to adapt our curriculum and instructional strategies — always looking to improve upon what we have in place. Change, after all, can be a good thing.
While we will continue to implement instructional and learning initiatives that foster collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, real-world problem solving, persistence and independence — skills critical for the 21st century — into our traditional classrooms, we also are taking a leap forward with a new pilot project. This fall, we opened the doors of our new Multi-age Elementary School, housed in the same building as the DCE IDEA Charter School.
Pam Gresser and Sarah Merz will serve as the instructors for 35 K-5 students in the one-room school. The learning space will be divided into a community area, a K-2 section, a 3-5 section and a maker’s space for hands-on projects. The Multi-age school will follow common core standards and participate in standardized state tests, but the open, multi-age classroom will enhance inquiry- and project-based learning, collaboration and personalized learning opportunities.
Rather than instructing students based on their grade, students will be instructed based upon their mastery of subject matter allowing them to proceed at their own pace. The multi-age classroom allows students to advance in their studies based on their abilities and mastery of the subject matter, not their age. As Pam Gresser puts it, “The curriculum is learner driven and standards guided. Students will be able to get what they need and it may or may not be at the grade level they are currently in.
The multi-age classroom also is very beneficial to students who may struggle with a particular subject — providing them with the extra time they need to master certain skills or topics. By removing time constraints, students who may otherwise be frustrated by the pressure to master a certain topic within a set time frame will instead have the freedom to learn at their own pace and develop the capacity to persist when faced with challenges. For the student, their self perception changes from “I can’t do this” to “I can do this, I just need a little more time.”
The open classroom style also will encourage student mentoring, leadership, collaboration and social development. It is the goal of Mrs. Gresser and Mrs. Merz to build a community — a family — within their classroom. By allowing students of varying ages to learn together in a collaborative environment, older students will have the opportunity to share their experience and provide social guidance to younger students. Students with advanced knowledge in a particular area may mentor older and younger students who have not yet mastered the material or those who may be struggling. The idea is to encourage relationships such as these to develop naturally within the multi-age open classroom — allowing peers to develop relationships that help them socially and academically.
Rather than relying primarily on text books and lectures — which many of our District’s traditional classrooms have moved away from — students will be encouraged to ask questions and delve deep into topics of interest. Subjects also will be more integrated with one another — studying the literature and history of a particular era in one lesson, for example.
Yes, our District is headed into new territory — we’re taking a risk by trying something new. But we’ve done our research, spent months preparing and training, and we’re ready to test our new ideas with the best effort we can put forward. It’s behavior we try to model for our students on a daily basis — step outside of your comfort zone, pursue your interests and passions, learn from your mistakes and be the better person for it. Yes, purposeful change can be good.
We welcome you to follow the progress of the Multi-age Elementary school on Facebook as we explore a new option for parents and students.