INSPIRATION, ACADEMICS AND ASSESSMENTS
There are four main components to the ILP’s;
* Student HeartMap Collages
* Parent HeartMaps (observations and goals)
* Teacher observations
* National Academic Standards and Milestones
HeartMaps are derived from SelfDesign © and are used to inspire, articulate and record the interests of students and to support them in the pursuit of their personal goals in conjunction with their academics.
Through HeartMap activities we explore and document the individual interests of each student. Personal interests will later be paired with various academic studies, thereby supporting personal growth and development and an authentic relationship to academics as useful tools in the realization of each persons unique dreams and contributions to the world.
At Austin EcoSchool we collect two different HeartMaps from two different sources; a collage based HeartMap from the Students and a written HeartMap from the Parents.
At the beginning of each school year we engage in group conversations designed to explore that which “lights us up”.
What are our personal interests and goals? What are we curious about? What do we see as our natural strengths, what do we each have to offer? What would we love to know more about, to master? This conversation is intended to be short, and is not intended to answer questions, merely to spark the inquiry.
With the excitement of our inquiry still high we launch into collage, pulling pictures that remind of of what lights us up. The purpose of this step is to capture the inspirations on paper before they get away! This is a time when students and teachers can support and get to know one another, “I’m looking for a picture of a cake decorator” “I’m looking for bridge builder” “Oh, here’s a cave explorer, who was looking for that?” and so on. The collages are living documents and are frequently added to throughout the year.
Once the HeartMap collages are complete they become a part of our daily school lives. There is a special place in Student binders for them, which keeps them at the forefront of our attention. HeartMaps are referred to throughout the year and are a source of information when it comes to designing a wide variety of school projects. From Language Arts and Social Studies to Math and Science, empowering the EcoStudents to pursue their dreams and aspirations is our priority.
Parents have their own part to play in this phase and are asked to create a language based HeartMap for their children along with an outline of any concerns or goals that they may have. A HeartMap template is sent home with the family at the beginning of the school year and all members are invited to provide information for it. The template is divided into four categories of interest; Creative, Social/Behavioral (community interaction and contribution), Physical and Academic. In each category the family is asked to reflect on and share Student goals and interests.
While the children move through their classes in the first few weeks of school Teachers are providing them with a variety of materials and activities to work with and explore. The activities cover the same categories as are outlined in the Parent HeartMap template. As the students are engaged in these activities we are engaged in observation; what comes easily, what are the challenges, are there any gaps in knowledge, any resistance to exploration? What do we see is next for each Student?
National Academic Standards:
The final piece comes from the National Academic Standards; commonly accepted and expected milestones in all subjects for children at specific ages.
The Finished ILP:
The ILP process is an involved one and we allow ourselves approximately six to eight weeks to gather and collate the data that supports it. Once teachers have created the ILP’s, Parent, Student, Teacher Conferences are scheduled to review them and to come to mutual agreement as to the role each party plays in realizing the goals. The final, agreed upon document is then signed by all parties and becomes the platform for the remainder of the school year. This is also a time when homework accountability and load is discussed, any homework support that might be needed and a general review of how the Student is doing at school, emotionally, socially and academically.
Assessments are based on the agreed upon ILP points and come to parents twice a year; once in early January and again in early June. Students are assessed in the following categories;
* Academic progress
* Social and Emotional growth and development
* Personal Motivation
Our first goal is nurture and encourage each Young Persons curiosity and natural love of learning. We support Students in learning at their own pace and are committed to maintaining the steady challenge that supports their ongoing growth and development.
Although EcoSchool does not engage in grading or testing, assessment and evaluation is ongoing. If students request a formal test we are happy to consider that request and to provide tests if all parties have consented.