WHPS Goes Beyond Common Core

Written by Seth Pozzi, Asst. Head of School on .

There is so much hype about Common Core these days. We often get asked on tours of our elementary school, “Do you guys do this Common Core stuff?” I love the question because it provides the perfect opportunity to explain how far we surpass what Common Core aspires to accomplish.
Common Core was developed in 2009 in response to a critical call to action for schools. According to the US Labor Department, 65% of today’s schoolchildren will end up being employed in jobs that have NOT YET BEEN CREATED. This leaves us with a very tall order: Teach students skills to solve problems we’ve never seen before and won’t encounter for years! While we at WHPS do not possess a crystal ball that can predict the next Facebook or what organs doctors will 3D print next, we can develop our students into well-rounded thinkers who can apply their diverse skills to meaningful situations. We can achieve this by continuing to innovate and evolve with new and emerging technologies, using proven educational techniques, and trying out new ideas, such as our 3D Design & Printing program.

Common Core focuses on students’ understanding and ability to engage with and manipulate language, media, and math. While public schools are just beginning to try to incorporate Common Core and its standards, our program at WHPS has long been built around the spirt of the Common Core, teaching children deeper, big-picture understanding. This philosophy encompasses the buzzwords you keep hearing: STEAM, STEM, and Project-Based Learning (PBL), with a desire for children to become strong critical thinkers.

You can see the spirit of Common Core throughout our program. One example I love comes from 4th and 5th grade. Students have been learning about alternative energy (such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biofuel). After experimenting with and learning about electrical energy, they will be designing and 3D printing their own wind turbines, which they will test in a class competition. This science unit exceeds what Common Core sets out to do: it combines scientific learning and experimentation with engineering, building and testing prototypes, math, technology, and writing (defending a proposal through scientific argumentation). Stay tuned on Facebook for photos and videos of our upcoming engineering competition.

In Writer’s Workshop, students learn to experiment with story leads. They are learning to think critically about their writing and select the lead that best conveys their intended tone. In our Word Study program, students have opportunities to experiment with sorting words in creative ways. Similarly, our math program emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving. Parents sometimes inquire about why the curriculum seems to slow down and focus on small, easy-to-manipulate numbers in 1st and 2nd grade. This is because the focus is on teaching children how to think critically, read carefully, and solve complex, multi-step problems. Smaller numbers allow children to exercise critical thinking while not getting bogged down in calculations.

While this is just a peek into what is going on in the elementary school, we like to provide you these snippets to explain our curriculum, projects, and programs, which are hand-selected based on what is truly best for students, just as your family hand-selected Woodland Hills Private School.

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