Bilingual (Spanish-English) immersion
Each day will begin with a morning ritual during which we gather as a school family to greet one another, our natural world, and the day. Then, children will engage with nature and one another outdoors about 60% of the school day in small mixed age groups. Through a combination of child-directed projects and in-the-moment experiential learning and adult-designed conditions for learning, children develop skills and knowledge in literacy and language, numeracy, scientific inquiry, context and history, and technology applications. Throughout the day, Cocoplum guides--experts in pedagogy, environmental education, and elementary education--will carefully document observable evidence of the knowledge and skills each child demonstrates in these areas. Punctuating the day will be periods of individual reflection, quiet thinking/working time, and rest either in the shade of a tree or in shelter. Each day will conclude similar to the way it began with a school-wide ritual in which we express gratitude to ourselves, one another, and our natural world.
At Cocoplum Nature School, we do not view nature and technology as mutually exclusive. Rather, we see technology, when applied appropriately, as a powerful tool for learning, conservation, and innovation. Children will learn how to harness technology as a useful tool for planning and conducting research. Children may choose to use school-provided tablets for various literacy and language activities such as reading books and articles, composing reader's journal entries, and writing letters to elected officials. We believe in equipping children at an early age with skills to be responsible and critical consumers and users of technology.
Homework can be a source of stress for some children and families, and for others it provides structure in the afternoon and evening hours and a valuable connection between the education provider and home. For these reasons, homework will be individualized and age-appropriate, and it will always be a source of enrichment, such as reading and writing for enjoyment or conducting research to build upon the day's learning.
Learning that is confined to the four walls of a classroom is a recent development in human history, and providing first-hand experiences outside the classroom and school building to promote deep and lasting learning is among our highest priorities. Therefore, a few times a week, Cocoplum Nature School elementary students will attend field trips away from the school building. Field trips to nature preserves, local parks, and wetland preserves catalyze all of the academic and social-emotional benefits of immersion in nature. Field trips to local community gardens and cultural, arts, and civic centers instill in children a sense of place, belongingness in the community, and personal agency.
The evidence from scores of empirical studies converges around a single conclusion: “In academic contexts, nature-based instruction outperforms traditional instruction” (National Institutes for Health, 2019, p. 1). By 4th grade, children educated in nature-based schools surpass their peers from traditional schools in academics, social and emotional well-being, creativity, and environmental awareness (Miller & Almon, 2009).
Source: Kuo et al. (2019). Do experiences with nature promote learning? National Institutes for Health.
According to the American Institutes for Research (2005), students taught in natural settings experience:
greater conflict resolution
gains in self-esteem
better peer relationships with peers
gains in problem solving, motivation to learn, and behavior
increased concern about environmental conservation
gains in environmental behaviors that children engage in at home
improved scores on a standardized science assessment, and
particular benefits for English language learners.