The School’s curricular perspective, which is referred to as knowledge-based constructivism, is positioned in a framework that allows student learning to take place in real life. It is learning-centered, focusing on essential questions and related themes and concepts. Essential questions devised by teachers but also generated by students are set in the context of personal relevance and academic perspectives.

Teachers at The School work across eleven disciplines—dance, educational technology, literacy and English, mathematics, music, science, social and emotional learning, social studies, Spanish, visual art, and wellness—to create an engaging and ever-changing curriculum that encourages collaborative problem-solving and deep thinking. Grade-level themes and concepts—and, starting in Grade 5, civilizations and cities—are integrated across all disciplines and incorporate skills students need to acquire at each grade level. The development of discipline-specific skills equips students to use disciplines as lenses through which to learn. 

One of the primary considerations of The School’s educational program is that in the lower grades students first learn integrative habits of mind, which when they enter the upper grades of The School they naturally apply to more rigorously attended disciplines. It is hoped that this two-pronged approach will help students answer many important questions, such as “What is worth knowing?,” “What content is important from each discipline?” and “How do we know what we know?”

Integrated Curriculum: Big Ideas and Understandings

List of 3 items.

  • Our curriculum is concept/theme-centered

    • We grapple with a few complex ideas rather than many surface topics.
    • We are guided by shared essential questions and key understandings.
    • We ask children to look at real-world examples, engage in authentic experiences, and produce projects for real audiences.
  • Our curriculum values both disciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking

    • We teach 11 distinct disciplines at The School: Dance, Educational Technology, Literacy and English, Mathematics, Music, Science, Social and Emotional Learning, Social Studies, Spanish, Visual Arts, and Wellness.
    • For each discipline, there are teachers with comprehensive training and experience on a grade-level team; a K-8 scope and sequence of skills; and distinct tools, vocabulary, and working space and time for students.
    • Our teachers have flexible schedules to allow for overlapping teaching opportunities, and hold weekly meetings to discuss and plan shared learning experiences for students. K-5 teachers have regularly scheduled shared time with the student body for integrated activities across all disciplines (termed iblock).
  • Our curriculum is differentiated by level of mastery, learning style, and student interests

    • Our curriculum is child-responsive, not based on a package designed for children in general at a given age-level. Our students are involved in the brainstorming stage of planning.
    • Teachers know students well through ongoing assessments. They consult assessments to see where units should begin, and share strategies at regular meetings to respond to the whole child in all subjects.
    • Teachers establish multiple points of entry for the wide-ranging skills, interests, and learning styles present in student groups.

The School at Columbia University

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New York, NY 10025
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