# How are we improving?

A healthy school climate is balanced upon four pillars: teaching/learning, relationships, environment and safety. We are grateful to the founding families of the Verdi EcoSchool for sharing their thoughts, feedback and unflinching perspective of what an effective school environment should be. We have taken their vision to heart as we continue to grow and evolve into an educational program that honors each student as an individual and cultivates respect and awareness for our unique place.

**Teaching/Learning**

Balancing the hands-on, place based education philosophy with dedicated classroom time proved to be a challenge in our first semester. Students loved the time outdoors, immersed in project based learning but felt disconnected from the meaning of the experience. Why were these experiences important? How did they connect to classroom concepts and core standards? The students worried that they weren't learning enough or learning effectively. Our education team has designed a curriculum that gives students a chance explore core academic subjects using approaches like guided math, project based learning and experiential learning. Students work in multi age groups on a real life/project based experiences, exercise the newly learned skills through games and centers and then practice honing their concept mastery through classroom problem solving work.

Test Kitchen Math

*The Test Kitchen Math course is divided into ability-based small groups. Students rotate daily between direct instruction and a hands-on cooking station to develop a strong foundation in the basic mathematical operations of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Advanced students progress through operations and algebraic thinking, number and operations in base ten, fractions, measurement and data, geometry, and statistics.While cooking, students experience the real-life applications of mathematics through the concepts of units of measure, proportion, budgeting, conversions and more. Their Test Kitchen Lab Reports provide documentation of their learning and growth. *

Thursday Agricultural Science

*Agricultural Science, or agronomy, will lead students through the study of improving agricultural practices with a focus on sustainability and permaculture. Students will come to see agronomy as a local science with strong connection to the unique climate and soil characteristics of the land where their study takes place. Teaching and learning in Agricultural Science will happen at the Verdi EcoSchool Urban Teaching Farm on Thursdays. *

Meaningful Partnerships

As a place-based educational program our ability to partner with businesses, cultural institutions and individuals in our community is an incredibly important part of the experience we offer to our students. Making meaningful connections means that we must help to cultivate an awareness of community as resource and an understanding that each individual also functions as resource to the community. We are incredibly proud of our Eco-Collective partnerships and this year we have developed several exciting collaborations:

Book Buddies

*Students practice their reading fluency and develop their compassion through our Book Buddy program with Victoria Landing Assisted Living. *

STEAM Workshops at the Renee Foosaner Education Center

*Weekly STEAM workshops encourage questioning like an engineer, designing like a technologist, creating like an artist, deducing like a mathematician, and playing like a kid. We will be participating in design challenges which present students with a real-world problems and encourage them to work as a team to invent creative solutions. STEAM workshops will be offered in collaboration with our EcoCollective partner the Foosaner Art Museum (FIT). *

November Coding Intensive at Codecraft Lab

*This course aims to teach the basics of computer science concepts and software engineering in a fun and dynamic way for first-time or practicing makers. Students will spend 3 days a week building technical vocabulary and a solid understanding of foundational computer science concepts during this exciting intensive. By the end of the course, students will be able to take a prompt in any subject and combine it with the power of new computer science and software engineering knowledge to showcase an original computer program with confidence.*

Conservation Workshops at The Brevard Zoo

*Students will spend one day each week immersed in learning experiences with educators from the Brevard Zoo and use the incredible backdrop of the zoo to further their awareness of issues that are affecting our community.*

**Relationships**

By encouraging students to engage in positive communication and interaction within their school community we are helping each individual build confidence in their own ability to confront and solve problems. Students participate in community meetings every morning and can facilitate discussions about challenging social interactions at school or even difficult circumstances at home. By empowering each child through honouring their voice and unique perspective we are taking meaningful steps towards building an inclusive and accepting school culture.

Even our school lunch is an exercise in building community. Three days each week students work together to prepare their own lunch and serve/eat it together, family style.

Weekly team building activities create an awareness of how each student's actions can impact their school family and daily yoga/mindfulness offer students self-regulatory skills that can be applied in stressful situations: both in and out of the school environment.

Yoga & Mindfulness

Teambuilding

Community Lunch

**Environment**

Balancing the needs of individual students has led to an unexpected evolution in our school environment: customization.

Bean bags, floor cushions and standing height tables in addition to standard tables and chairs create flexible seating and offer alternatives for students who need to move during classroom time.

Students can work in small groups, 1 on 1 with an educator or independently to complete project and classroom work.

Low student to educator ratios, a home away from home atmosphere and frequent brain breaks create an emotionally supportive environment where children feel welcome and accepted.

Most days start with indoor classroom time and after lunch students venture out into the community to tackle community projects, participate in physical education or visit classrooms on our community campus in the Eau Gallie Arts District. While many of our students would love to spend the entire day outside we must continue to cultivate and environment that is conducive to learning and achievement for all students.

A Day in the Life

**Safety**

Through a collaborative partnership with the City of Melbourne Police Department and the introduction of community safety talks and drills we are instilling in our students an awareness of self and surroundings.

Students have the opportunity to interact with community police officers in a way that is meaningful and personal to them and participate in drills that encourage them to ask questions about changes in their community.

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