Elementary School For Sustainable Design
I. SCHOOL DESIGN
1. Mission Statement
In a clear and concise statement, describe your vision for the proposed charter school. Identify specifically:
• Who the school will serve
• What the school aims to do
• How the school will accomplish its purpose and what makes it uniquely suited to do so
• How the school will fulfill the legislative intent of the charter school law as outlined in Section 1702-A of Act 22.
To provide students in grades K through 8 from a wide diversity of backgrounds with the opportunity to become global leaders in the area of sustainability through real-world, Project Based Learning experiences. This hands-on, experiential approach to learning will engender good citizenship skills and will foster an understanding that we live in an interconnected knowledge based world that is getting smaller and more interdependent every day.
2. Educational Program/Curriculum
Explain how the proposed charter school’s educational program represents an improvement over the learning experiences currently experienced by children likely to enroll in your school. Specifically, be sure to describe:
A. The different and innovative teaching methods to be used, and how these methods will enhance instruction, increase learning and prepare students for high stakes testing. If an externally developed curriculum/instructional model is to be used, there is a clear rationale for its use.
Project Based Service Learning will be the primary method of teaching and learning employed at the Elementary School for Sustainable Design. The powerful inherent benefit of Project Based, Multidisciplinary Service Learning is the integration of real world skills, knowledge, and problem solving with best-practice strategies for teaching and learning. Service learning engages the hearts, hands, and minds encouraging the whole community of learners to bring their interests into the learning process.
Service learning enhances student understanding of citizenship (i.e. what it means to be a positive, productive member of their communities) by engaging them in meeting authentic school or community issues, needs, or problems through active service or advocacy.
Integral to any Service Learning project is the active participation of real-world community partners. In Project Based Service Leaning, students take ownership of their whole learning process by creating outcomes of value to themselves and their communities. Service Learning requires students to interpret, analyze, synthesize, generate, and evaluate information about an area of study going well beyond mere recitation of information. By developing solutions to the community need, issue, or problem, students develop a more in-depth, applied understanding of academic content areas as well as non-academic competencies.
Another great benefit of the Service Learning methodology is that it creates the environment for students to work cooperatively. Students working in small groups and engaged in the many facets of solving the problem has the effect in the classroom of minimizing behavior related issues.
Finally, and perhaps the biggest reason why Service Learning works is because it is FUN.
Under the umbrella of Project Based learning, the Built Environment and Sustainability will be our prime focus. In our view, Sustainability will be the defining issue of the 21st century. Giving our youngest citizens the tools to function, compete and lead in the marketplace of sustainability prepares them to be successful citizens in this global environment. If Service Learning is the gold standard of best practices, then sustainability and architecture projects are the gold standard of Service Learning. The wonder of a student designing, building and racing cars powered on nothing other the Sun’s rays is one of the most powerful “eureka” moments that a young mind can have. Project Based Service Learning, and more specifically, Sustainability themed projects will be embedded in the class day as a means to achieve mastery of our curricular objectives.
Community Partnerships are the heart of Service Learning. Real world, professional partners provide expertise to assist students to address real world issues. By bringing teachers, students, and professionals together in collaboration, these partnerships can bridge intergenerational, demographic, and cultural and digital divides. Furthermore, Community Partners model what it means to be good and successful citizens. To that end, The Elementary School for Sustainable Design will develop strong relationships with institutions like AIA, DVGBC, NESEA, CEFPI, and PECO/Excelon.
The physical facility itself will serve as a 3 dimensional textbook. The built, natural and cultural environment is a 3-D textbook. Ann Taylor, a professor at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque has done extensive work in this area. She says, “Just as architects learn to view spaces in terms of educational goals, students learn to look to architecture and design as a source of knowledge and a way to study concepts across all subject matter areas. The architecture of a building, a doorway or an arch, for instance, can teach much about descriptive geometry while at the same time demonstrating principles of force, load, tension, and compression from physics. Geometry is used to read the building shape, while physics helps the student to understand its structural elements. Geometry and structure of the arch merge into artistic/aesthetic style as students construct arches, or into social studies as students learn about ancient Rome and the Aqueduct. Buildings begin to take on a wide range of associations and meanings for the occupant instead of remaining unnoticed, passive volumes of space.”
We will also call on the expertise of others such as David Orr, Prakash Nair, and Randy Fielding who see the physical facility as itself as a way to teach and enhance learning.
We will use the Differentiated Instruction Learning Model. Going on the premise that all children can learn, lessons will be tailored to meet the needs of all learners. Student interest will be an essential component of lessons and student choice will be embedded into lessons and assessments.
B. The professional development opportunities that will be available to teachers and other staff to ensure that they are provided the knowledge and skills needed to implement the intended educational program/curriculum through the innovative methods described above. Explain how the skill attainment will be assessed and monitored.
The Elementary School For Sustainable Design will follow the Professional Learning Community Model. There are six essential components of this model: Shared Mission, Vision, and Values, Collective inquiry, Collaborative Teams, Action Orientation and Experimentation, Continuous Improvement, and Results Orientation. This model by nature lends itself to professional development. The goal is that the “experts” within are constantly sharing their expertise with each other. In addition to in-house learning, all staff will be formally trained in the process of Project Based Service Learning, including: assessment strategies, sustainability, Differentiated Instruction, and in any other areas that may arise that are necessary to enhance best practices.
Through the Professional Learning Community Model and through our commitment to data analysis we will continually reassess professional development needs.
C. How the educational necessities of students with special needs, including but not limited to disabled students ( including LRE and FAPE), students whose first language is not English, students in need of additional learning or emotional supports, and gifted or academically advanced students are met by school personnel, the curriculum and instructional program/practices of the school? Please describe in detail. Be specific. Describe supports for students, including common meeting time among teachers to look at student work and plan differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all students, including struggling and gifted.
We will use the Differentiated Instruction Learning Model. Going on the premise that all children can learn, lessons will be tailored to meet the needs of all learners. Student interest will be an essential component of lessons and student choice will be embedded into lessons and assessments. In addition, we will use assessment to drive instruction. This will help to pinpoint opportunities for remediation and enrichment.
Because we are committed to data driven decision-making, lessons, units, and curriculum must be continually evaluated to ensure that the needs of all learners are being addressed. Individual data must be utilized to determine the need for intervention. We will utilize a three tiered intervention model in which instructional support increases with intensity of need. In addition, a school wide Instructional Support Program will be put into place. Through this program teachers, administrators, counselors, and specialists will meet to design strategies to meet the needs of struggling students. When necessary, the school will follow a modified inclusion model. The goal is for all students to be included in the regular education classroom. We are calling it “modified inclusion” because we support the need for some special education students to receive individualized instruction to meet their needs in some areas.
D. Any commitments the school has for partnerships or other relationships with community organizations or individuals that will enrich the learning opportunities offered to students. Are the partnerships/relationships “pay for service”?
Community Partnerships are an integral aspect of Service Learning for all of the reasons previously stated. At the Elementary School for Sustainable Design, our goal is to have the active involvement of world-class institutions in the fields of education, architecture and sustainability. Such organizations as Philadelphia University, USGBC, AIA, the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), CEFPI, DesignShare, and SchraderGroup Architects have all expressed an interest in becoming associated with the school.
Two powerful examples of what such a Community Partnership would look like at the ES4SD are the AIA’s Architecture in Education program and NESEA’s Solar Energy Sprint. In both of these programs, students work actively with professionals who deal with important aspects of sustainability and design. Through collaborative planning between teacher and professional, the activities are designed to insure that they are aligned with grade appropriate curriculums across the subject areas and state mandated standards and that th process of discovery is exciting and fun.
Our relationships with Community Partners is designed so that, by participating in our programs, the Partners will receive a value added in the form of public relations, effective philanthropic endeavors, a more responsible citizenry, and the creation of a pool of literate, work ready problem solvers, particularly in the areas of sustainability and design.
E. Any program of extra-curricular activities planned for the charter school.
Because we recognize the diversity of interests among our students we are committed to providing a range of extra-curricular activities. These activities may include but are not limited to soccer, basketball, cheerleading, softball, baseball, band, choir, play, chess club, 24 club, tutoring, community service, science club.
3. Student Enrollment
Enrollment/Grade breakdown: Describe any unique characteristics of the student population to be served, including racial and ethnic composition or primary languages spoken. Show the school’s enrollment projections for the first five years in a chart modeled on the following (Must agree with the fact sheet):
The Elementary School For Sustainable design will be a K-8 school located in the East Falls section of Philadelphia and will be affiliated as a Laboratory School with Philadelphia University. This location is chosen because East Falls is the hub for a great diversity of potential student applications. East Falls is easily accessible from Roxborough, Manayunk, Chestnut Hill, Germantown, Mount Airy, North Philadelphia, and the Lower Northeast. These areas are proportionally underrepresented in the charter school populations and some areas are The school will consist of two interrelated learning communities. The primary learning community will be grades K-4. Based on the model of early intervention, there will be three classes of approximately 17 students per class in grades K-2. This reduced class size in the early grades will allow for intensive advancement, remediation, and intervention as necessary with the goal that all students will be proficient in the areas of math and reading by the end of grade two. There will be two classes of 25 students per class beginning in grade 3 and continuing through grade 8. All classes in grades K-4 will have a qualified classroom assistant to support instruction. The upper grades learning community will consist of grades 5-8. Fifth and sixth grade students will be exposed to modified cycling to increase their independence. Beginning in seventh grade the students will follow a full cycling model with instruction by a teacher certified in the areas of math, science, social studies, and reading/language arts. All teachers in grades K-8 will be trained in Project Based Learning as well as the principles of sustainability.
In addition to core content instruction, all students in grades K-8 will have weekly or biweekly instruction in music, art, physical education, computer, and foreign language.
We will also have a state of the art multimedia center.
A. School Staffing
1) Identify the targeted staff size (professional and non-professional staff) and student/teacher ratio.
Grade # Professional Staff #Non-Professional Staff
K, 1, 2 9 9
3,4,5 6 6
6,7,8 6 2
Special Education 2 2
Specialist Teacher 5 0
Noon Time Aides 0 6
Project Based Learning Specialist 1 0
Curriculum Specialist/Administrators 2 0
Librarian 1 1
Counselor 2 0
Secretary 2 0
Non teaching Assistant 0 2
Maintenance 0 2
The Elementary School for Sustainable Design will consist of 2 Learning Communities: the k-4 and the 5-8 each with 250 students. See Section 3, above (Student Enrollment) for a more complete breakdown of the Communities.
Based exclusively on the School District of Philadelphia’s per student contributions, the basic operating budget for 500 students will be $4,186,500. This does not include start up monies from the PA State Dept of Education or reimbursement charges to the State Dept of Education.
III. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND SUPPORT
1. Community Involvement
Identify the proposed charter school’s community and describe:
A. The relationship of the school to the surrounding community, and vice versa
The East Falls community in Philadelphia will be the location of the Elementary School for Sustainable Design. We see the school as a change agent in the community particularly as it relates to sustainable design, alternative energy and the use and conservation of resources as a money saving strategy for community residents. Just as we envision the school as a 3 dimensional textbook for our student body, so too the school’s energy practices and the student ambassadors’ sustainability presentations to the larger community will educate the community about why it makes sense for residents to practice sustainability.