For those new to CHCS, we don't have a traditional playground that you would find in a traditional public school schoolyard. I actually like it that way. It's kind of like the child who, on Christmas morning, would rather play with the empty boxes than the toys or the toddler who would rather bang on pots and pans with wooden spoons and spatulas instead of playing with the toy piano or mini guitar they got for their birthday. We give our students sticks, stones, and other natural building materials and they create and build. I like that. Oh, there are some parent-built things to step on and climb on and go through, too. I like that too. And we give our students wide open spaces with plenty of trees, wildlife, and fresh air. I really like that. Children seem to get more out of the boxes, pots, pans, utensils, sticks, and stones, sometimes, than the things we buy. I think that is because children are creators by nature. They get satisfaction from imagining, designing, planning, building, and creating. I especially like that.

But then something happens somewhere along the line in the lives of some children. Some children lose creativity and settle instead for pre-made stuff. Some lose their imagination and settle for some screen that imagines for them. Worst of all, some children lose their innate love for nature and the wonders of the natural world. They lose their curiosity and sense of adventure and discovery. I don't like that at all.

Part of our mission is to restore and strengthen children's creativity, imagination, curiosity, love of nature, and wonder at the beauty of the natural world. Some might say that's a pretty tall order in light of all of the standards students are required to master. It is if these things are viewed as "one more thing to do". But at CHCS, we don't see it that way at all. The most efficient and effective and joyful way to make sure that we are inspiring all our children to the highest levels of academic achievement is through a RIGOROUS curriculum that INTEGRATES the WONDERS of the natural world. Sound familiar? It should! That's our mission. Three important words there: rigorous, integrates, and wonders.

Rigor. We'll explore that word in depth in upcoming emails, but to suffice for now, a good working definition is one from author and speaker, Dr. Barbara Blackburn: "True rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels." High expectations, high levels, support, demonstration of learning. I will add the word, engagement, another word that we will explore in another email. Suffice for now to say that engagement is when students work so hard and deep at something that they lose track of time. (Kind of like adults do when we get on Facebook or Twitter and realize two or three hours later that we have to get up for work in a few short hours. Kind of.)

Integrate. We looked at this some yesterday, but please understand that we will look at it again tomorrow, the next day, next week, next month, etc. It will always be in front of us because that's what we do. That's who we are. That's what differentiates us. We use the environment (which includes the nature all around us, the agriculture we can and will have on our campus and the agriculture that is abundant in our community, and the arts that we have and will have on our campus and that is abundant in our community) as an integrating context for reading, writing, math, science, social studies, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, imagination, curiosity, inquiry, discovery, and wonder. Curriculum integration is efficient, effective, and most of all, joyful. (It's kind of like when adults have errands to run. We don't go to the post office, come home, make out our bank deposit slip, go to the bank, go home, make a shopping list, go to the grocery store, and come home. We combine all those errands into one trip. We plan the order in which we'll go. In our minds, we map it out. When we're done, we feel accomplished and satisfied instead of rushed, frustrated, and exhausted.)

Wonder: imagination; creativity; discovery; inquiry; exploration; excitement; engagement; critical thinking; curiosity. You get it. Enough said.

A lot to ponder. What are you thinking?