Arroyo School Uses 5Cs to prepare students for middle school

Students arrive at Arroyo at a key stage of their development – no longer small children, not yet teenagers, and facing a different and often more challenging set of academic and social challenges than in the early grades of elementary.  In its second year as a school, Arroyo is already emerging as a school that caters to the unique academic and social-emotional needs of 9-11 year olds.

The Habits of Mind, including ownership and the 5 Cs – communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and citizenship — that form the core of learning in all SCSD classrooms are especially pertinent at Arroyo, where students are forming and solidifying habits that will build academic and social success in middle school, high school, college and eventually in their careers.

“Fourth and fifth grade is a time of big change for our students,” said Marie Crawford, Principal of Arroyo.  “Friendships begin to be based on mutual interests rather than proximity, students develop academic passions and extracurricular interests and they learn how to work out more complex conflicts with their peers.”

At Arroyo students have many opportunities to grow academically, explore new areas of interest, develop leadership, and practice communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and citizenship.

In the classroom, project-based learning allows students to work together in teams, using creativity and critical thinking to learn a new skill or analyze a driving question or a problem, and then communicate back to their peers, teacher, and sometimes even to the parents.  For example, in a California history unit on Sutter’s Fort, students are researching a historical figure, working together to plan costumes, and play the role of that historical figure.  Throughout this unit, students will use all 5Cs as they take ownership for their project, collaborate to plan for their roles, use critical thinking in their reading and writing about Sutter’s Fort, communicate about their character, and exhibit citizenship on an overnight field trip to Sutter’s Fort.

Academic projects are not all inside the classroom.  Every student at Arroyo participates in learning science and practicing the 5Cs through a school garden (http://arroyoschool.org/garden)  that was planned, financed and is maintained with the help of Arroyo parents, SCEF and the District.  Each class has its own garden plot and students learn science as they work in the dirt and grow vegetables such as kale, cauliflower and broccoli.  Students learn about composting and the importance of bees. When it is time to harvest, they can bring a bag of produce and a recipe home to their parents.

Students at Arroyo have many opportunities to develop leadership skills and explore new areas of interest through participation in student-led clubs that meet at lunchtime.  Any student may form a club by filling out a form describing the focus of the club, and more than 20 clubs have formed around interests such as computer coding, drawing, art, ballet, Rubik’s cube and many more.  Although the clubs are informal and student led, they also put the 5Cs into play, as students communicate, collaborate and exercise creativity.

Ms. Crawford observed that the school’s focus on the 5Cs enhances both academics and the climate at the school.  “The 5Cs all work together. We often think of the role that social-emotional health plays in strengthening academic learning, but academic skills such as critical thinking also strengthen social-emotional health.” She added that students use critical thinking and collaboration to work out social problems, and often come to Mrs. Dimas and herself for coaching on how to resolve a conflict with peers.  “Our students want to do well socially, and they are eager to learn how to work things out.”

Focusing on academic rigor coupled with solidifying these 21st century skills and habits will build both the academic and social skills needed for future success in middle school, high school, college and careers.

Next article will feature “Learning at Heather Starts with Questions: Habits of Mind Lead to Rigor and Imagination”