We Integrate Where & When It Makes Sense
Woodlawn is committed to an integrated and innovative approach to learning and teaching. It is not enough to simply memorize rote facts and statistics. We strive to go beyond mastering the fundamentals in each subject area by engaging our students in group discussions, in-depth research projects, presentations, and performances that often times cross disciplines. Because our world is integrated, we believe our curriculum should be, too. To make learning relevant and meaningful, content from different subject areas is often linked around common themes so that students learn how to make connections between subjects. Students ultimately gain a deeper understanding of subject matter by using it in real world contexts.
We ask an overarching Essential Question in each grade level. This Essential Question guides each curricular area and allows for interdisciplinary projects. Faculty frequently revisit these questions throughout the year in order to promote personal and academic development in our students.
Woodlawn, like all responsible, independent schools, has standards and objectives that we set for each grade level. These contain the content and skills our students must master before advancing. We continually check and revisit these standards to be sure we are fulfilling the objective of these tools for learning. Coupled with that is the heart of our program: the ability to intrigue and challenge students, as well as educate them.
We Promote Active Learning
Life is interesting and so should be learning! We believe that students learn best by experiential, hands-on learning. We encourage inquiry and creative problem solving. While you will still find traditional aspects of school at Woodlawn (i.e. tests, textbooks, and an occasional worksheet), we do not focus on teaching to any one test. Rather than a quest to cover as much material as we possibly can, we believe in spending our time exploring topics and ideas in depth. Real novels, primary sources, projects, experimentation, and intellectual risk taking are the cornerstones of our philosophy. We want our students to continually ask, “Why?” The culminating project at each grade level forces the student to consider all he or she has learned and apply and synthesize that information in a creative way.
We Partner With the Community
We also enrich our academic curriculum with a strong focus on community service and frequent field trips. This provides the students with ways to use what they are learning at school in the real world. Community service strengthens the community and nurtures a sense of empathy in students. 3rd graders take monthly visits to a residence for Alzheimer patients, 8th graders spend afternoons with aging seniors at a state run institution, and 5th graders educate their peers and community on recycling as they take part in a school wide effort to collect recyleable materials. As we persistently push our students out of their comfort zones, we see them working side by side, confronting their own fears or prejudices, and developing a greater sense of appreciation for all they have.
“On our first visit to the senior center, the students were somewhat skittish. They stuck close together, were rather quiet, and had a bit of shock in their eyes,” relates an 8th grade teacher. “By the end of the year, they were actually looking forward to their visits. The students brought games, played their guitars, and sat on the beds with their new friends telling them stories or just simply listening. They wandered the halls freely and unafraid. Most kids today would be afraid to help an aging senior navigate down the hallway of a crowded senior residence—not our students.”
“We figured out pretty quickly that they liked sweets,” laughed an 8th grade student. “After that we were sure to always bring candy and home-baked goods.”
We Instill Social Conscience and Encourage Social Responsibility
A curriculum that prepares our students for the 21st century must promote a moral and ethical code of behavior. Students, as our future leaders, need to be able to resolve conflicts, have a strong ecological foundation, embrace and respect diversity, and commit to a sense of balance and wellness... all while maintaining a healthy dose of adolescent idealism. These are challenges that face almost all pre-adolescents and teenagers. Cynicism and indifference have replaced the passion of learning in today’s classrooms. Students are faced with complex choices and often need someone to help them manage these pressures. Developmentally appropriate adult intervention and guidance is at the heart of our Life Skills classes (for lower school students). Students need a safe place to ask questions, find information, practice honest communication skills, admit struggles, stand up to a friend, or to seek help. It is here where students begin to develop their own ethic of citizenship and begin to make the world a better place.
We Value Multiple Perspectives
Religious conflicts, rich nations/poor nations, the future of the planet... these topics and more are often at the heart of our classroom discussions. Our students need the understanding and tools to argue with fact and present positions respectfully.
We Hire Passionate, Knowledgeable Teachers
At Woodlawn, we believe that teachers are the single most important factor in determining the success of a school. As a result, we are committed to holding teachers to a high standard; in return, teachers are given more ownership than they would expect in a typical private school. Here, teachers are critical in creating the curriculum, shaping key policies such as the admissions process, and even the hiring of their own peers on the faculty. Our teachers also hold themselves accountable for being an expert in their specific field of study by being committed to ongoing professional development.