We believe it is important to have a well-rounded view of student achievement. We have identified five dimensions of achievement that are vital to student success. We provide opportunities for students to excel in each of these.
Simply put, this approach helps students develop a curious attitude toward the subject at hand, ask probing questions, and learn how to seek and find answers.
Many educational researchers are finding that it is not simply the knowledge or technical aspects that are important in learning, but also the processes of inquiry--that is, the experiences, struggles, and questioning that led to the knowledge in the first place. These aspects are just as important as the others in developing truly useful knowledge. Accordingly, incorporating active inquiry into the learning process is an important part of our approach to instruction across the curriculum.
A major portion of our curriculum is integrated into long-term, deep study of topics. We call these long-term studies Learning Expeditions. We use the term “expedition” metaphorically. Lewis and Clark went, not on a trip, but an expedition—an incredible and unforgettable journey in which they met challenges, solved problems, and arrived at a destination that seemed unattainable. Using the term “expedition” in the phrase, “learning expedition,” adds the sense that this learning experience will not just be a "lesson" or a "unit" to cover. It will be instead be a deep, wide, and engaging learning experience that may take anywhere from several weeks to several months to accomplish.
Learning Expeditions are organized around a topic that is both meaningful and important. Various case studies, experiments, projects, and learning workshops are used to gather knowledge about the topic and generate lines of investigation. Relevant tools from the various disciplines are used to study the topic and help students achieve a deep understanding of the various issues and challenges. Throughout the expedition, teachers structure time and opportunity for high-quality work with multiple revisions.
Venture students engage in work that is meaningful and authentic: work that is more like that which is done in the “real-world”. One of the key ways of accomplishing this is by seeking opportunities within our community to study and work on real problems being faced by neighborhoods, businesses, city councils, etc. This work is sometimes simply an agreement to produce a product or service that is needed to enrich some aspect of the community like, for instance, providing a high quality wildlife informational signs for the Ogden River Restoration project, or arranging to interview Veterans at the Veteran's Home to write their stories. It may sometimes take the form of a partnership.
Participation in fieldwork is another important and common way in which Venture students improve their understanding and skills in relation to the topics they are studying and the questions they are pursuing. After having gained significant understanding of a topic from in-class learning, investigations outside the classroom in “the field" can provide an important way for them to seek answers to their questions, conduct experiments, gather data, and confirm, or challenge, their present understandings. Each year around 100 separate fieldwork excursions are conducted by various student groups in the K-8. Certain aspects of a topic cannot be fully understood without the perspectives gained through this important fieldwork.
Venture teachers and students seek out expertise within the community to provide valuable insight as well as critique of student work. Often these experts are invited to the school; sometimes students travel to their places of employment; and sometimes these experts assist in, or guide, fieldwork activities.
Math, language arts, science, visual arts, music, and physical education/adventure serve important roles in supporting our learning expeditions and creating a well-rounded education.
Our approach focuses on both conceptual development and strong number sense. Through a spiraling process, key processes and concepts build from year to year circling back to earlier learning and taking it to the next level. The aim is for students to not only be able to get correct answers, but to know why they are correct. Venture students develop strong number sense and logic, the hallmarks of good math education.
Basic literacy skills are vital across the curriculum. Students receive focused instruction in reading and writing both in basic skill development sessions and in relation to projects associated learning expeditions. They write regularly and in a variety of different styles for different purposes. This also includes regularly refining, through multiple revisions, certain writing pieces into what we call "final products."
Our science investigations are designed to create young scientists! Students are able to learn about the world around them, ask questions, and work to find answers. We teach students to understand the world around them and to take good care of it!
Our social studies expeditions are designed to create critical thinkers who have a love and appreciation of history! Students are able to learn about the people and events that have helped to make the world what it is today. We don't teach our students what to think; we teach them how to think.
Venture has a strong commitment to art education. All students in K-5 receive instruction from an art specialist as part of their studies. Middle school students have a robust set of art elective courses from which to choose.
Music is taught and performed with excellence at Venture. All students in K-5 receive regular instruction from a music specialist. Middle school students have band classes as elective options. Venture’s band has repeatedly and regularly been invited, by audition, to perform at the State band festival with the State’s top bands.
Venture recognizes that the skills, abilities and characteristics gained through physical engagement are an important aspect of education. Venture’s Adventure program develops skills and characteristics that create a foundation for lifelong enjoyment and physical fitness. Students at Venture can expect opportunities to engage in sports such as hiking, biking, rock climbing, kayaking and more. K-5 students are regularly instructed by a PE specialist and middle school students have both required and elective courses.
Intensives occur in a one week time frame that happens twice each year where regular studies are set aside and students and teachers have the opportunity to explore a favorite topic in great depth all day, every day, for a week. Some topics are better studied in an intense, all day manner where students can utilize tools and resources, go out in the community, focus on larger projects, etc., without being bound by the normal daily schedule. Learn more about Intensives here.
For being a relatively small middle school, Venture’s 6th to 8th offers an impressive array of elective offerings that give students the opportunity to pursue their interests. They also provide teachers with an opportunities to teach courses in which they have a particular interest. Teachers often make use of local resources (nature, experts, and fieldwork) to enrich the experiences.
To support students in their ability to demonstrate achievement in the five dimensions of student achievement, the following tools are used:
Students gather their best work--including some work that shows their processes--into portfolios that are organized around the five dimensions of student achievement.
Twice each year, students sit down with their parents to go over the work they are doing and to show progress. Portfolios serve as important tools in being able to have an effective conference with their parents. Students who do this over the years K to 8 become quite proficient in speaking with their parents about how they are doing.
Teachers publish report cards 4 times per year that show student achievement on key learning targets from the term. Inter-term progress reports are publish periodically as well.
In grades 5 and 8, students do what we call "Passage presentations". Student work portfolios and student led conference folders form a key tool of preparation for the Passage presentations. Students present their work and progress to a panel composed of teachers, administrators, community members, and parents (8th grade); or they present to their peers and parents (5th grade). The presentation is organized around the questions of: