Creative Inspiration Journey School (CIJS) is an innovative and stimulating educational program inspired by Reggio Emilia. The curriculum is based on inter-disciplinary, experiential, hands-on learning which:
Every child brings deep curiosity and potential; this instinctive curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it. The Reggio Emilia approach is centered on fundamental values about how children learn. These fundamental core values include:
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy centered on preschool and primary school children. It allows young students the chance to participate in decisions regarding their own education, and places an emphasis upon self-expression, cooperation within the community, creativity, and a respect for the natural world.
Our integration of environmental subject matter into the curriculum aides in a true understanding and teaches children respect for our earth. The project-based learning and higher level thinking skills that are utilized within our approach is essential to mastering mandated core curriculum standards. As a result of our well-balanced curriculum, our students are exceptionally prepared for higher levels of education.
Our teaching is both collaborative and evolving. Children learn from their interaction with teachers, but teachers-through carefully documented observations-also learn. They understand more about how children learn, and therefore become better teachers.
Parents, through their interactions with activities at CIJS discover more about children’s education, and in turn, become more skilled at providing experiences that children benefit from best. As CIJS becomes a more and more integral part of the community, children benefit from taking part in this broader context, and ideally the community better understands the needs of children.
In this way we grow and evolve together, and children benefit. Parents are encouraged to take part in children’s activities and are always welcome at CIJS. Teachers document student interactions, experiences, and performance throughout their projects. Teachers communicate with parents virtually every day through email newsletters and pictures. This allows parents to continue the conversation and extend the day’s lessons at home.
At CIJS we build on children’s natural curiosity by teaching through application of the Scientific Method (making assumptions about the way the world works and then experimenting to check them out). Topics for study are captured from dialogue with children, through community or family events, as well as known interests of children (puddles, shadows, dinosaurs, etc.). Teachers engage in skillful questioning that elicits children’s own questions, provokes their curiosity, and leads them to make testable predictions. Through testing, students confirm or disprove their predictions, leading to a deeper understanding of the world around them. Below is an example of kindergarten students.
At CIJS this method of teaching is woven throughout every child’s day-all day every day. Learning is not a separate activity that children sit down and “do.” Learning happens naturally and meaningfully. Children gain knowledge based on true comprehension that lasts a lifetime and that can be applied usefully and productively.
Interdisciplinary means that several subjects are integrated into single projects. Rather than dividing lessons into “reading, spelling, writing, social studies and math,” all of these are integrated into every project through hands-on activities. Lessons integrate subjects in a meaningful way, just as they occur in real-world problem solving rather than artificially isolating them. This allows students to make connections between the different subjects, and to the real world.
Literacy and pre-literacy, social studies (history, civilizations, geography), and math are taught through hands-on activities and projects. Projects are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests which arise from the children. Considered as an adventure, projects may last one week or could continue throughout the school year.
Throughout a project, teachers help children make decisions about the direction of study, ways in which the group will research the topic, methods to demonstrate and showcase the topic, and selection of materials needed for the work. Children act as researchers, guided by their teachers to find answers to their questions.
The agricultural component of our curriculum is a good example that illustrates our interdisciplinary and project-based approach. Agricultural education prepares students to be problem solvers, leaders, and entrepreneurs, through the use of its three-circle model. Classroom and laboratory instruction, leadership development, and experiential learning all combine to offer students a well-rounded aspect to their education that will prepare them for college and the workforce, as well as teach them to be educated consumers.
The CIJS agricultural component promotes hands on learning and responsibility, through the care of animals and gardens. The program introduces students to specific principles in nutrition, physiology, behavior, and reproduction.
CIJS uses the same state standards as other schools; however, standards are implemented and assessed using unique methods. Children master standards by engaging in projects stemming from students’ interests, therefore retention of knowledge learned is also assessed throughout observation of engagement in activities.
Teachers observe and document the daily life of the children as well as their thoughts and ideas as they interact together or work on projects. Documentation methods can include cameras, recorders, and journals. When journals are used, they include photographs of the children’s projects, quotes, art work, and writing samples. This forms a story of what the child learns at school.
By using this form of documentation frequently, children are not subjected to the pressure of testing, and their level of performance is assessed more accurately. While the anecdotal observation method primarily drives our assessment strategies, CIJS does utilize written exams a few times throughout the year to analyze and help guide the instruction.