Polaris is a K-12 expeditionary learning school in Poudre School district in Fort Collins, Colorado. Expeditionary learning also called "choice" is an opportunity for students to learn inside and outside of the classroom while exploring identity, leadership and developing 21st century skills and character. Polaris uses the welcomes anyone into its community. At Polaris fewer topics are studied so that students can develop a deeper understanding of concepts in order to apply and transfer those skills into others areas of study. Students are assessed in a variety of ways and not given grades. Instead of textbook learning Polaris uses field experience and has students take responsibility for their own learning. Polaris has a very inviting atmosphere the students are very independent and there is a mutual respect between students and their teachers. The students clearly love attending school and are always enter the building with a positive and ready to learn attitude.
Polaris has a very active community that includes teachers, parents and volunteers. There is also counseling services and a number of teachers ready to support their students. Parents and volunteers hold a variety of fundraisers and make donations to the school to help fund intensives and adventures for students. Parents and volunteers help the school with supervision for field trips and field work. CSU also offers support by having aspiring teachers come and teach for an hour and half every Friday morning. Working with Polaris students provides me the opportunity to get real world teaching experience in a different learning environment that challenges me and gives me the experience and skills I need as a teacher. It also gives me a variety of ways to teach students and provides students a new learning experience.
In Fort Collins middle-class is the most common income status and white being the most common ethnicity. There are 295 students at Polaris currently. 85.1% are white, 7.5% Hispanic, 4.1% are two or more races. The student to teacher ratio is 18 to 3. Test scores are as follows:
2017 Avg Score: 67.39 State rank: 103rd State Percentile: 75.2%
Classroom Environment and Students
At Polaris, Nicole and I work with a class that consists of 2nd and 3rd grade students. There are 17 students in the class there are 9 boys and 9 girls. Brittany uses this ratio when having students sit in a circle by having them always sit boy, girl, boy, girl and where she assigns them seats be evening out the amount of each at a table. The class room is calm, the students all interact extremely well, which leads to a very productive class room. All of the students are constantly helping each other out with tasks, as well as developing a sense of community and respect among each other. Every student is very independent for their age and they show a well developed interest, engagement, and understanding for the subject matter. The large windows on one side of the classroom creates an inviting atmosphere that promotes the ability to learn. The layout of the room is show in the example below.
School-wide Policies for management, Safe Schools, Conflict Resolution and Students with Special Needs
Management: The teachers at Polaris ring a bell to get the students attention and that it is time to stop talking and listen. Teachers they never talk over students or raise their voices. They always seem to talk to students in a calm, positive and low volume voice. When dealing with dicipline the practice at Polaris is a five step redirct system.
Ask about behavior in a friendly respectful tone
"How are your attending skills?"
2. Second Refocus
Name the behavior and tell the desired behavior
"this is your second refocus" / "How many is this?"
" Can you so do that"
3. Refocus in Hall conference
Ask students to step outside of the room
tell student this is their third refocus
"Here is what I saw... can you respond to that?" / "What is going on today?"
I don't need an apology I need a change in behavior
Explain desired behvaior and consequence
"What do you need from me to make this happen?"
"What does it take to get back in class?"
Leave the students with encouragement and a "Thanks"
4. Problem Solving Contract
k-6: In teacher partner's room
6-8: In Mikole/Matt/ Katie's room
5. Admin. support in office
Safety: In Poudre School District a police officer is assigned to every schools campus, drills and safety procedures are practiced by students and PSD schools even have something called "Safety Week" where all week long they talk about and practice safety procedures in emergency situations. Teachers and staff are also given special training to deal with emergencies and can attend additional classes and lectures.
Students with Special Needs: No information is provided