“What grade are you in?” This is a nearly immediate question asked when talking to students. Don’t be concerned if Roots students hesitate a moment before remembering their actual grade level, or if they tell you a class name instead of number, or tell you about their math group vs their reading group. While the school keeps track of students’ grade-level as they progress each year, students experience at Roots is not focused on moving from one numbered grade level to the next. All students have a home classroom taking into account their age as well as their developmental and academic levels, which often are loosely related to their grade. However what sets this school apart is the ability for students to be in varying levels of academics, primarily determined by individual strengths and weaknesses. Here are some examples. While in Math, one student may be in a group with older students because that’s where he/she can find the ‘Just Right Challenge’ for maximum learning to occur. While in Writing or Reading however, that same student may be with younger students, or same age peers depending on his/her abilities. If a student suddenly has a developmental leap, the groups are flexible and the student can be moved up to continue to meet their needs. Or conversely, if illness or other unexpected events occur in a student’s life and they back-slide, the school is able to respond by placing the student where they need to be until they have recovered. In literature about gifted children, this is described as Asynchronous Development, “Uneven intellectual, physical, and emotional development”. This can and should be applied to all children during education, as children develop social/emotional/intellectual skills at different speeds. Students can truly thrive when this asynchrony is noted and they are taught accordingly.
The only class that is labeled and separated as a grade-class is the Wolves Classroom, which hosts the youngest learners, our Kindergartners. The Wolves accomplish a lot of academic progress through multi-sensory learning, play based learning, extra recesses, and a pace to match the unique needs of Kindergarten students. The new Owls classroom is the step after kindergarten, followed by the Bears, then finally the Eagles as students prepare to soar out of the Roots Community School. The exact ages/separations are flexible in these classrooms year to year, depending on enrollment and the unique makeup of the student body. In general, the Owls are in the early stages of literacy, meaning that they are still learning to read and increasing their fluency in reading and building comprehension. There’s a larger focus on play and multi-sensory learning here as well, keeping the classroom developmentally appropriate for these young students. Learning is an individual process, and what works for one person may not work for another. Your child deserves to experience education that aligns with their strengths and reinforces other skills necessary for personal and professional growth. Some classrooms teach through only visual or auditory modalities, yet sight and hearing are only two of our senses. What about smell, touch and taste? This is where multisensory learning comes in, activating more areas of the brain for improved retention and neurological connections.
When students are ready to join the Bears class, they have progressed through learning to read, and are now reading to learn. They are able to open books and acquire an endless wealth of knowledge. While the environment continues to be multi-sensory, a greater emphasis is placed on using these reading skills to acquire knowledge and direct their learning, which is a large step in the world of academics! As Bears mature and grow, they move up to the Eagles classroom, where things move at a faster pace and the students are expected to use the skills they have acquired through the years to learn and complete more complex tasks/projects.
Parents choose Roots Community School for their children for a variety of reasons as unique as the child him/herself. Understanding the flexible classroom structure and how it can benefit students is at times difficult until, you see it in action and your child comes home with renewed confidence and excitement for school. This happens not only for the students who are moved up into an older and/or more advanced group, but also for the students who may have been constantly struggling to keep up in a subject that was, at the time, too advanced for them. When these students get together with a group of multi-age peers where they can all work at the same level while encouraging and helping one another, the full benefits of instruction and education can be reached. We hope this further explains the distinct structure and benefits of Roots Community School. We invite you to contact us about enrollment, support us financially or socially, or share with your friends about this different and remarkable option for students in the Chelan Valley and surrounding areas.