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Exploration of the big idea

What is a Brown-Barge stream?

 A stream is a 12 week course of study focused upon a particular big idea which is relevant to student lives. Based on the results of a student survey, the faculty works together to identify a topic of study.  The topic provides motivation and direction for teachers to write a premise, identify knowledge areas, and design learning activities. Since 1992, twenty-five streams have been developed.

Authentic Assessment

Why do you assign numbers for grades?

Our stream reports (sent home every six weeks) are meant to provide feedback to students and parents  in terms of student effort and learning experiences. Because we differentiate both instruction and evaluations, and we do not intend for grades to be either rewards or punishments, we chose to provide feedback on a scale of 0-5 (0 meaning non-participation and 5 meaning above and beyond expectations), rather than the traditional letter grades. The stream reports are designed to give feedback in cooperative group skills, work habits, and the following knowledge areas: problem solving, written communication, oral communication, research, computation, and technology applications.

Brown-Barge's Integrated Curriculum

Project-based and Real World Curriculum

What is a simulation?

Because our curriculum is designed to teach students life-long learning skills, and not only content, we ask students to display their skills through an activity that parallels a civic or social activity in the adult world. Through this activity students can most closely explore the big idea of the stream. Some examples of these relevant activities are: a mock United Nations assembly, building life-sized bridges for a fitness trail, simulating the Ellis Island experience, producing art for an art museum that students design, and creating a business, manufacturing a product, and marketing it.
 

Cooperative Group Roles

Why do students work in groups?

 
Working cooperatively is not only a skill necessary for work in the adult world, it also offers a valuable exchange of ideas and learning.  Students share their strengths, and often learn more from each other than purely from teacher lectures. Activities are carefully designed by the teachers to help students acquire leadership skills, the skills necessary to work cooperatively, as well as aid in student exploration of the topic of study.  Evaluation rubrics are designed so that students are evaluated on their contributions. The emphasis is on the process, not the group's final product.

Higher Level Thinking Skills

Are students taught to think critically?

Many elements of the integrated curriculum foster critical thinking. Project-based learning and real world applications provide the focus for classroom lessons. Problem solving is modeled by the teacher and students support each other as they work in groups. Student evaluation rubrics emphasize the process by which tasks are accomplished. Classroom activities are designed using Bloom's Taxonomy and Webb's Depth of Knowledge levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Students are asked to hypothesize, research, design, produce and reflect as they put into practice knowledge and skills they have gained in the stream. Problem solving is also considered an important knowledge area on our stream reports.

Relevant and Interesting

How is learning relevant for the Brown-Barge student?

Periodically we formally survey students and ask about their concerns, interests, and what they think they need to learn. Our curriculum is relevant and motivates students because topics are chosen from the responses to this survey. Our most recent stream is titled Music: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, a stream written in response to student interest about the experiences of writing, playing, and listening to music. In each stream students demonstrate understanding by participating in a simulation of a real world experience.
 

Student-Centered Curriculum

What is three tiered instruction?

We celebrate students' strengths, and recognize that each student brings with him or her different background experiences. Our curriculum is designed to meet students where they are. We have an acquisition tier for teaching the most basic reading, writing, math, and social skills.  Our application tier provides activities for learning in the "content areas" and also prepares students to be successful at the highest tier: the simulation tier. Activities in this tier are designed to provide opportunities for synthesis, analysis, and evaluation.  The focus is on the process, not the final product.

Knowledge for Understanding the Big Idea

What about Science, Math, English, and History?

An integrated curriculum takes into account that the adult world is not compartmentalized into subjects or content areas. When designing a stream, a team of teachers, representing expertise in a range of subject areas, considers the big idea and its real world applications. The team discusses what knowledge and skills are needed to fully explore the big idea and application activities are designed around those needs.  Because students are preparing to simulate situations found in the adult world, they learn topics found in traditional subjects, but more in depth and with more relevance. The goal of the integrated curriculum is to prepare students for life-long success, not just for the next grade level.