A Day in the Life

The Lab focuses on developing the whole child including socio-emotional development, independence skills, as well as academic development.  In all of our classes, we work collectively as a group to create a culture of joyful learning, inclusion, and celebration and support of each student’s unique talents and abilities.  Classes throughout the day are designed to address each of these areas of learning. Below is a “sample” day.  Schedule and classes vary so please check with the Lab staff for our current schedule.

9:00-9:15 am – Start of the day & Community Meeting

The Lab incorporates concepts from the Responsive Classroom and Paulo Freire’s theories of co-learning between teachers and students.  Students sign-up to speak or co-lead the community meeting each day. During the meeting, students discuss issues at the Lab, in the larger community, and the world. During these meetings, students develop skills in public speaking, leading groups, setting agendas, problem-solving, advocating for issues, conflict resolution, leadership, and collaboration.

9:15–9:30 Morning Goal-Setting Advisory

Instead of traditional grouping by age or grade, students are assigned to an advisory group based on their ability to work independently.  Advisors and teachers then tailor the level and type of support provided to their independence level.  One goal of the Lab is to develop students who love learning and who are able to self-manage their own learning during the week.   Teachers/advisors coach students in building their skills in setting appropriate and achievable goals for the day and week, asking for help when they need it, reflecting on their own process of learning, and self-managing their learning through the week alone and with others.  During morning advisory, students set their learning goals for the day and reflect on the process they will use to accomplish them.

9:30–11:30 Reader’sWorkshop

The Reader’s Workshop complements and also coordinates with the Writer’s Workshop focus.  Advisors and teachers model “what it means to live richly and joyfully literate lives” and support students in learning to engage and love reading in a similar way.  Also inspired by Calkin’s workshop model, each Reader’s Workshop session includes mini-lessons, opportunities to confer with the advisor/teacher, and long stretches of time set aside simply to read.  The amount of structure and the type of level of instruction vary on each student’s needs, ranging from support in building letter and word awareness in pre-readers to opportunities to engage with and critically-appraise great works of literature from cultures and countries around the world.

10:30–11:30 Writer’s Workshop

Each daily workshop consists of mini-lesson, individual work, one-to-one conferring with the workshop teacher and peers, de-briefing and sharing.  Workshops provide opportunities for instruction and coaching, individual work and learning, and peer-to-peer learning and support.

Inspired by the work of Lucy Calkins, Lab Learning Space advisors offer 3-4 Writer’s Workshop (WW) cycles per semester. During these workshops, students learn skills in a variety of writing forms and genres including fiction, non-fiction, biographical, research, poetry, among others.  Students participate in 10-15 “mini” lessons, receive one-to-one coaching from the advisor/teacher and learn to work independently and collaboratively through 6 stages in the writing process:

  1. Generating Ideas
  2. Collecting writing entries
  3. Choosing a seed idea
  4. Planning the draft
  5. Revising to change the content and quality
  6. Editing to improve grammar
  7. Publishing the piece to share it with the world

And finally celebrating their work at a publishing party and author’s chair where each student presents excerpts of his or her work with their classmates, families and community!

11:30-12:30/12:30-1:30 Personalized Learning (Math, Humanities, Science)

4th grade and above.  During this period, students working at the 4th grade level through high school work on a personalized curriculum developed specifically for them based on their interests, parent and teacher input, and results of academic testing conducted at the beginning of each term.   Students access personalized learning modules aligned with the common core and track their progress in Math, Science and the Humanities on the Summit Personalized Learning Platform (PLP).   Using the PLP, each student is able to select the particular subject and module he or she would like to work on that week, then select which among the various instructional materials, activities and videos available through that module to accomplish the learning objectives for the module, and then decide when they are ready to take the “test” assessing the degree to which they have mastered the content for that module.

Students can “request help” from the advisor/teacher when they encounter topics or skill they need help with, and advisors/teachers monitor their progress on the platform and hold one-on-one and small group learning sessions as needed.  Students can opt to retake end of module assessments as many times as needed until they achieve “mastery” of that topic and then move on.

The PLP also encourages peer-to-peer learning and support by indicating which students have mastered each module, and providing a means for students just starting on that module to “confer” with their peers on that topic either virtually or in person.  As each student passes a module, he or she becomes a “mentor” themselves.  When a student “masters” a topic, he or she becomes a “mentor” for that topic for other students.

1st-3rd grades. Younger students and students with lower independence levels work closely with their advisor during this time developing academic, social-emotional and independence skills (time management, goal setting, problem-solving, etc).  Advisors/teachers use a combination of small group sessions, learning centers, on-line learning platforms and  purposeful play to support student learning.  Each student has an individualized “playlist” tailored to their learning needs and goals developed at the beginning of the term.  Students may use online resources like the Khan Academy or Brain Pop, participate in Writer’s and Reader’s Workshop sessions, receive individual tutoring, participate a small group session designed to support attainment of a particular skill or concept, or receive peer-to-peer support from other students in the program.

12:00–1:00 pm Lunch and Free Play

Students have lunch outside. Each month students select the activities they would like to have available during free play like basketball, tetherball, 4-square, chess, and large-scale Jenga blocks.

1:00-1:30 Interactive Read-aloud (M, W, F) and Mindfulness Meditation (T, Th)

Interactive Read-Aloud.  Interactive read-aloud allows students to engage with literature and stories that are above their current reading level.  Advisors/teachers model joyful and effective reading skills for students as they read aloud and then “think-aloud” about what they have just read, modeling critical thinking and approaches to analyzing and engaging with different types of literature. Students engage in structured “turn-and-talks” with each other about the book under study, sharing thoughts, feelings and ideas they have about the book and its topic.  Older students, advisors present a series of questions about the book being read that students then use to engage with each other about the literature and the issues the book is addressing in the world around them.

Mindfulness Meditation.  Mindfulness is a powerful tool in life and learning and helps student build skills in being present, and nurturing and managing their emotions and thoughts during a busy day.  Recent research on the use of mindfulness meditation in academic settings and its impact on student learning and well-being is compelling.  The Lab holds regular mindfulness meditation classes during each week where students learn about mindfulness and have an opportunity to practice and use mindfulness meditation during the day.

1:00 – 2:30 Project-Based Learning Studios

In the afternoon, the Lab offers project-based learning studios where students work collaboratively or independently on integrative “big-idea” topics and projects. The Lab’s take an “authentic” approach to PBL which emphasizes driving questions and projects that address real-world issues or concerns.  Each 4 to 6-week PBL cycle begins with a driving question that asks students to respond to a difficult or complex question relevant to their interests or community. Our PBL studios are student-focused and driven, allow students to develop and delve deeply into a topic of personal interest and to develop skills both in project management and in working collaboratively with others.

In the first part of a PBL cycle, students engage in initial exploration around the “driving question” identified at the start of the PBL cycle to refine it and further align it with their particular interests or concerns.  Students also work with the advisor/teacher to develop the criteria that will be used to assess the quality of their work and final product.

Next, students engage in a sustained inquiry which can last days or even months.  Students may work individually or as part of a team to explore and research this question. Depending on the question, students may consult primary and secondary written or digital sources, conduct interviews, carry-out experiments, design a product, work with an expert or visit a historical site.  Next students develop their project to align with evaluation criteria set by the advisor/teacher (and students). The project might take the form of a short film, a written report, a dance or theatrical performance, a work of art, a speech or a constructed object depending on parameters set at the beginning of the project.  The student or team then present an early draft of this work to their teacher, peers, advisors, or even a panel of experts for feedback.  Students then incorporate this feedback into their final project which they then share with their family and the community at a PBL exhibit/presentation day. During the PBL process, students learn to organize their thinking, critically appraise and integrate information and resources, work as a team, problem solve, practice public speaking and presentation skills, and build specialized knowledge in the topic area.

2:30 – 3:00 End of day Goal Reflection

During this time, students reflect on their progress towards their learning goals for the day or week.  They may do this individually or in their advisory with their advisor/teacher.  Students are asked to consider “what they rocked at that day”, “what their challenges were”, and “what resources and steps they will need to address those challenges the next time they are at The Lab.”  Students meet individually with their advisors/teachers Fridays to reflect on their overall progress and plan for the coming week.