At SMASH, we strive to help children become active citizens in a democracy that is still being shaped. We want our students to be part of that shaping in ethical, moral, creative and thoughtful ways. There are three important components that serve as a guide in the development of the SMASH program. First, there is a curriculum that builds upon student interest and real life issues and problems. Next, there is a structure that offers flexibility that includes heterogeneous and multi-age group arrangements for children. Finally, there is an environment that embraces freedom with responsibility and addresses the balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the community. Our instructional program staff is continuously focused on these important elements in order to build a solid, yet ever-changing, innovative program.
Globally/Community Minded/Real World:
At SMASH we believe it is important to do things that connect to and affect the community. Our themes emerge from current events or situations the kids know about/care about. We make a concerted effort to get out in the community and to bring the community into school. Our children have opportunities to strengthen their skills as global citizens through service learning projects, community outreach, charity events, identifying and addressing real world problems, recognizing and embracing differences, and being agents of change. Our goal is to help children develop as life-long learners and citizens of the global community.
SMASH’s goal in assessment is to understand and know the complexity of each child’s development rather than to compare children with each other. If we are to uphold the tenet that each child is unique, then it is imperative that this belief be reflected in our practices of assessment as well as instruction. The constructivist view of learning sees children as full of knowledge and resources. The focus on assets is extremely important in the fostering of a supportive climate for children. By identifying children’s strengths, we encourage children to be resourceful and recognize the resources they possess. Rather than beginning with what children don’t know or can’t do, we begin with what children do know and can do and we build from there.
SMASH utilizes project-based and experiential learning, an approach to instruction and learning that supports a child’s need for hands-on experiences and choices in what they learn, how they engage in learning and how they show what they have learned. Projects may be short or long term and may be individual, partner or group work. In project-based learning, children develop their academic skills as well as skills in organization, time management, communication, cooperation, and compromise, interpretation, and creativity.
The SMASH curriculum is organized largely around themes that integrate core subjects like reading, writing, science, and humanities within the exploration of a broader topic. Thematic learning is based on the belief that children learn and retain information and skills best when what they are learning is connected to the real world and related to things they already know. The themes are determined based on what is developmentally appropriate, real world applicable, and in the interests of the children. Some of the themes that have been used at SMASH are: The Community, Life Cycles, The Environment, Immigration, and Santa Monica Past, Present, and Future.
As SMASH we believe in the importance of creative, innovative, and critical thinking. We encourage our children to be risk-takers who are able to think outside of the box to develop solutions to problems. In addition, we recognize that children need to be problem finders as well as problem solvers.
SMASH utilizes the Responsive Classroom™ approach to teaching and learning. This approach is built around the following principles:
- The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
- How children learn is as important as what they learn: process and content go hand in hand.
- The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
- There is a specific set of social skills that children need to learn and practice in order to be successful academically and socially: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control (CARES).
- Knowing the children we teach – individually, culturally, and developmentally – is as important as knowing the content we teach.
- Knowing the families of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children we teach.
- How we, the adults at school, work together is as important as our individual competence.
At SMASH we are committed to nurturing all aspects of a child – intellectual, physical, emotional, social, creative, and cultural. Children engage in activities throughout the day, week, and year that help them develop as positive contributing members of our community. We focus on developing children’s skills in cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self control.
Core 1 consists of kindergartners, first graders, and second graders with three teachers and two teaching assistants. Parents play an important role in our classrooms, as they volunteer and facilitate learning on a regular basis. Our curriculum is structured in a way that students are able to learn at their own pace. Our teaching supports a variety of learning styles in our classroom. We foster a cooperative, rather than a competitive environment, and have a strong emphasis on social curriculum. Students practice conflict resolution every day at Magic Circle, and they learn effective ways of communicating their feelings, needs, and concerns. We explore friendships, compromise and peaceful interaction.
Core 2 consists of third and fourth graders with two teachers and one teaching assistant. In Core 2, we balance our curriculum with both the academic and the social. We work on building a bridge between concrete and hands-on learning, as well as to more abstract ideas and higher-level thinking. We place an emphasis on helping students set goals, reflect on their progress, and understand their strengths and challenges. We respect that students engage in multiple ways of learning and demonstrating knowledge. The children work on taking care of their environment as well as each other. Our goal is to help children become well-rounded individuals who have strong self-concepts and are independent and creative thinkers.
Core 3 consists of fifth and sixth graders with two teachers and one teaching assistant. We like to investigate anything and everything and we focus on exploring, understanding, and contributing to our community. We express ourselves through art and music and we analyze and think deeply about the books we read, the stories and essays we write, and the mathematical endeavors we encounter. We emphasize authentic, relevant learning and making learning fun.
Core 4 consists of seventh and eighth graders with two teachers. Mathematics, Humanities, and Science are broken into trimesters containing individual and group projects. For example, our “Immigration and Borders” unit ended with a large-scale project featuring an immigrant economics experience, a family history interview, and a borders and biomes model. In addition, in Core 4, we focus on personal responsibility, student leadership, and self-directed learning. We hope to guide children towards becoming independent, inquisitive, and well-rounded young adults.