Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School (BSFCS) offers an exciting educational program rooted in multi-grade design, differentiation, project-based experiences, community involvement, and state standards. Classroom teachers handcraft curriculum weekly to maintain challenge and implement new opportunities for hands-on, creative, and cooperative learning. Curriculum is high language-based, academically advanced, and incorporates social learning on a daily basis. Although there is adopted curriculum, the school does not actively utilize linear program implementation to teach state standards. Accountability for completion builds throughout the grade levels and correlates to homework load as the grade levels progress (K-1: mainly for practice; 2/3 practice and project completion; 4/5 routine assignments and project completion; 6 all work). Teachers use simulations involving dress up, role play, team cooperation, and competition to teach various areas of study amongst the grade levels. Classrooms are transported with decoration and orientation to correlate to the fluid curriculum design. Everyday, there is something new as projects are introduced, worked on, tailored, and celebrated in class by staff and students. Projects vary by teacher, subject matter, timeline, and expectations for completion. BSFCS classrooms are active and can be noisy, as students work with each other and have different expectations or assignments, designated by the classroom teacher, occurring simultaneously. Projects often involve multiple opportunities for student choice and discussion. Direct instruction is selectively implemented by BSFCS teachers, as experiential and social learning is encouraged throughout the program. BSFCS believes that students grow when they are given the freedom to independently explore their own learning and challenge themselves with staff guidance in a social environment.
BSFCS has an intentional casual culture. The majority of staff members choose to be referred to by first names. Classroom seating arrangements are intentionally flexible in design and parent volunteers are present in all grade levels on a daily basis. Students are encouraged to choose learning locations and make their own choices for working with others. Alternative seating (couches, coffee tables, standing tables, pillows, individual chairs, bathtub, etc.) is found within all classrooms. Traditionally, BSFCS students only experience having their own desks in fourth and fifth grades. While safety standards are taught and enforced, BSFCS students can regularly be observed transitioning independently to specified locations without rigid protocol for lining up. BSFCS students share everything from recess equipment to supplies. Recess and lunch are inclusive of all grade levels. BSFCS intentionally refers to general moral expectations, rather than explicit rules. Natural consequences and opportunities for individual choice is prevalent across the pedagogical design. Students regularly discuss choice and consequence rather than direct disciplinary action. The school encourages intrinsic motivation through exciting activity rather than extrinsic motivators or negative consequences for general education classroom management. The school has maintained an open environmental design that is mostly free of fencing and overt boundaries. The school believes in teaching students what to do correctly and allowing them the freedom to demonstrate the correct choice in both the classrooms and non-structured transitions, while still upholding expectations of behavior in accordance to policy.
BSFCS has a unique structure for an elementary school. All the grade levels are multi-grade with enrollment for one class per grade level until 6th Grade (K/1; K/1; 2/3; 2/3; 4/5; 4/5; 6) with an optimal enrollment of 24 per class. General education teachers “loop” with half of the class each year. In general, BSFCS students work at an accelerated pace due to the inclusion of a higher grade level the initial year and due to teacher knowledge of the student achievement level the second year. Students experience multiple transitions and varied classroom schedules due to pull outs for specialty classes. In general, a BSFCS student may experience two pull outs for Science, two pull outs for PE, a pull out for Garden, a pull out for Electives, and a pull out for the PTO supported Artists in Residence Program. BSFCS values specialty classes and recognizes that pull outs decrease uninterrupted blocks of instructional time for core subjects. Each school day begins with an all school Morning Assembly for students. Families are welcome to attend Assembly, but are encouraged to promote their child’s/children’s independence and connection with other students by encouraging him/her/them to sit with the student population. At Assembly, BSFCS staff members take turns surprising the students with different information, visitors, activities, books, games, and/or celebrations. Assemblies may also be used to clarify school expectations. Classes regularly perform plays or share projects with the school community at Morning Assemblies. For BSFCS traditions, the whole school schedule may shift due to limited space and the need for collaboration between staff members for specialty events.