Through thematic curricular units integrating different content areas, students learn critical problem solving skills. For example, as part of an extended study of the world's rain forests in the 1st grade:
- Students participate in activities supported by Creative Arts' partnership with UCSF's science and health education program. They examine animal skulls to determine the animals' diets; create terrariums; and handle rain forest insects such as Madagascar roaches, millipedes, and beetles.
- This unit also covers rain forest conservation and a comparison with local recycling by an expert from Sunset Scavenger, the city's recycling and composting service.
- Language arts activities integrated into this project include reading fiction and non-fiction rain forest books and learning preliminary research skills by selecting individual rain forest animals to write about in a year-end report.
- The unit culminates with a celebration and oral presentations.
Similarly, the 3rd grade undertakes a year-long study of the Bay Area's indigenous people, the Ohlone tribe. At the outset, the teacher leads students through an exercise assessing their current knowledge and documenting what they are interested in learning. After setting goals, the students make academic choices about how they will acquire the knowledge and evaluate achievement through teacher- and student-created rubrics.
Across all grades, our art and classroom teachers collaborate to incorporate the arts into the general curriculum. During the first grade unit, the two teachers collaborate to transform the classroom into a rain forest with finger knit vines, cardboard trees, and paper-mâché animals. Students research and make traditional instruments of the region with our music teacher. During the Ohlone unit, the students create a life-size wikiup and decorate its walls with traditional tribal art and stories.
Through collective interdisciplinary projects, Creative Arts' educational model also aims to build a sense of community. Our small class sizes and the practice of placing the same group of students with the same teacher for two years also ensure sustained relationships between teachers and students. We believe that building positive relationships over time increases students' achievement level.