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How We Learn

Say "goodbye" to pencil and paper tests, worksheets, and rote memorization! Kids at The Fred Tjardes School of Innovation (FTSOI) usethinking, exploring, creating, and innovating. It is a well-researched fact that most of the jobs of the 21st century are not even created yet, and we want to be sure prepare students for the future, not the past.

At FTSOI, we believe that learning should be an exciting part of childhood. Our curriculum is designed in a way that taps into a child's natural curiosity to explore and create. Students explore simple theme based topics (or loops) in grade level bands instead of arbitrary grade levels. The loops have cross content connections, which ask students to learn about topics and concepts with more depth. For example, students may be exploring the loop "Movement." While doing this they may learn about art and music movements, learn the math and physics of motion, explore the historical and geographical reasons why people have moved, explore and practice movement used in exercise, and read literature around movements like the Civil Rights. As students develop the skills and knowledge on the topic, we will guide them as they develop presentations and projects as ways to demonstrate learning and impact their community. Then, students may take the information to look at the future of movement or create something that utilizes motion or artistic movements. We call them loops because by the end, the students will be able to complete the loop by informing others about the topic through their innovation.

Our environment is anything but traditional! Students are helping to create the learning space as a part of their study, working to see how space affects environments. Spaces are fluid to fit with the day's learning and adaptable based on students' needs. Much like cubicles, the traditional classroom will be a thing of the past. Students must be up moving, talking, and collaborating for maximum learning to occur and our school is designed to facilitate just that.

Ingrained in the heart of our culture is failure. Yep, you heard us right...failure. Colleges and companies across the country are reporting at mass levels that the main thing they look for in applicants is grit, as this is one of the biggest indicators for success. Grit comes from being thrust into complex problems with difficult solutions. Grit comes from not being afraid to fail and then try again. Grit comes from working through something and eventually succeeding, even when you didn't think you could in the first place. And grit is difficult to teach in a traditional school as rankings, grades, levels, and individual success are often at the heart of the culture. Our culture will make failure feel safe so that kids aren't afraid to try new things!


The first step in our model is about building the base knowledge necessary to be successful in each loop. Facilitators have carefully crafted and planned lessons that help develop the skills and knowledge necessary without letting direct instruction become the main method of learning throughout the loop. In the early bands, students have more traditional instruction in basic reading and math, as this is proven by research to be the most effective method for learning these skills. As they progress in the program, they will take more ownership of building background.


Inspiration can come in many forms. First, students dive into teacher directed hands-on experiences, get stuck, and try to find solutions. Our loops will allow students to explore a theme from many different avenues in order to find inspiration. Our community is the initial source for this inspiration, as looking locally helps students find their place in the world. 


We want students to understand that being a problem-solver begins with being a problem-finder. Once teachers guide students in the process, students search for local problems that interest them (local can be school, businesses, community). Students work with their problem-solving-community (PSC) to begin working through solutions. It is here that we expect students to work through failure and begin to develop grit. At early years grade bands, this part of the process is highly scaffolded. 


Students demonstrate learning by doing, creating, and presenting. In the innovation phase, students show their learning and know how to talk about it.  Three-times a year students will present projects to the community to demonstrate learning from each loop. Prior to and during the innovation phase, students meet with a problem-solving-leader (PSL) to discuss which standards their project is helping them develop, learn, and master so that students begin to control and design their own learning. 



Interested in reading more about the theories and research at the core of TSOI? Check out our innovation plan! Our Innovation Plan is a comprehensive look at who we are as a school.