The academic vision of SJA Jeju is modeled on the learning program of our college prep home school, St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont, which focuses on inquiry/project-based learning and utilizes a culminating experience - the "Senior Capstone Project."
Innovative Learning Paradigm
Using our home school’s Capstone Project as inspiration, our concept is to put into effect an innovative curriculum designed to deliver a unified network of projects leading to series of capstones (“expertise markers”) at the end of each progressive learning stage. Ultimately, capstones would occur in grades K, 5, 8 and 12, at the end of our Early Childhood Program, Elementary School, Middle School, and High School. This integrated web of inquiry/project – based learning follows a process that helps ensure key elements are always integrated.
All Units of Study and Capstones utilize a similar inquiry-based process based on the work of Harvey & Daniels in Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action, 2009. It’s comprised of 4 key components:
Immerse - building curiosity and background knowledge
Investigate - researching the subject; asking questions, looking for and finding answers
Coalesce - deep searching occurs, summarizing, and building new knowledge
Go public - sharing what students have learned with other students using unique and varied methods of presentation
Units of Study
Leading to each capstone and embedded through each stage of learning is a web of connective tissue: Our units of study. Each unit culminates with project-based assignments that reinforce our learning process. For example, a unit on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet could end with projects that compare newer versions of the play with more traditional ones. This might require students to research critical essays on the plays, develop informed opinions, write a paper outlining their ideas, and create a unique method of presenting their final project, maybe as a play or Shakespearean sonnet.
Discover the Possibilities
This learning paradigm encourages students to explore and question their world and to devise solutions that are researched-based, locally/globally relevant, and personally meaningful. It opens up a world of possibilities and welcomes students to an array of units in which questions are the catalyst of discovery. It also:
reinforces the school’s vision and mission.
develops mastery through repetition of and reflection on the process.
hardwires the scientific method in all aspects of learning.
creates laser-like focus on key skills. It ensures that all students’ research accurately, read deeply, write clearly, think critically, and present engagingly. Consequently, we stress reading, writing, research, reasoning, and rhetoric from the Early Years Program on up through high school.
Clarity of Vision
Furthermore, one of the critical points here is that by making expertise markers an element of each learning progression, all students, teachers, and school community members automatically become more focused on high-level academics and the goals outlined in our school mission. The overall school vision is crystal clear.
Teachers, for example, would be able to precisely articulate the specific goal and work backward (UbD) to develop programs and curriculum to support and achieve it. No confusion exists as to where teaching and learning is heading. The entire learning community is on the same page.
Capstone’s Connection to Mission
Finally, the Capstone model closely aligns with the mission of our home school, which is summed up in three words: "character, inquiry, community." It develops character through the choice of topic and its connection to altruistic ends. It embraces inquirythrough its laser- like focus on skills like critical thinking and research, and it builds community through projects that connect students to local, national, and global issues and organizations.