"Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers drive our nation's innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas, new companies and new industries. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and are a critical component to helping the U.S. win the future." - STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future, U.S. Department of Commerce, July 2011

STEM READ IT

Learning Environment

The primary learning environment at Discovery Charter School will be the classroom. There will, however, be opportunities to learn outside of the classroom on planned field trips as well as site visits to partners: individuals, organizations or otherwise. Particularly in K-5 science education, research has shown great effectiveness in “getting the kids outdoors” for instruction. The goal of Discovery Charter School will be that K-8 students have at least one outdoors session each week, and on the discretion of individual teachers, more often than that if possible. Both inside and outside the classroom, leadership experiences and/or service opportunities will be included in student lesson planning. Teachers in each classroom will be empowered and have the responsibility to maximize the finite resource of time. Curriculum mapping, sequencing, pacing and lesson planning will be performed by the teachers themselves, the teachers in collaboration with a STEM coordinator, and, if deemed necessary, by an external consultant. The Board of Directors and administration will make this determination when finalizing professional development calendars and the budget process.
 

Literacy Plan

The Literacy Program will be a Balanced Literacy approach incorporating guided reading, writing spelling, and vocabulary.  Students will read both fiction and non-fiction texts in the STEM areas. Additionally, students will learn to write effectively in four genres (narrative, persuasive, informational and descriptive) across all content areas in order to build a strong foundation in writing that is required in STEM college work and careers. The textbooks series Literacy By Design by Harcourt Achieve is a complete literacy program that connects whole class, small group, and independent instruction through a common topic. Our reading program will ensure that the five components of effective early reading instruction  are incorporated: Phonemic awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Text Comprehension. Components of other texts as well as digital learning tools will supplement the use of Literacy By Design.

Curriculum Overview

The Minnesota State Academic Standards constitute the curriculum guideline for Discovery Charter School. In every subject area, teachers will ensure that all benchmarks contained in the standards will be met before year’s end. The link from the standards to instruction is created by backwards planning, from the standards to everyday classroom activities. An important distinction in the planning for teachers at Discovery Charter School will be that teachers, individually or in collaboration with external experienced consultants, will determine when standards will be taught, the teachers input will be critical in determining the level of rigor at which the standards will be assessed. This distinction will ultimately determine the level of rigor at which the standard will be taught.  

Here is a brief summary of the Education Plan:

  • Curriculum alignment by grade level teams at the beginning of the year, including the integration of leadership and/or service opportunities
  • Common grade level pacing guides based on Minnesota State Standards
  • Common grade level planning (via Professional Learning Communities) based on the pacing guide and academic instruction
  • Frequent Interim Formative Assessments which includes weekly quizzes
  • Response To Intervention (System-wide student support)
  • Data driven decision making (framework)
  • Instructional development, accountability and data analysis—evaluations, observations and coaching provided by the principal and instructional coaches
  • Professional Development program with a focus on differentiated instruction driven by data and integrating an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and Leadership skills throughout the curriculum
  • Use of Full Option Science System (FOSS) coordinated around language arts and mathematics curricula to create a STEM-oriented education experience for grades K-8
  • High School students (grades 9-12) will have classes in biology, chemistry, physics and environmental studies. These course will have curricula designed by the teachers and will be inquiry-based and the STEM curricula will also be integrated into the other course-work

 

The STEM Element

STEM education provides opportunities for student engagement from the earliest grades in science, math, engineering and technology. STEM education includes a strong emphasis on hands-on inquiry-based student learning and activities. The goal is to demonstrate to students how the skills attained through experiential learning can be applied every day and in every subject, class, and career.

The Discovery Charter School curriculum will be integrated so that all subject areas including science, math, language arts, social studies, art, music and physical education will be interconnected. The goal is for students to learn that all knowledge is interconnected and not separated into individual disciplines. An important part of this approach includes a strong emphasis on reading, writing, and comprehension skills. These are skills that are invaluable in both a student’s academic pursuits and career goals. 
 

Instructional Strategies

Weekly lesson plans in alignment with the pacing guides will encourage classroom teachers to develop more thoroughly their delivery of academic content to ensure that it is rigorous and engaging.  Grade-level teams, or subject matter teams as appropriate, will divide up lesson-planning responsibilities based on the individual strengths of the team members.  Discovery Charter School lesson plans and instruction techniques will generally include several distinguishable characteristics. Additionally, where the lesson objective does not fit within this model, the teacher(s) will be encouraged to innovate in order to ensure the most efficient delivery of the lesson to be learned. The content State Standard will be addressed in the lesson plan and specific benchmark will be identified as the focus of the lesson. The lesson will take into consideration support EL’s and Special Education students may require to grasp successfully the lesson. (E.g. linguistic needs of the students and any complicated or highly technical vocabulary should be identified).  

The teacher will plan further independent practice that allows students to extend and solidify their understanding of the objective. Homework and independent work are different. Homework is work that is sent home to support learned skills. As a result of it being sent home, parents and other family members may assist the students.
 

Student Schedule

Discovery Charter School will devote a minimum of 6.5 hours per day, or 32.5 hours per week, to academic instruction. This allocation of academic time, in furtherance of its mission and vision, provides Discovery Charter School students not only with a rigorous curriculum but also with the ability to catch up academically if they will be behind. The daily schedule is optimum for learning because it provides students and teachers an extended period of time to devote to the course subjects of reading, math and science. Students will, also, enjoy instruction in the Fine Arts every contact day. The extended time also gives teachers the time to differentiate instruction within the classroom and to build intervention time into the school day. That means students get support at this time on the skills that they need to be successful. The daily schedule, given anticipated class sizes and teacher to student ratios provides Discovery Charter School with the ability to individualize the support to meet the needs of students. Additionally, Discovery Charter School anticipates being able to introduce students to the study of a World Language during the middle school years. The World Language(s) offered will be determined through parent and student surveys. The two languages for which there is the greatest demand will be incorporated into the curriculum and offered as a choice to all students enrolled at Discovery Charter School. 

Student Calender:

  • Total student contact days at Discovery Charter School: 170 days (184 Staff days)
  • Total number of student contact hours: 1333 (not including lunch and recess).
  • Hours per school day: 6.5--school starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m.
  • Minutes per day by subject:

Elementary Schedule:

  • Reading/Language Arts (Leadership/Service): 110 minutes
  • Math: 60 minutes
  • Science/Technology: 60 minutes
  • Social Studies: 50 minutes
  • Fine Arts/Physical Education/Health/Language: 45 Minutes

Middle School Schedule:

  • English/Literature/Writing: 60 minutes
  • Math (Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, Trigonometry): 60 minutes
  • Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics): 60 minutes
  • History (U.S./World/Government): 60 minutes
  • Fine Arts Elective: 45 minutes
  • World Language: 45 minutes
  • Study Hall/Technology: 60 minutes
  • Advisory/Leadership/Community Service: 30 minutes