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Curriculum Model

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									                                   Curriculum Model

The DISCOVER Curriculum Model represents a new and exciting approach to expanding
children’s abilities. Even though full-scale DISCOVER Curricula for all grade levels is
still in the development stage, curriculum prototypes, based on Curriculum Model
guidelines, have shown promising results in pilot projects. When designing the Model,
DISCOVER researchers took into account the fact that each child has a different
background, along with varying abilities and interests. The resulting curriculum
framework is flexible, diverse, and customizable according to the unique needs and
potential of each child. Some schools have used the Model to rework their existing
curricula. Others have adopted or written new curricula. Either way, lesson plans
following this Model stand in stark contrast to the traditional drill-and-practice,
one-size-fits-all, regurgitation-of-facts approaches still used in many schools today. They
represent an emerging teaching methodology that takes advantage of new understandings
of how learning occurs, and strives to capture—for education—the same astounding
success brought about in industry and science through the use of specialization, hands-on
problem solving, and other learning tools.

   Before discussing the essential components, it is important to note that DISCOVER
Curricula follow a “constructivist” (rather than a “reductionist”) philosophy. This
approach is characterized by several key elements: (a) actively building new knowledge
from experience and prior knowledge…learning lessons from past successes and failures
that help increase future success; (b) acquiring higher-order thinking and problem-solving
skills…rather than just finding the right answer—and in the process, understanding why
that answer is right, how it was obtained, and how the same process possibly might be used
in another context; (c) using and integrating several “already known” skills to learn a
new skill…in essence, exploring a new task or concept by combining and experimenting
with methods that have proven effective before; (d) exploring fewer topics in greater detail,
as opposed to many topics at a cursory level; (e) allowing students to be active
“architects” rather than passive recipients of knowledge…posing scenarios which
require the student to learn by first defining and structuring the problem, experimenting
with possible solutions and trying to explain the results; (f) changing the role of teachers
from merely “giving knowledge” to “guiding the learning process”…which might
mean the teacher, in turn, learns from the students’ problem-solving processes.

  The following components characterize the DISCOVER Curriculum Model. Some were
included because of being effective teaching strategies used in high quality programs for
gifted students—now used to enhance learning and raise standards for all students. Others
are found in successful bilingual programs. Still others were included to broaden the
applicability for students from diverse backgrounds. All components are predicated upon
the philosophy that we must first find, and then build upon, the strengths and interests of
every student—honoring the fact that there certainly will be individual differences by
providing numerous ways of learning the required material.

Components

       Active, Hands-On Learning—Sensory stimuli and bodily movement are an
        important part of many learning experiences, especially with children showing high
        Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (for whom movement is essential). Many subjects
        can be taught in the context of movement and/or a rich sensory environment. For
        example, a child with low Oral Linguistic skills might be able to tell a much better
        story when encouraged to add appropriate bodily illustrations throughout—and
        likely will have more fun doing so. Or students can study abstract concepts by
        making and manipulating physical models or graphs. Considering the fact that
        shape, texture, color, noise, movement and myriad other sensory inputs are a
        regular part of “real-world” learning, why should learning in a classroom setting
        be any different? The DISCOVER approach, in fact, amplifies, concentrates, and
        integrates these natural processes into the regular school curriculum. With the
        cooperation of parents, it also can be integrated into the home learning
        environment.

       Integration of Culture and Language—DISCOVER philosophy strongly supports
        bilingual education, if implemented in such a way as to provide fluency in both
        languages, not just one. Our research confirms findings of other studies, showing
        students who develop fluency in more than one language eventually demonstrate
        superior academic performance and are more successful as adults. Integration of a
        child’s background and culture is equally important, especially for children
        newly arrived from a different culture or for children whose family environment
        differs substantially from norms of the dominant culture. Using familiar symbols
        to illustrate concepts helps the child improve assimilation of new knowledge.

       Group Activities and Choice—“Real-world” experiences can be classified
        roughly as: (a) individual observation and decision-making; (b) small group
        interactions; or (c) large group interactions…and often as some combination of
        these elements. An effective classroom should contain all three on a regular
        basis. Whereas individual decision-making emphasizes the cause and effect of
        personal choice, small group interactions build teamwork and group
        decision-making skills. Large group interactions require both the individual and
    small group perspectives to be subordinate to the larger context. They also usually
    involve teaching the same concepts—at the same pace—to all students in the
    class. A teacher dispensing knowledge in a drill-and-practice routine is, basically,
    operating in a large group context, telling the students where they need to “fit
    in” to learn the pre-defined right answers. Although knowing these “right
    answers” can be important, equally (if not more) important is learning the best
    methods to individually derive the right answer, or working with other people to
    collectively derive the right or best answer. Unlike most traditional curricula, the
    DISCOVER Curriculum Model places significant emphasis on individual choice
    and small group decision-making…allowing students to determine which learning
    styles work best for their abilities and to experiment with how their abilities fit
    together with those of other peers.

   Centers with the Tools of Multiple Intelligences—One of the ways DISCOVER
    Curricula encourage individual choice is by using “Exploratoriums”. As the
    name suggests, an Exploratorium is a place where students explore various facets
    of learning, through what we call “Centers”. A Center is organized according to
    Intelligence or content area. For example, a Musical Center might contain various
    instruments and other audio-related items that allow students to explore music and
    sound in diverse ways. An Art Center might have clay, brushes and paint, paper,
    scissors, and other materials that can be used to create many forms of art. An
    Exploratorium may contain only a few, or up to as many as twenty or more
    Centers. Some schools choose to reserve an entire room for this purpose, while
    others create small Exploratoriums in each classroom. In either case, we
    recommend that students be allowed a sizeable block of time, perhaps and hour or
    more each day, to immerse themselves in the Center(s) of their choosing. During
    this time, teachers act as guides and advisors, encouraging students to explore ever
    deeper into the progressively more complex problem solving exercises offered at
    each Center. The content areas of the Centers are tied directly to the class
    curricula and are used, in part, to teach the required core competencies.

   Interdisciplinary Themes—Content and problem-solving exercises are organized
    by Intelligence, according to themes. The teacher and/or class may choose a theme
    such as “Habitats”, and within this theme, a topic such as “Oceans”. They
    likely will start with a Problem Type 1 exercise (read about Problem Types at
    Problem Solving—Problem Types), in the context of a specific intelligence; for
    example they might explore an ocean-related exercise relating to Spatial
    Intelligence such as “Trace the route of the Humbolt current on a map of the
    world's oceans”. Additional exercises become gradually more complex and
    open-ended, transforming eventually into Type 5 problems such as “Daydream
    about being at the bottom of the ocean. What can you make to express what you
    experience?” Many diverse themes exist, appealing to numerous interests and
    backgrounds.

   Varied Problem Types—The entire structure of DISCOVER Curricula is built
    upon problem solving and is designed to model and enhance real-world problem
    solving skills. The inclusion of multiple problem types ensures the problem
    solving exercises will foster a wide range of necessary capacities. For a detailed
    description of problem solving and problem types, as applicable to DISCOVER,
    see Problem Solving and Problem Types.

   Visual and Performing Arts—Numerous studies have shown the importance of
    including visual and performing arts into curricula—not only for the intrinsic value
    of art, but to enhance the effectiveness of learning. Each of Gardner’s
    Intelligences is directly related to several, if not many, types of
    art. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence can be augmented through the use of mime,
    dance, and theatre. Spatial Intelligence responds to sculpture, painting, design, and
    computer-enhanced imagery. Individuals with Intrapersonal Intelligence gravitate
    toward quiet, reflective, solitary art forms (and often indirect audiences) whereas
    those with more Interpersonal Intelligence prefer active art forms with a more
    lively social interaction (and a visible audience). The DISCOVER model
    encourages schools to partner with members of the local community and practicing
    artists to integrate as many forms of performing and visual arts as possible. It’s
    an emphasis that helps create active bodies as well as active minds, with
    far-reaching impacts. Visit the Recommended Resources of this website to read
    descriptions of excellent and compatible programs we recommend.

   Self-Selected Formats—As part of an emphasis on individual choice, DISCOVER
    encourages “self-selected formats” for students to “show what they
    know”. To illustrate, consider an exploratory lesson on oceans. Students might
    be asked to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject matter using their choice of
    formats. Some might write a story and read it to the class, while others might
    perform a drama, act out the movements of a sea creature, or draw a picture.

   Technology Integration—Familiarity with technology is becoming an increasingly
    important part of the regular classroom. The DISCOVER approach, however,
    stresses the importance of using technology as a tool, not merely as a set of
    expensive “toys”. Computers and other digital equipment are used alongside
hundreds of other items as part of regular lesson plans and problem solving
activities. Use of computers with pre-school children is actually discouraged, the
better option being the use of hands-on materials that encourage brain development
and increase motor skills. Computer use is encouraged only sparingly for children
ages 5 through 9. Older students, on the other hand, receive a much deeper
emersion in many aspects of technology use, again with an emphasis on problem
solving. Internet collaboration and use of software that encourages higher-level
thinking are regular parts of coursework for high school students. As an example
of an exercise that incorporates technology, students, as part of a history lesson,
might use digital cameras, recorders, and video to interview
grandparents—afterwards creating a digital report and presentation that is
delivered to the class.

								
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