Upper School Program Overview
Day-to-day life at school brings core courses, elective courses, and a three-day winter mini-term, offering students plenty of choices and opportunities to pursue what’s most meaningful to them, as well as creating opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge.
We emphasize integrated, curricular work, where teachers of different disciplines work collectively with students to create rich, authentic learning experiences.
Students are fully immersed in their course work and actively participate in related, hands-on projects. On a given day, an upper school student could be taking an aerial shot of the campus with our drone, planning a rally for the local Congressional candidate, or heading down to New York City to capture footage for a film.
Curriculum, teaching and learning from nursery school to 12th grade is hands-on, rooted in inquiry and problem solving, incorporates student interests as well as global and local events. Rather than being a place where most of the curriculum is ready-made and imposed from the top down, Woodstock Day School takes a more holistic approach, as many ideas and objects come together to influence the process of creating, implementing and evaluating curriculum.
There are 3 weekly electives, totaling six hours, which includes grades 9-12. Ninth and tenth grade combine for English and Social Studies. There are other mixed-age/grade classes in the Upper School, such as in foreign language and math.
A method used in the Upper School is the Socratic Seminar, where students lead a class discussion, with instruction on how to make a point, clarify, ask probing questions – even disagree – in a civil and productive manner. This is followed up with reflective questions, about both individual and group performance and learning.
Precursors to this format appear earlier, beginning in the youngest classrooms, with our Tribes cooperative learning lessons, as well as in the Restorative Justice Council form of conflict resolution in the Middle School.
Writing Research Papers
Students learn how to write a formal research paper with multiple digital sources, starting in 7th grade, and develop the skills needed to write more in-depth and comprehensive papers each year.
By 11th grade, students complete many research projects in order to learn the different methods of research, and how to properly cite information in an MLA format. Research papers are assigned by English teachers within their grade level courses, and in conjunction with their themed curriculum, while the Senior Project is overseen and graded by an interdisciplinary team of teachers and mentors.
Senior Capstone Project
Hands-on projects, in-depth discussions, original research, and presentations of all kinds prepare students for their senior year capstone project, and life beyond high school.
The Senior Project is solely dedicated to the research and development of a unique project created by each student, and allows for student-driven exploration, innovation and creation.
Students spend the first half of the year exploring a multitude of sources, to compile a living and growing annotated bibliography.
Their mentors–any teacher in the entire school whom they have requested to help them in this way–hold them accountable with weekly, hour-long conferences. In Senior Seminar, students report their progress, share with and learn from their classmates and teachers to better enhance their own research techniques.
Recent projects include building a hydroponic system for the science program, making a short animated film, developing a wilderness course for middle school students, and directing the annual school musical. Students have also put together fundraisers, knitted blankets for the homeless, built a school community garden with native plants and flowers, organized a literary convention (LitCon), sewn dresses for social change, composed and performed different soundtracks for a silent film to alter audience mood, created a documentary on cell phone use and adolescents, and many more exciting projects of which we are all very proud.
At the end of the project, each student creates a 20-30-minute presentation of the entire process, which is open to the whole community, and is often attended by local business people, artists, and leaders.
We employ a wide variety of assessments throughout the school, both formal and informal.
Teachers of all grades use these assessments to plan, reteach, confer with students and create appropriate student groups and purposeful tasks.
Informally, there is a wide variety of tools used among our faculty to assess student learning and progress. Teachers use informal assessments such as checklists, conferences, anecdotal observations, running records, and work samples. In language arts, writing samples and spelling assessments are used.
Learning Lab, a fee-based support service, was developed to address the individual learning needs of students who come from diverse academic backgrounds and ability levels.
The important service is tailored to meet the needs of each of its students (K-12), and can range from individualized, one-on-one sessions with a certified special education teacher, to a modified remedial curriculum taught in a small group, or push-in services that take place in the student’s general education classroom.
Learning Lab also provides an added layer of communication with parents in the form of weekly or monthly academic and behavioral updates.