Guiding Principles, Benefits and Principle Elements

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Guiding Principles of the U School Project

  • The project exposes children, their families, teachers and communities to future possibilities and brighter futures.
  • The project will engage and encourage students’ independent and critical thinking skills.
  • The project will create a new ambassadorial corps for the U of A, including student participants and their families, teachers, and community members.
  • The project will maximize the opportunities for the U of A to learn from student participants.
  • The project will adopt an experiential and hands-on approach to learning.
  • Engagement with classroom teachers is critical; they are in the driver’s seat.
  • Project activities will tie in directly with the curriculum and school goals.

Benefits to participating students

  • learning to slow down and see the world with all its nuances
  • gaining enhanced literacy and writing skills
  • learning in deeper ways in many curriculum areas
  • gaining increased independence of thought and critical thinking skills
  • experiencing growth in awareness of diversity
  • taking ownership of the university and forming connections that will last a lifetime

Principal elements

  • The classroom teachers have ownership of the entire process – the week is part of a long-term study developed by the teacher and the week itself is jointly developed and facilitated with education staff at the site
  • The students are at the site for an extended period (preferably every day for a week)
  • The students are given time and choice
  • The focus is experiential, hands-on learning
  • Site resource people provide expertise and some experiences for the students
  • Students use journal writing and drawing to record observations and thoughts
  • Periods of time are set aside each day to observe – time to focus, reflect and make connections
  • Parents and other volunteers from the university community work with small groups of children
  • The week is interdisciplinary – subjects such as math, science and social studies are interwoven
  • Much work is done at school before the week to help the students gain knowledge and skills that allow them to learn in more depth at the site
The process of slowing down, of really looking, is the foundation of the learning that takes place through the Open Minds concept - which we have based our U School program on. The point is not to put as many experiences and activities as possible into the week. The point is to give the students time to fully take in some aspects of their campus surroundings.