How We Teach
Ability-Based, Not Age Based
Students at Joule are placed in subjects based on their individual strengths. We do not require students to be in a certain grade - it is perfectly fine to take 4th grade English and 6th grade Math, if that is appropriately challenging for the student. Likewise, we allow students to graduate up when they are ready, not when a school year ends.
Kinesthetic, Inquiry-Based Education
Many people refer to our methodology as project based learning, which is both true and untrue. Project-based learning is a catchall term as well as an official program (PBL) that is used by some schools. Joule is hands-on, but differs in significant ways from the standard PBL methodology. Typically, a project is just something added to the end of a traditional lesson. Classes are typically taught via conventional methods such as lecture or worksheets, but at the end of a unit, parents have to help their children create a diorama or poster. A project-riddled curriculum is actually hands-on instruction done backwards. Most projects are assigned only after material has already been learned through traditional methods, making the "hands-on" component superfluous.
A project just means a midnight run to the store for popsicle sticks and food coloring - it doesn't help kids acquire new knowledge and skills. A better way is to teach material through interactive, tactile experiences, allowing students to get messy and make mistakes while they learn new information. At The Joule School, our classrooms are engaging and interactive - not a textbook in sight! There's no need to add a project to the end of a unit to keep students engaged.
Likewise, Joule is a movement-based school, but not what you might expect if you have seen other movement-based classrooms. A common mistake in some schools is having students engage in physical activity without connecting it to the concept being studied, like having students do jumping jacks while reciting their multiplication tables. While many students will enjoy getting out of their desks, this is more of an opportunity to tire students out than to teach in a hands-on way. Moving around without a purpose rarely helps students retain information, so instead, our classroom time is dedicated to authentic exploration of core subjects. Lessons are built from the ground up to ensure that children are making progress towards subject mastery by creating and exploring, not just wandering and wiggling. We've spent our class time acting out the voyages of Magellan in South America and building divergent plate boundaries with burritos. The tasks involved, such as a kindergartner cutting open a boiled egg in order to understand the idea of a solid core in the center of the Earth, help abstract concepts become concrete.