We honor adolescence as a critical developmental window for learning essential academic, cognitive, skills.
The Sage School creates a thriving environment for students through a challenging, authentic curriculum centered on human ecology and engaging experiences designed specifically to promote self-awareness, community responsibility, and a sense of place.
The landscape of adolescence directs learning at The Sage School. This period in an individual’s life is marked by puberty, the quest for identity formation, and a wide-ranging set of changes. The Sage School honors adolescence by acknowledging that this period of growth is biologically wired into each of our students and so must serve as the foundation of all of their learning.
The Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology defines academic skills as “a student’s ability to perform age-appropriate school activities related to writing, reading, and mathematical problem-solving.” The ECN adds that, “academic skills refer to the information learned which is relevant to school success. Having solid academic skills improves academic progress.”
Students develop academic skills throughout their day at Sage. In Human Ecology, students absorb, assess, and analyze information gleaned from a wide variety of sources. Math class builds students’ logic and quantitative reasoning and students habitually practice a suite of writing skills. The Sage School wants students to master these essential skills at a high level so that they are prepared for both collegiate success and work beyond.
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory defines cognitive skills as “any mental skills that are used in the process of acquiring knowledge; these skills include reasoning, perception, and intuition.” Bloom’s Taxonomy discusses different levels of cognitive skills, each growing in levels of complexity, from knowledge to comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and – finally – to evaluation.
In order for students to build the skills that allow them to learn (cognitive skills), they must first be inspired with the curiosity to learn more. We aim to pique curiosity and inspire wonder by exposing students firsthand to meaningful experiences (which often occur on field studies) that serve as touchstones throughout the year and by building an authentic curriculum. Once students desire to learn, it becomes possible to build cognitive skills. The trimester-long format allows students the structure, freedom, and time to move from superficial knowledge of a given topic to the ability to evaluate the topic within the encompassing lens of human ecology.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning definesas “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
A student’sinfluence a student’s ability to build their academic and cognitive skills. The changes wrought by adolescence result in a necessary re-creation and re-ordering of social and emotional skills. Teachers serve as guides in navigating the woods of adolescence. Sage has designed its course of study to help students understand the broader context of adolescence so that they can build the social and emotional skills to manage their personal journey through adolescence. Wellness, community meetings, mindfulness, and self-assessments are all regular practices at Sage that help students build their .
**The Sage School addresses each of these skill sets in concert, realizing that developing each skill is vital to student growth and well being. Adolescence sets a ripe neurological stage for the creation and reorganization of these skills. The Sage School seeks to maximize growth potential during this critical period.
At The Sage School, students are immersed in content, experiences, and assessments that yield relevant and meaningful application.
When students feel like what they are learning matters, they are far more apt to learn. The Sage School has created an authentic curriculum by using different stages of adolescence as scaffolding. In the 6/7th grade, as our Explorers work to better understand themselves, they study “A Year of Self” and investigate topics ranging from anatomy to their family history, which become the lens through which they learn American history. In the 8/9th grades, our Social Animals become increasingly interested in each other and their social selves, so students examine relationships in the natural world in order to better understand communities and social connections. As they age, our students become Local Apprentices in the 10/11th grade and work to better understand their community by studying modern systems that dictate our daily lives. And finally, with a trip to Ecuador at the end of the year, our seniors become Global Citizens who are able to deeply understand human ecology as an avenue to understand our complexly connected world.
Human Ecology is the foundation of our curriculum and the lens through which our students gain understanding of the world and themselves.
By structuring our curriculum around developmentally appropriate themes, students examine big topics as relationships rather than as disciplines. For example, when our students study food and agriculture, they learn about plant biology, metabolism, bioengineering, agricultural subsidies, colonialism, advertising, cultural eating habits, cooking, public health, population dynamics, and water usage all so that they understand the legacy and impact of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or a T-bone steak). With Human Ecology as a lens, students are able to see the world not as discrete disciplines, but as a web of complex relationships.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning defines self-awareness as “the ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.”
Fostering self-awareness is one of the key tasks of adolescence as they move from childhood innocence to self-aware adulthood. The Sage School seeks to develop each student’s awareness of self through its authentic curriculum and assessments. From Field Studies to Wellness, and even Clean Up Time, life at Sage is designed to build self-awareness.
As adolescents become adults, they begin to form their own roles and responsibilities within a larger community. At The Sage School, students develop and practice community responsibility through weekly Community Action, daily work within the school at clean up time, Field Studies, and through the curriculum itself.
Dr. Thomas A. Woods explains that “people develop a ‘sense of place’ through experience and knowledge of a particular area. A sense of place emerges through knowledge of the history, geography, and geology of an area, its flora and fauna, the legends of a place, and a growing sense of the land and its history after living there for a time.”
Sage School Students spend five weeks per year in the field developing their sense of place on our Field Studies program. The other thirty weeks we spend in the classroom are spent clarifying and further exploring this critical sense through both our curriculum and our community involvement.