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Laguna Beach School District

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Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year, the concepts of Integrated Thematic Instruction (ITI) chart our course at CLC. Briefly, ITI emphasizes the body-brain connection; teaches Lifelong Guidelines that are used daily in the classroom; gives students Lifeskills to help them develop character and become self-directed; and follows Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence theory.

Gardner's theory (outlined in his book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence, 1983) proposes that people are not born with all the intelligence they will ever have. Rather than being born with a certain potential for intelligence, then reaching and maintaining it through a normal educational cycle, Gardner posits that intelligence can be learned and improved upon throughout life.

Everyone is intelligent in at least eight different ways (verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic). We can develop each aspect of intelligence to higher levels of competency. What a positive implication this theory has for students' success and self-esteem!

How are these theories implemented at CLC?

Because the brain cannot learn in a stressed environment, we work to create a safe, nurturing physical classroom environment. An atmosphere of mutual respect and utmost caring is promoted. Lifelong Guidelines are taught and implemented daily. These guidelines are trustworthiness, truthfulness, active listening, no put-downs, and personal best.

Eighteen different Lifeskills are taught as well, including integrity, common sense, friendship, responsibility, curiosity, resourcefulness, and sense of humor, among others.

Project-based learning or "being there" experiences are key. Resource people and experts are regular visitors to the classroom. Adequate time is allowed to let students complete their work. Rather than rows of desks, students sit in clusters for collaborative learning and easy access to work tools. A "cozy corner" is provided in which pupils can relax with books, games, and puzzles. Pleasing aromas, colors and lighting are used. Time is set aside for reflective thinking in a group setting.

Movement such as basic stretches, yoga, and dance are incorporated into the daily routine. Art projects and collaborative community service projects are frequently done with the help of parent volunteers.

Teachers use a calm voice to contribute to a pleasant, settled atmosphere. They make and share daily written agendas to provide consistency and security for students. At the beginning and end of each school day, teachers dole out hugs to underscore their caring concern for each child and to show that this is a place to feel safe, relax, and learn.

Other hallmarks of the enriched CLC experience include:

Special field trips. CLC schedules numerous cross-cultural and "being-there experience" field trips, often to unusual and creative places. There are about eight per year, some of them optional, non-school-sponsored weekend trips. In previous years, one such adventure was an annual springtime trip to a Mexico orphanage, where CLC families and alumni take part in a work project and interact with the young residents, including the child that CLC sponsors through a monthly stipend.

Parent involvement. Parent volunteer time in the classroom is a requirement. Whether parents help in the everyday class environment, help grade papers and record work, handle photocopying duties, or teach weekly on a subject specific to their interests or abilities, the pupils get to know everyone in the CLC community, creating a network of role models from whom they learn.

Parent/teacher advisory board. Advisory board meetings, held every six weeks, are a forum for participation by all parents and interested individuals.

Continuing faculty education. To help us stay on track as an alternative school that has a distinctive approach to education, the teachers currently meet regularly with a professional ITI peer coach who supports the implementation of a brain-compatible learning environment for students.