At PS1 Pluralistic School, we emphasize the joy of reading. PS1 students are surrounded by books, and they read for both pleasure and purpose. Young students begin elementary school with a range of reading and pre-reading abilities and we accommodate all levels. We understand that reading development is not a linear process. Our teachers are trained in the Columbia University Teachers College Reading Workshop model, whose purpose is to help students become life-long, confident readers. Our teachers use a combination of phonics and whole language approaches to ensure the development of skills. Reading is scheduled into the classroom routine and encouraged as a daily at-home activity.
At PS1, every student is an author. For the youngest students, dictation and transitional spelling help them express their ideas in writing right from the start. It is our goal that children find their voice as a writer. Learning grammar and spelling is integrated into the writing process, rather than acting as a stumbling block to self-expression. Throughout our program, students keep journals, participate in our Writers Workshop program and become expressive poets. Our teachers are trained in the Columbia University Teachers College Writing Workshop model.
SPEAKING AND LISTENING
PS1 students develop into confident and articulate public speakers (even those who may be shy and quiet). Gaining confidence and comfort expressing one’s thoughts and opinions are integrated into every aspect of the curriculum. The sharing of ideas and active listening is central to the schools mission of pluralism. Whether communicating with teachers or peers, in small groups or in front of an audience at all-school Circle Time, students are encouraged to articulate their thoughts and to build upon each others’ ideas. It is a core belief at PS1 that civilized discourse is an essential element of a democratic society, and that these skills must be taught and nurtured throughout childhood.
In addition to teaching basic Math skills, we want our students to become life-long mathematical thinkers and strategic problem solvers. We take an investigative approach to Math. Using Everyday Math as our foundation (published by the University of Chicago), we also supplement this with a wide variety of resources, including the Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) approach to mathematical thinking from UCLA. Central to the interdisciplinary approach to planning is integrating mathematics into ongoing projects, so that mathematics becomes a necessary tool for problem solving. This spans across all ages, from using geometry to design and build kites, to creating budgets for election campaigns. Mathematics is also an integral part of student work in our STEAM program in The Studio.
A Social Studies theme is often the connecting question or concept in a Cluster’s transdisciplinary study; informing classroom activities, Learning Expeditions, Literature, Geography, and more. Social Studies themes follow a developmental trajectory. The youngest students learn about things that are close to them, such as families, identity, and heritage, and as the children get older their circles expand to the wider Los Angeles community, then California, the Unites States, and our global community. This developmental trajectory follows students’ widening awareness of themselves in relation to the rest of the world.
PS1 students learn about Science in their classrooms and in The Studio, our STEAM space. Just as Social Studies can be the theme of an interdisciplinary unit, so can a science concept. Students learn to observe, record, hypothesize, examine and experiment to develop their scientific problem solving. The school addresses a broad scientific theme every year, and the themes rotate on a two-year cycle between Physical/Earth Science and Life Science. Within these broad themes, teachers may choose an area of focus. Students maintain detailed science journals that they use to record their science learning and retain throughout their years at PS1.
Service Learning provides PS1 students the opportunity to experience first-hand how they can make a difference in the lives of others. Projects that benefit the community are a great way for students to learn about social responsibility, contribution, and stewardship. PS1 has a long history of supporting many groups in our area. Past service learning projects include working with organizations like Step up On Second, The Ocean Park Community Center, SOVA Food Pantry, Boys and Girls Club, Sunshine Retirement Home, and Access Books.
FIELD TRIPS/LEARNING EXPEDITIONS
We use the term Learning Expeditions, because learning is not limited to that which occurs within the confines of a school. At PS1, our students include much of Southern California as part of their learning environment. Students at all grade levels frequently use the city of Los Angeles as their extended campus, linking concepts and ideas from the classroom to the wider community. Recent field trips include visits to the Santa Monica Library, the California Science Center’s space shuttle Endeavor exhibit, Olvera Street’s Dia de los Muertos altars, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook to learn about the water cycle, and of course the annual all-school camping trip to Leo Carrillo State Park.
SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING
Social and Emotional Development is ingrained in the DNA of PS1. Since 1971, fostering caring, responsible students who treat each other ethically has been a central goal. From the Youngers to the Olders, children are taught interpersonal reasoning. Teachers value time spent in this pursuit on par with academic learning.