Orchard Academy uses the Understanding by Design curriculum-planning framework. Teachers develop a year-at-a-glance planning document before the beginning of each school year. Using the year-at-a-glance as a guide, the curriculum is organized with the backward design approach, beginning with large conceptual ideas, leading to enduring understandings and essential questions, from the Michigan core standards and benchmarks, followed by assessments and instructional activities. This model ensures an interdisciplinary, thematic and differentiated approach to instruction. The backward design approach also results in a curriculum that matches the stages of human development, is challenging, integrative, and exploratory.
Habits of Mind
Embedded in the Orchard Academy curriculum are the Habits of Mind, a composite of skills and attitudes associated with successful living, problem solving and effective thinking. The 16 characteristics of intelligent behavior are:
- Managing impulsivity
- Listening with understanding and empathy
- Thinking flexibly
- Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
- Striving for accuracy
- Questioning and posing problems
- Applying past knowledge to new situations
- Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
- Gathering data through all senses
- Creating, imagining, innovating
- Responding with wonderment and awe
- Taking responsible risks
- Finding humor
- Thinking interdependently
- Remaining open to continuous learning
We believe these habits and attitudes are essential for the success of our students and that by practicing these habits, students will learn to draw on their intellectual, moral and emotional resources to make informed choices.
Intelligent behaviors become “habits of mind” that begin at birth and strengthen over time with consistent encouragement and recognition. These habits of mind build internal motivation and a strong inner locus of control. Children with developed habits of mind gain their strength and personal efficacy from within rather than relying on external rewards and consequences to manage their lives.
Seeking relevance and understanding
We strive for an active and engaging approach to learning. Students engage in experiences that incorporate multiple modalities and learning styles. Teachers provide hands-on experiences where students demonstrate their learning in a constructive way that incorporates higher-level thinking. We also provide a balance of instructional formats; students engage in large group, small group and individual activities each day.