Koonwarra Village School uses the Victorian Curriculum as the base of its academic program. The school’s Philosophy and Guiding Principles outline the broader framework in which teaching and learning occurs. The Village School Curriculum is a series of additional programs & elements integrated across all the features of school life. The school’s approach is also being used at our sister school, Phillip Island Village School. The two schools are managed separately, but staff and students regularly work together.
The Village School Curriculum includes:
Learning Contracts provide a framework for teaching and learning at KVS. The intention of this program is to support children to become independent learners and effective time managers.
Contracts include a range of core numeracy and literacy tasks that can be undertaken by each child independently. The Foundation level contracts are simple in nature and aim to develop children’s awareness of their ability to make choices which lead to success. As the children’s skills develop, the complexity of the contract increases and they begin to share the decision making with their mentor about the order and timing of their work tasks (Guided Contracts). Over time, the level of guidance from the mentor reduces until children are working with a fully Independent Contract.
Learning Contracts integrate into a structured daily timetable which includes periods of small group direct instruction, whole group activities and community service tasks.
Executive function and self-regulation skills provide critical supports for learning and development. Although we aren’t born with executive function skills, we are all born with the potential to develop them. The process is a progressive one that begins in infancy, continues into early adulthood, and is shaped by our experiences. Children build their skills through engagement in meaningful social interactions and enjoyable activities that draw on self-regulatory skills at increasingly demanding levels. Our Village School Curriculum has been intentionally structured to help develop a range of skills so the children become confident, independent learners and happy, productive people.
Growth Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success. Dr. Dweck identified two mindsets people can have: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them, and believe that talent alone creates success, without effort. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
PLPs entail a series of sign-up classes where students in Years 2-6 have the opportunity to learn new skills. Each cycle two PLPs will be offered. One is usually physical and the other is Arts based. They run for one session per week during each cycle and if the children are interested, the same PLP will be offered again, presenting similar skills at a more advanced level. The idea is that it becomes a lovely taste of new skills that will inspire the children to investigate and practice new things and to master new skills over time.
Examples of past PLPs are: swimming / snorkeling, pottery grass heads, print making, tennis, small wheels (rollerblades, scooters and skateboards), dance, archery, mosaic, song writing, computer programming, sewing, singing, Australian Rules football and bike riding. Some of these have culminated in overnight or longer away from home adventures which allow the students to use their skills in a real-life context, e.g. Snorkeling camp.
Nature Journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world from first-hand experience. It can be done in a variety of ways, including written prose or poetry, drawing or painting, photographs or tape recordings. A nature journal primarily records these responses and reflections. Our intention for including regular nature journaling sessions in our program, is to expose children to the value of the connection between people and their environment.
We have found that it also helps to develop stillness in the children as they tune in to the sounds, sights and smells in their natural environment.
KVS has an extensive kitchen garden and students spend time each week working in the Kitchen Garden. Food produced in our organic garden beds contributes to the snacks and lunch menu which are provided each day. Children are also involved in the food preparation, based on a regular roster system.
School Parliament is a regular forum where children and mentors discuss issues that relate to life at KVS including school rules, social issues, ideas for PLPs, lunch menu. Decisions are made on the basis of discussion and consensus. The intention of this forum is to encourage children to become active participants in the development of the school program and culture and to provide opportunities to practice speaking in front of a group, listening to the ideas of others and identifying solutions to group needs.
Throughout the year there are several camps, excursions and Out n About’s to support PLPs as well as developing student’s independence, confidence and resilience. Our camps have been as diverse as the interests of the students and included snorkeling, abseiling, snow-based activities, city-time and caving. An annual event that kicks-off each year is the larger community Family Camp (FAMP). All students, their parents and siblings get together for 2-3 days for a mix of structured activities and informal times of connection and community development.
Written reports relating to student academic progress are provided to parents in June and December, covering all learning areas of the Victorian Curriculum as well as Self-Directed Learning and Social and Emotional Learning. These reports are accompanied by a parent/mentor/student meetings, offered to families. KVS also participates in The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (Naplan) for students in Grades 3 & 5.