at Solid Ground

Children creating in our art studio and makerspace
Children at the school organize and teach one another classes on topics that interest them. Here, one child is teaching another child how to braid.

Curriculum at Solid Ground School

How our Curriculum Works

We follow an emergent, place-based curriculum, which allows teachers to create meaningful learning experiences based on what students are interested in and what our local ecology and community have to offer. Our curriculum emphasizes project-based learning, critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and healthy social and emotional development.

Within a planned framework, teachers observe and collaborate with students to offer on-going project work and support for self-directed learning. This work is based on the individual interests, experiences, and skill levels of the children in their group. Children are often free to play and create in our home-like school environment, with teachers supporting their learning and enriching their play as it happens. We know when to get out of the children’s way and let them play and value the natural learning that occurs during this time.

Sample Projects from Solid Ground School

Gardening & Farmstand Project

Children learning science, math, and literacy while working to grow produce in the school garden to sell to the public in their weekly nature & entrepreneurship class.

Mapping Ways Up the Hill Project

In this project, children created collaborative and individual to-scale maps different walking paths back to the schoolhouse, practicing math, social studies, and writing in the process

Animals in Winter Project

Children wrote letters, searched in books, watched documentaries, and explored the outdoor environment for answers to their questions about how different animals adapt to winter.

Commonly Asked Questions

About Learning at Solid Ground

Creating a book from their story.
An older child reading to eager younger children
Children making their bodies into a "W" for the youngest children to add to a letter collection.

How do you teach literacy?

At Solid Ground, we integrate literacy instruction into our curriculum in the following ways:

    • Story-telling: Children at Solid Ground compose stories, write and act out plays, and create books. This helps children refine their composition skills and also helps them learn the elements of story (think plot, character, setting), which in turn helps their reading comprehension as they become better able to predict and make sense of what they read.

    • Project Work: Through incorporating reading and writing into project work, children develop composition skills, learn to think about the sounds in words, study the shapes of letters, take notes, create and consult books for information and practice presentation skills in ways that are meaningful to them.

    • Read-alouds: We do A LOT of reading and discussing books at Solid Ground. Teachers read from a variety of texts during morning meetings, during quiet and choice time, and outdoors. Older children read to eager younger children daily. Teachers read chapter books and tell traditional stories from cultures around the world during lunch time and lead children in discussions to help them develop a variety of literacy skills.

    • Small-group, Whole-group, and Individual Instruction: Our daily meetings include instruction to help children develop phonemic awareness, phonics skills, and reading comprehension. Emerging and independent readers participate in weekly reading groups to systematically develop phonics skills and reading fluency.

    • Using the "the third teacher" (the classroom and social environment): At Solid Ground, we infuse our school culture and the classroom walls with opportunities for meaningful engagement with the language arts. Whether that's creating our beautiful library and writing & drawing area, supporting writing in children's play, or consciously creating a culture of reading, the result is that students at SGS want to read and write. It's in the air, on the walls, and in their play, so the children are motivated to participate.

    • Our Library Partnership: Another way we encourage a love of reading is through a partnership with the Athens County Public Libraries to send books home with SGS children. Christin, the children, and a public librarian work to curate bags of books for each child based on their interests, their reading level, and what they've been learning about in the classroom.

At Solid Ground, we've focused on growing a love for reading, and the children have blossomed! Children at SGS want to read, both by themselves and to their peers, and are confident in their ability to learn! Their drive to read and learn comes from within their own hearts and minds--a gift that will keep giving for years to come.

Small group of students working on number sense outdoors
A student tracking the growth of a baby chick

How do you teach math?

Math at Solid Ground is focused on solving problems, developing a strong number sense, and hands-on learning. Here's how we approach it:

    • Small-group Instruction: Children work with teachers in small 2-4 person groups on a regular basis to develop their number sense. Teachers emphasize developing a strong understanding of important concepts in mathematics (such as the base 10 system) and using that mathematical thinking to solve problems. These math groups are very hands-on and individualized to the child, with children often moving between groups to match their development in partcular areas.

    • Project Work: Math is often integrated into project work, where children use math to explore and investigate real-world problems. They use a variety of tools to take measurements, track data, and think about geometry. Children also take charge of their own math learning by finding ways to practice fact fluency that are engaging to them, for example, by writing their own chants to memorize multiplication facts

    • Using the "the third teacher" (the classroom and social environment): Children at Solid Ground encounter opportunities to play with concepts in mathematics throughout their environment. From regular opportunities for graphing, to playing board games to practice fact fluency and logic, to working with geometry and engineering in our block area, children engage with math throughout their daily experience.

Regular community-building is an important part of life at Solid Ground
Children playing
Using real tools helps children develop a sense of themselves as capable.

How do you support healthy social and emotional development?

At Solid Ground, we believe that people deserve to be treated with respect and kindness—and children are people. We work to lift children up through a caring community, and we understand that children need empathy and support to develop self-discipline.

    • Freedom to Play: One of the most important ways that children develop their social and emotional skills is through play. Cooperative and imaginary play supports children in developing empathy, impulse control, and communication and negotiation skills. It also allows them to take intellectual, creative, emotional, and physical risks. At Solid Ground School, we provide space and support for children's play to ensure that children have the time and freedom to blossom.

    • Respectful Interactions: When children are treated with respect and empathy, they not only develop an image of themselves as someone worthy of respect and kindness, but they also develop their own capacity to treat others in kind. We use only positive classroom management strategies to set boundaries with children, working WITH children to build their skills rather than using POWER OVER them. We nonetheless understand that children feel secure with clear boundaries and expectations, and we work to uphold emotional safety for children by setting clear and open expectations.

    • Intentional Community-Building: We are committed to nurturing a respectful, supportive, and cooperative culture among students, teachers, and families in the school so that children can grow in the safety of a caring community. We support children in respectfully negotiating their conflicts and additionally have weekly community check-ins and cooperative activities.

    • Mindfulness and Self-Awareness: We support children in developing self-regulation skills and mindsight, or their ability to see inside their mind and understand their emotions and thoughts. We help children to learn these skills by offering daily mindfulness, using a common language to "name and tame" their emotions, by supporting them in developing awareness of their emotional state, and by collaborating with them to come up with individual and creative ways to bring themselves back to a regulated state.

    • Healthy Risk-Taking: We also believe in supporting children in developing important mindsets and orientations toward learning. For example, we support children in developing growth mindset, in developing perseverance, in taking risks, and in developing an image of themselves as competent and intelligent. To this end, we seek to provide opportunities for children to authentically experience themselves as capable, as curious, and as resilient.

Children work to create seed balls to grow pollinator habitat.
The New Schoolhouse: The Educational Center at Solid Ground

How do grades and groupings work at Solid Ground?

At Solid Ground in 2021-2022, grade bands are loosely organized into 3 different grade-bands as follows:

Upstairs (2 Teachers, 20 children total):

Roots (Pre-K and Kindergarten):

The Roots have dedicated blocks of time for play, work, and rest during late morning and early afternoon to nurture their creative and social growth and to develop their budding thinking skills. They share the top floor classroom with the Shoots (grade 1-2), spending morning meeting as well as lunch & literacy time together with the Shoots. By late afternoon, the Roots join the entire school community for multi-disciplinary project work, child-led classes, and play in mixed age groups.

Shoots (Grades 1-2) :

Early in the day, the Shoots have focused time as a group to develop their growing reading and mathematical skills, but also spend time in play with their similar-age peers to nurture their creativity and social skills. They share the top floor classroom with the Roots (PreK-K), spending morning meeting and lunch & literacy time together. By late afternoon each day, the Shoots join the entire school community for multi-disciplinary project work, child-led classes, and play in mixed age groups.

Downstairs (1 Teacher, 10 children):

Saplings (Grades 3-4) & Branches (Grades 5-6):

Our middle grades have the entire bottom floor to themselves, giving them ample time for extended blocks of focused academic work in the morning and again in the early afternoon, with breaks for outdoor play in between. In addition, the Saplings join the entire school community for multi-disciplinary project work, child-led classes, and play in mixed age groups by late afternoon.

In Both Grade Bands and in Mixed-Age Groups:

In addition to spending focused time in the mornings working with similar-age peers, the children also frequently work and play together in mixed-age groups. Each afternoon, the whole school spends time working and playing together on multi-disciplinary projects and teaching one another classes. They also come together weekly to share their work and build community with the whole group at Friday Share.