McAuliffe’s Fourth-Fifth Grade classes are a multi-age community. We embrace the elements of the Fourth and Fifth Grade curricula in several ways to meet the social and emotional needs of our learners. Students explore writing, reading, music, science, art, physical education, gardening, cooking and social studies as a whole class. Science and Social Studies curriculum are looped—one year is fourth-grade curriculum, the next year is the fifth-grade curriculum. Mathematics instruction is by grade level with one-half of the students at one time provided opportunities for in-depth lessons and conceptual understanding.
Our multi-age community is designed to promote cooperation and collaboration. Fifth-grade students, who are familiar with class routines and expectations, become mentors to the incoming fourth graders. This two-year cycle allows teachers the time to develop deeper insight and understanding of the students. Multi-age communities provide unique opportunities for students to blossom.
Early in the school year, students plan the menus and meals they will cook at the community-building beach trip. Students must budget, take note of special dietary needs and provide a meal for the entire class plus chaperones on the trip. Students are organized in tent groups and spend the days in exploration and activities designed to promote community.
Beginning in the Fourth-Fifth Grade, students run a café to support overnight field trips. Students setup, greet the public, introduce the menu, accept payment and provide change, count and record the money in the till and clean the area, ready for the next use. It is a wonderful way to practice real world math and places students in an environment to take on responsibility and experience limited concepts of running a business.
Fourth and Fifth Grade Parents are the backbone of the Electives offered in this community. Each elective is a 4-6-week investigation into a topic based on the interest of the students and the talents of the adults. Elective topics in the past have been such things as foreign language, programming, game strategy and design, sewing, knitting, crocheting, stop motion, animation, photography, field sports, and deconstructing electronics.
Field trips create a meaningful connection to classroom-based investigations and readings. In the past, our students have spent a week exploring the history and geological region of California Gold Country and a week exploring ecology, geology, and biology at the Mendocino Outdoor Science School. In addition, we have many day trips to local historical and geological sites that explore California and its history. Other field trips will include art, science and technology connections to the curriculum.