About the Program
- Teach the whole child: social, emotional, intellectual
- Teach students as individuals
- Give parents a say about the school
- Less is more, depth over coverage
- Teacher as a guide
- Project-based & cooperative learning
- Student centered & student directed learning
- Off campus enrichment and field trips
- Alternative assessments
- Personal responsibility
- Creativity & Curiosity
- Life long learners well prepared for high school
- Learners that meet or exceed state & district standards
About the Program
The Connections Program is a student-centered middle-school choice program open to all 6th through 8th grade students in the Palo Alto school district.
The Program focuses on project-based learning, emphasizing choice and responsibility. Through challenging, innovative, relevant teaching practices, and curriculum aligned with state and district guidelines, students become life-long learners who are well prepared for future academic, social and global challenges. The Connections Program aims to create a “village” – a small community of teachers, students, and parents, within the larger JLS community. We Believe In:
Teaching for Thinking: Connecting Hearts & Minds
Through project-based learning, students gain and practice the higher order and critical thinking skills necessary for analyzing, creating, and problem-solving. Experience in critical thinking and decision-making through tackling real life problems contributes to more thoughtful behavior, which makes students more capable of handling challenges. Each child gains self-confidence and becomes a self-directed, thoughtful lifetime learner.
Meaningful, Challenging, Relevant Curriculum: Connecting the Curriculum
Students and teachers solve problems using real-world applications. Differentiated curriculum follows state and district guidlelines and is supplemented with field trips, guest speakers, and current events that are relevant to the topic of study. In-depth, project-based learning is stressed using simulations and experiential learning--learning through hands-on experiences. Curriculum is taught across subjects, incorporating multiple subjects and resources into each lesson to create a more rigorous, in-depth study and understanding of the material. Homework is relevant to class assignments. Long-term projects frequently need to be worked on at home.
Teachers as Mentors/Coaches: Connecting Students & Teachers
Experienced teachers act as coaches or facilitators, creating the opportunity for students to participate in decision-making, goal-setting, and problem-solving. Students learn to take responsibility for their own work and progress by setting goals and using self-assessment, gaining self-confidence, their work, and their process as learners. Teachers provide meaningful, personalized feedback and written evaluations rather than letter grades. Teachers and students work together to create rubrics--a set of criteria and standards linked to a project's learning objectives.
Collaboration and Cooperation: Connecting the Learning Community
Students work individually and in self-directed groups to develop leadership skills, honesty, integrity, respect for themselves and others, and pride in their work and themselves, which empowers them as leaders, facilitators, and team players. Working in groups fosters collaborative learning and positive social interactions.
Parent/Teacher/Child Community: Connecting Home & School
Parents are encouraged to participate in the classroom community. Teachers are open and accessible to parents to form a collaborative partnership working in support of students, the school, and each other. The child, teacher, and parents are all involved as active educators.
Connecting Curriculum & Community
Students participate in community and environmental service projects. Examples include the Ecumenical Hunger Project, Habitat for Humanity, and Adopt-a-Creek. Eighth-grade students have the opportunity to pursue special interests on a “quest” with mentors and experts in the community. At all levels, parents and other community members are invited to come to the classroom to share their expertise and offer mini-courses.