We believe in a learning environment that is community based, noncompetitive, and child centered. Our social studies based curriculum is integrated and hands-on. At the core of our mission is the belief that the most effective learning takes place within a diverse school community.
Among elementary schools in Los Angeles, Westland is widely known and respected as a pioneer in progressive education. This philosophy evolved in recognition of the limitations of traditional education and its emphasis on training children just to memorize and recite large amounts of information.
At the beginning of a study, the first step is that teachers ask the students to generate a set of questions in keeping with the theme. What do we know about the Hopi Indians? The ancient Chinese? Immigration? What do we want to know? Why do we want to know? Through the ensuing discussion, teachers then assess the students’ knowledge and develop the path for a multilayered investigation. From there, our students work on projects that develop from these very questions. In every classroom, learning units are punctuated by “culminating experiences” in which students collaborate to synthesize, understand, and share their learning, typically in a public context in front of parents, grandparents, experts, teachers, and children from different classrooms.
Culminations can take many forms: a published class book, an original play, a museum, or a block building re-creation. Children planning their Culmination draw from the information gained in their own studies as well as strategies picked up from their observations of past Culminations. During a Culmination the group celebrates their collaborative effort and cumulative learning and the students become teachers. The learning then becomes cemented, because teaching is the highest form of mastery.