Come experience Cannon River STEM School, an outdoor based K-8 charter school focused on experiential learning. A few quick things to understand:
- We are a public school. There is no fee to attend.
- We follow the Minnesota State Education Standards…we just do it differently than a traditional school.
- We limit our class size to 20 students in K-3rd and 22 in 4th-8th grade.
- We do teach reading! In fact you can’t do STEM without reading!
The question we are bombarded with is, how is Cannon River STEM School different from our other educational options? The answer is simple: we have a three tiered focus on place-based, inquiry-based, and project-based instruction. Let’s break those points down a bit:
Place-based: Our students use the environment as a context for learning. They are outside for classroom instruction. They learn geography by working on surveying our campus elevations. They learn shapes by looking for them in nature and in shadows. They learn about trees by observing trees on campus and watching them change over time. Our students are outside several times a week, often daily, as part of the curriculum.
Inquiry-based: We focus on the integration of science, technology, engineering and math. Students in our school are encouraged (and taught) to ask good questions and to be able to investigate them to find the answers. Whether that be to design a chair that could hold Goldilocks, or to look at the flow of students through the lunchroom to determine a system that works better…we look at the world through questions and empower our students to learn how to answer them.
Project-based: A typical project like bridge building incorporates multiple subjects (What are the societal needs for bridges? Who builds bridges? How do you design a bridge that holds the most weight? What geometric shapes have the greatest strength? How is the Hoover Dam bypass bridge being built? How would we find out information on types of bridges?) Even a simple activity of learning about birds in Kindergarten involves learning about birds shapes and functions, exploring our campus to discover where birds are, and designing a bird feeding station to attract those birds. This makes our learning authentic.
Our school systems and community also look different. We use research as a basis for our decisions: recess precedes lunch because data shows students eat better if they play first; students have limited homework because data shows that homework does not actually increase academic growth and more often detracts from the down time students need to play and formalize in their heads what happened that day; the first six weeks of school focus on community building because data shows that school connectedness is a prime determinant in academic achievement. We operate as a learning community.
We know that the Faribault, Northfield, Medford, Kenyon communities have many wonderful educational opportunities and choices. As a charter school, we are charged with doing education differently than the public districts…and that means that while our breadth of opportunities may be more limited than bigger districts, our depth of focus is rich and intentional. We’d love to talk with you and see if our school fits with your priorities.