How We Teach

how we teach

Deep learning: The CCS Core Unit

As adults, we know the joy of discovering our own inner drive to master a subject that interests us. That’s the force we harness at CCS. At the beginning of the year, each teacher introduces a “core unit”—a course of study lasting from four months to the entire school year. Topics, developed in a series of staff discussions the previous spring, are as varied as a college catalog. CCS students have investigated the migration of birds and butterflies and the immigration of people to the U.S.; ancient and modern native American cultures, such as the Gabrielino of California and the Ancestral Puebloans; the Westward Movement and life on the Oregon Trail; whales and dolphins, deep sea creatures and tide pool life.

On that first day of a study, the teacher poses some essential questions that are familiar to researchers in every field: What do you already know about the subject? What would you like to know? How could you find out? We take your child’s responses seriously because we know from 30 years of experience that when children participate in defining what they will learn, their enthusiasm fuels each day. We know that this enthusiasm and engagement is what makes learning meaningful. As their study progresses, children learn the satisfaction that comes from delving deeply and that every subject, even the most commonplace, has an underlying richness and complexity. Most importantly, children learn that to master one topic of study over the course of a year brings the confidence and competence to master other subjects, wherever their learning takes them.

The Traditional Subjects: The “3Rs” and More: Never Far from the Real World

Of course, we devote time over the course of each week to teaching the traditional subjects. But always, our broader reference is to the real world. Reading, writing, mathematics, science, as well as geography, grammar, creative and extemporaneous writing, interpreting literature and poetry, storytelling, and measurement are all are taught independently, but with their relationships to each other and to the core unit of study always on the surface. How can geography help you read a map and find your way to a new place, or understand the weather and its effect on a culture? How do you use geometry and a T-square to saw a straight cut?