In most cases, students will stay with the same teacher or team of teachers for at least two years. With this arrangement, the oldest group will “graduate” to another classroom at a higher level, while a new younger group enters the class to replace the “graduates.” Staying with the same teacher or team of teachers and many of the same classmates over the years provides a secure learning environment in which the student can dare to take the risks necessary for learning to take place. Since most of the students and the teacher already know each other, there is not the six weeks or so of low productivity at the beginning of each school year while the students and teacher "feel each other out." The first day of the new school year becomes continuation of the previous year with increasing development and maturation. Teachers know what the students have done in their class the previous year and can continually progress their students to higher levels of development. Students have the opportunity to be the youngest and the oldest in the class with a wider range of ages and abilities.
Creative Arts Program
MRA provides an enriched arts curriculum offering a spectrum of opportunities for learning and exploration through the visual and performing arts. Students experience the arts, both by being exposed to the artistic expression of practicing professionals and by expressing themselves individually and in groups through a variety of media and tools. Studios, classrooms, theaters and the environment are familiar arenas for self-expression. In addition, students gain an overall understanding of the language and concepts of art, the history of art, and the applications of art in today's world.
Class themes are central to learning at MRA. Teachers plan for the orderly attainment of curriculum objectives in their content areas and then integrate subject matter across disciplines and grade levels through themes. Students are able to see relationships among concepts and gain knowledge in different content areas when they are immersed in a theme for a period of time. Themes are an excellent way to provide experiential hands-on learning opportunities for students.
Students develop projects based on the various themes that are studied in the classroom. These projects demonstrate what the student has learned during the thematic study. Students are encouraged to research extensively and use their creativity in developing their projects. Projects may be individual or group in nature. Teachers set expectations for the project and give examples of projects to encourage the students to produce their most excellent work. Once the projects are completed, students have the opportunity to share with other students what they have learned. Using one’s presentation skills is an integral part of the project.
Group projects may revolve around themes, social service, or social action piece. Instead of competing with classmates, students work together to complete projects that are larger than normally could be accomplished individually. When working cooperatively with others, the student learns that a group pooling their brain power and physical efforts can complete large projects that individuals usually cannot do alone. Some of these projects are of a magnitude that they attract attention or make a significant contribution to the school or community, thereby giving the students an even greater sense of accomplishment and pride.
Samples of individual and group projects include - productions; exhibits; displays; performances; experiments; construction projects; fine and applied art projects; demonstrations; the creation of books, plays, compositions, practical and useful objects, models, etc.
Project Based Learning and Thematic Studies
A variety of assessment tools, including the development of a portfolio and rubric-based reports, are used to track student progress throughout the year. Portfolios are organized in a way so as to attribute merit to hands-on learning, as well as to more traditional forms of displaying mastery. Student portfolios contain samples of the student’s work that show growth over time. Portfolios may also contain pictures of projects, videos of speeches and presentations, lists of books read, performance programs, as well as many other items that demonstrate what the student has learned and/or accomplished. Student self-assessment is an important part of the portfolio process.
Traditional grading is introduced to students in the fourth and fifth grades, but the majority of student work is assessed based on a system of rubrics. Rubrics allow teachers and students to have a clear understanding of expectations while maintaining a high standard of accomplishment. In some cases a student may be asked to revise a project until it attains an acceptable level of achievement.
Growth is measured by scores on assessments and meeting the criteria established for attaining mastery of Oregon State Standards. An Academic Improvement Plan (AIP) is written for every student who is functioning below grade level in reading, writing, or math. The AIP includes instructional strategies to help the student progress.
The Molalla River Academy Music program has been developed with the mission statement of the school as the driving force. It is our belief that music intersects with all other disciplines, connects communities and affects all people. Every child deserves a music education.
MRA acknowledges that as a language, the reading and notating of music should be taught only after the child has experienced music through movement, singing, playing instruments, listening, composing and improvising. This approach to music literacy is at the heart of the Orff and Kodaly pedagogies ‐ a blend of which are implemented at all levels.
At MRA each classroom participates in the creation and care of the Roots Garden. At this time the
physical definition of the space consists of the vegetable garden, the compost bins, bees and the
pollinator garden, and the sitting area in the garden space. Our Garden Coordinator teaches garden
classes in cooperation with the general education teachers. The coordinator also assists teachers with
any additional garden studies they want to take on.
At MRA we value a comprehensive education for the whole child. We believe that academics includes not only the traditional subject areas, but also includes the creative arts and a strong physical education curriculum. Students need to exercise their bodies in order to fully engage their brains. The MRA PE program teaches students about healthy living and healthy choices, about cooperative learning and teamwork, and about striving to attain personal goals.
Every student has either an older or younger buddy with whom they meet on a regular basis. The buddies spend time reading to each other and building a relationship which strengthens our school family. Both the older and the younger students benefit in this situation. One seldom learns anything as well as when one has to teach it. The older students also gain confidence and a feeling of accomplishment when they teach something to a younger child.
When a student has to teach something, s/he is more apt to question it and make it his/her own than when simply taught it by an adult. Furthermore, the younger student in a buddy situation is more likely to question the material and also make it his/her own when taught by someone closer to his/her own age than by an adult.