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Grade Level Programming: Ignite

Tilton School
At Tilton School, our goal to ignite a lifelong passion for learning within our students is supported by Grade Level Programming.  This integrated teaching approach is cross-discipline and grade-specific. Grade Level Programming brings teams of faculty together with students to solve problems, think deeply and work together to navigate their world.
Grade level teams have been established with the goal of providing consistent, effective planning and operational vehicles for faculty who work with students at various developmental levels within the school. Each grade level culminates with a significant performance moment in which students demonstrate the skills and knowledge that they have mastered during the course of the year.

Tilton sophomores are members of the Ignite program, headed by Ellissa Popoff, Social Science Teacher. The theme of the 10th grade program is “navigating uncharted territory drives deep personal and universal discovery.” When designing programming, the Ignite team outlines four main goals:
  • For students to take on different roles within their groups.
  • Work on their collaborative skills.
  • Reflect on their own participation within the group.
  • An opportunity for fun!
To achieve these goals, sophomores must use and strengthen these five essential skills:
  • Critical Thinking
  • Mindfulness
  • Innovation and Design Thinking
  • Creative Engagement
  • Communication

“The theme of our 10th grade or Ignite program is really cause and effect relationships and group building. So, what role do you play in groups and how does what you contribute or not contribute to the group affect the outcome?” Popoff says. “Basically we want to give students opportunities to try a lot of new things, see how they function, and then more importantly reflect on how they do so they can really learn about themselves and how they work.”

These goals and essential skills are supported by a number of projects throughout the year that allow students to challenge themselves in different roles and groups. Most recently, students built a Rube Goldberg machine in Skinner Tower. Named for the American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor, a Rube Goldberg machine is made of found objects and makes a very simple task very complicated. This task was collaborative, where each student had to work on a section in smaller groups but also largely with the whole class. Each machine had to match the one on either side to create a continuous project throughout Skinner Tower. This also included some curricular integration, as the majority of 10th grade students are currently studying Conceptual Physics. The Rube Goldberg project allowed for them to take what they have learned in class and actively apply it to Grade Level Programming. Although the machine didn’t work seamlessly without human interaction, Popoff credits this project as a success.

“Some of the kids kept asking, ‘Well, what do I do?!’ It’s not a faculty prescribed task, you have a goal and you have to figure out how you’re going to accomplish that,” she explains. “It was really great to see and the kids had a lot of fun. That’s part of the goal of Grade Level Programming especially in the 10th grade, to show there are opportunities for learning within fun. Even something that seems really ridiculous like a Rube Goldberg machine or acting out a play, these are all moments for learning even if it’s not in a traditional classroom setting.”

Looking forward to the rest of the school year, there is much more fun learning to come for the Ignite program. In January, students will be constructing cardboard sleds and racing down Tilton hill. Over the course of the spring, sophomores will be taking all they’ve learned from the program’s collaborative projects and use their findings to create a “Me Manifesto.” In May, each student will present for 5-7 minutes complete with slide deck and an artifact they create about themselves; who they are, how they work in groups, and how they know this from the activities they’ve worked on throughout the year.

For more info on Tilton’s Grade Level Programming, visit the Tilton School website. We will be highlighting different grade levels monthly here on the Hill blog!
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