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Cold Spring School

Thematic Studies

Thematic Studies

As progressive educators, we believe that children’s curiosities should be an essential part of learning and curriculum design. At Cold Spring, children are fully immersed in our thematic studies, learning alongside each other through the questions they ask. When children are given opportunities to deeply engage with the curriculum, they start thinking about content differently. 

The role of our teachers as researchers is to guide children’s thinking, find seeds of ideas that could turn into short or long term investigations and integrate learning across disciplines. We believe that for this kind of learning to happen, risk-taking needs to be encouraged, mindsets have to be flexible, and the whole child has to be seen.

Thematic studies for the 2022-23 academic year:

Preschool: The possibilities of exploration for the three and four-year-olds are endless! Emergent curriculum allows for the transformation of children’s ideas from thoughts to reality. Children’s voices, thinking and learning is represented throughout the classroom as they engage in short and long-term explorations. As children build their conceptual understanding, different areas of the classroom are transformed by children’s drawings, paintings, sculpture, construction, writing, and more! 


The Natural World: By drawing upon their own experiences and curiosity, children observe patterns in nature and build their understanding of interdependence in the natural world. What can we learn from the natural world? How do we relate to it, and how can we take care of it? Using the scientific method of making hypotheses, experimenting, recording, concluding and sharing results, children develop their skills in inquiry. Through the studies, we develop the beginnings of stewardship so the children can take an active part in caring for their environment. This year in partnership with educators at Common Ground, the K/1 children and teachers are excited to explore the natural world through the seasons!


Personal Histories: How can we know about the past if we weren’t there? Through personal stories, maps and artifacts, children have the opportunity to learn about the lives of the people and the stories that carry on through generations. Second and third grade students learn how to interview family and community members, document their discoveries through writing, make a historical timeline, and more. Children learn to better understand and document their own unique personal histories, explore their own identity through self and community, and develop a sense of history.


Indigenous/Colonial people: What do stories tell us about who we are? Whose story gets told and whose doesn’t? Students and teachers explore the inner stories we tell ourselves and work on changing those intra-personal narratives. As we read and discover stories of the indigenous people who lived here before us and the stories of the colonists who arrived much later, we explore how the stories we tell shape our view of the world -- and how our worldview shapes the stories we tell. Curriculum changes for equity are beginning this year with 4/5 thematic studies. Autumn, our DEIJ Program Manager, will be working with both 4/5 teaching teams to implement the 5 layer framework from Dr. Gholdy Muhammad's "Cultivating Genius." From September through December, teachers will dive deeply into Cultivating Genius; understanding the history, concepts, and tools used to implement the framework into the classroom. 


Sustainability: In these studies, sixth grade students study topics in the areas of environmental studies or social justice matters based on their passions and curiosities. What does it mean to live sustainably? How can we take action to build the world we believe in? How does a society determine its priorities?  Children learn to question where natural resources come from, how they form over time, ways in which human society extracts and uses them. Through a systematic exploration of available ideas, students each commit to researching one topic of focus. Through these year-long studies, children learn to identify and evaluate resources, including experts in their areas of focus, organize information, write research papers, design a meaningful experience or project, and present their learning to an audience. 

As the year progresses, we hope you will closely follow our journey of the unfolding of thematic studies in different classrooms through classroom charters, research endeavors, journal writings, mathematical explorations, scientific studies, artistic renderings, School Meeting shares, class news, and much more. The possibilities are truly endless!


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