Hudson County Schools of Technology/ Explore 2000 believes in a learner centered education constructed around the particular strengths and inclinations of each individual provided in a quality, stimulating educational environment. This Middle School program is a model setting for learning that is consistent with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards utilizing thematic, hands-on, student-centered interdisciplinary activities and accelerated learning based on real-life context. Students’ learning styles are assessed to determine appropriate learning activities. These activities and required academics are integrated into Project Based Learning.
The Program’s fundamental educational strategies:
- break down traditional boundaries between disciplines
- rely on team teaching
- adapt to individual learners and their learning styles, unique skills and abilities
- create thematic ties between school curricula and community-based resources
- develop knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the environment- community and natural surroundings
- provide hands-on learning experiences, often through project-based activities, field experiences and problem-solving
- encourage learners to regularly use the skills of independent inquiry and original research
- promote on-going learning by providing family memberships to use Liberty Science Center resources
- create strong emphasis on parental/family involvement to help learners succeed in school
All units are implemented through an integrated curriculum, also known as interdisciplinary curriculum. This is "a curriculum organization which cuts across subject-matter lines to focus upon comprehensive life problems or broad based areas of study that brings together the various segments of the curriculum into meaningful association". Explore 2000’s curriculum provides a knowledge view and approach that intentionally applies methodology from more than one discipline to fully study a central theme.
There are many benefits of curriculum integration. Since the inception of the Explore 2000 program the following positive effects have been observed and are both broad-ranging and encouraging. They include:
- learners’ ability to see interrelationships and a direct connection
- among disciplines
- increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning
- positive attitudes in learners
- greater pride and ownership in accomplishments
- multiple perspectives leading to a more integrated knowledge base
- more quality time for curriculum exploration
- learners’ ability to apply various skills
Explore 2000 investigates, in depth, a total of nine thematic units over a three-year period:
- Outer Space- The Ultimate Frontier
- The Human Body
- The Living Oceans
- Environmental Threats
- The 20th Century
- Amazing Animals
- Freedom Fighters
- Ancient Civilizations
- Natural Wonders of New Jersey
Choice: The power or opportunity of choosing; with choosing further defined as selection or decision after consideration.
Within the Explore 2000 Program, we use the term responsible choice to encourage individual, cooperative and community exploration and accountability.
Maximum Choice: The greatest amount of choice one can have within the parameters of the educational environment and its mission.
Educational Environment: An environment that provides a student the opportunity to reach his/her full potential academically, socially, and emotionally.
Intrinsic Motivation: The need or desire that causes a person to act. In the Explore 2000 Program, we do not rely solely on extrinsic motivators to encourage vibrant learners. We provide an environment conducive to fostering the student’s internal need and desire to learn.
Accountability: School personnel, Facilitators, parents, and students form an educational team to provide a quality education. Each member of the team upholds the responsibility to achieve that goal.
Multiple Intelligences: A theory of learning that enables the learner to process information in his/her own unique targeted style. In the Explore 2000 Program, the learner’s intelligence is assessed, promoted, and encouraged. This empowers the learner to encounter, employ, and embrace knowledge.
Assessment: The process of observing and evaluating learning. The goal of the Explore 2000 authentic assessment is to provide the learner with information needed to improve and excel academic performance.
Portfolio: A portfolio is a systematic and organized collection of a learner’s work that exhibits to others the direct evidence of a student’s efforts, achievements, and progress over a period of time.
Thematic Unit: A unit of comprehensive interactive study that will engage all learners in a Project-Based, interdisciplinary curriculum.
Rubric: A scoring guide used in subjective assessments. A rubric implies that a rule defining the criteria of an assessment system is followed in evaluation.
Process vs. Product: In the Explore 2000 Program, the academic process is the most important element of the program. The process allows students to acquire and comprehend academic knowledge. The learner can then apply this knowledge using critical thinking and problem solving skills. Then the learner can analyze and synthesize the knowledge to create a unique product. The product is a result of a performance or task. An assessment is made of student performance based on the evaluation of the product.