IMAGINE ... a school where your child is happy and benefiting from:

A small school environment with a rich multi-cultural curriculum honoring the whole child
Academics taught in a meaningful, whole world and nature-based context
Intimate multi-age classes where the values of community-building and social responsibility are taught and practiced
A lively calendar of diverse cultural celebrations
A school program and community that thrive on parent participation and choice
Teachers who teach from the heart
A joyful, caring aftercare program

Elsie Batten

Elsie Batten earned her BA and California Teaching Credential from California State University, Hayward. She joined VCS in 2000, teaching a 3-4 class, before becoming VCS’s 1-6 “one room schoolhouse” teacher in 2004. Ms. Batten draws on a broad range of experiences from her 30 years as a teacher, having taught grades K-8 and Special Education, including teaching in a one-room schoolhouse (K-8) in Kirkwood, California, for eight years. She was also Coordinator of a program for Gifted and Talented students. As the 3, 4, 5, 7 class teacher at VCS she enjoys facilitating learning at many levels, and empowering the children to help one another and develop their potentials. Her special interests include indigenous cultures and theater, and writing and presenting plays with children.

 

A look into our classroom...

Children in the 3, 4, 5, 7 class reap the benefits of multi-age education: lack of competition, family atmosphere, and no limits to individual learning. The children learn quickly that they do not have to compete with one another, because of their different ages; instead they learn that they each have something to share, and are respected for their own knowledge. In the family atmosphere, life skills and conflict resolution are important parts of the learning. Academically, without a class of peers, each child is given the chance to reach as far as he/she can. Older children firmly establish their learning by turning around and teaching the skills they just learned to younger students, who not only receive encouragement and appreciation for who they are, but also can look ahead to where they’re going, through the models of the older children. This creates a natural experience of learning, different from learning just from a teacher, and children are very receptive to it. For example, in Math groups, students are grouped by skill levels, but still teach and explain to each other within the groups, and when they’ve finished, have the opportunity to teach a younger group, reinforcing their learning in another way. The curriculum presented in the 3, 4, 5, 7 multi-age class is rich, deep and integrated. Each year a new or revolving History/Social Studies theme determines the focus for stories, songs, and field trips. One year’s focus on California included indigenous creation stories. The students listened to these stories, told by the teacher and older students, and later chose one to explore more deeply through making a diorama which they presented as a storyteller, by heart. During weekly hikes in nature, the class engaged in discussions and journal writings about how the various lands of California informed their cultures. The diorama myths were later incorporated into an end-of-the-year class play, Coyote Dreamland, for which the script was written with student input, props were created with community help, and the program was planned and drawn by students. With the presentation of the play to the parents and school, student learning culminated in an expressive, celebratory way.

 

A word from Elsie on Critical Thinking Conversations...

On October 1st, we had our first student generated academic discussion. We're reading Adopted by Indians together; and while I frequently ask questions about our reading, on October 1st, a student asked the question--and that makes all the difference in the world.

A student asked why the Choinume tribe in Central California had the openings of their homes always facing south. The discussion was lively:

"Does the rain come from the south?"
"Well, then the wind would have to be from the south."
"Which direction does the wind come from?" "Let's go outside and see."
"Maybe they have an enemy and they have to keep an eye on them possibly attacking from the south."

Soon they said they were stuck, but understood they would not be getting an answer from me. Then they were posed a good question, "Did they have electricity?" The eyes got big and many voices were shouting, "The sun, the sun, the sunlight is in the south!" After a little more processing, one student asked "What if I wanted to sleep in?"

Now, many students are trying to find the questions that will stimulate energetic conversations.

 

Class Photo Gallery