INTEGRATED CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK
Our curriculum provides for a high quality, relevant and flexible continuum of learning.
In practice, our mainstream curriculum taught in accordance with VELS, embraces the 8 key learning areas which are interpreted by learning themes that guide the focus for the learning of each term. These learning themes include:
- Well being,
- Social harmony,
- Cultural diversity and
- Environmental balance.
This thematic structure allows detailed examination of the social, conceptual, creative and physical aspects of the world and intrinsically provides opportunities for inter-disciplinary learning and linking of the 8 key learning areas. We also provide opportunities for project-based learning by the additional inclusion of the themes of:
- Heritage and
- Materials and Technology studies.
Specific lessons are timetabled to build mathematical, literacy and creative arts skills that support the foundation of the curriculum. These foundation lessons are informed by the learning theme that provides the focus for learning of that term and connects the 8 key learning areas of VELS into an integrated and whole school approach to curriculum framework.
This integrated curriculum approach provides the opportunity for teachers to plan and teach as a team and allows flexibility to introduce current contemporary issues into the learning themes. It provides opportunities for reflection, creativity and the support of multiple intelligences. It promotes an inquiry approach to learning that fosters problem solving skills and academic stimulation of the whole child. It embraces human rights, sustainability, social responsibility and peace making in both general and specific ways.
This whole school approach to curriculum is further supported by our Awareness Programme that provides the background against which all learning takes place. This Awareness Programme was developed by the Maitreya Universal Education Project in India and has been adopted by our school through a shared affiliation. A rich sister school relationship of two-way sharing is being developed as the Daylesford Dharma School implements its integrated curriculum.
The integrated framework of our Awareness Programme promotes self awareness learning that is linked to social responsibility, respect for cultural diversity and human rights, sustainability, and upholding peace as an attainable goal. The Awareness Programme informs the curriculum and supports our unique school culture.
The metacognitive, reflective, creative and critical thinking skills developed in the Awareness Programme link to inter-disciplinary learning through thematic examination of the social, conceptual, creative and physical aspects of the world. This is a holistic and inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning that requires teachers to plan and teach as a team and respond with flexibility to include inquiry into current contemporary issues as they arise. It encourages student and teacher ownership of learning and supports the principle of lifelong learning.
The Awareness programme introduces four informing principles that constitute the background against which our integrated curriculum is studied and interpreted. These principles that derive from Buddhist philosophical thought are:
- Interdependence: that all phenomena originate in dependence on causes and conditions.
- Impermanence: that all phenomena and circumstances are subject to constant change and transformation.
- Actions and their consequences: all actions of body, speech and mind, both individual and collective, are consequential and influence future circumstances.
- The nature of the mind: all experience and knowledge is dependent on the subjectivity of our mind perceptions and projections.
These informing principles share a strong alliance with contemporary scientific research and modern psychology and have been successfully developed and implemented at the Maitreya Universal Education Project in India over the past 12 years.
The four principles provide perspective for all of the Daylesford Dharma School’s operations. They shape our school culture, guide student behavior and provide a unifying link for our teachers to interpret curriculum. They underpin the informing principles that guide our peaceful communication and conflict resolution policies and processes and are explored in depth on a daily basis as a whole school approach.
The Awareness Programme is designed to explore the relationship between the inner experience of thoughts and feelings and the outer material world. Children begin to learn how their mental states influence experience, how thoughts and actions have consequences and how their lives affect those of others. Further than this they can come to realize how, due to the impermanent nature of all phenomena, change is possible and that they can take responsibility for their own lives and recognize that their own happiness is dependent also on supporting happiness within others.
The integrated approach to learning is continued into the activities of School Assembly where areas of inquiry and themes from the Awareness Programme are presented as activities to strengthen a sense of community within the school. It provides the children with an opportunity to share their evolving awareness, develop self confidence as well as the opportunity to share creative projects. This is a special time when the school community gathers to celebrate their learning.
The children at our school live in a country Victorian town and frequently have only minimal contact with major cities. Our curriculum rises to the challenge of providing a framework for these children to explore the multicultural and diverse nature of greater Australia and begin to see their place in the ‘big picture’ as they make connections with the world and foster their sense of belonging.