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CRMS- Leading the charge on a quest for deep learning

Welcome to Castle Rock Middle School, home of the Blue Knights!  Please find our Instructional Philosophy below .

Castle Rock Middle School Core Values- Our "WHY"

Mission Statement
We take P.R.I.D.E. in the belief that we must ignite a fire for learning in our students.  In order to ignite that fire, we must create learning experiences that are personal, relevant, growth and improvement based, and allow students to explore and create a culture of empathy

Staff, parents, and community partnerships work together to ensure that all students have access and opportunity to an education that allows students to explore and navigate what this world has to offer.  Students' experiences should reinforce risk-taking with the chance to try, to succeed, and to fail, but to ultimately learn about who they are in the process, arming them with the cognitive practices that will carry students farther than our own classroom walls.  We will do so through the following Learning Commitments:

Learning Commitments
1. Personalized learning empowers us to embrace a growth mindset

2. Relevancy connects the individual learner to the global community

3. Improvement culture: A safe environment where every failure and success 

provides opportunity

4. Discovery and Exploration foster lifelong learning

5. Empathy builds character and community

Castle Rock Middle School Core Values- Our "HOW"
Castle Rock Middle School began the 2014/2015 school year committed to exploring models of learning to help us create and design our own identity that will serve the Castle View feeder’s mission and vision for transforming education through innovation for all students.  Part our staff development journey was to better understand what that meant.  Staff Development became about exploring many models for learning and sharing that learning and thinking.  Staff members chose models/concepts/structures for teaching and learning and began playful implementation in their classrooms.  Staff members shared resources in online forums and we began to focus on what was in common with all constructivist learning philosophies: values and beliefs around student learning.  The L&L (Learning and Leadership) team gathered these individual values and beliefs and began to organize them into what would become our Learning Principles.  These Principles will guide how we teach, learn and explore at Castle Rock Middle School.

Next, the L&L team began site visits to schools focused on innovative and transformative education for kids. We were fortunate to observe schools that not only fostered the ideals we desire, but live and breathe them in their climate and culture everyday.  The realization in the process came from the fact that it does not matter what “model” one picks.  The “model” falls flat when the belief is that the model is the “why.  The model is the “how” and this helped our search begin to hone in on Design Thinking because it is a metacognitive practice as opposed to a template or step by step guide. 

 After polling staff members on their research, three models for learning stood out.  Many staff members were engaged in the work of PBL, Design Thinking and Genius hour, although wherever you walked in CRMS you could see the fruits of labor from other ideas such as Flipped Classrooms, personalized learning spaces, etc.  Ultimately, we chose the path of Design Thinking because it came back to our Design Principles and the fact that this model is more about the CV Feeder values we had identified:  Transforming from product to process, Transforming from teacher owned to student owned, Transforming from one size fits most to personalized learning for all, and transforming from consumers of knowledge to creators. Design Thinking fosters the habits of mind that we want to instill in our students, that will ultimately prepare them not only for the open-endedness of a model like Mosaic, but college and beyond.  The realization is that once you learn the Design Thinking process, you see it all around you.  It shapes how you can operate as a human being in this world because one understanding needs, particularly those of others, builds empathy.  Design Thinking builds creative confidence and fosters a culture of problem identifiers AND problem solvers.  And, last, but certainly not least, Design Thinking gives us a new attitude toward failure.  We need to produce learners that can take and embrace feedback, and persevere through the moments of struggle and frustration.

A School is born. 

Castle Rock Middle School Core Values- Our "WHAT" 
Just "what" is Design Thinking, you may be asking? More than anything, Design Thinking is a human centered thinking process. Born from David Kelly who has worked with Stanford to make this dream a reality, Design Thinking is changing the way we learn, think, and collaborate. It is not a fad, a template, a purchasable program, but rather a way of thinking that once you try, you cannot "undo".  We believe that Design Thinking will allow us to prepare students for any kind of world we face in our future, while still preparing them for the traditional world that still exists.  By using content as a vehicle for deeper and more meaningful learning, students will own their learning experiences.  Design Thinking asks us to identify a need or problem, which gives learning purpose and relevance. Next, learners are asked to empathize.  Who will this need or problem impact?  Who is our audience and how does that audience shape our message, ideas, and prototypes? Next, learners must ideate or brainstorm the potential solutions to that need of problem. This process teaches the learner about idea refinement, about collaboration, about ensuring that audience matches purpose. It is also about opening one's mind to possibilities and problems, encouraging learners to be open-minded, flexible, and perspective takers.  Once the learner has brainstormed, they move into the "prototype" stage.  During this stage, learners create solutions.  Whether this is a rough draft, an experiment, an invention, a piece of poetry or music is irrelevant.  The focus is on a tangible solution.  Once learners have developed their prototype, they must test and reflect on it success, by going back to the need, to the audience and analyzing for alignment.  This process can be as big as creating something that does not exist or as small as creating a tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows.  It also does not mean the entire process is repeated for every single unit of study.  Some units may lends themselves better to empathy, while others lend themselves better to prototyping.  What remains the focus is the metacognition or thinking behind each step of the Design Thinking process.

This year, we will offer Parent Bootcamp Nights to help better explain the process and help address any fears or questions that may come with this process.  However, if we do this right, we believe that your child will come home not only more excited about learning than ever before, but also with deeper content knowledge.  Our goal is to prepare your child more than adequately for any high school you choose as well as college and beyond.  

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. I am more than honored and excited to have your child with us on this amazing journey that is middle school! I will post some links below that may help deepen your understanding.  

Lee-Ann Hayen
Castle Rock Middle School