For many of our new students, Ecologia is an introduction to how Common Ground is different from other schools. Two teachers — Dave Edgeworth (Biology) and Keith Johnston (Spanish) — work side by side with students in the class. As in all of Common Ground’s team taught block classes, Ecologia meets for two periods (about 130 minutes), every day, for an entire semester.

In Ecologia, Common Ground’s production gardens provide a learning laboratory for Spanish, science, and leadership. In the classroom, students learn new Spanish grammar and vocabulary and key principles of ecology. Then, they put these skills to practice. Students take turns taking leadership of small teams of peers, harvesting and cooking from our farm. These small teams provide a real-world context for practicing   conversational Spanish. Experiences in the garden also give students a chance to experience ecological concepts like food webs, competition and symbiosis, and energy exchange in action. Back in the classroom, students use blog writing and video to reflect on how their work demonstrated growing leadership and understanding of course content.

This year, Ecologia students are also applying their learning and leadership out in the community. They are interviewing relatives and members of New Haven’s Spanish-speaking communities to find recipes that integrate Connecticut-grown ingredients and New Haven’s diverse cultural traditions. They are also capturing the stories behind these recipes, and sharing the recipes and stories on Common Ground’s blog.

Ecologia represents a different approach to academic rigor — rooted in real-world challenges and students’ own lives, and leading to mastery of challenging academic standards.