Our Approach to Learning

//Our Approach to Learning
Our Approach to Learning 2022-08-02T16:51:54-04:00

Find Common Ground: A community of learners and leaders, dedicated to the environment and social justice.

The Curriculum: A Strong Core & Flexible Pathways

Common Ground is committed to helping all students travel pathways to college success and continuous learning, meaningful careers, powerful leadership for a just and sustainable world, and a happy, healthy lives. In 9th and 10th grade, students spend half of their school day in the integrated core — combining science, social studies, English, the arts, and other subjects to explore their urban environment and build the skills they need for success beyond high school. Junior and senior year, all students take junior seminar and senior environmental justice capstone — exploring college and career options, building college-level research and writing skills, reflecting on their growth as leaders, and tackling capstone environmental justice projects. Around these core courses, students experience a mix of college prep academic classes, unique electives like outdoor leadership and food & the environment, early college courses, credit-bearing internships, and learning opportunities beyond the school day and school building.

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The Building Blocks of Real Learning

Across every learning and leadership opportunity, we believe that all students deserve:

  • Rigor. We hold all our students and staff to high standards, and know they can all thrive in and beyond high school.
  • Responsive Relationships. We know each other well, and support and challenge each other as individuals. We build student’ lived experiences and cultures into the curriculum. We build a safe and just school community, every day.
  • Relevance — Rooted in the Environment & Community. We put the environment and social justice at the heart of learning — and create active, authentic, integrated learning opportunities, rooted in our place and community.
  • Real Roles and Rights. We create student-centered learning that builds real choice and voice, and engaging families and community as full partners — helping all people grow into leaders and agents of change.
Growing Leaders for a Just & Sustainable World

At Common Ground, young people are growing into a new, more inclusive generation of environmental and social justice leaders. We believe all students can grow their POWER — Pride, Ownership, Wonder, Effort, Respect. Every class and program builds in opportunities for students to practice leadership, and learn what kind of leader they want to become. Over their four years at Common Ground, students build an electronic portfolio showing their growth as leaders, and must defend that portfolio in order to graduate.

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Our Whole City Is Our Classroom

Opportunities outside the school building expand students’ learning and leadership — and let them pursue their own pathways and passions. Our students and teachers use three sites as laboratories for learning:

  • The City of New Haven: its parks, people, and many educational resources.
  • West Rock State Park: Connecticut’s largest state park, where the school is located.
  • Common Ground’s 20-Acre Campus: an environmental learning center and demonstration farm at the city’s edge.

Learning and leadership continues well beyond the school day, as well. Students choose among more than 2 dozen after-school programs — from soccer, to robotics, to freedom squad. They take on paid jobs through Green Jobs Corps, and earn credit through internships at our high school, urban farm, and environmental education center. They take college classes at Southern, Gateway, and Yale, and can earn college credit through courses on Common Ground’s campus. As part of their core classes, students are out on Common Ground’s site and in the City of New Haven as well. The electronic leadership portfolios that students build include these above & beyond learning opportunities, as well as more traditional classes. 

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