A Vision of Discovery
Valley Crossing Community School is a unique, child-centered place based on the best practices in curriculum, organization, and architecture. In planning the school, visionary parents collaborated with teachers, superintendents, school boards, and other educational and community leaders to select the best components from the most-effective schools nationally and internationally.
Founded in 1996, Valley Crossing serves the school districts of North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale (#622), South Washington County (#833), and Stillwater Area (#834). Governed by Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District, Valley Crossing is one of the first schools in the country to serve multiple districts.
Two of the three "sending districts" base their entire enrollment allocation for Valley Crossing on families enrolling as an alternative to their neighborhood schools. Although one district has designated an enrollment attendance area, all three "sending districts" allow some level of choice. Busing for children varies by school district.
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A Focus on Learning
At Valley Crossing, we believe all children can and want to learn. Toward that goal, we take the Responsive Classroom approach to creating a safe, challenging, and joyful educational environment. Responsive Classroom seeks to teach students appropriate ways of getting along with each other as members of the community
The seven guiding principles of Responsive Classroom are:
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- The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
- How children learn is as important as what they learn: process and content go hand-in-hand.
- The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
- There is a specific set of social skills that children need to learn and practice in order to be successful: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
- Knowing the children we teach - individually, culturally, and developmentally - is as important as knowing the content we teach.
- Knowing the families of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children we teach. Parents are our partners.
- How we, the adults at the school, work together is as important as our individual competence: effective schools begin with the adult community.
The six teaching practices of Responsive Classroom are:
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- Morning Meeting: A daily routine that builds community, creates a positive climate for learning, and reinforces academic and social skills.
- Rules and Logical Consequences: A clear and consistent approach to discipline that fosters responsibility and self-control.
- Classroom Organization: Strategies for arranging materials, furniture, and displays to encourage independence, promote caring, and maximize learning.
- Guided Discovery: A format for introducing materials that encourages inquiry, heightens interest, and teaches care of the school environment.
- Academic Choice: An approach to giving children choices in their learning that helps them become more invested, self-motivated learners.
- Reaching Out to Parents/Guardians: Ideas for involving parents or guardians as true partners in their child's education.
At Valley Crossing, learning activities are designed with components that offer students choice, collaboration, and opportunities to create real products for real audiences. Celebrations are an important part of the learning process at Valley Crossing. All students come to frequent neighborhood gatherings to celebrate and sing. Celebrations honor the opening of the school year, the completion of units of study, student achievements, and the end of the school year.
Each student's school day is divided into four sections - literacy, math, theme, and specialists. Valley Crossing's curriculum is organized around a trimester-long "theme" that incorporates aspects of science and social studies. Themes provide an overarching structure tied to important concepts that help students see patterns and make connections between facts and ideas. For example, students combine geography and life science when they study habitats and eco-systems. In addition, we offer Physical Education, Art, Informational Literacy, Music, and Media Technology courses as a part of our curriculum.
Each teacher is a member of a core curriculum committee: Literacy, Theme, Math, Technology, or Environmental Learning. Through these committees our curriculum and instruction is continuously improved and refined.
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The Learning Community
Learning begins in a child's home and in his or her neighborhood as both are small, stable places in which children can learn while they grow. We replicate these two communities at Valley Crossing. Students are in multiage groupings that promote sharing and cooperation and stimulate learning in both younger and older students.
Valley Crossing is divided into three Neighborhoods - A, B, and C. Each Neighborhood is comprised of students in kindergarten through 5th grade. Neighborhood C also has 6th grade classrooms. Each student stays in the same Neighborhood throughout his or her years at Valley Crossing. Siblings join the same Neighborhood in an effort to keep the family and school bonds strong. In addition, the school's open, flexible architecture supports Neighborhood design and lends to the sense of community within Valley Crossing. Each neighborhood includes an all-day kindergarten program.
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Teachers collaborate to plan daily lessons and long-term units. Students stay in a teaching team for 2 years, providing continuity for students as they progress. This professional collaboration creates stimulating learning environments for students. Several teams make up a Neighborhood and the school's open architecture facilitates team teaching. Two Educational Coordinators in the building bridge the three Neighborhoods, helping to integrate instruction and administration. Educational Coordinators split their time between classroom instruction and leadership.
As part of the education team, students become self-directed learners. They learn to focus on tasks, set achievable goals, organize their time, and use available resources. Parents and volunteers are seen as partners in student learning.
Periodic academic performance assessment and goal setting is discussed with parents in student-led conferences using a "progress folio," which is a collection of the student's work that illustrates his or her progress. Parents, student, and teacher together set goals for the next learning period.
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Our Partners in Education
Parents are critical to a successful educational experience. Therefore, parents are active partners at Valley Crossing. They volunteer in classrooms and behind the scenes. Parents participate in many aspects of our community from the PTA and the art appreciation program to the school store and our book fairs. Valley Crossing not only employs a coordinator to assist volunteers, but the school office and teaching teams also send weekly communications to keep families informed about the many ways parents can partner in their child's education.
Developing partners in education is now cited as one of education's best practices. Educators know that by involving students in their world community, they become confident, resourceful learners and problem solvers. Tapping a wide variety of experts, volunteers, and experiences enriches each child's learning. With this in mind, other schools, businesses, colleges, and service providers are also Valley Crossing's partners in education.
Our students give back to the community through service learning projects. Participating in such community activities as organizing food, clothing, or book drives for local as well as global places teaches students to see the world not only as a resource but also a responsibility.
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Valley Crossing's students prepare for the future using today's technical tools to discover solutions, to describe and report, and to explore the world. Computers are available in classrooms and in the state-of-the-art media center. Students have access to the latest software, the Internet, and a television production studio.
A variety of enrichment programs support and appeal to students with special interests and talents. These include:
Special education services are available for students with special needs. An Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program is offered on-site. School-age day care is available before school starting at 6:30 a.m. and after school until 6:00 p.m. as well as during vacations.
- Academic Triathlon
- Chess club
- Junior Master Gardeners
- Peer Mediation
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Valley Crossing Community School has received awards from a number of organizations including:
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- Reward School Designation from the Minnesota Department of Education (2012)
- Outstanding Achievement in Energy Reduction from Schools for Energy Efficiency (2010)
- Family Friendly School Award from the Minnesota Department of Education (2010)
- Responsive Classroom School-wide Designation (2008)
- Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association School of Excellence Award (2003-04)
- E. Boyer Foundation Award in recognition of professional collaboration (2003)
- National PTA Award in recognition of outstanding parental involvement (2003)
- Distinguished School Award for Technology Integration from Apple Computer, Inc. (1997)
- Learning By Design Award for Outstanding Architecture (1997)
- Magna Award from the American School Board Journal for Outstanding Programs in School Governance (1996)
- Individual faculty awards for innovation and excellence