At Horizons K-8, we make a point to identify the learning needs of individual students and then provide them with authentic learning activities that honor their interests, choices, and goals. We know that relevant learning lasts a lifetime. Of the many unique qualities that make up our particular approach, families and students will experience small multi-age classes, individualized goal setting, and an emphasis on quality work. Students will have choices in content and demonstrations of learning. Hallmarks of our program include authentic assessment, opportunities for performance, a focus on service learning, Spanish language acquisition, and full participation in a meaningful, caring community.
Academics at Horizons K-8 are grounded in best practices identified by educational research and delivered by committed and licensed educators. The curriculum is structured so students will meet or exceed content standards adopted by the Colorado Department of Education and the Common Core Standards Initiative. These standards are written to address the development of skills in reading, writing, mathematics, technology, science, and social studies. Curricular themes, developed by the faculty, are correlated to the above standards as well as BVSD curriculum, and guide the development of schoolwide and homeroom learning activities. Our faculty works toward maintaining a vertically and horizontally aligned K-8 curriculum in every content area so that students have a cohesive and supported experience throughout their academic life at Horizons K-8.
Key Program Components
Individual Learning Goals
Horizons students collaborate with teachers and parents to identify individual learning goals. Teachers conference with students and parents twice a year to review and celebrate learning and growth, and to set future goals. Each student’s abilities, strengths, interests, and learning styles are used to establish challenging, achievable learning goals. Students have the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of learning in a variety of ways, including projects, presentations, exhibitions, portfolios, and test performance.
The K-8 Experience
At Horizons, we specialize in K-8 education. We believe that the building blocks of life-long learning are established in the elementary and middle school years. Consequently, we devote our resources to serving the whole child during this critical period; an approach we believe better prepares them for their high school years. The K-8 environment allows students to engage in age-appropriate activities and events. Our children are free to stay “younger” a bit longer. In our school, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders are not caught in the middle; they are the role models for the student body. Horizons students assume leadership responsibilities. The result is greater confidence and self esteem, a sense of belonging and self worth that is a purposeful component to success in high school and beyond.
Small, Multi-age Classrooms
Teachers work with multi-aged classes of approximately 19-20 students. Generally students remain with a teacher for two years, maximizing relationships and the teacher’s ability to identify and meet students’ needs. Students become a family of learners who support and encourage one another. Older children have the opportunity to serve as mentors and to take leadership roles. In a multi-age setting, children are more likely to cooperate than compete. When children collaborate in a cooperative setting learning is enhanced.
Role of Teachers
The teachers, as facilitators of learning, have primary responsibility for developing curriculum, differentiating instruction, and assessing student progress. Our teachers also take on a myriad of other responsibilities in service to Horizons as a whole. They collaborate on instructional practice and curriculum pathways throughout the school K-8. Horizons teachers keep their eyes on both what their individual students need on a daily basis and on the big picture of how the culture of the school is meeting collective goals. Parents and teachers develop a relationship which is vital to student learning.
Buddies are a highlight of the K-8 Experience! Older students mentor and support younger students in their classrooms with various activities and events, joining with them in play and work. Older students benefit by being of service to younger students. The multi-age bonding that occurs in our K-8 setting closes the gap between teachers and learners.
Teachers, the special education team including the psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist, speech/language specialist, and paraeducators, collaborate to address individual student needs in the classroom. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are developed and implemented in accordance with BVSD, state, and federal guidelines. Horizons incorporates an inclusion model. Universal best practices, targeted, one-on-one, and small group instruction are all used to support discreet academic and social skill development. With our team guidance, special education students at Horizons are highly successful in achieving their individualized educational goals in the milieu of a caring, accepting environment. The special education teachers coordinate services for the school and oversee the implementation of each student’s IEP. They may offer direct, indirect and/or consultative services depending on the student’s individual needs.
Literacy Specialist Support
Our literacy specialists are teachers who have engaged in extensive training in literacy development. Our program targets students who may benefit from additional reading and writing instruction beyond the rich teaching they receive in their classroom. The support is provided in small groups that are formed based on students’ individual strengths and needs.
The small group structure contributes to creating community and supports the social-emotional needs of students, including building confidence in students’ ability to communicate through reading and writing.
Literacy specialists collaborate with classroom teachers to assess, observe and create reading goals for students who can benefit from this support. Small groups lessons consist of guided reading, comprehension strategies, writing, phonics and spelling instruction. Students selection is based on formal and informal assessments, as well as classroom teacher observation and recommendation. Frequent assessments are built into the program to monitor each child’s progress. Groups are flexible and change throughout the school year as needed.
Literacy specialists provide support to classroom teachers in implementing district, state and federal requirements for monitoring student reading progress as currently outlined in the Colorado READ (Reading to Ensure Academic Development) Act.
Students are expected to complete projects and assignments in a quality manner that reflects their knowledge, ability, and skill level. Students demonstrate progress and completion of the requirements through learning portfolios, and a variety of assessments which are shared with teachers and parents during fall and spring conferences. In addition, students from third-eighth grade pursue their own learning through independent learning projects. The culmination of this passion-driven learning occurs during a students eighth grade year when they spend a year on an Aperture Project. Recent titles and examples of Aperture Projects include: “Writing my Way to Health,”#TransLivesMatter,” “Coaching Basketball,”The Code of Code: Creating a Programming Language,” “Making a Metal-Melting Foundry,” and “There with Care: Organizing a Fundraiser.”
Arts Rotation, Exploratories, and Project Weeks for 5th-8th Graders
At the fifth and sixth grade level, all students experience classes and activities in the performing arts (chorus or keyboards and marimbas); movement (circus arts and volleyball); and an art and history integrated visual arts class. The 7/8 team has committed to facilitating three project weeks annually. During this time, students investigate a topic or driving question in an in-depth, interdisciplinary study grounded in the larger community. This is a time for students to apply the skills they’re learning in content classes to authentic, real-world fields of study. Past project weeks have taken 7th and 8th grade students to explore the site and history of the Sand Creek Massacre; construct concrete obelisks; investigate the history behind the Lucha Libre; and travel to Denver to experience and be inspired by Hispanic street murals.
Exploratories occur during a three-hour block on Fridays. This extended period of time allows student choice in exploring skills and trades in the arts, physical activities, and STEM disciplines. Exploratories include (but are not limited to): mountain-biking, rock-climbing, tennis, volleyball, play-writing, cooking, computer programming/writing code, visual arts, vocal music, guitar, intergenerational activities with seniors at Frasier Meadows Retirement Community, and technology lab. Through the year, students choose a total of ten different exploratory classes.
Horizons Homework Policy
One goal of teachers at Horizons is to enable each student to reach a high level of academic achievement. At times, projects and assignments are expected to completed at home. When this is the case, teachers strive to make sure that homework is developmentally appropriate and intended to extend current classroom curriculum. Homework is given to develop study habits, personal responsibility, and organization, and to foster the homes and school connection. Reading is an essential component of homework at all grade levels. The use of planners begins in 1st grade and continues through 8th grade, increasing homework time requirements as your student moves through the grades. As students become more self-directed in their learning, we expect increased independence in the completion of homework.
Parents can assist by setting expectations that students complete their homework, and bring their homework folders, planners, materials, and/or books to school. This allows teachers to receive and evaluate student work, to monitor progress, and to provide feedback and support. Please contact your student’s teacher with any questions or concerns.
Arts & Sciences
Throughout the year, students in grades K-6 are offered a variety of classes based on student and teacher interest, often integrating and enhancing current curriculum. Students attend their chosen Art & Science (A&S) class for one hour per day. Arts & Sciences elective classes are taught by Horizons teachers, middle school students who are supervised by a Horizons teacher, parents, and experts from the Boulder community. Over the course of the school year, students are asked to choose from a broad range of offerings. As a result, multiple intelligences are reinforced and students are able to discover and pursue individual talents and interests. Arts & Sciences electives are financed with funds raised by the Horizons community. Thes funds are managed by the Horizons Council.
Health is taught to all students at Horizons. Horizons teachers base curricular decisions on BVSD guidelines for teaching topics including body image, sexuality, physical fitness, tobacco, drugs and alcohol. This curricular subject involves parent notification prior to implementation.
Students participate in a wide variety of service learning projects. The goals and priorities of service learning reflect two central themes: (1) to create and expand experiences of making a difference in the world, and (2) to contribute to community needs in a creative and educational manner.
The faculty at Horizons recognizes that Spanish is a vital language both locally and globally. Exposure courses in Spanish are offered for all K-5 students. Additionally, all sixth graders may take up to three full years of Spanish. This emphasis on second language learning reflects the Horizons community’s commitment to helping students appreciate cultural diversity and become contributing world citizens. Eighth graders are invited to test into High School Spanish, Level 3.
Outdoor Education Week
Through outdoor education, Horizons students and teachers have the opportunity to develop their appreciation for and understanding of ecology, life sciences, and geology, as well as recognize and develop their individual and group roles by taking risks and participating in team building and community service. One week during the year is devoted to outdoor education.
The shared goals for each trip are to encourage students to build new social relationships, push beyond their comfort zones, provide service to the greater community, connect meaningfully with nature, and increase their knowledge of natural/environmental science.
Desktop computers, Chromebooks, iPads and other technological tools are available for student use in classrooms, and in the applied technology and computer labs. All grade K-8 classrooms are networked school-wide and have Internet and wireless access. Students in all grades receive instruction in keyboarding and specific computer skills.
Winter Sports Program
Horizons sponsors a winter sports program which includes skiing (nordic and alpine) and snowshoeing at Eldora Ski Resort, ice skating, rock climbing, indoor biking, and indoor soccer.