The Round Square Discovery Framework in Early Years and Primary Years
When stepping into an Early Years or Primary classroom, within a Round Square school, you are immediately engaged by the colour and displays that take up prime real estate on the walls and boards, and the chatter and buzz of young students actively immersed in their learning activities or events of the school day: It is an environment of energy, ideas and promise.
As you wander through the classrooms, you are immediately struck by the sense of fun, diversity and adventure, which captures the minds and hearts of eager young learners and enthusiastic teachers, all the while, setting the scene for foundational learning and the development of key skills.
The learning experience within Early and Primary Years is a very special experience, highlighted by a supportive and nurturing pastoral environment, and a steady guiding hand in character and emotional development. It provides students with the building blocks for academic learning, at the same time scaffolding socialisation and awareness of themselves and those around them. It is this learning which paves the way for the child’s schooling career and invites them to take ownership in their learning journey, developing an understanding of themselves as a learner and the multitude of ways to engage in the learning process.
Dr Eve Kleeger from Hackley School in New York, draws focus to the academic development of the students in Hackley’s Lower School but also states, “What may be less well known, and yet even more striking and critical to their development, is how our children learn to conduct themselves and establish strong character traits from such a young age.” Citing the importance of character education beginning in the Early and Primary Years, the Hackley School has initiated a character education program within its Lower School. The purpose of the program is to “…infuse virtues and values into the daily curriculum to support Hackley’s educational mission, wherein we continuously challenge students to grow in character and responsibility.”
Sentiments and programs such as these are becoming increasingly prominent within Round Square schools and are gaining greater traction in sitting alongside, and within, the academic curriculum. Deborah Dowling from Chadwick School in California believes that, “Schools exist to develop the next generation of citizens. We want those citizens not only to be clever and well-informed, but also to be wise and just. If we can teach our students to act with respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion and fairness, we are helping to shape the type of community we would like to live in ourselves.” At Chadwick School, the development of Core Competencies that focus on the ‘whole child’, underpin their character education development program from Kindergarten to Year 12, and see whole school community application.
In the Round Square community, the teachers and learners are beginning to use the Round Square Discovery Framework (RSDF) within their teaching and learning experiences to support the character education of the students. Strong examples exist within each region and the non-prescriptive nature of the RSDF has enabled Early Years and Primary Years teachers to thread the RSDF into their existing ideas and programs, but also use it as a springboard for innovative and experiential initiatives for younger learners.
Jennifer Longmuir from Renaissance International School in Vietnam explains, “The Round Square Discovery Framework has had a very positive impact in the teaching and learning of our Primary School pupils. It has first and foremost given us all a common language to talk about character education across all Key Stages and the opportunity to find real life situations in which to explore and build the Discoveries within our pupils.”
“Our implementation of the RSDF is quite simple” says Jennifer. “Each term, two Discoveries are introduced in an assembly. Teachers then return to class to unpack the Round Square definitions of each term with their classes. They create a list of ‘I can…’ statements with pupils to understand what the Discovery looks like/sounds like and what they can do to develop it in themselves. The ‘I can…’ statements are turned into posters which are displayed in each classroom for reference. Throughout the term, teachers use the new vocabulary naturally throughout lessons and create opportunities for their pupils to link the Discoveries to their own learning as well as the content of their lessons.”
“Most recently, the Round Square Discoveries have become a part of each weekly student-led assembly. At the end of each term, pupils are invited to complete a reflection task to nominate themselves for one or more of the focus Discoveries. Their reflection allows them to receive a stamp in their Round Square Passport and it also becomes part of their classroom Round Square display board.” Once this process is complete, Jennifer’s students start again with two new Discoveries.
“Slowly implementing the RSDF has been a collaborative and exciting experience for everyone at Renaissance and we look forward to continuing our journey to embed them in our teaching and learning” says Jennifer. Students from Renaissance International School also see the benefits, with students commenting, “The Round Square Discoveries have made our school a better place. They allow us to explore ourselves, to learn valuable life lessons and to help us to be the best we can be.”
Seeing the simplicity of how the Discovery Framework is being implemented in the younger years is particularly evident in schools such as KC Public School in India where an openness to discover opportunities to weave in each Discovery is prominent even in the smallest and simplest of learning activities.
Sonia Thakur describes KC Public School as “a happy and value-creating school in which the Round Square Discovery Framework has become an integral part of its educational ethos. The branches of the RSDF Spirits have flourished into 12 directions of the Discoveries. Each Discovery occupies a distinct place in the kaleidoscope of our educational ideals” she says. “With a firm belief that every programme should start with ‘catch-them-young’ mindset, we began to implement the RSDF in our Early Years Programme with a creative nudge to pre-school teachers to write short stories, create puppet shows, finger plays, role-plays and rhymes based on the Round Square Spirits. Under our Discovery Quest Programme, a search for songs and dances based on the RSDF started earnestly on the web and every day contained an element of eureka. Now our Pre-School and Primary wings are proud owners of an age-appropriate resource centre full of songs, dances and motivational videos on team-work, responsibility, tenacity, courage, problem-solving, compassion and appreciation for diversity. The 12 Discoveries have motivated us to follow the well-defined path of education for character building.”
Key examples in Early Years and Primary Years of aligning the RSDF with other educational approaches also exist. Many schools currently have a range of educational programs which are implemented within their school and developed during strategic planning phases but there are clear examples of schools that are thinking creatively around adding another layer to their students’ schooling experience and weaving the RSDF into the rich tapestry that already exists within their schools.
At Vivek High School in Chandigarh, India, teachers in the Junior Department have worked to implement the RSDF within the school’s Montessori approach. Meenu Sahi, Head of the Junior School, comments, “In the RS Discovery Framework, I immediately saw an aptitude for our young students. Character education is vital for young children as it is in their youth, and through the journey of childhood, that they can learn to develop the skills we know they need to become strong and balanced human beings. At this impressionable age, their ability to acquire these skills is something that they seem to do effortlessly as they discover, grow and mature in all areas.”
At Vivek Junior School, a concerted approach to learn about the RSDF, to identify Discoveries that could be implemented easily within the school routine, and to consider how to highlight and develop each Discovery in different areas of the Junior School formed the initial plan. Further development to look ahead to lesson planning and topic exploration helped to identify potential links to each Discovery or a set of Discoveries, bolstered by collaboration and discussions amongst teaching staff to support implementation. Meenu Sahi reflects, “The impact won’t be achieved with just one or two examples, just once or twice a year: it has to be a continuous effort. Look at ways to explicitly use the language in daily interactions, consider the routines that lend themselves to Discoveries, explore opportunities within the curriculum. There is a myriad of ways to use the Discoveries, you simply need to make a start.”
Vivek Junior School structural changes also served to provide an opportunity to highlight Discoveries. Meenu Sahi explains, “Three years ago, we amalgamated all three Kindergarten year groups into one class and had seen how such a change altered the social dynamics. We had, in effect, created a mini society: the older children took on leadership roles and the younger ones looked to the older ones for mentorship. We found that the Discoveries came up now and again, even without us planning it. When these situations occurred, we made a point of recognising the Discovery. Whereas before, we may have recognised a child’s achievements expressing that we were ‘happy’ with them, instead we used the explicit terminology, complimenting them on the ‘courage’ they had displayed in their accomplishment. This allowed us to show how the Discoveries relate to children’s every day experiences and by ensuring we were explicit in using the language, we enabled them to grow in their understanding of that Discovery.”
The process of enabling students to grow in their understanding can be achieved in a broad range of ways and an increasing number of Round Square schools are embracing the opportunity to connect their Primary Years to collaborate in projects using the Round Square educational approach.
For example, Holy Innocents Episcopal School in Atlanta, Georgia has initiated a Primary Years collaborative project with Colegio Gran Bretaña in Colombia, Vivek High School in India and Transylvania College in Romania. The project is centred around the exchange of traditions and revealing the essence of what defines a ‘culture’. In the learning process, students will investigate and observe their culture and will have the opportunity to discover that despite our cultural differences, traditions are fundamentally rooted in universal human beliefs. Jim Barton, Year 5 Writing Teacher, at Holy Innocents Episcopal School hopes that the ‘Roots and Branches’ project “…grows into a tradition itself, a tradition that, in part, serves to shrink the geographic distance between Round Square schools.”
In the Australasia and East Asia region, Round Square schools have worked to shrink the geographic distance in their Primary Years by holding a collaborative mini-conference for their Year 5 and 6 students. Scotch Oakburn College, Ballarat Grammar, Woodleigh School, Billanook College and Ivanhoe Grammar School have initiated a cluster mini-conference to enable younger students to be introduced to the RSDF within the context of their Outdoor Education programs as a starting point. The programs are then designed to challenge students and to engage them in a range of activities that guide them to see each of the IDEALS, and more recently, the Discoveries within their own lives.
Stuart Walls, Deputy Head of Middle School at Scotch Oakburn College, comments, “In the Victoria-Tasmania Round Square Cluster we collaborate between six schools by hosting Mini-Conferences twice a year for Year 5/6 students. Not only does the use of the RSDF provide extensive experiential opportunities for our students’ learning, but this collaboration exposes our younger, primary aged, students to the Round Square language at an early age. This results in them being even more active and enthusiastic about the Round Square world once they enter secondary education.”
This opportunity to extend Round Square themes through Early Years or Primary Years is proving to be an inspiring exercise for these schools that are trailblazing a range of approaches. At a time when those ever-important building blocks for future learning are set, and where the development of the ‘whole child’ comes to the forefront, our schools are finding that the RSDF can be used to inspire and embed character education to support the very foundations of students’ understanding of themselves as a learners and global citizens. Tim Rollwagen, Head of Global Education at Lakefield College School in Canada, sums it up in saying that “…the future of tomorrow will be shaped by individuals who are genuinely good people. Once schools focus on the 'whole person' rather than just academics, then we will see changes for good around the world. Curriculum and language like the RS Discovery Framework provide an avenue to bring out the best in our students and therefore prepare them for the world that they are likely to live in.”
Primary Years Collaboration Project
If you would like to collaborate with other Round Square schools on an Early Years or Primary Years based RS Discovery Framework project, please email your expression of interest to Aimee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include contact details for the member/s of staff who would like to be involved in the collaboration project, the proposed year groups and the best time of the academic year for your school to engage in a collaboration.
If you would like to learn more about the implementation of the Discovery Framework within the Junior School at Vivek High School, please read the Case Study
If you would like to contribute your Early Years and Primary Years expertise to the Discovery Framework resource development, please email Aimee at email@example.com for a lesson template.