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Big Ideas: A Curriculum Strategy
Elizabeth Rossini, Director of Teaching and Learning



Where you live influences how you live.

When does accuracy matter?

These ideas, written as a word, statement, or question, reveal big ideas to be explored. Big ideas identify the broad transferable learning that we want for our students, to help them make sense of isolated and otherwise meaningless facts. At Nueva, we identify recurring big ideas and turn them into questions that become the conceptual lens through which our students engage with their learning. 

When students use the question What’s the pattern and how do I know? they can examine learning in many areas. For instance, this question surfaces in math for our youngest students as they are learning our base ten number system, or when learning to decode words through structured word inquiry. It surfaces for our older students in visual arts when they examine how line and shape are used by artists, architects, designers, and others. And it is a key idea when looking at weather and climate phenomena over time.

The big idea Where you live influences how you live comes alive in learning about communities for our younger students, in science and humanities when examining migration (people/animals), through the study of culture in world languages, and when examining production in economics.

And the question When does accuracy matter? recurs across grades and disciplines and is a very important question for students to be asking themselves. It surfaces in computer science when developing and analyzing code. It surfaces in the I-Lab when building. And it surfaces in science when using volatile materials. Accuracy also is an important consideration in nonfiction writing, in musical productions, and during athletic competitions.

The power of using the same questions across grades and disciplines allows these questions to become an important thinking tool for our students to employ for themselves, as they engage in deeper learning. It is a tool that will last a lifetime.


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