Our academic program follows a monthly thematic unit which encourages in-depth exploration and encourages students to build on their knowledge. Concepts learned are integrated across the curriculum into mathematics, science, language arts, reading and social studies. Artistic expression is encouraged in all areas of study. We also facilitate the different learning styles of our students by integrating a variety of experiential and enrichment activities into the school day. By having enrichment activities part of our program we are ensuring the novelty within structure need that all our students have. In addition to aligning our curriculum with the appropriate Georgia Performance Standards, we suggest you use the Elitewritings.com service if you have any problems; we have also added the following special programs to address the specific and unique needs of our students.
Lower School Learning: The Orion Lower School fosters the academic, physical, social and emotional development of students working between kindergarten and 3rd grade levels. Academic groupings are small, with 1:4 ratios, and are organized in accordance to skill level to provide differentiated instruction. Lessons are truly multisensory and experiential, taking full advantage of our students' natural curiosities and eagerness to see, feel, handle, and create. Phonics is taught using the Orton-Gillingham Method. Other subjects include math (using TouchMath strategies), reading, phonics (using Orton-Gillingham method), science, social studies, and handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears), all of which are approached using novel activity and direct instruction.
Social skills are a large part of our curriculum as this is a common struggle for all our students. Pragmatic skills, social scripts, and more abstract concepts, like empathy, are broken down and made accessible to our students. Teaching self-awareness and regulation using The Alert Program also provides students with a sense of power and control over their bodies and choices. Class times are concentrated and opportunities for structured and free movement are offered throughout the day. In the center of our program is our positive behavior support plan. This constant, tactile reinforcement not only increases students' confidence, but also communicates teachers' expectations by focusing on positive, desired behaviors. It is our goal to provide an alternative and optimal learning environment for children with learning differences.
Upper School Learning: The Orion Upper School maintains the low, 4:1 student to teacher ratio and is structured to accommodate the unique developmental needs our emerging teens working in the 3rd grade and above levels. We focus on three major goals. The first goal is to achieve academic success through a variety of short and long term assignments and projects. The second goal is to foster the development of lifelong organizational skills and personal responsibility. The third goal is to continue to build self confidence and skills necessary to participate in a group.
The upper school maintains a safe and co-operative learning environment. Our students are immersed in an academically rich and exciting learning atmosphere. To engage our students, we teach multidisciplinary curriculum that includes reading, math, social studies, science, language arts, and social studies. Differentiated instruction ensures that different learning profiles are able to move forward academically. Cursive is taught using the Handwriting Without Tears program and keyboarding is introduced and practiced. Class meetings and social skill classes teaching peer interaction strategies give our emerging teens a chance to voice their opinions, make changes, and have a sense of ownership of the class. The transition from tween to teen and elementary to middle school happens in rapid succession. For this reason, The Orion School keeps the same low teacher to student ratio in our 5th and 6th grade class. We want to ensure that as our students go through one of the biggest and most all encompassing changes in their lives; they are given the social, emotional and executive function support needed to thrive.
Reading: Our focus in teaching phonics and reading skills is through the Orton-Gillingham method. This method is specifically designed for students with dyslexia and appeals to all children with sensory integration issues. By approaching reading through this multi-sensory approach, which is systematic and diagnostic in nature, our students are ensured to experience success in learning how to read.
Writing: Using the Handwriting Without Tears program, we are able to teach students of all learning styles. The program is developmental and incorporates unique materials to eliminate problems with reversals, neatness, and letter formation. Working from this approach, the fine motor skills involved in writing are strengthened. Handwriting becomes an automatic, natural skill and frustrations are minimized.
Math: Using a tactile and visual approach to teaching mathematics, students are able to understand topics, rather than just memorize facts. The Orion School is using the multisensory TouchMath program to supplement our standard math program. TouchMath uses TouchPoints on the numbers 0-9 to show a one-to-one correspondence with each numerical symbol. These points, once learned, can be used easily for everything from basic arithmetic operations to money, place value and fractions. In the upper school program our students’ transition to Singapore Math.
Experiential Outings: Weekly opportunities for experiential learning build on and connect to concepts studied in class. Outings offer another a way to scaffold the understanding of concepts being studied. Additionally, these outings serve as an additional way for our students to learn appropriate social interactions in a variety of environments. Our convenient midtown Atlanta location lets us take full advantage of the multitude of cultural, arts, business and real life opportunities nearby.
Assessments: To maintain best practice in the field of education, The Orion School consistently utilizes both formal and informal assessments methods. With small classes of four students our teachers are able to do evidence based intervention and monitoring of our students’ progress throughout the school year. There is an ongoing relationship with teachers, daily behavioral reports, weekly parent notes, quarterly conferences, ongoing academics assessment, once a year standardized testing (Stanford Achievement Test Tenth Series), and an ongoing student portfolio assembled from all the core and enrichment teachers who work with our students. Our quarterly thematic unit responses showcases for families what our students have learned during each unit. Responses have included visual displays, skits, songs, dances, presentations and projects.
Technology: Technology enables our students to accomplish education tasks with ease and is a tool to strengthen mental weaknesses and maximize mental strengths. Assistive technology, a subset of technology tools, empowers students to excel in various life activities that they may not otherwise using traditional methods. One of the most common challenges for our students is written communication. A range of technology hardware and software is used to increase both receptive and expressive skills ultimately leading to the enhancement of writing capabilities.
Social and Emotional Intelligence Development: The Orion School has a Positive Behavior Support Plan in place to reinforce positive behavior outcomes for our students. Problem solving, rule following, handling frustration and friendship skills are taught by integrating them into the curriculum. Sustained growth in social and emotional intelligence development is addressed through a variety of real life situations throughout each school day. In addition, direct instruction social skill activities are used to teach pragmatic skills and emotional literacy. With input from a mental health professional, our social skill teacher uses a literature-based approach to integrate social thinking into direct instruction lesson plans as part of language arts. Graphic organizers and thinking maps are used to help students organize the social concepts learned.
Yoga: Yoga teaches awareness. Through yoga our students learn to be aware of their bodies in relationship to the world around them. Yoga is a way for students to understand emotions they are having, how their body reacts to those emotions, and to literally “breathe” through them. Utilizing yoga in the classroom helps to increase the student’s awareness of the environment through all of their senses and to find a sense of relaxation during busy days. Students work on calming their bodies through breathing in through the nose out through the mouth and working on the concept of taking ownership of body and emotions. Yoga not only helps enhance concentration, creativity, self-love, confidence, and appreciation for others and our environment, but also gives students a chance to set personal goals and be applauded for reaching them. Tenants of YogaKids and Angel Bear Yoga are used to make yoga accessible and fun for our students.
Sports Skills and Team Building: Each month, our students learn a new game or sport to play in a safe, non-threatening setting. Under the guidance of athletic, calm, and patient teachers, our students learn and practice skills such as turn taking, following the rules, encouraging team mates, playing cooperatively, winning and of course losing, controlling distracting behaviors and impulses. Real life learning takes place in the context of learning the mechanics of actually playing a sport. By having a small student-teacher ratio, focus can be concentrated on learning the rules, strategies, and techniques of each activity. Students learn the positions and responsibilities of particular sports as well as negotiating the rules. Motor skills are strengthened through sequencing of the various sports. Self-confidence soars with the more successful experiences are gained while playing a sport. The goal is for our students to be able to play pick up games at Orion, in their neighborhood and throughout their life.
Dance Theater: Lillian Ransijn leads a weekly dance-theatre workshop series. Each class is made up of dance-theater, Theater of the Oppressed and conflict resolution activities. The students are given creative license to explore and to reflect abstractly and concretely throughout the process, practice their options and alternatives in social situations, and to have fun while building performance skills. With empathy, consideration, and compassion built-in to the activities and overall class structure, our aim is to foster self-awareness, confidence and cross-cutting ties. Lillian collaborates with academic teachers to expand on concepts being learned in other content classes.
Outdoor Rec. Adventures: Chris Zelski of Outdoor Rec. Adventures provides comprehensive sensory-based programs for students with learning differences. The immediate focus is to provide a safe and nurturing recreational environment that will assist our students with the following challenge: relating and interacting with peers and adults, strengthen motor planning, motor movement and sensory regulation, as well as increase and maintain a high level of self-esteem and self-worth. Therapeutic hiking experiences also encourage our students to explore and learn about natural science concepts.
Speech Therapy: A speech therapist visits the school to assess the students at The Orion School and to help our teachers integrate each child’s speech needs into the curriculum. We can arrange for speech services to be contracted during the school day for individual therapy
Drumming: Music with Chuck Cogliandro provides an opportunity for the students to create and respond to music together through movement, expressive singing, rhythm instrument play including drumming, and rhythmical vocal and body percussive chants. Musical experiences will address all functioning capabilities so that throughout the year the students can progressively develop energy management skills improving concentration, task focus, and communication efforts. The sheer joy of musical expression is no less important a matter and helps establish a sense of belongingness among those producing the music, particularly when everyone is synchronized with the beat.
Occupational Therapy: An occupational therapist collaborates with teachers to ensure that handwriting goals are met for each student using The Handwriting Without Tears program, provides techniques to increase sensory processing in the classroom, and initiates innovative ways to ensure that the occupational needs of the students at The Orion School are met.
Art: Students will not only focus on basic art concepts, but also the healing benefits of creating. Various forms of creating engage the individual and represent for many of us what words simply cannot express. Art stimulates the senses, is hands-on, action-oriented, and allows for the individuality of each person to be supported and expressed. The art sessions provides structure and allows practice for focusing on a single task, developing greater self-awareness and awareness of others, learning to share space and materials, learning about boundaries, increasing listening skills, and planning and organizing. In addition, the final product created often provides a sense of achievement for the individual and an increase in self-esteem. Art history and concepts are learned through hands on art experiences.
Swimming: Group swimming instruction with Erica Copley is given at The Athletic Club Northeast. Swimming is a basic life skill all students need to learn. Swimming skills, gross motor development, body awareness, focus, self control, and social skills are all addressed in weekly lessons that encourage person goal development. Classes are non-competitive and fun.