Our educational philosophy emphasizes the ‘whole child’. It is inquiry-based and allows plenty of time to pursue one’s interests. It is flexible and allows time for movement as well as many opportunities for exploration outside of the classroom. There is less of a focus on testing or other traditional assessments. (Everyone learns to walk and talk without a formal grade system judging them all the time.) We use rubrics and self-reflection as essential tools in informing both the student and the teacher what support and resources are needed. Students are seen as capable, and when they are engaged in the process, they meet the challenges presented to them. The school maintains a focus on their strengths, which inspires a student’s courage to build and tap into their natural resilience. Students rise to the needs of the situation when given the opportunity to do so. The result is a student who is confident, feels competent, is committed to his/her goals, able to cope with difficulty, and feels in control of their own life.
This is in direct contrast to the more conventional approach that teaches a reliance and dependency on the adults, likely to enable a learned helplessness that undermines the student’s capability to overcome the difficulties or challenges presented in both academic and social life. Our curriculum is structured in a way that provides students both, the needed core knowledge, and the skills and time to pursue other areas of interest. We want our students to feel confident in their basic skills, reading, writing and math, and have a strong base to build upon. The rest happens during project time. With a rapidly evolving world, creativity, innovation, self-reliance, self-motivation and flexibility will become requisite qualities. Sitting at desks and having to be told by a teacher what to do and when to do it, training for obedience and standardization, will not cut it in this ever changing world and will limit students to a narrowly defined future. Therefore, our curriculum is not overly rigid and structured in order to provide flexibility, openness for new ideas as well students’ input in making decisions.
Life is not standardized, it does not have four multiple choice answers from which to choose or a predetermined outcome. Learning outside of the classroom is a big part of our curriculum. We believe that students learn best with an opportunity to see and do. In preschool, we learned to use a scissor by cutting things, yet as we get older, the opportunity to put book knowledge to real use diminishes. Integrating learning to daily life, connecting with our community, the environment and the world at large, allows students to make sense of what they learn. Not only is it more fun, but it broadens their perspective, encourages a sense of community and opens their minds to limitless new possibilities for their future. This out of classroom learning takes place by planning a variety of
local trips throughout the year. These excursions allow us to explore, discover and integrate the knowledge and skills we learned in the classroom with real life meaningful opportunities and correlations. Students observe and engage in rich content, first-hand and often with experts in the field.