Our Mission Statement:
"The School Around Us is committed to providing a holistic learning community which encourages the growth of mind, body and spirit, and which is actively involved in the local and global community."
The School Around Us educational philosophy is centered around an emergent curriculum process. This means that we do not have a set curriculum that we use each year to teach a child of a certain age or developmental capacity. While some particular classes have become tradition in our school, such as our All School Play, the course of study that each child embarks on yearly can be slightly or dramatically different depending on the child’s needs or interests. A sharing of ideas also occurs within the peer group and often within the whole school that may result in a consensus decision amongst the students to study a certain topic for a 6-8 week block. These theme blocks will manifest themselves uniquely for each student and while they study a common topic with their peers, their personal goals and abilities will be honored within that study.
It is understood that teachers have the primary responsibility for curriculum development, setting the atmosphere for learning, and creating an environment where the mission and the goals of the school can be met.
Curriculum is often taken to mean a course of study. When we set our imaginations free from the narrow notion that a course of study is a series of textbooks or specific outline of topics to be covered and objectives to be obtained, broader and more meaningful notions emerge. A curriculum can become one’s life course of action. It can mean the paths we have followed and the paths we intend to follow. (Connelly and Clandinin, 1988) This is primarily accomplished in our school by the use of collaborative goal-setting between the students, teachers, and parents.
Although our curriculum emerges each year, you will generally find these things within it:
• A balanced, integrated approach that fosters interconnected academic, creative, spiritual, physical, and social development, as well as an emphasis on creative expression through the arts – also known as a holistic curriculum
• Academics taught in meaningful, hands-on ways: concrete math experiences and literature-based reading and writing programs, stressing personal, self-directed involvement
• Academics learned in the context of real life, with a focus on application
• Fostering of students as curriculum planners; designers of their own learning
• Fostering of social consciousness, global awareness and ecological responsibility
• Attention to multiple cultures and diversity
• Attention to value development and ethics
• Emphasis on human values – teaching and modeling cooperation, justice, compassion, and responsibility for one’s own actions
• Using shared governance
• Creative problem-solving and consensus decision-making
• Attention to issues of stereotyping, and respect for gender, race, religion and national origin
• Development of interpersonal skills through cooperative work and play, conflict resolution, team-building and group discussion
• Fostering self-discipline, self-confidence and self-directedness
“Educational democracy involves the redistribution of cultural power from the hands of a few policymakers to local communities, parents, teachers, and youths themselves. By repealing standardization and obsessive testing, we would enable those most closely involved in the learning process to determine their own educational goals and methods. In taking greater responsibility for education, citizens would participate more vigorously in shaping the Intellectual and moral climate of their communities.” – Ron Miller, Decentralizing Educational Authority, 2009.
The School Around Us is a democratic school and therefore runs accordingly with parents, students and teachers having honored voices. Our parents, teachers and students use the democratic process of consensus to make decisions at all levels in the school from administrative policies, educational practice and curriculum to cleaning the school and managing its daily functioning. Our students learn to use this process from a very young age to make decisions with a group in their classrooms as well as set rules and goals for the school in their weekly All School Meetings.
A democratic school offers unique opportunities for children to express their desires and interests and to influence their own education. Children are often asked about what they would like to learn and in response use the consensus process to come to agreements for study themes in their peer groups. They are also consulted about many other things in the school from what the All School Play will be to physical changes of the school building or grounds.
Students can often find the process of consensus challenging, depending on their age or developmental stage. Obviously, not getting what you want all the time, but rather what you need, can be a hard concept to swallow at a young age. We work with students to develop this understanding over time and find that it’s a very useful experience as they grow up and negotiate the larger world of varying opinions and complex issues. In our opinion, students who can learn to compromise seem to be happier overall in their adult lives.
Students have many choices in our school, but we are not a “free” school without structures. We have set classes, and students are expected to attend them. Moreover, our students are expected to learn with the adults -primarily our teachers – who have the responsibility of meeting the mission and goals of the school.
The School Around Us provides holistic education for ages 5-14 organized into three multi-age peer groups:
The Younger Group ages 5-8
The Middle Group ages 8-11
The Older Group ages 11-14
Peer group placement may depend on a child's needs and development. All of our peer groups experience All School Meetings, lunch, and breaks together. By spending time with children of all ages a unique and wonderful understanding of each age group occurs. The older children are mentors and teachers to the younger children as the younger children remind the middle and older group to have patience and empathy in communication.