Thursday, January 21, 2010

Progressive Education and Project-Based Learning

As interested visitors come to look at our school and I walk around with them, looking into classrooms, explaining the way we work at Summers-Knoll, I often find that the conversation turns to the progressive philosophy of the school. It's always inspiring to see people take on the ideas and start to light up as they consider the opportunities that a truly engaged, connected approach to learning could offer their child. Sometimes they are concerned, also. This is an unfamiliar way of doing things to many people. They want to know - rightly - how they can be sure that their child will learn fundamental skills, or be tracked effectively in the learning process.

There's an article I'd like you to read here called Powerful Learning. Click on 'articles' and scroll down to the last one on the page. It describes some of the strategies and benefits that research has identified in the kind of learning we embrace here, much more eloquently than I could. It explains the importance of project-based learning and assessment. It was a welcome reminder to me of why we do things the way we do them, and I hope it will resonate with you too.

While you're there, the site that is hosting the article, the Watershed School site, belongs to an amazing school in Colorado which is the natural high-school big brother of Summers-Knoll. Its philosophy of progressive, community-based learning is deeply in tune with our philosophy here, and the web site does an excellent job of explaining why. If you have time and interest, it's well worth checking it out.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reaching out with compassion: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

I want to pass this blog space over to Susan Carpenter for a minute. She and the rest of the faculty have been organizing some community service activities which we want to share with the whole community rather than on a classroom by classroom basis. I am very excited about these projects, both of which are beautifully connected ways to reach out within our school, within our families, and within our wider community to express support and love. My thanks go to our teachers, our students, and you our families, for your warmth and caring efforts.

This is what Susan wrote, to introduce you to the projects she and the other teachers are planning:

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day. is fast approaching, and there are a couple of very special activities afoot. Both projects are a way for children, families, and school to give back to their community, and to promote Dr. King’s message of service and peace.

Our first project is a way to reach out to our neighborhood. In conjunction with Trader Joe’s, Summers-Knoll children will be decorating 50 grocery bags with the theme “I have a dream of peace”. These bags were donated by Trader Joe’s and, after they are decorated, will be given back to the store. They have promised to use these bags during MLK weekend, to spread our dreams of peace to the wider community. Please consider thanking Trader Joe’s by giving them some of your business – and who knows? You may even get your food bagged in one of our masterpieces!

Another, rather larger and wide-ranging, project will involve you more directly. We will be making a school quilt for Project Linus. According to their website:

Project Linus is comprised of hundreds of local chapters and thousands of volunteers across the United States. Each volunteer and local chapter all work together to help us achieve our mission statement, which states:

'First, it is our mission to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.”

Second, it is our mission to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.'

Each child will receive a quilt square on Thursday, January 14. Over the weekend, families will be encouraged to do a “Day of Service” by decorating their squares with the theme “family love”. A more detailed note with ideas and inspiration will be attached to your square, but perhaps you could start thinking and talking about this around the dinner table. Later, all the squares will be joined and made into a beautiful quilt, and donated to give comfort to a needy child.

Thank you for being part of our amazing community."