We believe that real learning is an integrated process that occurs when children are allowed flexibility to follow a wide variety of interests without being subject to a rigid time frame or curriculum. We feel children are naturally curious and enjoy learning when it can be fostered through their own interests and absorbed at their own pace. Learning occurs on different levels, and when a varied and challenging atmosphere is created, children have the opportunity to develop their full potential as creative, confident and happy people.
We emphasize linking freedom with responsibility as an important aspect of our philosophy. While The New School offers children greater freedoms than traditional schools, it also helps to develop the sense of personal responsibility that is necessary to make this kind of environment work.
We believe in nurturing the passion for learning and the self-motivation that are evident in the youngest children, but sadly are often allowed to diminish or are even institutionally discouraged in some cases. The New School is a place that nourishes those sparks as a matter of our philosophical integrity. And with those sparks in tact, our children can go anywhere!
Implementing Our Philosophy
Approximately 18 students are enrolled in each of three “family” age groups, so that each class spans a range of roughly three traditional grade levels. Students typically spend three years in each class for a total of nine years in the school, corresponding to grades K-8 in traditional schools. The amount of time spent in each class is actually flexible and will depend on each child’s individual social, emotional and intellectual development. The interaction between children of different ages offers valuable educational opportunities while eliminating competition as a main incentive.
In place of the traditional rows of desks, our classrooms are divided into learning areas where resources are readily available; but we find that learning occurs wherever our children are — whether that happens to be outside in the yard, working with friends on a computer, or reading while happily squeezed into the most unlikely corners! The organization of the day, arising from a combination of the teacher’s planning, the children’s needs and individual interests, results in a balance between independent working and group activities. Sensory and practical experiences are stressed in all age groups and with all subject matter.
The New School employs a “project approach” to curriculum. Rather than dividing subject matter into discrete timeslots, units and individual facts, we draw together academic subjects into large scale projects, incorporating the interests and ideas of the students along the way. Plans for projects may be generated by one child, a group, a teacher, or a parent, and may end up involving just one individual, the entire school, or any sized group in between. This approach ensures that students don’t get bored or “burnt out,” while simultaneously empowering them in many ways. It also makes their work and their time more meaningful to them, and results in a deeper understanding of concepts, as opposed to a mere retention of data. Our students learn to take ownership for planning and carrying through on their work, and they find satisfaction in their own processes, as opposed to finding it merely in the approval of others.
Our teachers provide the necessary support and structure to help students work toward their goals. Teachers guide students in learning good work habits, as well as how to challenge themselves. In turn, our students tend to welcome these endeavors as practical tools — instead of dismissing them as disconnected chores! — because the work and goals in front of them are ones that they, themselves, choose.
- To be empowered to make decisions and deal with the consequences
- To take responsibility for our learning, personal behavior, and the immediate—and more global—environment
- To set goals that will challenge and extend our abilities
- To fulfill our own potential as creative people