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 is fostered through their own interests and absorbed at their own pace. By creating a varied and challenging atmosphere that provides resources, experiences and time, children have the opportunity to develop their full potential as creative, confident and happy learners and individuals.
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 them to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their learning and their interactions. Children become co-creators in their education and see themselves as responsible for–and proud of–what they achieve. They also understand that they are valued as an individual and as part of a community. New School students spend as much time on social-emotional development and group dynamics as they do on reading, writing and mathematics. It is this well-roundedness that sets New School students apart when they transition to high school, college and career.
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Implementing Our Philosophy
The New School is organized into three family-style classes with 10-15 multi-age students in each class (K-2nd grade, 3rd-5th grade, and 6th-8th grade). Each child learns at their own pace with individualized work as well as on-going group activities and learning. 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