The small classrooms and multi-age environment that support academic achievement also provide a context for social and emotional learning. Parents and teachers provide children with support and clear boundaries as well as communication tools as they explore relationships.
We emphasize an inclusive community where each member feels welcome and valued, because a nurturing and protective environment allows children to take educational and social risks. Students begin each year with a discussion of social norms, resulting in resolution to follow a shared and mutually agreeable social contract. Students are encouraged and given tools for managing their own conflicts and unmet needs, but teachers are supported by parents in establishing boundaries, and ensuring that students feel responsibility for their actions.
Children as students, children as teachers
The mixed age environment creates a number of unique opportunities. Younger students are assigned a ‘buddy’ that shares quiet reading time, and provides linkages between younger and older students that supports our social objectives. Regular opportunities are provided for students to teach other students, both for the joy of being the instructor, and the multifaceted challenges of leadership.
Non-violent conflict resolution
We emphasize clear and polite communication, and personal responsibility for one’s actions. Peaceful, non-authoritarian conflict resolution is practiced and modeled using a "common language" that reflects respect for each individual and provides positive, compassionate, and non-judgmental feedback for student’s choices. Students develop skill at making unbiased observations, declaring ownership of their feelings, describing unmet needs, and making requests for changes to behavior. We do not tolerate intimidation or violence among our student body.
Parents in the school
Parents are role models, teachers, supporters, advocates, participants, observers and learners. Parents participate in field trips and develop special events. Parents have the opportunity to develop and teach workshops to share their family’s unique interests.
Right now we have a regular fall camping trip, a Samhain Festival (Halloween), and an end of year celebration. Activities ebb and flow with the interests of families and children. Older students have gone on overnight snowshoeing adventures and produced puppet shows at the public library. We have sponsored public lectures and talks and have been frequent participants in the Procession of the Species. As we grow our program and develop a permanent location we envision strengthening these invitations to the broader community.