Our Learning Goals
While each of our classes is built around a theme, our core learning goals are not content-oriented curricula but a set of values that we share as a community of children and adults. What are the literacies, skills, knowledges and competencies that young people need to build meaningful lives, and to engage thoughtfully with the world around them?
Multiple Literacies. Our classes create opportunities for children and teenagers to learn with their hands, hearts, and minds. In our classroom there isn’t a hierarchy regarding literacies and skills. We value the interaction of diverse skills sets and competencies. We try to recognize the skills and passions that students bring to our space, but we also encourage everyone to engage in work across literacies, using all of their senses.
Social & Emotional Learning. We want to foster in our students the skills to feel and show empathy for others, to care for one another and themselves, to establish and maintain healthy relationships, to be able to work alone and in groups, to navigate conflict with non-violent communication skills and tools for resolution, to be self-aware and able to understand, manage, and communicate emotions.
Critical Thinking. We try to encourage discussions and experiences that require our kids to think in ways that are open-ended, non-linear, and inclusive of various perspectives and interpretations. Our classes encourage kids and teenagers to not only encounter new experiences and information, but to constantly re-imagine and re-design the world around them.
Lifelong Learning. We are primarily interested in how children learn, not just what they learn. And we don’t just want our students to learn things in our classes; we want them to know how to learn things in the future, as they develop new interests and encounter challenges. What are the characteristics and habits of lifelong learning? Curiosity, passion, initiative, and independence. The ability to explore, investigate, experiment, and reflect, with courage and compassion. The skills it takes to build knowledge, independently and with joy, are the most powerful skills that we can teach.
Multiple Paths of Inquiry
Project-based Learning. Within our multidisciplinary classes, we always engage in projects (small and large), and support young people in bringing their project-work to completion. These projects are the primary framework through which understanding and skills are learned; they are not extensions of our curriculum, but the core of our curriculum. Over the course of these projects, natural questions, challenges, and curiosities always emerge, and in response, we incorporate relevant discussions and information lessons.
Exploration & Expression. Each workshop moves through various iterative phases: when we begin exploring a concept, we try to generate experiences that spark interest and enthusiasm in our students, and expose them to new tools, places, people, and concepts. We bring in inspiring materials, or head out on field trips and expeditions. And then we create space for expression and experimentation: diving deep into projects, and stepping back as educators so that our students can generate their own knowledge through experience and reflection.
Exposition. Every workshop culminates in a public exposition, during which we share our work with a community of families, friends, and neighbors. This may take the form of a performance, a display of created works, an interactive activity, a meal, or a publication (and always a combination of many different projects). We are always impressed by the leaps in understanding, productivity and engagement that happen in the weeks and days leading up to the expo. Still we are careful not to focus our classes on the end product, but instead the process of building towards a sharing moment, an opportunity to synthesize our learning and creations into something that can be witnessed or understood by the public.
Learner Driven Curriculum
We believe that learning is most meaningful and durable when built on the interests and passions of the learner, and that children can and should be agents in their own educational paths. As educators we listen closely to the sparks of engagement and curiosity happening around us, working to uncover the particular passions and joys of each student and of the group, and then we adapt the direction of our projects and learning goals in response. Our curricula is constantly evolving in this dynamic conversation between educators and youth, between the interacting interests and curiosities that make up a collaborative classroom community.
It is part of our mission to help shift the prevailing separation between learning and life: this means recognizing that learning doesn’t just happen when we go to a “learning institution”. It happens everywhere we go. We think that our own communities provide a natural context for learning and education that matters. And we believe that learning is most meaningful when it happens within this legitimate context: when kids can interact with the real work of adults, and when they have opportunities to share and exchange their own work with the world. We take seriously the thinking, theories, ideas and emotions of the children we work with, and try to avoid language and media that seem “kiddie”. So we are in constant exploration and investigation of the streets and alleys of Hudson, and the farms and wild spaces around us. In our workshops we are exploring Roger’s Island, interviewing people on the street, and going to town meetings. We are interacting with our neighbors, and with all kinds of experts. We also invite practitioners, craftspeople, experts and mentors into our space to share their knowledge, passion, and skills.
How do we support kids to become agents of change in the world? To see themselves as a part of what can make the world a better place? While some of our classes (like the summer Social Justice Leadership Academy) are explicitly focused on questions of power, all of our classes incorporate explorations of the structures and systems around us, and create opportunities for us to think critically about our impact on the world. In our discussions and projects, we emphasize justice, fairness, and equity as they relate to the lives of our students. Young people have a keen sense of justice and are often interested in having conversations about big issues in the world (war, climate change, racism). We work to make space for these conversations to happen and support the dialogue that emerges. We are always working to address power and privilege within our own classroom and space, within our own organizations, and within our larger communities, and to cultivate a respect for diversity and culture.
Joy & Play
We believe that joy, pleasure, curiosity, physical expression and fun are crucial and necessary components of a successful and meaningful learning environment! If the kids are excited to have a lunch time dance party, we make time for that to happen. We honor play as a crucial way that kids learn to solve problems, get along with their peers, and become emotionally resilient. We believe that play, self-directed exploration, and story are legitimate forms of inquiry, and important ways that kids construct their own knowledge and understanding of the world.