Start with a question…

ideal school

What would the ideal school look like for you?

What would it include?

What would it NOT include?

What makes a school a school?

I posed these questions to Sam and Isabel, and their answers provided a pretty accurate window into their current thoughts about life in general.

Sam: I would have a gaming school. Everything we did everyday would be based on video games, any type of game, depending on what people liked, not just Minecraft. Kids could have unlimited time on iPads, but then we’d also have a lot of time outside too, to just run around and play. I think it could be at Edison (his current school), but maybe with more trees around for climbing. We wouldn’t have reading groups or any tests; you could just learn everything you need to know by playing games.

Isabel: It would be like my old school. Not because we played more, but because that’s where all of my friends were. The toys and the playground were okay, but I really miss my friends that were there. 

Learning through video games and active play and learning through relationships. I think it’s interesting that their ideal visions are actually very simple and possible.

My ideal school would be a place where people with diverse learning styles would feel comfortable. Lots of outdoor spaces for reading, writing, hiking, walking, and playing. Some of the outdoor space would be wild and others would be shaped by the students. Tree houses and forts… The indoor space would surround some sort of garden plaza, so that the indoor rooms would open up to fresh air and plants, and natural light (no buzzing fluorescent light fixtures in my school!). There would be massive art studio spaces, for all types of media – painting, drawing, sculpture, clay, photography, mixed media, music, dance, theater, film. Then, space to show off the visual work and perform the dance, music, and theater pieces. There would always be space for students to maintain long-term projects and experiments. Science labs for all types of disciplines – biology, physics, chemistry.  Ooh, an observatory too! A gigantic library of books that stretches through every classroom and space throughout the school. Places to take naps. Places to have quiet conversations. Places to work with groups. Places to get the whole community together at once. A machine shop and a wood shop and a bike repair shop. Tech resources would be infused throughout the school too – whatever makes the most sense for the type of learning going on in the given moment. Groups of kids would start together and stay together for several years, with a core group of teachers. The teachers would see themselves as learners rather than experts. The teachers would take kids seriously and listen to their ideas. Students and teachers would be willing to take risks and fail, because that would be the sign that they were learning. There would be lots of conversation and debate and brainstorming and experimenting and inventing and making stuff. Students and teachers would want to be there.

Maybe not as simple as my kids’ visions, but still possible. I know that schools like this already exist, and my big question is how richer environments could be available to all kids, not just those that are lucky enough to born into the ‘right’ zip code.

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