Our goal is to create a center, or think tank, for the integration of education and wellness for children and their families. Our premise is that an education center should balance all of the elements- physical, nutritional, social, academic, and creative- which children need to develop into healthy adults, able to meet the challenges of life in the twenty-first century. Our premise is based on a concern that at present, schools have narrowed rather than broadened their focus, using nineteenth century factory models of education in a world where much more is possible. We believe that a partnership between educators and health professionals can combine current scientific knowledge of brain and body development, nutrition, and environmental awareness with humanistic educational traditions reworked in light of twenty-first century needs and opportunities.
Peregrine School will lie at the center of our project. We will also run international educational projects for teens. We plan to have adult education and continuing education seminars in both health and education aimed at two audiences, parents and teachers. In this sense we seek to become a community resource center as well as a platform for research and discussion. We seek to use the school as a platform for inquiry into education methods that could apply to other settings, and if possible to educate teachers who can carry ideas developed in Peregrine into other settings. We are strong advocates of public education and the public process, and would prefer to create a center within the public domain. However, if it is necessary to create an independent center at this juncture, in order to achieve a greater freedom and creativity in our process, we hope both to provide educational programs for a broader audience, and ultimately to publish research and curricular materials which are broadly applicable.
The Peregrine Philosophy:
Education is the primary mechanism through which civilized cultures reproduce themselves. American culture is based on the premise that the very continuation of the culture demands its own constant re-vision, transformation, re-invention. At the beginning of the 21st century we live in a society more prosperous than perhaps any human beings have ever seen. However, it is also a society which contains giant paradoxes, enormous inequities, and an undercurrent of ever increasing anxiety about the future.
We believe the 21st century demands a re-thinking of the education of children. The last 50 years of research have brought a revolutionary quantity of information about human development, biology, psychology, learning, language development, and the mind. We have not yet adapted the way schools are structured to accommodate this new information. Nor have our schools incorporated a vision of social and environmental justice. Instead of helping us to teach social equality and environmental awareness, our schools too often perpetuate a two-tiered society and unconscious environmental practices.
At the same time, our generalized societal anxiety has recently translated itself to our children. We have increased the pressure on young students to perform. With government mandated tests and the inevitable classroom consequences of these tests, the tasks we are asking children to perform are, ironically, often more rote and less sophisticated than in the past. We must not allow the fear of "falling behind" to dominate our educational philosophy. This fear itself could cause us to fall farther behind. In addition to this crisis, we have epidemics of childhood obesity and mental health disorders. More and more children enter adulthood set up for chronic disease, or requiring chronic medication to perform.
We believe that it is possible to work towards balance. We believe it is possible for school to be pleasurable and developmentally appropriate, for it to teach and encourage healthy nutrition and behavior, allow for ample play, foster creativity, teach critical thinking, including dissent and questioning, enable bilingualism, celebrate global and environmental awareness, and at the same time provide academic rigor and ensure mastery of basic skills.
We believe that whether our students grow up to be poets or robotics engineers, teachers or entrepreneurs, that it is possible to provide a firm foundation, a literacy, in all of the liberal arts-- a balanced education. As we enter the 21st century uncertain what the future holds, we believe that it is vital that leaders in all fields, and in fact that all citizens, have some degree of fluency in areas outside their specialty. Scientists must be able to grasp the ethical, social and human implications of their work. Non-scientists must be literate enough in science to make sound decisions regarding the uses of technology. Everyone can become literate in at least two languages and in negotiating other cultures. And we believe that attaining this education can be captivating and fun for students. Our views on balance are expressed through the following brief descriptions of how issues sometimes seen as opposite can be in fact combined.
Technology / nature (computers, media & garden):
We believe that technological literacy is fundamental to survival in the current economy and should be taught creatively; we also believe that it is folly not to teach children about nature and the basics of survival such as growing food as these bases of knowledge connect children to the world they live in and nurture the mind and spirit. These two domains, technology and nature, can be integrated creatively through a balanced curriculum.
Individual / social:
We believe that the education of an individual child must be tailored to meet his particular learning style, to build his strengths and teach him how to strengthen and work around his weaknesses; however, we also believe that learning is a social activity, that interdependence is a human necessity and that responsibility to his classmates, his family, his community, his society and world can be ignored only at the cost of a child's moral well being and his self esteem.
Skills / intelligence:
We believe that the mastery of basic skills and the rigorous learning of bodies of knowledge are crucial to the healthy development of an educated mind; however, we also believe that learning how to learn, learning how to be creative, and learning how to maintain intellectual flexibility may be the most vital skills a person can have as economies and environments change at ever more rapid rates. Becoming a life-long learner should be the goal of all educational endeavors. This places an emphasis on problem identification and problem solving, on applying academic knowledge to real world situations, on creative expression, and on a passion for learning itself.
Culture / critique:
We believe that the transmission of history and culture is important for the continuation of civilization and the values of democracy; however, we also believe that critical thinking and the ability to question not only the facts one is taught but the methodology behind those facts and the questions and cultural biases behind those methodologies is equally necessary to foster in the next generation if that generation is going to preserve and expand our freedoms and the benefits of our civilization.
Local / international:
We believe that a child can often learn most about his own culture and values from being exposed to those of others and, likewise, that the mastery of English is our first job but that this will only be augmented and made more rich by simultaneous instruction in Spanish, the most relevant second language for most Californians. Our school is based on an internationalist approach which links California culturally and linguistically to Mexico and Latin America, as our primary neighbors, and to Asia and the world. Whereas younger children need first to learn about their own community, which is itself bilingual/bicultural, older children will travel for the purpose of education and service learning. We hope to recruit a diverse school population, representing native English and Spanish speakers, as well of children from various socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.
Educational traditions / new research:
We believe that "school" may need to be radically rethought; however, we plan to work largely by combining different pedagogical approaches which have been experimented with all through the 20th century. These include but are not limited to the principles of John Dewey regarding the importance of experience and democracy in education, the social reform and pedagogical insights of Paolo Friere, and various reform pedagogies, incorporated eclectically, from constructivist traditions, Maria Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf), Orff Schullwork, Education through Music, Augusto Boal, and more. Pedagogies which are research tested to forward our collective goals will be used, yet all approaches will be tested through teacher research. Our goal is to promote a climate of inquiry rather than complacency, in a context which gives children the stability of well-tested educational traditions.
We believe that health in mind, body and spirit must be tended to at all stages of life and that if we teach children the fundamental skills of that tending we will increase their happiness and productivity for their entire lives. Learning to live well, to balance activity with contemplation, and to eat healthful foods, often grown in a school garden or by local farmers, are central goals of our school. Wellness opportunities, in the form of yoga classes and education on health and
nutrition, will be provided for families as well as students.
We believe that the joy, spontaneity, imagination, laughter and play of childhood need not be quelled for the sake of the success of the future adult. Rather, the preservation of those attributes helps the most successful adults be successful.
The following elements will create our program. Each is described below.
*Project Based, integrated thematic curricula
*Cross-age educational opportunities
*Individual tutoring for basic skills
*Strong curricula in science, social studies, and the arts
*Nutrition and school garden
*Physical Education including yoga, dance, games, and individual
*Dual immersion in Spanish and English
*Age appropriate field trip and travel opportunities
*Incorporation of family and community funds of knowledge
*Family school, including seminars on relevant topics and family camp and travel opportunities
*Computers and other media technologies
Project-based, integrated thematic curricula:
The basic unit of instruction will be the project. Through each project we will weave all the basic academic subjects. Projects are the basic unit of study because the integration of various subjects and, in some cases, of a practical goal, such as cleaning up a creek, make education more local, relevant, and meaningful than studies separated from purpose. Students and families will work with faculty to invent the project focus of a given year, although projects will also be designed to teach California state grade level standards in all subject areas. Our projects will focus around either a practical project, such as building a small structure, putting on a play, going on a trip, providing a service to the community or, sometimes, a more abstract concept such as dinosaurs or "shelter." (See John Dewey's work for a longer description of project based learning.) The length of the projects and the degree to which the children help choose the topics will change as the children grow older. For example: for younger children, work in the school garden will incorporate science, nutrition, poetry, art, and math, and lead to a trip to a local farm. For older children, a project about the Ancient Romans could lead up to a class trip to Rome.
During a thematic project, such as Rome, the students will study everything from the mathematics involved in building a temple, to the physics of an aqueduct, to reading Roman literature or reading literature affected by the western cultural traditions started by the Romans, to making pottery sculptures, to foods grown in the Mediterranean and how they resemble local foods, to similarities and differences between current American society and Roman society, to studying the bird species of the Roman Empire, and more. In short, all subject areas will be covered. Teachers will integrate not only grade level content but age appropriate skills, such as math skills, vocabulary, and writing genres, into these projects.
A project with younger children might be on water. Small children can learn about how matter changes state by using ice to freeze ice cream. They can do weather experiments. They can learn about water conservation, about cleaning water, about water in their own bodies, water in cells, about the significance of water in many cultures, water symbolism in art, watercolor painting, poetry and literature featuring boats and rivers, water music, bubbles, field trips "from the mountain to the sea" starting with a trip to the snow, through rivers, the delta and out to the ocean-- the possibilities are nearly endless.
The project model has the following advantages:
It gives the children a sense that the didactic material they are learning is connected to something interesting in the concrete world. Children learn that knowledge is not fragmented and that the most abstract of topics is always in communication with something in the concrete world and vice versa. In some cases, children can also affect their world through making or doing something, such as growing a garden, building a garden house, or sculpting a garden sculpture.
It allows for a great variety of topics and modes of learning within each project so that the children can learn to plant a plant in the earth and can also learn to look at plant cells under the microscope and to read about plants in books and to research plants on the internet. The children themselves can guide the topics with their own questions, and all kinds of intelligence- academic, linguistic, mathematical, kinesthetic, artistic, naturalistic, and social, can be encouraged.
The interests and expertise of individual children and parents can be utilized and shared with the rest of the class-- for instance a plant biologist parent might lead the lesson on plant cell structure and a parent who loves to garden teach the children how to properly fertilize.
Individual children can to some degree guide their own education, following lines of inquiry they find particularly interesting, but always balanced with coming back to the group so that all the children end up with a broad knowledge base. They can also teach each other using their own individual strengths.
Our underlying academic philosophy is that of the classical liberal arts education in which every person learns first and foremost how to learn, and beyond that how to question what they are learning, but also emerges with a rigorous set of skills and knowledge in all of the areas of science, humanities and the arts. Therefore, woven through the projects we will ensure that children at each grade level learn the state mandated "standards" of knowledge. This will also allow for easy transferability for children who might leave our school to attend public school.
Cross-age educational opportunities:
Our goal is to create a strong, cross-age school community in which parents, grandparents, university students, the students themselves, and older or younger students, will be engaged with each other in a communities of learners. Older students will have service learning opportunities with younger students, and all students will be grouped in multi-age classrooms of about two years span, with flexible placements which correspond to natural variations in development.
An important goal of our school is to insure the academic progress of each student in reading, writing, and math, which will compliment the group oriented thematic curriculum. For basic skills (math, reading and writing) the children will receive individual or very small group tutoring. In addition, individual academic learning plans will be created for each student, with progress evaluated through portfolios and observations shared at parent conferences.
A unique attribute of the school is its focus on health. This will be manifested mostly by the integration of health and wellness promoting practices for the children from the beginning.
We will have an individual learning plan for each child to closely monitor her intellectual, physical, social and emotional development and well-being. These plans will be overseen by our in-house family doctor, Elena Whitcombe.
We will integrate yoga and/or meditation into the program.
We will teach nutrition and feed the children nutritious lunches which they will help to grow in the garden and learn how to prepare.
We will integrate a great deal of physical activity, physical education and movement into each day. We will provide ample time for free play for children's social and emotional development, and will provide integrated dance and music opportunities through Education through Music, Orff-Schulwerk, Drama and more. Older children will also participate in organized games, and be encouraged to create individual fitness plans.
We will provide parenting support groups in the evenings for broad discussions of the challenges of parenting.
We will offer educational seminars for parents and adults in topics such as nutrition and mental health.
Parents will be involved to the degree that they desire as individuals. They will be utilized in planning curricula, and as experts who help as teachers, as gardeners, as leaders in projects and on travels. Parent involvement will always be coordinated by our teachers.
Parents and children will have the opportunity to participate in the choosing of the upcoming projects.
We hope that school will ultimately serve nursery school through twelfth grade. We think that having children have the opportunity to continue this program through adolescence is important. Adolescents are vulnerable members of our society and are a group which becomes easily disenfranchised from school. This curriculum would provide both the close family structure which will help them feel emotionally grounded and connected to younger children and adults, and also a great opportunity for an increasing amount of independent work and for travel which will allow them to see that the American model of the "teenager" is not the only model possible. We will ensure that the children who graduate from our school will be prepared to attend elite colleges or to explore their possibilities in the way they choose.
Science and technology will be emphasized. Children will be taught how to be computer literate and how to integrate various technologies, including media such as video and photography, into their broader learning process. In addition, we define "technology" in a broad sense, to include the use of tools in various arts and crafts, the ability to build simple structures, to garden and cook, to work in clay, and more.
Music, dance, visual arts, drama and literature will be emphasized as the exploration of children's creativity is crucial for healthy development as individuals, for spiritual growth, and for intellectual development in all fields.
Local / International:
We are committed to place-based education, learning about, preserving, and respecting the environment in which we live. Field trips in the local area will be a major part of the curriculum at all ages. For older children, we feel that group travel, sometimes coupled with service learning, will provide an invaluable knowledge base and perspective on world issues. We will lead children on frequent field trips which are connected to the project-based learning themes being studied. Some trips will be open to family participation, and a youth travel program will be open to teenagers not attending Peregrine School.
English speaking children will be taught Spanish beginning in pre-school, at Escuelita, which will be a Spanish immersion program, since young children are particularly open to language learning. Spanish speaking children will also attend Spanish pre-school as a Spanish enrichment program. Starting in kindergarten, students will experience a dual-immersion program, in which they will experience basic skills in their first language, and enrichment in a second language. Subjects like science and social studies will be presented in both languages, so that students can learn academic language skills in both languages.
We will have a school garden which will act as an outdoor laboratory for science, an avenue for children to learn the satisfactions of practical work, an outlet for physical activity, and a tool for feeding the children nutritious, seasonal foods.
Service / social justice:
Children will be involved in social and environmental service learning projects both locally and internationally, some of which can be driven by the children's interest. This will also provide excellent fodder for discussions of social ethics, the implications of class, and so on. Nothing will be taken for granted and everything will be open to question. In addition, the diverse nature of the student body in relation to class and ethnicity will enable students to share a variety of points of view among themselves, and together to decide, as they get older, what projects they would like to do in the world.
We hope to develop a large scholarship program so that children from diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to attend our school