RIGOROUS EDUCATION FOR DEEP THINKERS AND CREATIVE SPIRITS. PRESCHOOL-8TH GRADE. EST. 1981
All School Games
Like Mountain Day, these lively gatherings are a chance for older and younger students to come together for play. All School games run once a week for half an hour, in the fall and spring.
All School Meeting
Once a week the entire school joins together for an assembly, called All School. This meeting lasts between forty-five minutes and one hour. Typically, All School is run by a small group of children. Each month, a different class is in charge of All School. Many classes enjoy choosing All School themes (farm day, pajama day, crazy hair day, robot day, and so on), dressing up and choosing songs to accompany the theme. The All School routine is as follows:
The origins of Gandhi Day date back to when Bob Strachota, long term Center School teacher and social justice educator, was running the 8th grade. His class was studying the Tainos and out of that came a decision, multilayered and community wide, to rename Columbus Day. They went over a lot of options and decided, because Gandhi’s birth anniversary is in October and he was a true champion of peace and fighter of colonialism, at the Center School the day would be named for him instead of Columbus.
This was in 2007-08. https://centerschool.net/taking-lesson-to-the-streets/
Since then, a good number of cities and towns have begun changing Columbus day to Indigenous People Day.
The School may decide to switch the name again in alliance with that movement.
Center Schoolers eat lunch in their classrooms. Lunch, like outside time, is a structured activity that is planned for and taught. One goal of lunch is to have children practice conversation. To this end, conversational skills are taught, modeled, discussed and role-played. Another goal of lunch is to have students sit with a variety of children so that they can really get to know, and grow to value, each of their classmates.
A favorite fall tradition is our All School hike up one of the beautiful wooded trails behind our campus. The entire school walks up the mountain to Highland Park and eats lunch together. Classes are paired so that older students hike with, and help, younger students.
At the Center School each class starts the day with a morning meeting. The format that is generally followed has been written about extensively by our founding organization, The Northeast Foundation for Children. Essentially there are four main components of morning meeting: greeting, sharing, activity and announcements. Morning meeting is designed to be a community activity. It takes place in a circle, whoever has the floor looks at everyone (not just the teacher) and conversational skills are actively taught. Teachers facilitate morning meeting and make sure the tone is friendly.
In May the school installs a huge museum display, which includes one work from each student. The piece is chosen for its high quality and effort by the student and includes her or his own written reflection. The Museum is held in our All School Room where students, parents, and community members enjoy and respond to the pieces. Each class also contributes a collaborative work.
November and March Conferences
The Center School has conferences in late fall and mid-winter. In K-6th grade these conferences are attended by the adults only. In 7th/8th grade, the conferences are also attended by the student. These conferences come after progress reports are sent out and the bulk of the time is spent discussing the student’s strengths weaknesses, goals and hopes.
It is widely agreed by many educators and educational theorists that recess and lunch are the two times of the day when there is potential for social ostracism, bullying and general heartbreak. In response to that, the Center School staff “teach” outside time. Like any lesson, it requires planning and facilitating.
Most classes go outdoors twice a day. Outside time is a safe, structured and supervised period. Teachers set up activities, teach the rules and play right alongside their students. “Free Play” is also explored. Teachers provide social scaffolding to support “free play.”
There are many opportunities for physical movement throughout the school day. Among these are our regular outside times, winter ski and skate program, swimming lessons at the Y (grades 2-5), hiking, outdoor challenges, soccer, ultimate frisbee, basketball, non-competitive games, yoga, and more.
Each classroom has pre-school (before school) conferences in August. They are attended by the classroom teachers, the student and her/his parents. The objective of the pre-school conference is to start the year on a solid footing. Parents have a chance to say what they are hoping for in the coming year. Students get to chat with their teachers and learn about some of the upcoming activities and studies. As a result of pre-school conferences, parents are able to let teachers know about any special concerns or hopes for the year and students experience more familiarity and less nervousness on the first day of school.
Process and Reflection
All Center School classes participate in processing about and reflecting on their actions and activities. This comes in many different forms and becomes more complex as students mature. Processing can be verbal, for example, “How do you think that game went?” or “What sorts of problems did we run into in spelling today and what worked well?” Asking children to reflect on their own efforts and the general behavior of a group aids in developing self-cognition and observational skills. Written reflections culminate in students’ extensive portfolio work, which documents their growth and progress.
Three times each year progress reports are sent to families. The first report is sent out prior to November conferences. The second comes out just before March conferences. The last is sent out in June when school recesses for the summer. The reports are comprised of narrative and/or assessment checklists. The November progress report contains a narrative section alongside a detailed cognitive/social-emotional checklist. The March progress report is the checklist portion only. In June it contains both checklist and narrative, and goals for the following year are articulated in a one- to three -page narrative section.
All classes have a version of quiet time set aside each day, usually after lunch. It is designed to be a half an hour of completely silent, independent activity. Children read, draw, work on homework, work on a puzzle, even snooze. We believe that learning how to be silent and alone is a skill well worth practicing in our busy, interactive world
As part of our commitment to outdoor pursuits, fitness, and community building, the Center School takes students out into the snowy, wider world during the winter months. In the primary grades (K-1) this comes in the form of weekly ice skating adventures at the local rink. The 2nd-8th graders take skiing lessons and have ‘open’ ski time in an all- day, weekly visit to Berkshire East Mountain in Charlemont, MA. The winter program requires an enormously rewarding effort on everyone’s part and many parents participate.