Discussion about Democratic Education/Introduction to South Mountain Co-op
  • About 20 people came out last night to discuss Democratic education and the South Mountain Co-op, a new Deomcratic Free School forming in the area. We will be holding meetings throughout the Spring.

    Our next meeting is scheduled for:

    Monday, March 4
    10 a.m. to noon
    Maplewood Public Library
    51 Baker Street
    Main Branch, in Memorial Hall.

    • Are you concerned with a lack of Educational Alternatives?
    • Are you tired of test driven schools or their over emphasis on grades, homework, and benchmarks?
    • Has your children’s schooling become the center of stress and anxiety in their lives?
    • Are you looking for an educational option that supports your child’s unique strengths and qualities?
    • Do you believe schools should conform to the child’s needs and not the other way around?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions then our community discussion on Democratic Education, and our new school, South Mountain Co-op, will be of great interest to you. Please join us and help spread the word about this timely conversation.


    RSVP to https://www.facebook.com/events/418036748284259/ or southmountaincoop@gmail.com
    Post edited by SouthMountainCoop at 2013-02-25 11:03:37
  • It is good to see these issues being addressed..
    When one looks at the curriculum that is in place for our k-2children, we see that
    it absolutely is not in keeping with their developmental levels.
    In place it is fighting their needs and forcing their brains into levels they may not be ready for .

    Read? By the end of K ?
    Draw with pencils of birds in first grade!

    Whoever came up with this frenetic pace and goals as their basis does not know children.
  • We have just posted the information for out next evening meeting:

    Thursday, March 14, 7-9 p.m.
    South Orange Public Library
    Lower Level
    65 Scotland Rd, South Orange, NJ

    RSVP to https://www.facebook.com/events/511578125561179/ or southmountaincoop@gmail.com

  • To give you an idea of who we are:

    South Mountain Co-op is a democratic free school forming in Essex County NJ. We are looking for space in the immediate vicinity of the South Mountain Reservation (Maplewood, South Orange, West Orange, the Valley Arts District in Orange) and enrolling K-12 Students for Fall of 2013.

    South Mountain Co-op’s approach to education is individualized and curiosity driven: students are free to explore the world around them at their own pace and according to their own interests, with the support of the adult staff and school community at large. School governance is collaborative and participatory: each member of the community, regardless of age or role, has an equal say in the consensus decision-making process and running of the school. We are dedicated to creating and maintaining an environment of trust and respect; supporting students on their individual learning paths; and fostering strong connections to fellow SMC members, to families, and to the surrounding community.

    You can follow us at https://www.facebook.com/SouthMountainCoOp
  • Do you know where this school will be housed? and potential costs yet?
  • We won't be able to lease space until we have an idea of how many students we will need to accomodate, but will hopefully have an idea of that soon.

    Re pricing, we are finalizing our budget now. What I can tell you is that similar schools in the area charge between $10K and $16K. We are shooting to keep our costs as low as possible. It is very important to us to have the school be financially accessible to anyone who supports the model, and as such, we plan to offer sliding scale tution. Not an exact answer to your question, but I will keep you posted as we narrow in on final numbers.
  • Its a perfect answer, thank you. It gives me plenty to speak with my wife about.
  • Just a reminder about our upcoming meeting:

    Monday, March 4
    10 a.m. to noon
    Maplewood Public Library
    51 Baker Street
    Main Branch, in Memorial Hall.

    RSVP to https://www.facebook.com/events/418036748284259/ or southmountaincoop@gmail.com
  • I went to the last info meeting and would encourage anyone who is thinking about alternative eduation for their children, or just wants to learn more about it, to attend. Meeting was informative; there was a lot of time for Q&A and open dialogue.
  • Great write up in Patch. Minor correction: the tuition will not be "free" the students will be :) and the next meeting is Monday, March 4, at the Maplewood library. Otherwise, it looks pretty good!

    If you are interested in attending the Monday morning meeting, please join us!

    http://southorange.patch.com/articles/free-democratic-surprise-plans-september-opening?fb_action_ids=10200318494338875&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%2210200318494338875%22%3A225427467595588%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210200318494338875%22%3A%22og.recommends%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

  • • Are you concerned with a lack of Educational Alternatives?
    • Are you tired of test driven schools or their over emphasis on grades, homework, and benchmarks?
    • Has your children’s schooling become the center of stress and anxiety in their lives?
    • Are you looking for an educational option that supports your child’s unique strengths and qualities?
    • Do you believe schools should conform to the child’s needs and not the other way around?


    * No
    * No, that's how kids progress, perhaps you need to research this.
    * Absolutely not, it is a center of happiness for them.
    * Sure, that sounds pretty anodyne.
    * No.
  • I'm really glad you've found a good solution for your kids.
  • lol, don't mind @pennboy2, he's the resident troll. He criticizes standard public education (and teachers) on the one hand and anything vaguely outside the mainstream on the other. He doesn't have anything substantive to say, but he manages to phrase it in a condescending way.

    I think that you're providing an interesting alternative and I respect that you're devoting your time to providing a better educational environment for kids. I would consider your school if I lived nearby, but I'll keep an interested eye on your progress instead.
  • Another 20 families came out this morning to learn about democratic education and the South Mountain Co-op. Lots of good questions and lively discussion!

    Our next scheduled meeting is the evening of March 14, 7-8:45 p.m., at the South Orange Library. Join us, and spread the word!

    RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/511578125561179/ or southmountaincoop@gmail.com
  • If anybody is looking for some reading material on the topic, Free to Learn by Peter Gray just came out this week. I've just barely cracked my copy, but his writing style is very accessible (not always the case with research psycologists).

    http://www.freetolearnbook.com/

    Gray will be speaking in NJ on May 23 at the Jersey Shore Free School in Little Silver. South MountIn Co-op will be taking down a group to hear him speak. It will also be an opportunity for people new to the idea of democratic education to speak with families that have been part of a democratic school for many years.

    As the time nears, we'll post contact info for anyone looking to carpool or needing a ride back from Little Silver (if they take the train from NYC after work, for example).
  • Just a reminder about the Thursday night discussion about democratic education and South Mountain Co-op, a new democratic free school forming in Essex county and enrolling students for Fall 2013.

    - Are you looking for Educational Alternatives for your child?

    - Are you looking for a school that puts the emphasis on learning and growth rather than grades, tests, and homework?

    - Are you hoping your children will find joy, kindness, and an atmosphere of trust at school?

    - you looking for an educational option that supports your child’s unique strengths and qualities?

    - Do you believe schools should conform to the child’s needs and not the other way around?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, please join us and help spread the word about this timely conversation.

    Our next meeting is:
    Thursday, March 14
    7-8:45 PM
    South Orange Library, Lower Level

    rsvp at https://www.facebook.com/events/511578125561179/ or southmountaingcoop@gmail.com
  • Have you considered taking out an advertisement on MaplewoodOnline? It is inexpensive and, you are SELLING a service.
  • I'm sure that the founders of the school aren't trying to get one over on anyone, and let's be fair: they are letting the community know about informational sessions about the school, not selling sham-wows. They are also a non-profit organization, and many other non-profit organizations (e.g. local community theatres) advertise on this board via posts about their shows, auditions, etc.
  • I agree. This is not a profit making venture, but is a service to the community.
  • Agreed once more. And, really, have not noticed how many preschools post here, even noting specific vacancies in classes, not to mention small local businesses who post very often? (And it's a LOT of businesses...some even post daily specials, etc)
  • @krnl, I wasn't entirely sure of policy myself. So when opening up the account in the school name, I made sure to mention how I intended to use the account. Once we have something specific to advertise -- a space, a start date, etc. -- we will certainly be advertising, but as it is now we are just trying to introduce the idea of democratic education to the community and assess interest.
  • I am interested in learning more and so, hope you don't mind my posting a few questions here.
    How does the school handle differentiated education and/or learning disabilities in specific content areas? If the kids go at their own pace, what happens when they fall behind? and when is it too far behind, and time for adult intervention? If the kids have so much "control", what happens if a kids decides that (for example) 'math is hard, I don't want to do that'? If the kids have a say in what they are learning, does the school follow the NJ Curriculum for grade levels?

    Interested to hear more...
  • I went to one of these sessions with a fair amount of skepticism. But I asked a lot of questions, and I learned a lot about the substance behind this approach and the framework that supports the students that isn't really discussed in the "marketing materials" if you will, which tend toward idealism rather than specifics (as do most marketing materials, after all).

    I went in having a very difficult time imagining what a day in the life of a school like this looks like. I came out with a much better understanding of how it can work. I also learned that this is not some radical new idea in education, there's plenty of historical precedence and context here.

    Whether you are enthusiastic or skeptical it really is worth taking a small amount of time to go see what it's all about, and to ask questions. It's an interesting alternative that's being proposed, something truly new for our community, and it's worth learning about before passing judgment.

  • sorry-wrong thread (meant to do free cycle...)
    Post edited by MarciaW at 2013-03-12 09:50:27
  • free2b said:

    I am interested in learning more and so, hope you don't mind my posting a few questions here.


    Great questions, @free2b, and common concerns. I’m thrilled to answer questions here, and welcome the discussion.


    free2b said:

    How does the school handle differentiated education and/or learning disabilities in specific content areas?


    All children develop and learn differently and at varied paces. Often times when these differences deviate strongly from adult expectations they are referred to as learning disabilities. While we don't mean to imply that learning differences or difficulties don't exist, we believe their harm is often exacerbated by the expectation that increased adult intervention will somehow "cure" a perceived problem.

    If a student has been previously diagnosed with a learning disability the school will meet with parents and the student to develop a personalized learning plan that is inline with the student's interests and that the school can appropriately provide given our resources. If the school feels that a child's needs or learning differences are such that given our resources we cannot adequately address them, the student will not be admitted to the school.

    Without knowing specifically what sort of learning disability you are talking about, it may be comforting to know that kids that have previously been diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc., and who have struggled in conventional school, often thrive in a free school setting.


    free2b said:

    If the kids go at their own pace, what happens when they fall behind? and when is it too far behind, and time for adult intervention?


    The idea of “falling behind” is grounded in a conventional education setting where one instructor is responsible for bringing along a large group of students, all of whom are roughly the same age, from Point A to Point B in a 10-month period. When students are able to work at their own pace and follow their own interests, when staff has the time and resources for individualized education, there's no such thing as "falling behind" or "catching up". There's just a self-directed learner, deciding for him or herself what is relevant to his or her life.


    free2b said:

    If the kids have so much "control", what happens if a kids decides that (for example) 'math is hard, I don't want to do that'?


    Plenty of kids decide that "math is hard" in mainstream settings, and by forcing them to study it on someone else's timetable and in a way that is often disassociated from the actual useful applications of math, schools set them up for power struggles and failure. At a free school, math is integrated into the rest of life so seamlessly -- through market days, board games, woodworking, science club, set design, puzzles … -- that no baggage gets attached to it, and every kid acquires the skills they need, when they need them.

    When exploring this kind of education for my own kids, reading about this experiment with math instruction from the ‘20s and ‘30s really helped me let go of the conventional idea of there being one way and one timetable to learn the basics. This happens to be about math, but it could be about any subject.



    free2b said:

    If the kids have a say in what they are learning, does the school follow the NJ Curriculum for grade levels?


    We do not follow the NJ Curriculum or any other pre determined curriculum because we entrust young people to direct their own learning and seek out the experiences they are passionate about. We believe that by following their personal passions students will construct their own knowledge and understanding of the world around them and learn the skills they feel are important and necessary to move on to their next goal.


    Post edited by SouthMountainCoop at 2013-03-13 00:25:12
  • Nice write up on Baristanet.

    http://kids.baristanet.com/2013/03/new-independent-school-for-k-12-to-open-in-essex-county-in-september-2013/

    If you want to come to tomorrow night's discussion:

    Thursday, March 14
    7-8:45 PM
    South Orange Library, Lower Level

    more info at https://www.facebook.com/events/511578125561179/ or southmountaingcoop@gmail.com
  • Any further thoughts on cost? Love the ideas and philosophies and the child-centered approach, but thinking the cost will be prohibitive for so many. It's essentially private school right?

  • [...] this experiment with math instruction from the ‘20s and ‘30s [...]



    That is a very interesting article. Are you familiar with the work done in axiomatizing arithmetic by Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead (Principia Mathematica)? It's funny, but arithmetic on natural numbers (the integers greater than or equal to zero) is actually pretty complex, and there are more primitive ideas beneath it that get absolutely no treatment in schools. I wonder if you can speak to that. In particular, do you think that Boolean logic should be covered before arithmetic on naturals/integers/rationals/reals/etc?
  • EBandJ said:

    Any further thoughts on cost? Love the ideas and philosophies and the child-centered approach, but thinking the cost will be prohibitive for so many. It's essentially private school right?



    We are finalizing our pricing structure now. We are a non-profit private school, so we can't get arround charging tuition. BUT we are committed to making it financially accessible to any children (families) that want to attend.

    We will be operating with sliding scale tuition. Rather than saying "full tuition is X", we will be providing guidelines for families along the lines of "If you make X, you can expect tuition costs to be Y" -- while allowing oursleves wide flexibility to take into consideration variables perhaps not considered on a standard financial aid form. We are also working on some flexible ways families can meet their financial obligations.

    Our model will not be right for everyone, but no one who is interested should be discouraged from considering the school because they fear tuition would be beyond their means.
  • Nice write up on Baristanet.

    http://kids.baristanet.com/2013/03/new-independent-school-for-k-12-to-open-in-essex-county-in-september-2013/

    If you want to come to tomorrow night's discussion:

    Thursday, March 14
    7-8:45 PM
    South Orange Library, Lower Level

    more info at https://www.facebook.com/events/511578125561179/ or southmountaingcoop@gmail.com



    From the article:

    At the community meeting I attended, the four founders spoke on a panel with Lucy Albright, 14, who lives in Montclair and previously attended the Teddy McArdle Free School and is now currently being unschooled.

    What does "being unschooled" mean?
  • "Unschooling" is a method of homeschooling that is very similar in educational philosophy to what you would find at a democratic free school like South Mountain Co-op. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unschooling
  • kmt said:

    Are you familiar with the work done in axiomatizing arithmetic by Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead (Principia Mathematica)?


    Not really. But I have google. http://www.npr.org/2010/12/22/132265870/Principia-Mathematica-Celebrates-100-Years

    kmt said:

    It's funny, but arithmetic on natural numbers (the integers greater than or equal to zero) is actually pretty complex, and there are more primitive ideas beneath it that get absolutely no treatment in schools. I wonder if you can speak to that. In particular, do you think that Boolean logic should be covered before arithmetic on naturals/integers/rationals/reals/etc?



    Well, anytime the question involves a phrase along the lines of "should be covered" my answer is going to be the same: it depends on each individual learner, where their interests lie, and what they are developmentally ready for when. In a free school setting, we would never say, "OK, now it's time for you to learn Boolean logic." But nor would we ever tell a kid, "You aren't ready to learn Boolean Logic because you are only 10/you haven't taken Algebra yet/etc."


    If you have your misgivings about how math is taught in school, you may be intereseted in reading A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart.

  • Ok, I totally appreciate that perspective. Still, there's a difference between giving kids a standard track they must follow and helping kids find the logical next step(s) from where they are. There's a good middle ground between mandating a strict one-size-fits-all curriculum and offering no guidance whatsoever, right?

    For what it's worth, my son learned basic logic from playing Minecraft (where he built digital logic gates in redstone), and he definitely just learned it because it was fun (I didn't even point him in that direction, actually).

    As well, I've known a lot of people who felt slighted by not being exposed to Calculus until late in high school. I'm experimenting a little with introducing young kids to limit processes and the method of exhaustion.

    Like you say, I think it's important not to make kids feel obligated to take an interest in ideas until they come to them on their own (but it doesn't hurt to make them aware of those ideas, right?).
  • kmt said:

    Ok, I totally appreciate that perspective. Still, there's a difference between giving kids a standard track they must follow and helping kids find the logical next step(s) from where they are. There's a good middle ground between mandating a strict one-size-fits-all curriculum and offering no guidance whatsoever, right?

    ...

    Like you say, I think it's important not to make kids feel obligated to take an interest in ideas until they come to them on their own (but it doesn't hurt to make them aware of those ideas, right?).



    Yes, that!

  • We just set the dates for our April informational meetings:

    Thursday, April 11, 7-8:45 p.m., at the South Orange Library. RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/226692830810068/

    - and -

    Wednesday, April 17, 10 a.m. to noon, at the Main branch of the Maplewood Memorial Library. RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/577172205634767/

    and, as always, you can rsvp to either at southmountaincoop@gmail.com
  • Hi again,

    Are you familiar with the work done by Seymour Papert in the 60s/70s at MIT? He developed the Logo programming language to help kids "teach themselves geometry", but he also developed an elaborate philosophy of education that seems to parallel many of the points you've raised (and his work influenced a lot of very influential people in my field).

    I wonder if you might have some time to consider his work, and what your take on it would be:

    http://www.edutopia.org/seymour-papert-project-based-learning

    http://logothings.wikispaces.com/Readings
  • kmt said:

    Ok, I totally appreciate that perspective. Still, there's a difference between giving kids a standard track they must follow and helping kids find the logical next step(s) from where they are. There's a good middle ground between mandating a strict one-size-fits-all curriculum and offering no guidance whatsoever, right?

    For what it's worth, my son learned basic logic from playing Minecraft (where he built digital logic gates in redstone), and he definitely just learned it because it was fun (I didn't even point him in that direction, actually).

    As well, I've known a lot of people who felt slighted by not being exposed to Calculus until late in high school. I'm experimenting a little with introducing young kids to limit processes and the method of exhaustion.

    Like you say, I think it's important not to make kids feel obligated to take an interest in ideas until they come to them on their own (but it doesn't hurt to make them aware of those ideas, right?).



    When I went to the presentation this was exactly one of my main concerns and I was so happy with the answer. Yes there is guidance, suggestion, mentoring. To me, the marketing materials and messages fail to capture that aspect of it and for the skeptical it can sound very pie in the sky. Go to a session and talk to the people there and ask these tough questions, they actually make for a very good conversation and I think you'll enjoy it.
  • Well, maybe it's just as well to ask and answer here, where there's a permanent record.
  • kmt said:

    Hi again,

    Are you familiar with the work done by Seymour Papert in the 60s/70s at MIT? He developed the Logo programming language to help kids "teach themselves geometry", but he also developed an elaborate philosophy of education that seems to parallel many of the points you've raised (and his work influenced a lot of very influential people in my field).

    I wonder if you might have some time to consider his work, and what your take on it would be:

    http://www.edutopia.org/seymour-papert-project-based-learning

    http://logothings.wikispaces.com/Readings



    I really enjoyed the Edutopia link. I'll have to look into the readings more at another time.

    The learning environment Papert describes sounds very much like what I envision to be a big part of the learning environment at South Mountain Co-op. Where I personally tend to diverge from what is often described as "project based learning" (and I don't know enough about Papert to know the specifics of his philosphy) is that it would be very important to me for the students to have say in what projects they tackled and when they decide they are ready to move on. It seems common in some settings for the topics of the projects, and the structure of the group collaborating, to be dictated from the top down. Another concern for me is when there is not an "out" for kids before "completion" or much leeway when a child's interest gets sparked by something they've learned while working on the "first" project that spurs them to move on and change direction.


  • It seems common in some settings for the topics of the projects, and the structure of the group collaborating, to be dictated from the top down.



    Which is not to say that staff couldn't or shouldn't make suggestions to kids based on things they think the kids will find interesting or useful. That sort of hits back to a question you asked earlier about "offering guidance".

    The "Sudbury Valley" model is very hands off from the staff perspective. It seems to be their philosphy that any suggestion of classes or projects from the staff is "implied coercion." That is not our model. We go much more with the "Free School" model of any member of the community -- parents, staff, students, even members of the wider community -- can feel free to offer classes, suggest projects, etc. And students are free to attend or not.

    Does that answer your question?
  • A really great write-up from the News-Record

    http://essexnewsdaily.com/news/southorange/democratic-free-school-in-the-works-for-area-students


    I like the fact that the article mentions a library. Will there be a certified librarian as well?

  • It seems common in some settings for the topics of the projects, and the structure of the group collaborating, to be dictated from the top down.



    Which is not to say that staff couldn't or shouldn't make suggestions to kids based on things they think the kids will find interesting or useful. That sort of hits back to a question you asked earlier about "offering guidance".

    [...]

    Does that answer your question?


    I don't know. Actually, I don't think that he means "project-based learning" quite in the way that you say (rather, kids naturally start their own "projects" and this is the context in which they learn). Papert was a student of Piaget, if that helps put his thinking in context for you. Actually, I put a few video links in this other thread that you might find interesting (clips from an old BBC program on things that kids did with Logo).

    Do you see a difference between saying "here's a project for you Johnny: go make a video game" (which Johnny may or may not want to do!) and saying "here are some tools that lots of kids have found useful to build all kinds of things -- try them (or not!)"? If you do believe the latter, then perhaps you might be interested in Papert's work at least as a source of tools that kids might find useful in their exploration of art, music, math, science, and technology (but also, aside from his tools, his argument seems consistent with yours).
  • SuzanneNg said:

    A really great write-up from the News-Record

    http://essexnewsdaily.com/news/southorange/democratic-free-school-in-the-works-for-area-students


    I like the fact that the article mentions a library. Will there be a certified librarian as well?


    Having our own personal library would be something that would build and grow over time. But in the meantime, the space we are currently negotiating is within very easy walking distance -- just a couple of blocks -- from the South Orange Library. Daily trips, as a whole or in groups, would be completely doable.
  • kmt said:



    Do you see a difference between saying "here's a project for you Johnny: go make a video game" (which Johnny may or may not want to do!) and saying "here are some tools that lots of kids have found useful to build all kinds of things -- try them (or not!)"?



    Huge difference. And that is my point. Some proponents of project based learning can't get out of the way to allow kids the freedom to explore on their own. They still see them as needing overt direction. It's like "project based learning" becomes a trick to make learning "more fun." I'm not linking Papert with them -- it's not the feeling I got from the reading I've done -- but it's what often happens when somebody takes an educational theory and tries to apply it to a conventional school setting and its requirements for measures and assessment.

    Sure, a project about China is better than a lecture followed by a multiple choice test about China ... and gives kids the chance to learn something in a more dynamic, multidisciplenary way. BUT, if the kid isn't really interested in China at that particular moment, they will resent it and not get as much out of it as they would otherwise. Or if the project they start on China leads them to an interest in the development of written language ... in some settings they would be told, "Not now!" or the project on China would be considered a failure.

    "here are some tools that lots of kids have found useful to build all kinds of things -- try them (or not!)"?

    Books, computers, hand tools, sewing machines, art supplies, a stocked kitchen, seeds and dirt, musical instruments ... and an engaged, dynamic, supportive staff.
  • OK, you'll have computers. But if Johnny (say, age 12-13) comes to you and says, "I want to make a video game, where should I start?" then where will you send him? I ask because I know something about this point, and I know very little about sewing and music. It's one thing, a bad thing, to say "well you MUST GO HERE", but is it just as bad (in discouraging overwhelmed kids) to say "I don't know, why don't you figure it out?" Or would you argue that kids shouldn't take on a project like that until they can successfully navigate and sort out the raw material themselves?

    You'll have boys around in your school, I assume, so it's pretty much inevitable that this issue will come up -- it's not entirely hypothetical. I'd be curious to know in particular what resources you'll have available on computers and what kind of tools (as in, particular programs and/or programming environments) you're prepared to help with.

    Or would you reject all of that, and basically say that kids will direct themselves, with maybe adults being present only enough to prevent "Lord of the Flies"?

    PS: I'm not trying to be confrontational. My interest is entirely academic, I promise.
  • kmt said:


    PS: I'm not trying to be confrontational. My interest is entirely academic, I promise.



    :) I don't take it that way at all. And am really thrilled to have the chance to answer questions like this -- and it's a very common question -- here. The more of a discussion we have about it, the more any number of people reading will have more questions, will get a better idea of who and what we are, will be able to decide if it's worth taking time out of their busy schedules to come to one of our informational meetings, get involved, etc.

    If a kid came up to me and said, "I want to make a video game, where should I start?" It's not a question I could answer right on the spot. (I'm a writer, editor, post partum doula ... but not an expert in video games.) I would probably say, "well, lets ask around and see if anybody else has any suggestions" and start first right there in the school, with the other staff, volunteers and students. Chances are good, one of them has some ideas. Or knows somebody who might. The answer might be, "Hey, there's this guy on MOL that talks about this sort of stuff all the time, let's go read through some of his posts -- or shoot him an e-mail" (and I'm not even half kidding there).

    I might also help them look it up online. There are lots of free resources available, and I could help them read through and see if we could figure out which one might be of use for the particular thing they are interested in. If a specifc piece of software or hardware is needed and it costs money, we'd look together at the budget and see if there's already a line-item in there for that sort of thing. It may need to be addressed in the school meeting to see if that's an aggreed upon way to spend the funds. We may need to brainstorm a fundraiser, etc. if the money isn't there at the moment.

    Whether it's video game creation or molecular biology or training seeing eye dogs or, or, or ... the answer is going to be the same. The paid staff will not have the skills in every single subject area that is of interest to the kids, but that will not in any way be a barrier to them learning about it. The best thing we can teach kids is how to learn to learn. How to use their resources. And that does not at all mean, "I don't know, why don't you figure it out?"
    Post edited by SouthMountainCoop at 2013-03-25 14:03:03
  • Compare and contrast the above to the answer that same student would be likely to get in the traditional classroom setting.

  • I would probably say, "well, lets ask around and see if anybody else has any suggestions" and start first right there in the school, with the other staff, volunteers and students. Chances are good, one of them has some ideas. Or knows somebody who might. The answer might be, "Hey, there's this guy on MOL that talks about this sort of stuff all the time, let's go read through some of his posts -- or shoot him an e-mail" (and I'm not even half kidding there).



    Ha! Well, honestly, I'd be happy to help in any way I could. ;)


    I might also help them look it up online. There are lots of free resources available, and I could help them read through and see if we could figure out which one might be of use for the particular thing they are interested in.



    Yep, there are tons of great resources online -- you could definitely do a lot worse for CS education than to spend hours going back and forth between a compiler and web sites/videos.

    But will each kid have his/her own computer, or will there be competition for limited resources?

    wnb said:


    Compare and contrast the above to the answer that same student would be likely to get in the traditional classroom setting.



    Yep, good point. Traditional schools were particularly useless for me in this way, which is why I asked the question in the first place. Giving kids room to experiment on their own, even with no guidance, can be much better than making kids follow a set curriculum.

    Here's one article by Seymour Papert that I think dovetails with some of the stuff mentioned here:


    It is 100 years since John Dewey began arguing for the kind of change that would move schools away from authoritarian classrooms with abstract notions to environments in which learning is achieved through experimentation, practice and exposure to the real world. I, for one, believe the computer makes Dewey's vision far more accessible epistemologically. It also makes it politically more likely to happen, for where Dewey had nothing but philosophical arguments, the present day movement for change has an army of agents. The ultimate pressure for the change will be child power.
  • Reminder, the next informational meeting for South Mountain Co-op is Next Thursday, April 11, 7-8:45 p.m., at the South Orange Library.

    - Are you looking for Educational Alternatives for your child?

    - Are you looking for a school that puts the emphasis on learning and growth rather than grades, tests, and homework?

    - Are you hoping your children will find joy, kindness, and an atmosphere of trust at school?

    - Are you looking for an educational option that supports your child’s unique strengths and qualities?

    - Do you believe schools should conform to the child’s needs and not the other way around?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions then our community discussion on Democratic Education, and our new school, South Mountain Co-op, will be of great interest to you. Please join us and help spread the word about this timely conversation.

    rsvp at https://www.facebook.com/events/226692830810068/ or southmountaincoop@gmail.com
  • But will each kid have his/her own computer, or will there be competition for limited resources?


    @kmt, I thought I'd answered this. Sorry! Unless we receive a grant or donation specifically earmarked for the purchase of computers, it is unlikely that we would start off with a computer for every child. For a variety of reasons.

    So, yes, the school community will have to figure out how to manage those resources. I'd put money on it being one of the first set of rules discussed and decided by the "School Meeting", the weekly gathering of students and staff during which all matters of governance are discussed, agreed upon, ammended, etc. (We will be a Consensus Democracy, btw.) I'd also imagine it will be one of the issues that comes up frequently for review and ammendmant.

    But in addition to any computers the school owns for student use, we also have been offered the use of computers at a local business. There are many ways to get kids the resources they want and need.




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