Defining Progressive Education
Progressive education is focused on creating real-life or “authentic” learning experiences for students—the kind of experiences that enable them to produce work that is meaningful to them and that has value beyond school. Through an integrated curriculum, topics are examined across all disciplines for more relevant, profound learning. Significant connections are established among diverse subject areas as themes studied in humanities, language arts, or social studies are linked to science, math, the arts, world languages, athletics, and technology.
A progressive school’s curriculum demands purposeful collaboration among teachers to integrate the various programs of study. This requires both careful planning and skillful flexibility on the part of the teachers, as each lesson is designed to capture students’ interests to the greatest extent possible. Progressive educators can skillfully modify a lesson plan for an unexpected, in-depth exploration of one or more aspects of a lesson. They are also able to develop lessons that enable students to be actively involved in their own learning. Rather than passively receiving information, students gain knowledge by exploring, solving problems, and sharing ideas with others. Teachers spark students’ interests—encouraging them to think critically, to imagine, to ask questions, to experiment, to explore–and help relate students’ learning to their own experiences and to the real world. In this way, teachers help students define understanding in a dynamic and exploratory way, rather than simply as a collection of isolated facts and skills.
At Green Acres School, we fully embrace the defining qualities of a progressive education.
Our community of highly skilled and dedicated teachers:
- Tap into students’ instinctive curiosity for exploration and growth
Students learn to take initiative, develop their passions, challenge themselves creatively, physically, and intellectually, and to assume ownership over their learning.
- Engage students in rigorous, participatory learning
Progressive educators emphasize depth over breadth, application of knowledge over memorization, active participation over passive reception of information, and thematic connections over single-subject learning.
- Respect students as individuals, as learners, and as contributors
Progressive educators attend to children’s intellectual capabilities and interests, as well as to their social, emotional, and developmental needs.
- Teach the skills most needed for success in the world beyond school
This includes core academic skills, and also leadership, self-advocacy, resilience, communication, problem-solving, and collaboration.
- Prepare students to become successful, compassionate, and productive citizens, with respect for self and others
Progressive educators prepare students to be successful in and out of school–and to contribute to improving society overall. As our Green Acres founder once remarked, “Training citizens begins in preschool.”
- Sustain the school itself as a democratic, inclusive community
Each member of the community models respect for all individuals, cultures, and the environment; shared decision making; and an ethical approach to local, national, and global issues. There is an explicit focus on inclusion, diversity, and multicultural education.