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Progressive Education

Student works on assignment by the creek

Progressive education is characterized by emergent curricula, hands-on experiences, joyful learning, and care of the whole child. Our students—global citizens, kind friends, curious scientists, thoughtful writers, creative mathematicians, inspired artists, and determined athletes—are proof of the transformative power of progressive education.

Kindergarten student experiments with Ozbots

Experiences that matter.

"Busy work" is not part of our vocabulary at Green Acres. Progressive education focuses on creating as many authentic learning experiences as possible for Green Acres students—experiences that encourage them to think critically, to work collaboratively, and to produce school work that is meaningful to them and that often has value beyond school. In doing so, students begin to see themselves as connected to a larger world, where their ideas and efforts matter. 

Student pointing to a display at the Newseum

Learn by doing.

Students at Green Acres experience a lot more "doing" than most students. For them, school is not something that is "done" to them. Rather than learning only to comply and memorize, they participate fully in their education: They create, they make choices within a given structure, and they make their voices heard. To do so deepens learning and, in turn, builds in each of our students an intrinsic interest and a motivation to learn. This sets them up for a lifetime of sincere effort and achievement in and out of school.

Children having fun together outside

An emphasis on the social-emotional wellbeing of children.

While many schools now describe themselves as places that value the "whole child," Green Acres has been doing this for 85 years. We consider the social and emotional development of children to be as important as their cognitive development, and we understand that the two go hand-in-hand. We also recognize that students will find it difficult to focus on academics when they are experiencing upset feelings resulting from conflicts with peers. Our teachers know that making friends, being a supportive friend, and having the ability to move through conflicts with friends takes work, time, and strategies that they actively need to teach—and that children need time to practice.

Students engaging in a science lab

True intellectual challenge.

When is the last time your child stayed engaged in a task because it was "so easy?" At Green Acres, we believe that engaging work and challenging work go hand in hand—but simply learning skills and concepts are not enough. Children become true masters of their learning when they're stretched to apply their knowledge in open-ended contexts that call for creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and innovation (the same skills the workforce awaiting them in a decade or two will require from them). 

Child peering through a geometric shape made of marshmallows and toothpicks

A respect for children's natural curiosity.

"To keep alive the bright enthusiasm of the 1st grader just starting his first week of school should be the goal of any school, regardless of method, for the children who want to learn, learn best," one of our school directors told The Washington Post in 1962. And that remains our credo today. Green Acres teachers have an uncommon ability to tap into students’ genuine excitement for learning. Teachers intentionally craft projects that are meaningful to our students and spark their interests by encouraging students to imagine, ask questions, experiment, and explore.

Student holds a sign that reads, "I'm on #ClimateStrike for biodiversity"

Democracy in action.

Active voices are vital to democracy, and, at Green Acres, we value children's voices and encourage them to share their thoughts, ideas, opinions, and feelings. Likewise, each member of the Green Acres community models respect for all individuals, cultures, and the environment; shared decision making; and an ethical approach to local, national, and global issues. Progressive education prepares students to be successful in and out of school and to contribute to improving society overall. As our founder once remarked, “Training citizens begins in preschool.”