What is Progressive education?
The philosophy of Francis Parker is rooted in the Progressive education tradition. Fundamentally, we believe that each student is imbued with strengths and challenges and that each learner must be treated as an individual. Emphasizing active, experiential learning, problem solving, self-expression, critical thinking, collaboration, and healthy discussion and debate in every classroom, Francis Parker strives to prepare young people effectively for the challenges of higher education, civic involvement, and a successful life as an adult. As a community composed of people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and life experiences, we ask of all our members that the tolerance, respect, and imagination required for responsible citizenship and global understanding be elements of daily practice. Throughout our program, students learn the ethical dimensions of issues, which helps them to use their talent and knowledge with wisdom, compassion, creativity, and integrity.
This philosophy is articulated distinctively within each division of the School, given the students it serves, as expressed below:
The Preschool is a joyful place that seeks to foster curiosity and wonder. We believe that allowing students to explore, investigate, and create is the perfect medium for motivating learning. Because of these closely held values, our curriculum is one that emerges from the daily experiences and interests of the students. We believe that “everything is developing,” and therefore the focus is on the process of learning rather than the product. Social, physical, and cognitive skills grow freely in this fertile ground of play and exploration. While facilitating these experiences, our expert classroom teachers strive to assure that the children are challenged by utilizing open-ended questions to encourage problem solving, imagination, and creativity. Student artifacts such as photographs, paintings, and clay-work, as well as completed individual and group projects, fill the classrooms. We endeavor to respect each student’s unique growth process, while also seeking to expand the student’s students’ worldviews. We believe that outdoor play encourages an appreciation for the environment and fosters creativity and a sense of wonder. In our Preschool, students have a say in what they do and how they do it, and teachers encourage learning to be a fun and exciting journey every day.
In grades JK – 8, our goal is to inspire a true love of learning in our students. Our open classroom environment, coupled with our pastoral, rural setting, creates an idyllic educational experience that is positive and joyful. We believe in helping all students build on their strengths while encouraging them to explore and develop new skills and interests. Our small class sizes and low student-to-teacher ratios allow our dedicated teachers to meet students where they are academically and to help ensure continuous progress. Teachers honor student voice and choice in the curriculum, while allowing different types of demonstrations of knowledge and making learning hands-on whenever possible. Deliberately cultivating a sense of community is an important part of the Goshen Campus experience, so aspects of this are woven throughout each school day. Morning Meetings provide opportunities for students and teachers to gather together and discuss the day’s events, share important happenings, and celebrate achievements. It is a time for students to feel connected to and valued as friends, not only by their classmates but also by those in other grades, as well as the adults in the community. The open classroom setting enhances collaborative learning and helps students to develop critical listening and focusing skills. In addition to traditional academic subjects, we emphasize the importance of the arts, physical and outdoor education, ethical development, and service learning. Our 60+ acre campus allows students to play and breathe fresh air, enhancing their natural sense of curiosity and appreciation for the environment and nature. The outdoors, including our gardens, bee hives, and chicken coop, are used as an extension of the classroom regularly. Outdoor life on the Goshen Campus provides learning and service opportunities for our students. Student life on the Goshen Campus is rich with intellectual and creative possibilities.
At the High School, we believe that the best preparation for higher education and adult life is a challenging academic program within a vibrant urban community. We believe that a diverse student body develops creative and critical thinking skills while passionate, talented faculty emphasize and cultivate in-depth investigation, discussion, and writing; active participation in these activities builds students’ confidence. The downtown location allows students to interact on a regular basis with the urban community, and the open campus teaches students to balance freedom with responsibility. Coming to know and negotiate their environment, our students develop self-reliance and sophistication. The entire High School community is actively engaged in a comprehensive long-term relationship with the city’s non-profit organizations through a four-year community service program. Faculty and staff are attuned to the concept of the teenager as a work-in-progress and believe that students are well served not only by warm personal support but also by thoughtful provocation and challenge. While student voice is essential — and expected — in the classroom, it is also actively sought and heard in discussions and decisions about School policies and student life. Our goal is to have students leave Francis Parker prepared for college not only academically, but also personally, because they know how to manage their time and have confidence in themselves and their ideas as they head into the adult world.