Liberty Woodland School aims to be the most fun place in the children’s lives. A place they don’t want to leave. Where they feel valued, empowered, engaged and passionate about their learning. Our school will be a place where play is highly valued as being critical to children’s learning and development. Children possess a natural curiosity to learn and explore the world around them and play allows them to experiment and learn in a creative and imaginative way. We aim to support children’s cognitive development with an intentional and effective play-based approach.
‘In play, the child is always behaving beyond his age, above his usual everyday behaviour; in play he is, as it were, a head above himself’ (Vygotsky).
Children will co-design learning experiences around projects derived from their passions and interests. Projects will be cross-curricular and will cover a wide range of subjects. Projects will be allocated large time blocks for children to enjoy the freedom of time and space to experience deep and meaningful learning. A new curriculum of a scheme of work will be designed every term by children and educators, based upon the children’s interest around a single overarching theme which is cross curricular and which stimulates curiosity, discovery and insight. The curriculum for each term will cover all areas of competence as detailed in our overall school principle curriculum. These projects will be collaborative and personally designed, underpinned with a strong foundation of adult-led observational assessment. Social, emotional and life skills will be embedded in every project with as much emphasis as academic skills.
Our children will have control over what they learn and how they learn. We believe that children are capable of taking responsibility for their own learning. The concept of the children directing their own curriculum is not a type of pedagogical tool used to motivate them. The responsibility is real; the children have strong voices to guide their education. Giving real responsibility to children allows them to gain experience in making decisions and handling the consequences of their choices. In this way, the children gain experience and maturity. We cultivate a community where children are intrinsically motivated to learn.
External motivation is only necessary when someone else determines what children should learn. When children determine their own curriculum, based on their own interests, external motivation is not necessary. Studies have shown that when people determine for themselves what to learn, they retain the subject significantly better than if someone else determines what they should learn. Furthermore, when an element of learning is practical and puts theory into the real world it allows learners the opportunity to attain a deeper level of learning.
Children will be grouped in flexible mixed age teams instead of same age classes. The incredible benefits of mixed age learning are well documented**. We further believe that by removing the conventional wisdom of teaching ‘age appropriate’ lessons to same age children and instead allow our environment, our peers and our educators to all participate in our lessons, then we remove the ceiling of learning. Learning will be focused around each child’s development level, rather than their age. Our possibilities of learning will be bound only by imagination and determination. Groups will have a preferred adult to child ratios of 1:8 to facilitate high quality, small group, bespoke learning.
**Peter Gray, Charles D. Bernstein, Ph.D
Our guiding principles highly value:
Well-being – physical, mental and emotional
Holistic development – fostering resilient, confident, independent & creative learners
Empowerment – empower children to learn and grow
Curiosity – we cultivate curiosity and embrace sparks of imagination
Self-motivation – our children will approach learning through a thirst for knowledge and a burning desire for mastery
Play – spontaneous, child-led play that invites rather than compels participation
Exploration – active exploration, thinking, reasoning and working theories for making sense of the world
Cognitive, social, cultural, physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of human development are integrally interwoven. Our curriculum takes up a model of learning that weaves together intricate patterns of linked experience and meaning rather than emphasising the acquisition of skills. The child’s whole context, physical surroundings, emotional context, relationships with others, and the child’s immediate needs at any moment will affect and modify how a particular experience contributes to the child’s development. This integrated view of learning sees the child as a person who wants to learn, sees the task as a meaningful whole, and sees the whole as greater than the sum of its individual tasks or experiences.
Learning and development will be integrated through:
tasks, activities, and contexts that have meaning for the child, including practices and activities not always associated with the word “curriculum”, such as meetings, routines, mealtimes, and behaviour management strategies;
opportunities for open-ended exploration and play;
consistent, warm relationships that connect everything together;
recognition of the magic of inspiration, awe, wonder and discovery in children’s lives;
We want children who question, think deeply, find information and answers, and who care about continuing to learn. These children will be successful citizens in the 21st century. We believe a 21st century citizen needs to be:
a passionate and active lifelong learner with a growth mindset
a problem solver
an imaginative, creative and critical thinker
determined and resilient
connected to the community
motivated to do the right thing
able to share his/her views, listen to others and work collaboratively