The more we respect and honor childhood, the more we create a place where children are happy and have joyful experiences as they learn. The concept of engagement is integral to our philosophy. Happy kids, engaged in stimulating and fun activities, are proven to learn most effectively. And so, we compliment our engaging, project-based curriculum with the time and the space for kids to play.
According to their age and developmental levels, play can take many forms. We easily recognize play in the form of kindergarteners in the block or dress-up corner. But, of equal importance is that of sixth-graders who play at being citizens of ancient Egypt or play with abandon across our four-acre campus. Inherent in all play is the process of discovering the world. Play is the work of children, and the longer they are granted permission to play, the more they can learn according to their true nature. The more we can provide active, child-centered education rather than passive, adult-centered education, the better. At Park, we take joy in seeing middle-schoolers swinging on the swings alongside the younger children; we recognize that they still need this kind of exploration to get the most out of their classroom experience.
Inside the classroom, our small class size allows for close student-teacher relationships and enables instruction differentiated for a range of learning styles. These small classes and our talented specialist teachers also make it possible for us to offer a range of learning opportunities beyond our core academic classes, including performing and visual arts, Spanish, music, physical education, environmental studies, gardening and design.
To be a progressive educator is to be brave enough to value mistakes. The signs in the classroom that read “It is OK to make mistakes at this school” are a nod to our deepest beliefs about learning and the acquisition of knowledge. In his observations of children, Jean Piaget, whose theories have greatly influenced our philosophy, noticed that children of similar ages made similar mistakes on tasks they were asked to perform. According to Piaget, the key to understanding human growth, including intellectual growth, is not only in what children get "right and wrong", but how they get it "right and wrong". This understanding is at the heart of our work with the kids.
In our classrooms, on our campus, and all the other places we're in with Park Day School students, we're always looking for opportunities for learning–whether they arise from failures, surprises, disappointments or successes.