Alternative schools abandoning structure, curriculum and teachers
Date: Monday, October 17 2005
Alternative schools abandoning structure, curriculum and teachers JAMES KELLER
Mon Oct 10, 3:57 PM ET
HALIFAX (CP) - There are no classes at Fairfield School, housed in a three-storey farmhouse in the heart of a small Nova Scotia town. There are no certified teachers, no grades and no required curriculum, either.
Instead, students at the park-like campus in Wolfville decide what they're interested in learning and how they want to be taught.
If they want to learn Japanese instead of crunching integers, or if younger children would rather play with Lego than learn how to read, that's up to them.
The school is one of several dozen around the world - and three in Canada - following the principles of the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass.
The philosophy is simple: children are naturally curious and will take the initiative to learn if given the chance.
And experts say this alternative model, which is regaining popularity, can benefit students.
"Within the traditional school model, children are being told what's important, when to study, and they're being evaluated continuously," says John Grant, who has enrolled four of his five children in Fairfield since it opened in 2002 and is now an adjunct staff member.
"What we're hoping to produce are students who are innovative, interested and self-reliant."
Fairfield was the first Canadian school modelled after Sudbury Valley, followed by the Beach School in Toronto and the Indigo Sudbury Campus in Edmonton.
All have small student populations; from 13 in Wolfville to 30 in Edmonton. And students, between four and 19 years of age, aren't classified by grade level.
The schools are democratically run by staff and students, who vote on administrative issues such as hiring. The staff at Fairfield range in backgrounds, from a nurse to a playwright to a folk musician.
While this arrangement means students may not study topics central to the regular education system, Grant says that's not a bad thing.